In the 1970s, Bessie Smith's recordings were reissued on five double LPs. Her CD reissue series also has five volumes (the first four are double-CD sets) with the main difference being that the final volume includes all of her rare alternate takes (which were bypassed on LP). The first set (which, as with all of the CD volumes, is housed in an oversize box that includes an informative booklet) contains her first 38 recordings. During this early era, Bessie Smith had no competitors on record and she was one of the few vocalists who could overcome the primitive recording techniques; her power really comes through.
Ben Harper's history with the Blind Boys of Alabama has been an evolving one that has moved from being a guest on their Higher Ground offering and touring with them in Europe, to the Blind Boys joining Ben and the Innocent Criminals on-stage at the front and back of their show. This album began as a series of rehearsals for collaboration on a Blind Boys of Alabama record. Recorded in two sessions, the vibe in the room was loose and creative enough that the two acts ended up with an album of material for a joint release.
Although Ute Lemper is best known to her devoted cult following as one of the great cabaret singers of all time, the German-born singer began as a stage actress, and has continued this career in tandem with her cabaret work. 1995's CITY OF STRANGERS combines the two sides of Lemper's musical persona, putting songs by the idiosyncratically brilliant Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim next to chansons by the equally unique French composer Jacques Prevert.