Louis Armstrong - The Essential Disc 1
Audio CD (August 3, 2004)
Original Release Date: August 3, 2004
Number of Discs: 2
Format: Original recording remastered
Bitrate: 320 kbps
This isn't a bad selection and it does give you a picture of Handy's massive but now often neglected contribution to the music. Moreover, it may be coincidental, but several of Louis's most crucial performances likes St. Louis Blues, and his West End Blues--which I think legitimately needs to be considered the greatest performance of musical art of the 20th Century--came on Handy numbers.
It is also nice to hear Louis's development over different periods. Folks should recognize that around 1933, Louis broke his lip and lost the superhuman physical ability on the trumpet he had up to that point, though he continued to be one of the world;'s great trumpeters and actually developed into a greater stylist and entertaininer. The stuff from the All Stars who are also too greatly neglected is nice.
However, I question the selection. Louis is just too good. If you are going to buy a box set, get the box sets or the individual CDs by period. Once you hear Louis, you will want it all if you are serious about music. So having this selection based on composer will mean you will end up buying these tracks again and again as good taste will dictate that you navigate through Louis's entire career.
~ Tony Thomas
This is a great collection of music by Louis Armstrong. The discs cover the entire period of Mr. Armstrong's career and have been beautifully remastered. The collection begins with recordings made in the 1920's (on the entire first disc) and takes us to 1930. Included are three tracks when Louis Armstrong played with Fletcher Henderson and the Clarence Williams Blue Five. There are five tracks with the Hot Five and Hot Seven that includes Heebie Jeebies (the first track on which Louis Armstrong sings), Willie the Weeper and West End Blues. The tracks of the Hot Five and Hot Seven are mostly instrumental and provide an excellent cross-section of the original records. One of the intriguing things about this collection is observing the name changes in Louis Armstrong's band. In 1929, Armstrong's band is called Louis Armstrong & His Savoy Ballroom Five. From this band are Beau Koo Jack, St. James Infirmary, Tight Like This and I Can't Give You Anything But Love. A quick name change in the same year gives us Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra. The tracks included from this band are: Ain't Misbehavin", Black and Blue, and St. Louis Blues. Also in 1930, the band takes the wonderful name: Louis Armstrong & His Sebastian New Cotton Club Orchestra. This band is recorded playing I'm Confessin'. This track is interesting for the inclusion of a steel guitar.
The second CD picks up in 1930 where the first left off and goes up to 1967. This CD has some of the more familiar Louis Armstrong songs like On the Sunny Side of the Street, Mack the Knife, Georgia On My Mind, When the Saints Go Marching In, Blueberry Hill and What A Wonderful World. The CD begins with Memories of You, with a prominent part for a vibraphone and Satchmo's familiar crooning. I have often heard that Louis Armstrong was a terrible vocalist but when you listen to these early recordings one gets a better appreciation of how good his voice was. The tracks that follow clearly demonstrate this, and Armstrong's voice only became raspy later on. Some tracks, like You Rascal You, bring on a smile with their comic performance. Another special track is A Fine Romance where Satchmo sings with Ella Fitzgerald. The second CD completes what is truly the essential Louis Armstrong.
The insert has a short biography of Satchmo and a good selection of photographs. The covers of the records in this collection are pictured and each track has a listing of the band members and when the recording was made. If you already have many of these records this collection may not be of great interest unless you want to follow the evolution of Louis Armstrong's style and the composition of his bands. One thing of note: all of the records on this set were issued by Columbia Records but Sony has given itself credit for all of them. So you will see the phrase: Originally Released 1925 Sony Music Entertainment Inc. It would have been more honest if Sony gave credit to Columbia for the recordings instead of tucking their credit at the end of their copyright information. In any case, someone who does not have a big collection of Louis Armstrong's music, this will be an invaluable introduction.
~ D. A. Wend
The Essential Louis Armstrong is a wonderful two CD tribute to one of the greatest musicians who ever lived. The artwork is great and the sound quality is really rather good--even on the older tracks on the first CD.
The first CD starts with "Sugar Foot Stomp." The melody is awesome and the brass never sounded better! The drums and percussion enhance the melody even further. I love Louis on that trumpet! "Heebie Jeebies" is a popular number from that era and when these fine musicians play it, it sparkles like gold even with a bit of surface noise! Louis' trumpet work is exceptional; and the rest of the guys aren't playing too shabbily, either. Moreover, there's also "Basin Street Blues;" this number begins with some great percussion and when the rest of the guys come in this number takes off like a jet! Louis and his buddies do a fantastic job on "Basin Street Blues."
"St. James Infirmary" is yet another early Louis Armstrong hit that features his and his men playing this with great sensitivity and panache--every step of the way! I love it. "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" is beautiful when these people play it; and Louis' trumpet work enhances this number greatly. "Ain't Misbehavin'" has its usual fast and playful tempo to give this tune just the right feel. "Ain't Misbehavin'" by Handy sure is some mighty fine music! The first CD ends with "I'm Confessin';" this number has Louis singing very well and the musical accompaniment makes this quite a strong number.
The second CD continues the hits. "Memories Of You" starts things off right; the percussion and the trumpet solo by Louis makes this number a very memorable one. "Walkin' My Baby Back Home" gets the royal treatment from Louis and his buddies; they play this as if it were new, fresh and the best tune ever recorded! "Stardust" also shines brightly as the guys play it up right! Louis' trumpet work never sounded better.
"Georgia On My Mind" gets a faster tempo than I'm used to hearing but it still holds its own very well. "On The Sunny Side Of The Street" highlights again Louis's fine trumpet playing and the rest of the guys never miss a beat! "Blueberry Hill" starts with some might fine horns and percussion; this is also one of the tracks that feature Louis singing as well. Louis never sings a superfluous note with that awesome voice of his! The backup vocalists are superfluous; Louis could have handled this all on his own. Oh, well.
"Honeysuckle Rose" has Louis singing with Velma Middleton; and together they do a fine job on this jazzy arrangement for this classy tune. The second CD also ends very nicely with "What A Wonderful World." "What A Wonderful World" was a huge hit for Louis in his later years; and when you hear it there's be no question as to why it was and still is a major hit.
~ Matthew G. Sherwin
Louis Armstrong - The Essential Disc 1 Tracks:
01 Sugar Foot Stomp
02 Cake Walking Babies ( From Home )
03 Pickin' On Your Baby
04 Heedie Jeebies
05 Willie The Weeper
06 Potato Head Blues
07 West End Blues
08 Basin Street Blues
09 Beau Koo Jack
10 St. James Infirmary
11 Tight Like This
12 I Can't Give You Anything But Love
13 Ain't Misbehavin'
14 Black And Blue
15 That Rhythm Man
16 St. Louis Blues
17 Bessie Couldn't Help It
18 I'm Confessin'