The golden era of Chicago blues in the 1950s and early '60s came when the music was still essentially a powerful re-creation of the older Mississippi blues styles all done up with electric guitars, amps, and decent microphones. This was before the Chicago blues became codified by collectors and academics into its own subgenre, and tracks like Elmore James' "Dust My Broom" (included here in a live version) with its explosive slide riff are clearly the Delta blues on rocket fuel, and there's no denying the power of this stuff. This odd assortment of sides, many of them live performances, actually does a pretty good job of showing the diversity that lurks inside what is known as the Chicago blues, ranging in feel from Sunnyland Slim's wonderful piano romp "It's You Baby" to Big Joe Williams' ragged "Baby Please Don't Go," presented here in a foot-stomping acoustic version. Other highlights include a live take from Otis Rush of his signature "I Can't Quit You Baby," Mighty Joe Young's subtle (and then not so) topical lament "Hard Times (Follow Me)," the blasting slide guitar of Elmore James on the aforementioned "Dust My Broom," and Muddy Waters' "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man." A fun and revealing set, full of a kind of joyous energy (even if it's the blues) that seems to go missing in much of what passes these days as the blues. ~ Steve Leggett