Picks and Pans Review: The Cobra Records Story

updated 05/17/1993 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/17/1993 01:00AM

Various

This historic two-CD compilation offers up a thick and juicy slice of Chicago blues in its post-WW II heyday. Founded in 1956 by Eli Toscano, a Chicago record-store owner, Cobra recorded the cream of the West Side blues electric guitarists: Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Magic Sam. Their tantalizingly slow, gospel-tinged style—along with their gruff or wailing minor-key vocals and their rollicking jump number—put a V8 in the Delta blues and became Chicago signatures. Other Cobra artists here are pianist Sunnyland Slim and harmonica wiz Walter "Shakey" Horton.

Toscano's gambling debts forced Cobra to fold in 1959, and he died later that year. The catalog lay dormant until 1972, when it was bought by Stan Lewis, a Shreveport, La., producer and distributor. Although a few cuts have turned up on collector labels since then, this is the first time these vintage sides have been issued all at once. Savoring them is a potent pleasure. (Capricorn)

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