A Consumer Guide to the Trailing Edge: January 2005

Recycled Goods (17)

by Tom Hull

Several clusters of records this time, scattered widely all over the musical map:

  • Ethiopian music: The French label Buda Musique has been obsessively mining the high, lonesome plateau of the Dark Continent to the tune of over twenty volumes -- one of the most comprehensive world music projects ever. The documentation helps to frame the music, which strikes me as exceptionally alien, but it does start to cohere as you dig into it.

  • Postpunk archaeology: Five exhaustive compilations by circa 1980 groups who never released much more than an EP in their short lives. The bounty of the punk explosion and the durability of the punk aesthetic manage to make these leftovers and also-rans interesting way after their moment.

  • Love songs: The majors have honed in on Valentine's Day as an excuse for themed recycling. I never ask for these babies, but Sony sent me an exceptionally peculiar bunch anyway, dutifully noted below. Verve followed up with more. Both of these continue series begun several years ago, so the new ones aren't even the first artists that popped into their marketeers' minds.

  • Proper Introductions: One of England's premier archival labels has come out with an inexpensive series of single disc comps, mostly public domain (in the U.K. that means pre-1953), with pretty good documentation. I've only sampled the series lightly, and I'd be cautious about artists who don't cleanly fit into the pre-1953 period framework (e.g., Chet Baker, Wynton Kelly, Ruth Brown; on the other hand, early works by Howlin' Wolf and Professor Longhair are still worthwhile, even if not as great as their later recordings).

Also the usual wide range of odds and sods, emphasis on odds, which in my book includes Chet Baker. Cf. Geoff Dyer's wonderful book, But Beautiful, for another take on Baker.

Mahmoud Ahmed: Éthiopiques, Vol. 7: Erè Mèla Mèla (1975 [1999], Buda Musique). Ethiopia is one of the stranger corners of what was formerly known as the Dark Continent. Its monarchy, which ended with Haile Selassie in the 1974 Revolution, traced its ancestry back to Israel's King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Regardless of Ethiopia's ancient links to the Middle East, it remained isolated from the rest of Africa, missing out on the transatlantic slave trade and resisting Europe's mad rush to color the map with colonial colors. Haile Selassie was viewed as lion of Rastafarianism, as a moderate pro-Western reformer, and as a hapless autocrat. The latter view seems to be the most apt, but the last years of the monarchy allowed a recording industry to briefly flourish -- a "golden age," at least compared to the harsh repression that followed under Mengistu. Mahmoud Ahmed was the star of this period: a powerful singer, working in a groove that sounds only slightly closer to the Middle East than to the better known African grooves. His records were the first to leak out to Europe, and inspired Buda Musique's encylopedic Éthiopiques series, of which this is the cornerstone. A-

Chet Baker: Prince of Cool: The Pacific Jazz Years (1952-57 [2004], Pacific Jazz, 3CD). Lots of people adore Chet Baker, but I don't. I've always found his trumpet work anemic, even while conceding that his logic is beyond fault. He didn't play fast or high, and he rarely showed a shred of emotion -- at least any of the warm and fuzzy ones. But his vocals were even more affectless, and that's what his fans really fell for. He had been cajoled into singing as a teenager and developed a style that engaged the songs as minimally as possible. I suspect that the root of my problem with him is that I find his style embarrassing, but he managed to persevere, turning embarrassment into disinterest, which could easily be taken for vulnerability. Nobody else sang like that, and the fragility of his singing soon infected his trumpet. With the swing bands on the wane and the beboppers flaunting their virtuosity, Baker's extreme contrast epitomized something else: cool. From his emergence as a leader around 1952 to his death in 1988 his career waxed and waned but his music was remarkably consistent -- the only change being that as he accumulated the wear and tear of a rough life his indifference became even more poignant. Baker's early work for Pacific Jazz has been sliced and diced many times over -- the booklet here shows the covers of no less than 20 other albums or compilations, many redundant. This one splits him three ways: "Chet Sings," "Chet Plays," and "Chet & Friends" -- the most conspicuous friends were Art Pepper and Gerry Mulligan, with Baker's modest formality a fine complement for his voluble partners. Still, I'm not sure that "best of" is a concept that fits Baker well: his aesthetic is so convoluted and so personal that there's little if any common ground for evaluating him. So this winds up being just another slice and dice job. B+

Eric Kloss: First Class! (1966-67 [2004], Prestige). Blind since birth, but as prodigiously talented as anyone who ever picked up an alto saxophone, Kloss was barely 16 when he started recording for Prestige. He recorded prolifically up to 1981, then vanished. He could play anything, any way, but as far as I can tell he never developed a style or sound of his own. Some argue that he could have become the greatest jazz saxophonist of all time, but nobody argues that he actually did. This CD collects his 3rd and 4th LPs, cut when he was 17-18. The music is all over the place, but Prestige paired him with first rate modernists, keeping the mix interesting and providing a solid platform for Kloss to lick his chops. The first LP, Grits & Gravy, seems to have been meant as a soul jazz shot, but most of it was cut with Jaki Byard's trio, and it all seems a bit confused. At times it makes me wonder what he might have done in the age of Kenny G -- compared to which he's Roland Kirk. The latter LP, First Class Kloss, is more scattered and much more fun. It ranges from the warped polyphony of "Psychedelicatessen Rag" to the avant-blowout "African Cookbook" without stopping any place long enough to get your bearings -- except to marvel at Cedar Walton. B+

A Proper Introduction to Maddox Brothers & Rose: That'll Learn Ya Durn Ya (1948-53 [2004], Proper). Their claim to be "the most colorful hillbilly band in America" was, if anything, too modest. The five brothers Maddox were a rocking, rolling cyclone with instruments -- they whooped, hollered, cackled, wisecracked, and occasionally sung. Sister Rose had a laugh that could pluck and fry a rooster, but when she sung (or yodeled) she owned the group: she was the sort of woman you didn't want to tangle with unless you were really looking for trouble. Mama Maddox managed the group and dressed them up to their motto. Their covers of "Whoa Sailor" and "Philadelphia Lawyer" and "I Wish I Was a Single Girl Again" are definitive, and you might forget Hank Williams and add "Honky Tonkin'" to that list. The only comparable original was "It's Only Human Nature," although Rose's Tex-Mex "Cocquita of Laredo" is outrageous camp. Vol. 1 of two Arhoolie comps hits most of the same highpoints -- the sound quality is a bit better there, and the filler is more trad, but this one is cheaper and picks more odd gems. A

Notekillers (1977-81 [2004], Ecstatic Peace). This was a Philadelphia band that had one seven-inch single to show for four years of stoned practice and occasional gigs. That makes them an order of magnitude more obscure than Boston's La Peste (who had a much more noted EP), two orders from Chicago's Shrimp Boat (who actually released a couple of forgotten albums), three orders from New York's DNA (an EP and a slice of the Brian Eno-produced No New York, plus Arto Lindsay and Ikue Mori went on to bigger and better things). All of these bands have recently been reissued in editions far larger than they ever intended to record, the filler coming from scraps of practice tapes and live gigs. The interest is because in their various ways they achieved a kind of primitive purity that harkens back to the punk ideal, anthemized by the Adverts' "One Chord Wonders," then made a little weirder. None of the compilations justify their length, but when you're searching for ideals, a few rough spots along the way are to be expected. Notekillers exists because Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth, a six or seven on rock's Richter scale) happened to recall digging the single. The payoff is in the live tracks, especially "Richochet" and "Juggernauts," that close the set -- pure riff pieces that repeat into brain-numbing bliss. One problem the band had was no singer. Here it doesn't matter. A-

Tab Smith: Crazy Walk (1955-57 [2004], Delmark). In the Gospel According to Charlie Parker one finds lurking in the background the figure of an alto saxophonist completely unlike Bird, one who merely seeks to please the masses instead of answering the higher calling to create breathtakingly original art. Tab Smith was, if not literally, at least in composite, the anti-Bird. While true jazz fans followed their pied piper into commercial limbo, saxophonists like Smith were reduced to being the butt of jokes. There were many such saxophonists in the '50s, most hopelessly obscure by now, and it's true that they can't keep a candle lit in the windstorm blown up by players like Parker. But they are the bedrock of '50s r&b, the missing links from Illinois Jacquet to Stanley Turrentine and Houston Person. It's also true that Tab Smith wasn't a hidden genius of the genre -- Hal Singer was more supple, and Joe Houston had a lot more honk. But this completes Delmark's mission of collecting Smith's 1951-57 work on four remarkably consistent and enjoyable discs. Parker pushed his horn to its limits; Smith just luxuriated in its spare warm tone, but that's something too. B+

Wadada Leo Smith: Kabell Years (1971-79 [2004], Tzadik, 4CD). From Albert Ayler to Pharoah Sanders to Peter Brötzmann, the avant-garde in the '60s was enthralled by the idea of pushing limits, of generating a louder and more discordant sound than ever before. They proved their point, leaving the next generation with a big problem: now what? Free jazz was no longer a goal in the '70s; it was an assumption, even if its meaning could only be defined by what it was not. Into this void came the theoreticians -- the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Leroy Jenkins. Smith came out of those same circles, working with Braxton and Jenkins as the Creative Construction Company, recording with Abrams and Marion Brown. During the '70s Smith released his work on his own label, Kabell Records. Only now has a sizable chunk of it appeared on CD. Of the four CDs, two are solo works or trumpet and/or percussion, the other two small groups -- one with Oliver Lake on flute and sax, both with Anthony Davis on piano. The solo works are shot full of holes, silence being part of Smith's rhythmic arsenal. The groups are more expansive. Nothing here is particularly fun to play, but often it is fascinating to listen to. Smith's later records, even the solo Red Sulphur Sky (2001, Tzadik), have grown more lyrical, and he's added another dimension to his work with projects like Yo Miles! But this is one of the key documents of the gestation of what they could only call creative music. B+

Peter Stampfel & the Bottlecaps: The Jig Is Up (1984-99 [2004], Blue Navigator). Old songs and weird songs, but you'll need the booklet for hints about which are which, and you'll probably wind up second guessing anyway. For instance, "New White House Blues" and "New Riley the Furniture Man" will be recognized by folks who know of Charlie Poole and the Georgia Crackers, but they've been refashioned. There are two Irish jigs, one dating back to Shay's Rebellion, the other an original called "Song of Man." The one about jigging squid came from Hank Snow, but turns into something else when sung with Stampfel's voice. Stephen Foster's "Old Dog Tray" returns as a more sentimental original. These were outtakes from the Bottlecaps' heyday, leftovers from their two albums -- probably because the Bottlecaps were meant to be a rock move. This is closer in spirit to Stampfel's You Must Remember This, except when it turns into the Holy Modal Rounders. A-

The Best of Bobby Vinton (1962-72 [2004], Epic/Legacy). Vinton may sound like a retro crooner these days, but he was state of the art when he scored four #1 hits in 1962-64. He combined at least three surefire recipes: the good looks of a teen idol (even though at 27 he was a seasoned pro, mostly as a saxophonist), a one-note book of naive but hopelessly pathetic love songs (a regimen that fed many contemporaries, from Dickie Lee to Skeeter Davis), and a sense of pop production that owed as much to the Brill Building as from the long line of past balladeers. But what made it work was that Vinton was a perfectly convincing singer, and that he never stretched his talent. He extended his career by picking songs like "I Love How You Love Me" and "Sealed With a Kiss" -- great songs that suited him to a tee. At 37 minutes (14 songs), this compilation doesn't stretch his talent either: it focuses it exactly. A-

Rancho Texicano: The Very Best of ZZ Top (1970-92 [2004], Warner Bros., 2CD). Actually, the real very best of ZZ Top -- possibly the only really great thing they ever did -- was an album that they put out in 1979, after a couple years hiatus hanging out in Paris and taking life easy. Deguello may not have been the greatest blues album ever made by white guys -- Layla is pretty hard to top -- but it is certainly the most comfortable. Its four cuts which end the first disc here stand head and shoulders above everything but "Tush," and the six they omitted would have done the same. The best of the rest of their oeuvre may just be chopped liver (Texas style, with roasted anchos and BBQ sauce), but what's wrong with that? The first disc here is nothing but blues, dirty (as in dirt) and gritty (as in grit). The second disc is more prog (as in "Velcro Fly") and more camp (as in "Viva Las Vegas"), and they throw in a couple of dance remixes and a live "Cheap Sunglasses" for laughs. They're the world's least pretentious arena rock band, a triumph of luck over design, and wise enough to enjoy that. A-

Briefly Noted

  • Mahmoud Ahmed: Éthiopiques, Vol. 6: Almaz (1973 [1999], Buda Musique): early Ethiopian pop, heartily sung and exotically grooved, only a shade less developed than his better known Erè Mèla Mèla. B+
  • Chet Baker: Ensemble (1953 [2004], Pacific Jazz): from its birth, the most distinctive thing about cool jazz was that it was the product of arrangers, who gave it a chamber music feel; Jack Montrose arranged this, setting Baker atop three saxophones, piano, bass and drums, endowing it with a light, lively sound. B+
  • Chet Baker: Sings and Plays (1955 [2004], Pacific Jazz): a favorite of those most smitten by him, his voice has never sounded clearer or more plaintive, his trumpet is a model of economy, and the two cuts with cellos unobtrusive; I find this more consistent and more appealing than his best-ofs, but it's always a close call with Baker. A-
  • Chet Baker: Big Band (1956 [2004], Pacific Jazz): two sessions, 10-11 piece bands, various arrangers, all pretty much standard fare for the time and place, meaning that they are light and snappy; the nominal leader's role is harder than usual to make out, especially given that they didn't even put his picture on the cover. B
  • Chet Baker: Sextet (1954-57 [2004], Pacific Jazz): featuring Bud Shank, Bob Brookmeyer and Russ Freeman, with arrangements by Jack Montrose, Johnny Mandel or Bill Holman, this chamber group is a miniature big band with a soft ensemble sound. B
  • Chet Baker: Love Songs (1953-74 [2004], Columbia/Legacy): slim pickings, half from the 1953-54 Chet Baker & Strings, half from a 1974 Creed Taylor thing with more strings; to his credit it's hard to tell the difference, but then it's also hard to retain consciousness. C+
  • Chet Baker: The Last Great Concert: My Favorite Songs, Vol. 1 & 2 (1988 [2004], Enja/Justin Time, 2CD): cut with the NDR Big Band and Radio Orchestra Hannover shortly before he fell to his death, his formerly handsome face deeply etched with many more years than the calendar admitted, going through the motions like he did in all his other great concerts. B-
  • The Count Basie Story (1957-59 [2004], Roulette, 2CD): the new testament band reprises their favorite stories from the old testament, from "Moten Swing" to "Red Bank Boogie"; the atomic precision is a marvel to behold, but the retrospective begs comparison with the swaggering territory band Basie moved to New York, reminding one how much "Lester Leaps In" depends on Lester. B+
  • Count Basie & Friends: 100th Birthday Bash (1957-62 [2004], Roulette, 2CD): a pseudo-event imagined 100 years after Basie's 1904 birth, long after most of its participants have passed on; an excuse to gather up a pastiche of atomic-era Basie with guest stars, including Ben Webster, Illinois Jacquet, Nat Cole, Billy Eckstine, Tony Bennett and Sarah Vaughan; of these, only Vaughan adds much to the band's usual sizzle. B
  • The Beakers: Four Steps Toward a Cultural Revolution (1980-81 [2004], K): Seattle's answer to "no wave," with a singer who's studied David Byrne, a rhythm section in love with the Gang of Four, and a saxophonist who makes James Chance sound like Paul Desmond; with just one 45 released in their lifetime, this is previously unearthed archaeology -- it's crap, but that's just part of their aesthetic. B
  • The Blackouts: History in Reverse (1979-81 [2004], K): more sonic archaeology from Seattle, a group with two EPs and loose connections to groups like Ministry and Revolting Cocks, which along with Talking Heads and the Fall roughly delimit their sound: more prog and more accomplished than most of the era's postpunk wannabes. B+
  • Carnival in Trinidad ([2001], Cooking Vinyl/SpinArt): poorly documented but evidently recent fare, selected for hard beats and pure party fervor, moving beyond soca like the latest Jamaican ragga moves beyond old-fashioned dancehall, and not far removed from slamdowns like Rio Baile Funk: Favela Booty Beats (Essay); globalization pounds on. B+
  • Terri Clark: Greatest Hits 1994-2004 ([2004], Mercury): another Canadian cowgirl in Nashville, her neotrad real but laid on a little thick, her attitude real but not so far out that her producers can't tidy it up a bit; good sign that the best songs are the latest. B+
  • Miles Davis: My Funny Valentine (1964 [2005], Columbia/Legacy): carved from the Seven Steps box and rushed to the Lovers Market, this was the Philharmonic Hall concert where four-fifths of the future Miles Davis Quintet got it together -- the other fifth being George Coleman, also kicks ass. A-
  • Miles Davis: A Tribute to Jack Johnson (1970 [2005], Columbia/Legacy): cleaned up for 2003's Complete Jack Johnson Sessions box set, which laid out all the working tracks before this ultimate edit; treated cavalierly by the label at the time, this survives as the toughest, most muscular, most dramatic of all the records Davis made in his Electric Period -- a career pinnacle to rival Kind of Blue. A+
  • The Best of Jimmy Dean (1961-65 [2004], Columbia/Legacy): a personality more than a talent, he parlayed a novelty hit into a TV show and a sausage empire; great hit, two good spinoffs, lame follow-up, lots of really lame talkies, and a funny one that makes you wish he'd sung more: "I Won't Go Huntin' With You Jake (But I'll Go Chasin' Wimmin')." B-
  • Marlene Dietrich: Love Songs (1930-59 [2004], Columbia/Legacy): "Lili Marlene" in English; "Taking a Chance on Love" in German; as a singer she was a great actress, her sprachgesang more drama than melody, but she conveyed ice more convincingly than warmth, making her an odd choice for a Valentine. B
  • DNA: DNA on DNA (1978-82 [2004], No More): if "new wave" sought to put the music back into punk, "no wave" tried to wring it out, to reduce it to primal noise, to pure attitude -- with a twist, in this case from percussionist Ikue Mori and guitarist-screecher Arto Lindsay at their most crankiest; the 12 cuts they officially released are fascinating; the extra 20 cuts Jason Gross dug up are gifts for people who love the first 12 more than I do. B+
  • Doctor Mix and the Remix: Wall of Noise (1979 [2004], Acute): imagining Phil Spector while anticipating Jesus and Mary Chain, French punk Eric Débris goes to England and cuts an oldies album -- parts, anyway, eventually stitched together to form this tribute to the golden age of hardcore minimalism. B+
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: The Jaywalker (1966-67, Storyville): previously unissued stockpile tapes, similar to the SAJA series; from a time when Ellington shaped some of his most major works, these feel like random sketches, admittedly in brilliant colors. B+
  • Éthiopiques, Vol. 15: Jump to Addis (2001 [2003], Buda Musique): with European guests the music of the new Addis Ababa is upbeat and polished; still, not as bright as soukous, say; perhaps there's still a cloud in the sky? B+
  • Éthiopiques, Vol. 18: Asguèbba! (2001-03 [2004], Buda Musique): disarmingly simple, just pained, plaintive, urgent vocals against minimal backdrops -- strings, drums, in one case an accordion. B+
  • Peter Green: Man of the World: The Anthology (1968-88 [2004], Sanctuary, 2CD): he stayed true to Fleetwood Mac's original blues vision even after nobody else remembered that they had ever had one, and he furthered that legacy more nobly than Eric Clapton. B+
  • Charlie Haden/Joe Henderson/Al Foster: The Montreal Tapes (1989 [2004], Verve): the seventh of eight concerts from Charlie Haden week in Montreal 1989, probably skipped over because it's nothing more than you'd expect, but three years after Henderson's death they clearly miss the big guy. B+
  • Peter Herborn's Acute Insights (1987-88 [2002], Winter & Winter): bright and clever postbop jazz, with a lot of action and dynamics, but a nimble feel -- quite a trick for an arranger, which is trombonist Herborn's real forté. A-
  • Michael Hurley: Down in Dublin (2004, Blue Navigator): like most live albums, a holding pattern, recycling old songs and sometimes reinterpreting them; packaged with new comix, a plus. B+
  • Haruna Ishola: Apala Messenger (1967-71 [2001], Hyena/IndigeDisc): cut in swinging Lagos but more primitivist, just talking drums and chants that wouldn't be out of place around a nyahbinghi campfire. B+
  • A Proper Introduction to Julia Lee: That's What I Like (1944-52 [2004], Proper): she was the hottest of Kansas City's red hot mamas, a woman who knew what she liked and knew how to get it; a product of Jay McShann's territory band, rooted in the blues but out for a good time. A-
  • Ramsey Lewis: Love Songs (1972-88 [2004], Columbia/Legacy): without vocals how do you know they're love songs? with Nancy Wilson, why should you care? excepting a simple trio take on "Please Send Me Someone to Love," this offers nothing but tinkling piano in a sea of goop. D
  • The Best of Chuck Mangione (1973-88 [2004], Columbia/Legacy): two cross-licensed cuts keep this from being subtitled "The Columbia Years," and only one is representative of the crossover schmaltz he delighted in. C
  • A Proper Introduction to Dodo Marmarosa: Dodo's Dance (1946-48 [2004], Proper): a fair selection of work by a minor pianist of the bebop era, which elevate a notch when joined by tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson. B+
  • Thelonious Monk: Monk 'Round the World (1961-65 [2004], Thelonious/Hyena, CD+DVD): the second of possibly many live Monk sets playing the same songs you've heard them play many times, each set with a bonus DVD; the music here comes from scattered concerts, but Charlie Rouse is a constant, welcome as usual; how much of this anyone needs is an open question, but it's hard to fault the music, and the B&W video just proves that Monk playing piano looks as odd as it sounds. B+
  • The Best of Jim Nabors (1966-75 [2004], Columbia/Legacy): his Gomer Pyle sendup always raised the hackles on my red neck, but his operatic singing is even lower brow; it would have been funnier than Tiny Tim if only he had given you reason to suspect he had a sense of humor, but he always played it straight, even on "Ave Maria." C
  • The Rough Guide to South African Gospel ([2003], World Music Network): mostly choirs, with the same sort of vocal uplift you find in black America gospel, but the words aren't in English -- with may be a blessing. B+
  • The Rough Guide to the Music of Ethiopia ([2004], World Music Network): whereas the Éthiopiques series went for blanket coverage of a corner of Africa unlike any other, this comp just cherry-picks -- mostly from Éthiopiques plus late-breaking star Aster Aweke, making it a useful overview (with the usual caveats), or just a well-balanced tour of a distant groove. A-
  • Shalamar: Anthology (1977-87 [2004], The Right Stuff/Solar, 2CD): the last of the great '70s soul groups -- so late that most of their hits came out in the '80s when few rock fans even noticed, so they never broke out of their AM niche; the single-CD Greatest Hits is more concentrated, but the broader swath here holds up admirably. A-
  • Nina Simone: For Lovers (1964-87 [2005], Verve): as absurd a concept as awarding Henry Kissinger the Nobel Peace Prize, but they still should have been able to come up with something more amorous than "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," maybe "I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl"; strings aren't the same as sugar, no matter how thick you pile them on. C-
  • Patti Smith: Land (1975-2002) (1974-2002, Arista, 2CD): one best-of disc plus an extra dose of demos/live scraps, both not only hold up, they unify a career that we tend to think of in pieces: the New York bohemian poet of her youth and the stolid Detroit politico of her maturity; the hits/misses split also matters little, because she's always been more about risks taken than accomplishments. A-
  • Tavares: Anthology (1973-81 [2004], Capitol, 2CD): somewhere in the second tier of '70s soul groups, but more doesn't uncover minor charms -- it exposes their main weakness: awkward clichés force-wrapped around their grooves, which also don't scale. B
  • Happy Together: The Very Best of the Turtles (1965-70 [2004], Shout! Factory): shots like "It Ain't Me Babe" and "Eve of Destruction" remind you that they don't really have enough good songs of their own for a must-own single-artist comp, but they did have one great hit, a couple more nearly as good (above all, "Let Me Be"), and an ebulliance and emerging sense of humor ("Grim Reaper of Love") that turned their frontmen into Flo & Eddie. B+
  • The United Records Story (1951-57 [2004], Delmark): a fair sampler for the Chicago R&B label Delmark has mined for a dozen plus albums, with long suits in blues (Junior Wells, Robert Nighthawk, Memphis Slim) and honking sax (Paul Bascomb, Jimmy Forrest, Tab Smith), plus Della Reese and an amen from the gospel division. B+
  • Sarah Vaughan: Love Songs (1949-53 [2004], Columbia/Legacy): her Columbia recordings, with their lush but utterly swingless orchestration, were her pedestal period: she was the perfect singer ("a startlingly pure contralto with a four-octave range") bathed in adulation like decadent royalty; I can't stand those records, but this one is short and ends with two cuts caressed by Miles Davis' trumpet. B-
  • Ben Webster: For Lovers (1954-64 [2005], Verve): the slowest songs they could find, which except for the one with strings are little more than the big man breathing, sighing, wooing through his horn, with a vibrato as thick and luxurious as mink. A-
  • Asnaqètch Wèrqu: Éthiopiques, Vol. 16: The Lady With the Krar (1974-76 [2004], Buda Musique): just her voice with the lute-like krar, solemn (she started as an actress) and hypnotic, 22 songs with a single vibe. B+
  • The Wizards From Kansas (1970 [2004], Radioactive): as fancy but not as prog as Kansas, but then they recorded in San Francisco, where they weren't as psychedelic as Quicksilver either; deep-sixed by Mercury when the musicians wandered off to play jazz, then resurrected by an English label as a long lost classic -- says something about ambitions (business and artistic, then and now). B
  • Yes Indeed! Women Vocalists on United (1949-53 [2004], Delmark): no lost masterpieces, just vintage R&B grouped to keep the obscure from being totally forgotten; note that only one cut made The United Records Story. B

Additional Consumer News

I haven't heard these recent reissues in their latest packaging, but I know them from previous editions. Some may have extra tracks, which usually don't help much, but don't hurt much either. Grades are from previous editions: caveat emptor.

  • Anthony Braxton: Charlie Parker Project 1993 (1993, Hatology, 2CD): no one ever played Parker's songbook faster or with more fervor, not even Bird. A-
  • Cecil Taylor: One Too Many Salty Swift and Not Goodbye (1978, Hatology, 2CD): a sprawling work by one of Taylor's loudest and most dazzling groups, with Raphé Malik and Jimmy Lyons. A-


Posted on Static Multimedia Feb. 16, 2005.

Copyright © 2005 Tom Hull.