A founding father of electric blues in general and Texas blues in particular, guitarist T-Bone Walker influenced countless blues players and, by extension, countless rock & rollers as well. The Complete Imperial Recordings date from the early to mid-1950s, when the idea of electric blues was really taking hold, and the two-disc set is a wealth of classic songs exquisitely performed. While definitely blues, there's more difference between this and the acoustic blues that predated Walker than amplification can account for; there's jazz and swing mixed in as well, as on tracks like "I Walked Away" and "Strollin' with Bone," and something of that feel has remained in electric blues ever since. From B.B. King to Buddy Guy to Stevie Ray Vaughan and beyond, Walker's influence is felt in the blues up through the present day.
Back to the Grindstone was an excellent return to form from Ronnie Milsap and, not coincidentally, it was his last great record, as well as his last hit album. Throughout Back to the Grindstone, Milsap displays his talent for eclectic, soul-inflected R&B, tearing throug a gritty duet with Patti LaBelle on "Love Certified," covering "Since I Don't Have You" with heart, and then slipping into hard country with "Turn That Radio On." Not one of the 10 songs on the record is weak, and Milsap responds with a gutsy, powerful performance, easily making Back to the Grindstone one of his best albums.
If The Human Menagerie, Cockney Rebel's debut album, was a journey into the bowels of decadent cabaret, The Psychomodo, their second, is like a trip to the circus. Except the clowns were more sickly perverted than clowns normally are, and the fun house was filled with rattlesnakes and spiders. Such twists on innocent childhood imagery have transfixed authors from Ray Bradbury to Stephen King, but Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel were the first band to set that same dread to music, and the only ones to make it work. The Psychomodo was also the band's breakthrough album. The Human Menagerie drew wild reviews and curious sales, but it existed as a cult album even after "Judy Teen" swung out of nowhere to give the band a hit single in spring 1974. Then "Mr Soft" rode his bloodied big top themes into town and Rebelmania erupted. The Psychomodo, still possessing one of the most elegantly threatening jackets of any album ever, had no alternative but to clean up. Harley's themes remained essentially the same as last time out – fey, fractured alienation; studied, splintered melancholia, and shattered shards of imagery which mean more in the mind than they ever could on paper.