Album: Various Artists, The Essential Guide to New Orleans (Union Square)

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The Independent Culture

Retailing for well under a tenner, this has to be the bargain of the year: a three-CD set doing exactly what it says on the sleeve, tracking the development of America's most fertile music city, from the hot jazz of Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton, through the classic rock and R&B of the Fifties and Sixties, to the swamp-funk that has defined New Orleans' subsequent output.

We get the great rumba-rock piano stylings of James Booker, Professor Longhair and Dr John; the Mardi Gras Indian chants of The Wild Magnolias and Wild Tchoupitoulas; tastes of cajun, zydeco and the marching-band tradition; and lots of soul and funk.

The second CD is the killer; it has Ernie K Doe's "Mother-in-Law", The Showmen's "It Will Stand", Chris Kenner's "Land of 1,000 Dances", Robert Parker's "Barefootin'", Lee Dorsey's "Working In a Coal Mine", Benny Spellman's "Lipstick Traces" and Irma Thomas's "Ruler of My Heart" – a monument to the production genius of Allen Toussaint.

Pick of the album:'Mother-in-Law', 'Working In a Coal Mine', 'Hercules', 'Land of 1,000 Dances', 'Barefootin''