We gave it an A-
Riches abound on this ambitious five-CD set. From the startling vividness of blues pioneer Mamie Smith to the innocence of young Judy Garland to the don’t-mess-with-me aggressiveness of Roxanne Shante, much musical and sociological ground is covered. Unfortunately, only 10 of the 114 tracks date from the century’s first 25 years. Had such early heroes as Lillian Russell and Nora Bayes been included, this would’ve been more revelatory.