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Released: August 27, 1997

Recorded: 4/11/23 to 11/24/33

Rating: 4.444 (average of 9 ratings)

Genre: blues

Quotable: --

Album Tracks, Disc 1:

  1. Aggravatin’ Papa
  2. Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home
  3. ‘Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness if I Do
  4. Jail-House Blues
  5. Graveyard Dream Blues
  6. Ticket Agent, Ease Your Window Down
  7. Boweavil Blues
  8. Weeping Willow Blues
  9. Dying Gambler’s Blues
  10. St. Louis Blues
  11. You’ve Been a Good Ole Wagon
  12. Cake Walkin’ Babies from Home
  13. Careless Love Blues
  14. I Ain’t Goin’ to Play Second Fiddle
  15. At the Christmas Ball
  16. Jazzbo Brown from Memphis Town
  17. Backwater Blues
  18. After You’ve Gone

Album Tracks, Disc 2:

  1. Alexander’s Ragtime Band
  2. There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Time Tonight
  3. Trombone Cholly
  4. Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair
  5. A Good Man Is Hard to Find
  6. Dyin’ by the Hour
  7. Me and My Gin
  8. Kitchen Man
  9. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out
  10. On Revival Day (A Rhythmic Spiritual)
  11. Moan, You Moaners
  12. Black Mountain Blues
  13. Shipwreck Blues
  14. Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl
  15. Do Your Duty
  16. Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer
  17. Take Me for a Buggy Ride
  18. Down in the Dumps

Total Running Time:

Sales (in millions):

sales in U.S. only --
sales in U.K. only - estimated --
sales in all of Europe as determined by IFPI – click here to go to their site. --
sales worldwide - estimated --


peak on U.S. Billboard album chart --
peak on U.K. album chart --

Singles/Hit Songs:

  • Aggravatin’ Papa (8/25/23) #12 US
  • Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home (9/1/23) #6 US
  • ‘Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness if I Do (10/20/23) #9 US
  • St. Louis Blues (6/13/25) #3 US
  • Careless Love Blues (10/31/25) #5 US
  • I Ain’t Goin’ to Play Second Fiddle (11/28/25) #8 US
  • After You’ve Gone (8/6/27) #7 US
  • Alexander’s Ragtime Band (10/15/27) #17 US
  • A Good Man Is Hard to Find (3/10/28) #13 US
  • Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out (8/31/29) #15 US

Notes: --



The Essential
Bessie Smith
“Bessie Smith was crowned the Empress of the Blues, and, while this moniker was well deserved, she was much more. A prolific recording artist, Smith was quite an eclectic performer. In fact, she may have been one of the first true crossover artists” (Gandil). “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” (Koda) or other “suggestive material [such] as Kitchen Man” (Gandil). She “could breath new life into a pop chestnut like Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (Gandil).

“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” (Koda), giving “the listener a good sampling of her wide repertoire” (Gandil). “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” (Koda) – ‘St. Louis Blues…features [his] horn work” (Gandil) – 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” (Koda). “The title of this album says it all” (Gandil).

Review Source(s):

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Last updated March 6, 2011.