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Encyclopedia Of Black Pop

November 2023
1min read

The R&B Box 30 Years of Rhythm and Blues

Rhino R2 71806 (six CDs).

The term rhythm and blues was coined in 1949 by an editor of Billboard to replace “race music” as the label for pop records marketed to blacks; the compilers of this massive set define it variously as “a 25-year period of adaptation, evolution, and revolution in African-American popular music,” “the heartbeat, the rhythm, and the life story of the ‘human condition’ sung from the heart,” “the Saturday function that coexisted with the Sunday church service,” and, most unarguably, “a broad range of musical sounds and styles.” The selections in the set follow the mainstream of black pop from 1943 to 1972—from Louis Jordan and Illinois Jacquet and Dinah Washington to Lou Rawls and Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin. In between are scores of hits (there are 108 tracks in all) like “Maybe,” “Duke of Earl,” “Spanish Harlem,” “Earth Angel,” and Big Mama Thornton’s original “Hound Dog.” Rhino’s usual full and imaginative annotations fit all the songs into a cohesive chronological narrative, making the set an instructive historical document as well as a good five hours of solid entertainment.

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