Personnel includes: Little Walter, Willie Dixon, Fred Below, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley.
Recorded in Chicago between 1952-60 with a rhythm section mainly consisting of Willie Dixon and Fred Below. These recordings were first issued in 1968, the year after Little Walter's death in a street fight.
Many blues fans identify this album by the scar on its front cover, and this doesn't mean that their copy got damaged lying around in the used-record pile. A larger than life black-and-white photograph of Little Walter fills the front cover with a visual impact that just cannot be matched in the petite world of compact discs. A jewel case would also be too much protection against the scar in the middle of Little Walter's forehead. Biographical information on this artist no doubt provides the explanation of where this scar came from, and it can be assumed he did not earn it with bad harmonica playing. This album was part of a reissue series that Chess launched in the early '70s, irritating most blues fans despite the quality of the grim graphic design with its superior black-and-white photography, of which the scar shot was only one example. The problem was that too much of the Chess material had been out of print for too long, and the new generations of blues fans were hardly satisfied by the stingy serving of tracks the producers served up, even if it came wrapped in film noir trappings. The series miscalculated what the public actually wanted out of record companies in terms of reissue material, which would be lavish double-album sets loaded with information and sold at a discount. This trend would begin quickly after Chess had already started its black-and-white series of single albums; the company quickly rendered them all obsolete by rushing out its own series of double-record sets. Take a good look at the song titles on this record, that is, if one can still see them. The text was printed in a small white typeface on top of a black background, and the printing over the years suffered from a kind of disappearing effect. The album consists of a combination of songs that were huge hits for this artist, such as "Mellow Down Easy," "Roller Coaste," and "Nobody But You," combined with other performances that the producers thought were especially worthwhile. It is a well-sequenced effort, mastered powerfully, but the songs might as well have been chosen at random. None of the dozens of previously unreleased Little Walter tracks the label had lying around were touched for this project; all of the material here had already seen the light of day and proved its appeal with the blues public. That Little Walter is a brilliant harmonica player and a real innovator in terms of both the amplified sound of the small harp and the use of the chromatic version in blues and R&B is a well-established fact of American musical history. The relationship he had with his fellow players hasn't gotten as much attention, but as one enjoys these tracks, it is easy to feel the strength of Little Walter as a bandleader. He comes up with inventive devices within the familiar blues structures and is, in fact, one of the music's most ingenious arrangers of the electric blues combo sound. Like the airlines are fond of saying, consumers have a lot of choices when it comes to Little Walter material. The window-seat view of the scar might be an acquired taste, but musically this is a smooth ride all the way. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
Q (1/91) - 3 Stars - Good - "..Little Walter, allegedly the first person to amplify the harmonica and help develop its modern saxophonic sound, has had an enormously under-rated influence on rock music....this album is an ideal supplement for fans or anyone else wanting to dig a little deeper into his work."
Musician (1/91, p.94) - "...Shure mic in hand, Little Walter's amplified stylings gave chromatic harmonica an eerie vocal power akin to the banshee shout of a saxophone or the growling distortion of a Hammond organ...."
Living Blues (1-2/91) - "..gathers together many of Walter's classic solo sides and thus it portrays the many facets of one of postwar blues' harmonic geniuses."