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One fine blues release

Koko Taylor - Old School
4 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: May 3, 2007
Koko Taylor

Review by Andy Argyrakis

Over the years, Koko Taylor has been a part of numerous record labels including the early incarnation of Chess Records. And while there's no denying her classic outpouring under that company's direction, her more recent days with Alligator have been just as vital. In fact, that label released 2002's Deluxe Edition, compiling her greatest hits from yesteryear, including "I'm a Woman," "Wang Dang Doodle" (written by Willie Dixon and first made famous by Howlin' Wolf), along with her snarling Buddy Guy collaboration "Born Under a Bad Sign." Though the original goal was to follow-up that release with a studio album, an emergency surgery for gastrointestinal bleeding in 2003 held up and almost entirely halted the process.

However, the "Queen of the Blues" didn't let the distress keep her down, and even during her days of breathing with a ventilator, refused to be defeated. She continued writing and keeping her favorite records on rotation, eventually leading to this very effort. The ensuing Old School is a practically perfect blend of brand new originals with covers by the genre's most lauded players who've influenced Taylor over the years. Take for instance her take on the fellow Dixon tune "Don't Go No Further," during which she prowls with a rugged hound dog approach over a brass and piano scuffle. She also snarls with deep bellied soul come Lefty Dizz's "Bad Avenue" (conjuring up images of Muddy Waters in the process), while also bellowing her way through Magic Sam's delightfully drawn out saga "All Your Love."

In terms of her own outpouring, Taylor is equally effective, turning up the heat come the smoldering "Piece of Man" and growling with insistency come "Hard Pill To Swallow." Even more spellbinding is her empowering "You Ain't Worth a Good Woman," giving a shout out to all the single ladies who've been dumped by lousy men. In fact that track, along with all the aforementioned, are so convincing that this comeback ranks amongst the top prizes in this Queen's entire collection, along with being one this decade's finest blues releases to date.

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