Tom Tourville – The House Of Blues Records Story And Discography
100 pages Softcover Edition
Billed on the cover as “The Holy Grail of Blues Music Labels,” this book is the work of a devoted fan of the House of Blues Record label. By author Tom Tourville’s count, the label released more than 230 CDs over the seven years of it’s existence. Certainly one could argue that other record companies like Chess and Alligator have a much stronger case for the “Holy Grail” designation. Still, the author makes a viable case that, if nothing else, will get readers to pay far more attention to the HOB releases when they can find a copy.
Starting out with a two page introduction from the author, who has more than 30 books to his credit, many of which dig into various venues and bands from the Midwest region, readers are regaled with his passion for all recordings from the HOB label. He also dedicates the book to his son Bill, a drummer who has played with the Lamont Cranston band and Bernard Allison. That is followed by a foreword from James Solberg, who spent years playing guitar with Luther Allison. He relates a story about a musician friend giving him a tip which led to Solberg’s version of Bob Dylan’s “Ballad Of A Thin Man” being included on a HOB tribute album to Dylan, but not without unintended consequences.
Next up is a five page history of the label, starting with Issac Tigrett creating the Hard Rock Cafe chain. Almost 20 years later, he sold off his shares to pursue plans to create a new music-based company, the House of Blues, which included a record label. He soon partnered with Steve Devick, who owned the River North Recording Studio in Chicago, plus a music development firm entitled Platinum Entertainment. Things were rolling along until 2000, when Devick decided to pursue other interests. The repercussions of his decision quickly brought an end to the label.
The main part of the book examines the various releases under the HOB label, including promotional discs as well as overseas releases. The discography first tackles the “Essential Blues” series, with single or double disc sets of previously released material that featured a treasure trove of blues legends, from Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. After five releases, the focus shifted to double disc sets organized around a singular theme including Southern Rock, Chicago blues, Texas blues and sets devoted to guitar, harmonica, piano and Women in the blues. The book has a track listing with release year, song title and artist plus the cover art for each album. A quick scan of these pages confirms that many of the selections were indeed essential listening.
Next up is a section on various artist releases, again often centered on themes like Barbeque Blues, Defiance Blues, and Road Trip Blues. The label also delved into the Gospel field, releasing a number of fine recordings from top-notch artists including the Blind Boys of Alabama, the Dixie Hummingbirds, and Cissy Houston, and several sets that mixed blues, soul, and gospel songs centered on Christmas.
As you read through the pages dedicated to the labels release from individual artists, you are quickly struck by the level of talent the label worked with. The list goes from Billy Branch & the Sons Of The Blues to Roger Daltry, lead singer for the Who, but not before titles from the Gales Brothers, including Eric on guitar, Larry McCray, Big Daddy Kinsey & the Kinsey Report, the Jerry Garcia Band, John Mooney, Phoebe Snow, Angela Strehli, the Derek Trucks Band, and the Grammy Award winning album Any Place I’m Going from blues legend Otis Rush. An album by Paul Black & the Flip Kings, King Dollar, features Black’s haunting slide guitar as well as some exceptional harmonica from Westside Andy Linderman, now a member of Rev. Raven & the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys. Chances are that you will soon be fighting the urge to track down a copy of some of these titles.
Other sections cover promo and sampler releases, the “Hotel” series of discs that were handed to guests at check-in at participating hotels. The “This Ain’t No Tribute” boxset found blues artists covering songs from the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, and Eric Clapton. For the author, this collection is high point for the HOB label, with fine music and outstanding packaging. He also has a listing for a volume dedicated to Aerosmith that is similar in all respects, but was issued on another label after the demise of the HOB label. Tourville also highlights “The Essential Shoebox Full Of Blues” box set containing nine previously released double disc albums with more than 330 songs total. For the author, this set is indeed essential.
Added features include a section on several “live” recordings of questionable origin with the HOB label on the cover, a two page feature on guitarist Long John Hunter, the author’s list of his “Top Fifteen” release on the label, and a cool section of special photos and album covers with autographs that Tourville has collected over the years.
This book is certainly a labor of love. Tourville had to have spent many hours tracking down the various pieces of the HOB discography, particularly when it came to the promotional discs, the overseas titles, and the hotel series. While House Of Blues Records may not truly be the “Holy Grail,” Tourville certainly gives the label plenty of respect throughout this book that has much to offer blues fans.
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