Although there are a multitude of box sets chronicling Bessie's entire recorded career, this two-disc, 36-song set sweats it down to the bare essentials in quite an effective manner.
Bessie could sing it all, from the lowdown moan of "St.
Louis Blues" and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" to her torch treatment of the jazz standard "After You've Gone" to the downright salaciousness of "Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl." Covering a time span from her first recordings in 1923 to her final session in 1933, this is the perfect entry-level set to go with.
Utilizing the latest in remastering technology, these recordings have never sounded quite this clear and full, and the selection -- collecting her best-known sides and collaborations with jazz giants like Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, and Benny Goodman -- is first-rate.
If you've never experienced the genius of Bessie Smith, pick this one up and prepare yourself to be devastated.