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CD REVIEW: Alligator Records 40th Anniversary Collection

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The Deal: Rootin' around in the blues.

THE GOOD: "Genuine Houserockin' Music" has been Alligator Records' motto since its inception in 1971. For its 40th anniversary, the label lives up to that declaration with a two-CD set that rattles the windows and shakes the rafters. Some artists check in with their signature songs: Fess' "Red Beans" serves up his tasty hometown roots recipe, Albert Collins defines his chilly icebreaker style covering jump blues legend Jimmy Liggins' "I Ain't Drunk," Son Seals stinging guitar and bear growl vocals define Chicago blues with "Going Home (Where Women Got Meat on Their Bones)," Koko Taylor bellows "I'm A Woman." But for others, they've slipped in stuff you might have missed on original releases. Saffire's "Going Down to The River" is a revelation, light years above their usual fare. Ann Rabson's piano sounds like Professor Longhair drug across the border to a Texas roadhouse, drenched in tequila and set on fire. Katie Webster, a powerhouse piano pounder largely forgotten since her death in '99, shows off her swamp boogie woogie piano mojo on the aptly titled "Two Fisted Mama." And if you don't know who New Orleans guitarist Anders Osborne is, "Echoes of my Sins" will get you out of your seat and searching for more of his outpourings.

THE BAD: It's a crime not to include Hound Dog Taylor's version of Elmore James' "It Hurts Me Too," but "Sitting At Home Alone" is almost as good.

THE VERDICT: Even if you have all 38 cuts on the original albums, you'll want to keep this one handy for a quick fix till you can dig through your stash for another dose of Alligator people.

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