This eponymous release is a remastered reissue of Koko’s 1969 Chess Records debut. Comprised of her singles from 1965-1969, it includes her number one R&B chart topper, “Wang Dang Doodle.” Chicago bluesmaster Willie Dixon produced all the tracks as well as doing most of the composition, arranging, bass playing, and harmony. The tracks also include the work of guitarists Buddy Guy and Matt “Guitar” Murphy. Closing out the CD are two bonus tracks of never released songs.
Koko’s success didn’t just spring from her incredible musical accompanists or from funny titled songs. It was her voice that kept her popular on the R&B charts. As a child, she sang gospel before moving to Chicago to sing at the South Side blues clubs where she was discovered. Her voice is rough, tough, and gritty, like the songs she sings. Although she can “Love You Like a Woman,” as the lead song is titled, but she can also “fight like a man.” Later, she threatens “Don•t Mess with the Messer.” The CD contains her takes on older blues classics, such as “Twenty-Nine Ways (To My Baby’s Door)” done in her tough talking ways.
But all this begs the question: Did Koko’s first album need reissuing? If the purpose was to remaster her old original tapes, they did not do a good job. It could be my stereo, but I doubt it, since I have some of these tracks on other blues compilations. “Love You Like a Woman” sounds very tinny, and the blowing sax solo of Gene Barge in “Wang Dang Doodle” sounds like it was delivered from the Mir Space Station (post its earthly descent). Koko worked with the best blues guitarists in the business, but their solos get lost in the mix. On the plus side, Koko’s voice is crisp and clear; that•s important!
I’m glad MCA and Chess have the idea to reissue old classic blues albums, but either they need to update their remastering equipment. or perhaps I need a new stereo. For now, I can hear all the Koko I need off my other compilations.