Various Artists, Alligator Records—45th Anniversary Collection (Alligator Records)

I’m showing my age here, but as a tenth grader, I hitchhiked to Toronto and bought the very first Alligator LP by Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers at the Jazz and Blues Record Shop on Yonge Street shortly after its release. 45 years and 300 releases later, Alligator Records is still going strong while in the interim, hundreds of blues/indie labels have come and gone. Founded in Chicago by Bruce Iglauer, it began as a labor of love on a shoestring budget. For the first decade, Alligator put out about one album a year as each new release had to finance the subsequent next one. Luckily, Iglauer’s roster of Chicago blues heavyweights—Taylor, Son Seals, Fenton Robinson and Koko Taylor—eventually got the label off the ground. By the early 1980s, Alligator’s horizon expanded and the label began signing artists from hither and yon. This specially priced two-cd set doesn’t tell the whole Alligator story, but it’s certainly a reminder of the strength of the label’s catalog, and it’s a testament to Iglauer’s perseverance—especially in light of the current state of the music business. Oh, and there’s some houserockin’ music found here. Being old school, I favor the tracks here by Albert Collins, Billy Boy Arnold, A. C. Reed, Luther Allison, James Cotton, Charlie Musselwhite, Lazy Lester and Guitar Shorty. But the music from the next generation also has merit. Our old friend Marcia Ball is in the mix, as is Lil’ Ed, Lurrie Bell, Roomful of Blues, Rick Estrin, Tommy Castro and Joe Louis Walker. No less than 37 tracks and an insightful booklet are part of this package. The one glaring omission here however is that not even one track from Professor Longhair’s historic LP Crawfish Fiesta made the cut! Petty bitching aside, this is an outstanding release and you can’t beat the price. Check it out if you like rockin’—in or out of the house.