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Various Artists: Light: On the South Side

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Various Artists: <em>Light: On the South Side</em>

The gorgeous sights and sounds of ’70s Chicago blues

Afro-topped women’s libbers, fedora-clad gangsters and bespectacled academics: The black men and women who inhabit photographer Michael Abramson’s hedonistic photos of ’70s Chicago blues clubs span the social and historical spectrum.

In new book Light: On the South Side, we witness a time when the meeting point of Howlin’ Wolf and James Brown still catalyzed black American life—the last time, as Nick Hornby says in the introduction, that “the past and the future [co-existed] so peaceably.”

Accompanying the 132-page book of baroque black-and-white photos of clubgoers comes a CD/double-LP of the blues funk these fans were likely dancing to, like Lucille Spann’s “Women’s Lib”—with its nasty backbeat and wah-wah-laden grind about getting equally paid—and Willie Williams’ harmonica-funk highlight “Detroit Blues.” Light is not only the most ambitious reissue to date by crate-digging label The Numero Group, it’s their most accomplished—equally valuable to social historians and plain-ol’ fans of killer music.

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