Various Artists

Alligator Records 35X35

The title says it all. Founded in 1971 by blues-hound Bruce Iglauer, Alligator Records is celebrating its 35th year with this two-disc set that chronologically features songs chosen from 35 of the label’s artists’ debut recordings. Fittingly, this powerhouse collection opens with Hound Dog Taylor, the guy whose raucous energy got Iglauer started in the blues business—and closes with a 2004 Mavis Staples number. While some of the artists here (e.g., Albert Collins, Katie Webster, Luther Allison, Koko Taylor) had gotten their starts on other labels, it was on Alligator that their careers blossomed. Iglauer also “discovered” musicians such as Luther Allison and Sacramento’s Little Charlie and the Nightcats. As might be expected of a label whose motto is “House Rockin’ Music,” there are a lot of uptempo goods on offer. Two of the hottest tracks are by harpists Big Walter Horton and William Clarke. These are Iglauer’s own selections, and he reminisces about each one—recalling, for example, on the title track of Roy Buchanan’s When a Guitar Plays the Blues that “the band watched open-mouthed in amazement” as he improvised the intro. Well done, to say the least.