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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Feature Thu Dec 18 2008

55 Years of Giving You Whatchu Want: The Delmark Compilations

As has been written many times before, Chicago is, at its heart, a jazz and blues town. Delmark Records, along with a very select few independent labels in the city, have taken it upon themselves to keep releasing and promoting jazz and blues with one foot firmly planted in Chicago.

For their 55th anniversary, Delmark has released their 55 Years jazz and blues compilations. Each set is contained on two discs; one a music CD and the other a video DVD.

As far as the music CDs go, my buying advice would be like any other compilation album or set. You may like two songs, every other song, or just the last three, but unless you're really hungry for a lot of Chicago-based music of all kinds, you may not like it all. There's experimental jazz, down-home blues, songs to rock out to, and slow and plodding selections. What is most likely to happen is that you can listen to all of the tracks and possibly follow up with the songs and artists you liked. As it stands, this is a good representation of the musical diversity of not only jazz and blues as genres, but of Delmark itself.

The DVDs are added bonuses, and add to the total value of the package. Both feature digital transfers of what looks to be videotaped live performances, but the sound quality is pretty decent for the most part. And that's what's most important.

Delmark Feature 12/18/08

The Jazz set of videos were taken at various places around the city, the most notable of which had to be the Ace Hardware store that was once a jazz landmark. You can get a bit of the history and watch the performance here. What I love about the jazz selections is that they focus on the musicians and what they were doing. Some make it look easy, and some are trying to eke every last drop from their instrument, but it's a pleasure to watch. Only thing that wasn't a pleasure to watch was the video effects used on a few videos which only served to detract from the performance.

Delmark Feature 12/18/08

As for the Blues disc, the production quality is about the same as the Jazz one, just without the funky video effects. Blues simply can't be done in a studio; at it's core, someone is telling you a story. And the collection of artists they have videos of are telling you a story, and you really get a feeling for how far showmanship goes in a musical genre like the blues. These men are 50-plus years old, but still exhibit the energy of thirty-somethings. And like jazz, some make it look easy, but it just wouldn't be blues if it looked easy all the time. Some might say that it's rather easy to get the blues, and the hard part is shaking it off. Most of the videos are shot at Chicago blues landmarks like Rosa's and B.L.U.E.S., which lend an intimate feel and a warm-sounding room that couldn't be duplicated at a larger venue.

A notable exception is the video for Carey Bell's "Broke and Hungry". With him on harmonica and his son Lurrie on guitar, you can't help but feel the song. And they're sitting on the couch, in his son's home, and he's telling you a story. Carey Bell died two years ago, and the video here serves as a great memory of a man whose life was steeped in the blues. Definitey a highlight, even if you personally haven't been "Broke and Hungry."

All told, there are about two hours of material on each set, and well worth checking out if you're a jazz and/or a blues fan who may not be as up on Chicago's place in those genres as you should be. Right about now, it seems that Chicago is an indie-rock type of place, with successes from all over, but labels like Delmark didn't get to be in existence for 55 years for ignoring a rather numerous base of fans of chronologically older fare.

Pick up a copy of the Delmark 55 Years of Blues CD/DVD or the 55 Years of Jazz CD/DVD at your local record store in time for the holidays. We suggest the Jazz Record Mart now located at 27 E. Illinois.

Delmark Records hosts a Holiday Blues Party Friday, Dec. 19, at S.P.A.C.E. located at 1245 Chicago Ave. in Evanston. The evening features Delmark Recording Artist Dave Specter and his band with special guest Mark Wydra on vocals and guitar. Additional musicians include Harlan Terson on bass and Howie K (Blue Man Group) on drums. Guy King opens with a solo set. Tickets are $10, available via Ticketweb.

About the Author:

A creative trapped in a techie body, Troy Hunter came to Chicago from Southern Cali for proper schooling. More than 10 years, four worn keyboards, and numerous sheets of Bristol paper later, he's still here. He and his wife reside in Edgewater and coordinate activities at UrbanTherapy.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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