Big Joe Turner

Shout, Rattle and Roll [Box]

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In his informative and wildly irreverent book -Unsung Heroes of Rock 'n' Roll, Nick Tosches devotes a chapter to the life and career of blues shouter Big Joe Turner, whom he repeatedly refers to as "a big fat f k." Part of the charm of Tosches' book is he manages to make this sound like a compliment, and after listening to the exhaustive box set Shout, Rattle and Roll -- which collects a hundred Big Joe Turner sides recorded between 1938 and 1954 -- the appellation seems all the more appropriate. Big Joe was a man of profound appetites, and while his fabled girth testified to his love of a good meal, listening to his music offers ample evidence of his passion for women, whiskey, and wild living, which were the constant obsessions documented in his songs. Turner's style hardly changes a bit throughout these one hundred tunes and the sixteen years that separate the first from the last, and that's no insult -- Turner was less a mere blues singer than an honest-to-God force of nature, and no matter if he was being backed by a single pianist or a big jazz ensemble, Turner wailed like there was no tomorrow, ready to knock back some liquor and tell you all about the latest lady to turn his head (and it seems there were a bunch of them). Shout, Rattle and Roll collects a sizable majority of the material Turner waxed during the first 15 years of his recording career, and while the quality of the audio is expectedly uneven, the performances are not -- with Turner raising the rafters with some of the great men of blues and jazz (including Dave Bartholomew, Meade "Lux" Lewis, Elmore James, Albert Ammons, Art Tatum, Benny Carter, and many more), every track is a grand, howling paean to the pleasures of the flesh, and taken together it's a table-busting banquet of blues in true Big Joe proportions. (The set also includes an illustrated 48-page booklet with a fine biographical essay.) If this isn't the definitive Big Joe Turner set, that's only because Turner kept on singing and recording up until he dropped dead in 1987, leaving a lot more ground to cover, but this does offer a superb overview of the man's best and most influential stuff, and this box represents the true and glorious legacy of the "biggest, fattest f k" in the blues, who is doubtless still shouting in some honky tonk in the great beyond. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi