Best Electric Blues Compilations: 11 Picks

The post WW2 era witnessed the rise of the electric blues in nightclubs of Chicago and St. Louis. In order to be heard above the raucous nightclub environment, blues musicians began to amplify their instruments. Often just by placing a microphone near the instrument and running it through the P.A., the microphone worked to amplify the instruments enough to be heard above the din.

Man Playing Guitar

This amplification would often drive the sounds signal to distort, which oddly enough, in time became the desired effect. Around the same time, the first commercially produced electric guitars and basses began to be produced providing guitarists and basses a new instrument that could easily compete with the other instruments in the band.

This new amplified sound became known as the Chicago Blues and quickly gained popularity. T-Bone Walker is widely recognized as the first electric blues guitar star. He was soon followed by Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Howling Wolf. The loud, brash sound of the electric blues band was emblematic of the post-war city life and its popularity quickly spread and eventually became the precursor to a new music genre which was Rock-and-roll.

What Makes Electric Blues Distinct?

When blues musicians took to electric guitars and amplifying their instruments, they created an exciting and distinct new sound. The power of the electric blues band and its effect upon the audience was undeniable. Audiences would pack into the nightclubs to hear this new sound. It was the combination of electric instruments and urban life in the late 40s, 50s, and 60s that helped to cultivate the sound of that's at the heart of electric blues. What was it about these electric instruments that inspired a new genre of blues? Let's take a look.

The Electric Guitar

The Harp

The Electric Bass

What Are the Best Electric Blues Compilations?


B.B. King; King of the Blues Box Set

KING OF THE BLUES BOX SET

This is an excellent collection of songs from B.B. King's catalog. The CD's are arranged chronologically, highlighting the progress of B.B.'s career. Early classics such as Every Day I Have the Blues, Three O'clock Blues, and Sweet Little Angel as well as popular hits like The Thrill Is Gone and Sweet Sixteen, are included the box set. B.B.'s work with Bobby "Blue" Bland, Duke Ellington, and U2 are also featured.


Muddy Waters: The Chess Box

THE CHESS BOX

Muddy Waters, one of the originators of the Chicago blues, has influenced musicians from around the world with his style of electric blues. This box set of recordings made at Chess Studios in Chicago capture Muddy's big sound and vocal styling as they were recorded in back in the '50s.


Howling Wolf - 20th Century Masters

Howling Wolf 20th Century Masters

This compilation of Howlin' Wolf's recordings showcases all of his biggest hits. Howlin' Wolf's band was another group that created and defined the Chicago Blues. Much of Howlin' Wolf's music features Hubert Sumlin one of the great electric blues guitarists of this era.


John Lee Hooker: Hook 'Em, the Best of John Lee Hooker

Best Of John Lee Hooker

John Lee Hooker's west coast style of electric blues is infectious. Song's like Boom BoomRent House Blues, and One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer are just some of the classic blues in this compilation of hook-heavy, gritty blues that made John Lee Hooker so popular.


Buddy Guy/ Junior Wells: Hoodoo Man Blues

Hoodoo Man Blues

Although it is not really a compilation, this classic album captures two of the finest electric blues musicians during a seminal point in their careers.


Johnny Winter: True to the Blues: The Johnny Winter Story

Johnny Winter Story

Coming out of Texas in the late 60's Johnny Winter's fiery blues guitar became a sensation in the blues and rock worlds. Johnny Winter's love for the blues is evident in all his work.


Stevie Ray Vaughan - The Essential Stevie Ray Vaughan

Essential Stevie Ray Vaughan

One of the most prominent blues guitarists of all time, Stevie Ray Vaughan brought passion and fire to the blues. With songs like Pride and JoyCold Shot, and Couldn't Stand The Weather, SRV rekindled interest in the blues in the 1980s.


Eric Clapton - From the Cradle

From The Cradle

Eric Clapton's From The Cradle is a tribute to the originators of the electric blues. Clayton's renditions of Hoochie Coochie ManFive Long Years, and I'm torn Down is his homage to the legends of the electric blues.


Albert King - Born under a Bad Sign

Born Under A Bad Sign

Again, this is not necessarily a formal compilation, but Born Under a Bad Sign is a smoking album that contains many of Albert King's best material. Aside from the title track, it includes such classics as Pretty Woman and Crosscut Saw.


John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers

John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers

A classic blues album featuring a young Eric Clapton on guitar. John Mayall is known not only for great blues music but also for attracting premium talent to his band.


Robert Cray - 20th Century Masters

ROBERT CRAY

This compilation of guitarists Robert Cray's music is a fine collection of his smooth soulful blues. Featuring Smoking Gun and Right Next Door (Because Of Me).

How to Find the Best Electric Blues

The joy is in the journey when it comes to finding the best electric blues. One artist or recording will lead you to others as you explore the blues. There have been innumerable great electric blues artists over the last 80 years. To list them all would be a daunting task at best. There are ways, however, to help you to on your journey.

The Internet

Streaming Audio

Record Stores

Live Blues Shows

Conclusion

The electric blues have been with us for over 80 years. Every year there is a fresh group of musicians that dedicate themselves to practicing and preserving this American tradition. It was the electric blues that spawned rock-and-roll and its influence can clearly be heard in many rock and pop songs today.

The Electric Blues gave us our first guitar heroes; B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Stevie Ray Vaughan among countless others. The electric blues is here to stay. We have provided a starting point to explore countless compilations of blues and electric blues available and begin a musical journey that is the electric blues. We wish you well. Happy hunting.

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