12 Songs, 28 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Even though it's titled Blues Ballads, this album contains only three outright ballads. The rest of the tracks are variations on the type of organic rock ‘n’ roll and R&B that defined Baker’s early tenure at Atlantic. The three ballads that are included are magnificent. “I Cried a Tear,” “If You Love Me,” and “I Waited Too Long” are tugging, full-bodied slow dances that combine the majesty of orchestral recordings with the raw-edged intimacy of small-club combos. These recordings prove Baker was every bit Ray Charles’ equal. Charles’ “Hallelujah I Love Her” is often identified as a definitive blend of gospel and R&B, but Baker’s “So High, So Low” is cut from the same cloth and exudes an even more freewheeling energy. “It’s So Fine,” “Whipper Snapper,” and “Love Me Right” are more than sassy—they're angry. Crucially, they're also danceable, and would still sound fresh ten years later, when soul music had replaced Baker’s form of R&B. At the same time, “St. Louis Blues” aligns Baker with an earlier generation. Her rendition of the Prohibition-era anthem has a wit and venom that would make Ma Rainey grin.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Even though it's titled Blues Ballads, this album contains only three outright ballads. The rest of the tracks are variations on the type of organic rock ‘n’ roll and R&B that defined Baker’s early tenure at Atlantic. The three ballads that are included are magnificent. “I Cried a Tear,” “If You Love Me,” and “I Waited Too Long” are tugging, full-bodied slow dances that combine the majesty of orchestral recordings with the raw-edged intimacy of small-club combos. These recordings prove Baker was every bit Ray Charles’ equal. Charles’ “Hallelujah I Love Her” is often identified as a definitive blend of gospel and R&B, but Baker’s “So High, So Low” is cut from the same cloth and exudes an even more freewheeling energy. “It’s So Fine,” “Whipper Snapper,” and “Love Me Right” are more than sassy—they're angry. Crucially, they're also danceable, and would still sound fresh ten years later, when soul music had replaced Baker’s form of R&B. At the same time, “St. Louis Blues” aligns Baker with an earlier generation. Her rendition of the Prohibition-era anthem has a wit and venom that would make Ma Rainey grin.

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