Essential? True, the names on this CD are some of the best names in the blues. Luther Allison. Otis Rush. Magic Sam. Jimmy Reed. Robert Cray. The performances on this two-CD collection are all well worth listening to. If you like good blues performed by some of the best in the business, then there’s no doubt you’ll find something on this album to make you happy.

But is it essential?

Look, I admit it; I have a problem with the House of Blues telling the rest of us what is – and therefore is not – essential blues. Where do they get off? This is a franchise chain of manufactured blues clubs that serves up the blues like McDonald’s serves up its hamburgers – McBlues – and now they’re producing yet a third volume of what they consider to be "essential" blues? Yeah. OK.

Maybe a few cuts might be universally agreed upon to be essential: Muddy Waters’ "Got My Mojo Working," T-Bone Walker playing "Stormy Monday," several other cuts – but the rest? It’s great stuff, but its essential nature is debatable. There’s so much more out there that’s just as good and better.

If you want House of Blues’ take on what’s best, perhaps to compare to some of the other collections and compilations that are available, then go ahead and pick this up. Or if you’re not a real blues fan and just want a good sampler, then pick this up. You won’t be sorry.

But if you’re buying this because you really think it’s essential? Don’t.

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