A Consumer Guide to the Trailing Edge: April, 2005

Recycled Goods (18)

by Tom Hull

At first I figured this would be Brazil month, and indeed there are quite a few Brazilian records below -- all but one under Briefly Noted. Although we tend to associate Brazil with bossa nova and, more generally, samba, it is a large country with a broad range of music -- by all accounts, Brazil hosts the second largest music industry in the world. But somewhere between the supple rhythms and the Portuguese poetics and Universal Latino's programming I never made much sense out of the Pure Brazil series -- perhaps it is too pure?

But along the way this turned out to be '50s pop (and jazz) month, with complementary surveys from the '20s and '30s. I was born in 1950, so my experience of that decade's music is marginally direct, partly refracted through my after-the-fact memories, and mostly rediscovered in recent years. My grasp of earlier music is almost all research. Later music, especially from 1975 on, I experienced more directly. In between, my views were heavily colored by the ordeal of growing up. My generation grew up in a very different world from the one our parents grew up in: they survived the hardships of Depression and World War, while our world was one of relative affluence and high ideals, marred by the threat of nuclear armageddon. The differences became famous as the Generation Gap, and each side had its favored music. Mine was rock and roll. My parents liked swing bands and country music, but for most of America in the '50s adult music meant dashing crooners like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, and dozens of lesser talents. It's not music that I liked at the time, and I still have reservations about much of it -- for one thing there are still aspects of the '50s that give me the creeps, not the least being McCarthyism and Orval Faubus. But lately I've listened to quite a bit of '50s pop, mostly working forward from the (for me, anyway) less complicated swing era. And sometimes I find a few songs do manage to stir up nostalgic feelings, and sometimes I detect some deep aspect that rock and roll -- that my generation -- intended to overthrow. Both of these necessarily represent very personal reactions, and they work their way through these reviews. But then that's always the case.

The World of Nat King Cole (1944-91 [2005], Capitol). Cole's voice was his meal ticket, and as his career developed he gave up everything else for it -- most notably, his piano. His Trio records from the '40s hold a unique place in the jazz canon, cool and urbane where the only comparable talent, Fats Waller, was crude and comical. But his later pop hits had no consistent sound -- sometimes big bands, often just a thin wrapper of strings -- except, that is, for his voice. One-size-fits-all comps invariably cheat him, but by sticking close to the voice and letting the arrangements fly off wherever they want this does a relatively good job of lining up some of his more amazing songs. He could sing through such a maudlin string arrangement as "Mona Lisa," just as he could sing through Stan Kenton's explosive "Orange Colored Sky"; he could even hold his own in the "virtual duet" daughter Natalie recorded 25 years after his death -- included here in case that's all potential customers remembered him for. A

The Complete Norman Granz Jam Sessions (1952-54 [2004], Verve, 5CD). These jam sessions were like NBA all-star games: there's too much talent to coach or coordinate, so just turn the stars loose and let them show off. The sessions were released on LPs, imposing a fifteen-minute-per-side regime, and each piece -- a few standards, often strung together as medleys, plus staples like "Jam Blues" and "Funky Blues" -- was stretched with solos. The most famous jam sequenced solos by the three most famous alto saxophonists of the era: Johnny Hodges, Charlie Parker, and Benny Carter. A typical trumpet lineup was Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie. A tenor sax lineup was Illinois Jacquet, Flip Phillips, and Ben Webster, although Stan Getz and Wardell Gray get their licks in on the second disc. The pianist, of course, was Granz stalwart Oscar Peterson -- except when Count Basie and/or Arnold Ross sat in. The only surprise here is forgotten bebop clarinetist Buddy DeFranco, who steals the second disc and much of the last two. A-

Happy Birthday Newport! 50 Swinging Years (1955-76 [2004], Columbia/Legacy, 3CD). Duke Ellington was born again at Newport in 1956. Johnny Hodges had just returned to the fold, but it was Paul Gonsalves who rocked the house with one of the most famous solos in jazz history. "Diminuendo in Blue" is the centerpiece of the first disc here, and arguably the one key performance that put George Wein's Newport Jazz Festival on the map. But you can (and should) go to the Ellington section of your favorite record vendor for that story, now available in two glorious CDs. The festival has hung on now for fifty years, much of it mere inertia from its heyday in the late '50s. This box is welcome, but marginal. Newport's recording legacy is spotty, and this selection limits itself to eight years (1955-58, 1960, 1963, 1973, 1976). Aside from Coltrane's "My Favorite Things" and Hancock's "Maiden Voyage," and sidetracks by Muddy Waters and Mahalia Jackson, this is a nice, loose snapshot of the jazz legends of '50s. The booklet provides some of Wein's reminiscences, but little history. B+

Hot Women: Women Singers From the Torrid Regions (1927-50 [2003], Kein & Aber). Cajun, Cuban, Mexican, Brazilian, French Caribbean, Chilean, Spanish, Sicilian, Greek, Algerian, Tunisian, Turkish, African, Malagasy, Hindustani, Burmese, Vietnamese, Hawaiian, Tahitian -- all culled from old (and old-sounding) 78s, mostly from the '30s; all feature women singers, the "hot" determined mostly by R. Crumb's libido (your mileage may vary). The order sweeps the globe from new world to old and across the Pacific, not quite sorted by latitude, but close. Effectively, it moves from the relatively familiar to the relatively exotic. I don't love it all, but the more I play it the more cogent it sounds, slowly dragging you into odd meters and shrill harmonies -- the stuff that makes southeast Asian music so inaccessible. This at least is a framework to show you much of the world -- the old, pre-globalized world -- without it wearing out its welcome. A-

Magic Moments: The Best of '50s Pop (1950-59 [2004], Shout! Factory, 3CD). This was the adult music of my childhood, the grand pop synthesis that survived the decline of the big bands. I remember it mostly from television (Perry Como, Dean Martin, Nat Cole, Andy Williams) and movies (Doris Day, Debbie Reynolds); indeed, its cross-media dominance reminds you that monopoly power over culture was at its peak then, even as minority musics proliferated on the margins of the industry. I hated this music when I was growing up, although not without exception, and I still have a low opinion of the anonymous bands, the omnivorous strings, and the operatics. But there are glorious moments here, songs like "The Tennessee Waltz," "The Wayward Wind," "Que Sera Sera," "Singing the Blues." Rhino's Sentimental Journey series surveyed much of this: 18 of the 60 songs here are repeats. This ranges a bit broader, picking up some novelty songs, a little mambo influence, more stultifying orchestras, convergence from the Platters, and a couple of my own first favorite songs -- "Sixteen Tons" (Tennessee Ernie Ford, not Merle Travis) and "Mack the Knife" (Bobby Darin, not Lotte Lenya). B+

Dino: The Essential Dean Martin (1949-69 [2004], Capitol). His associations with Jerry Lewis and Frank Sinatra made him look second-rate, and on his own he lapsed into a celebrity caricature of his notoriously drunken self. Lewis and Sinatra were geniuses -- nobody could compete with them, and Martin never tried. What made him the greatest second banana of the era was that he could toss off a brilliant performance so effortlessly that even artists like Lewis and Sinatra had to admire him, but he was so self-effacing about it that he never threatened to become a challenger. You figured him for lazy, but that's just because he was such a natural. Having changed his name from Dino Crocetti, he had to wrestle "Mambo Italiano" back from Rosemary Clooney, but nowadays it's almost impossible to eat linguine without hearing "Nel Blu di Pinto di Blu" in the background. When I was a teenager his songs were essential philosophy: "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You" was the ultimate question, and "Everybody Loves Somebody" the answer. He got me through the worst years of my life. A

The Only Doo-Wop Collection You'll Ever Need (1954-65 [2005], Shout! Factory, 2CD). The title is presumptuous and argumentative: it asserts that 37 songs exhaust your interest in the subject, and that these are the 37 songs. One can quibble about the selection, but if I had to pick 37 I'd pick two-thirds of these, and feel bad about the ones I cut. Your interest level, of course, is your own damn business, but there is an awful lot more where they came from, even if one keeps the usual limits, excluding early groups like the Ravens and 5 Royales, later groups groups like the Shirelles (girl groups), the Miracles (Motown), the Four Seasons and the Beach Boys (post-Dion), and major '50s groups like the Drifters, Clovers, and Coasters. For practical purposes, doo wop tends to be limited to one-shot singles groups. Rhino's 1989 The Best of Doo Wop Ballads and The Best of Doo Wop Uptempo set the pattern -- with two discs and 38 songs they've long been my idea of the doo wop canon. But is that enough? Rhino didn't think so when they came out with their 4-CD The Doo Wop Box, then did it again. Neither of the Rhino boxes are what I'd call essential, but they stretch the field out a bit, hit often enough to remind you that there's more worth exploring, and well documented. The music here is beyond reproach, but the box is docked a notch for arrogance. On the other hand, had they called it Doo Wop 101 it would have been docked a notch for its paltry documentation. A-

Pure Brazil: Feijoada: 14 Delicious Sambas (1963-2000 [2004], Universal Latino). Named for Brazil's most famous dish, a rich stew of black beans and pork parts -- the recipe included calls for smoked bacon, smoked pork sausage, a ham hock, a salted pig ear and a salted pig nose, ribs, and "meat." Like the food, Brazil's music is as subtle and understated as you can get without turning bland, so this takes a while to kick in, but the classic samba grooves portend the good life with little effort or struggle, and the occasional tropicalista like Chico Buarque adds a little spice. Bon apetit. A-

George Thorogood & the Destroyers: Greatest Hits: 30 Years of Rock (1977-2003 [2004], Capitol). Interesting that their self-description is Rock instead of Blues. Almost everything they've ever done comes out of the blues tradition, but then they're just white guys who know they're parasites on the tradition, not contributors. They know their limits, but they also know their audience. I once saw them do Elmore James' stratospheric ballad "The Sky Is Crying" and could feel the crowd losing patience. When they finished they picked up the pace a bit, and the fellow next to me yelled out, "yeah! rock 'n' roll!" The next song was "Madison Blues" -- another Elmore James classic. Go back to the originals for James, but they cranked "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" up to a level John Lee Hooker never achieved. And they wrote one classic on their own, a guitar rave called "Bad to the Bone." And they hung in there: I'm more impressed that they logged 30 years than that they came up with 16 songs to show for them. Cut this down to 12 songs and they'd grade even better. B+

20 #1 Hits of the '20s (1920-29 [2005], Collectors' Choice). Recorded music goes back to the last decade of the 19th century, but as a business and a cultural phenomenon it didn't take off until the 1920s, when the symbiotic invention of radio started to reach a mass audience. The '20s, roaring or not, were a long time ago, and the primitive recording technology makes them even more inaccessible. The music we tend to remember is what's proven most useful since then -- Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Bix Beiderbecke, Duke Ellington, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Jimmie Rodgers, all pioneers of more modern styles. Restricted to #1 Pop Hits, the only performer from that list to appear here is Bessie Smith, although Ethel Waters, Al Jolson, and Paul Whiteman singer Bing Crosby aren't exactly unknowns. This judicious selection broadens out feel for the decade, without trapping us in trivia. Singers like Sophie Tucker, Eddie Cantor, and Jolson are dated, but still convey a sense of why they were held in much esteem then; many of these songs are ancient versions of recognized classics -- Marion Harris in "St. Louis Blues," Van & Schenck with "Ain't We Got Fun" and "Carolina in the Morning," Ukulele Ike "Singin' in the Rain." A-

Briefly Noted

  • The Essential Allman Brothers Band: The Epic Years (1990-2000 [2004], Epic/Legacy): with the solo careers of Greg and Dickie dashed -- they were never more than parts, and never more useless than on their own -- they did the inevitable: regroup and reap; they fare better than the comparably damaged Lynyrd Skynyrd, probably because they understand that hard and fast rarely sucks; still, this had to be padded out with live versions of old warhorses, played hard and fast so they don't suck. B+
  • Antologia de Música Electrónica Portuguesa (1972-97 [2004], Tomlab/Plancton): 15 short pieces by 15 experimenters hitherto unknown to me, some pieces happy just to coax novel sounds from their gadgets, others expand those sounds into fascinating tapestries; not being an expert I can only report that I find this pleasingly old fashioned in its celebration of the new. B+
  • The Essential Gene Autry (1931-51 [2005], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): before he became the king of the celluloid cowboys, he did a pretty decent Jimmie Rodgers impersonation; his signature hits have a common elegance that argues that he earned his stardom, but this goes on too long -- over the deep end of Korean War jingoism, with at least five songs I never want to hear again, starting with an atomic-charged "God Bless America" and ending with the definitive "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer." B-
  • Begnagrad (1982 [2004], Mio): Slovenian folk-rock from the early '80s when there was still a Yugoslavia, with a little noise thrown into the mix of melodicas and what-have-you, perhaps a faint echo of the punk rock revolt in parts further west. B
  • Brizzi Do Brasil (2004, Amiata): a tribute from Brazil's new wave to Italian neoclassical composer Aldo Brizzi; I like the fierce rhythmic undertow, but dislike the chimerical and sometimes churchy vocals, especially Virginia Rodrigues. B
  • Don Cherry: Blue Lake (1971 [2003], Fuel 2000): with South African bassist Johnny Dyani and Turkish percussionist Okay Temiz, with Cherry chanting and playing piano as well as his usual pocket trumpet, a taste of the world music of a future that never came and probably never will. B+
  • The Essential Rosemary Clooney (1947-56 [2004], Columbia/Legacy): the period of her biggest pop hits ("Come On-A My House," "Mambo Italiano," "This Ole House"), mixed in with big band swingers like "The Lady Is a Tramp"; this feels like prehistory compared to her post-1978 comeback, when she reinvented the modern jazz standards singer, but what made her comeback work was that she came from the period she later archived; also that her vocal swagger was second only to Sinatra. B+
  • Close Harmony: A History of Southern Gospel Music, Volume One (1925-55 [2004], Dualtone): a companion to James R. Goff's book, short but well documented, mostly obscure, but groups like the Golden Gate Quartet and the Chuck Wagon Gang appear, more white than black, but hard to tell the difference. B+
  • Jim Croce: Facets (1966-69 [2004], Shout! Factory): juvenilia, more or less: his first home-made, self-released album, mostly covers in a pleasing folkie mode, plus seven duo cuts with wife Ingrid, following up their 1968 album together; he had a big hit later then died, leaving fans wondering where he came from and what he might have done; the evidence is that he was an ordinary folkie, a bit more likable than most. B
  • Jim Croce: Home Recordings: Americana (1967 [2003], Shout! Factory): from "Mom and Dad's Waltz" to "Mama Tried" via "In the Jailhouse Now," which goes to show you that behind every upcoming folkie is a good record collection; still missing is an original idea, not to mention a studio and a band. C+
  • The Legendary Bobby Darin (1962-73 [2004], Capitol): past his initial rock hits (some reprised live, some very briefly), he croons competently in front of anonymous big bands and covers trifling pop songs of the day. B+
  • The Swinging Side of Bobby Darin (1962-65 [2005], Capitol Jazz): Atlantic groomed him as a rock star, but Capitol lured him away with an offer he couldn't resist: they auditioned him for Frank Sinatra's vacancy, and he was smashing, swinging with Billy May's powerhouse orchestra, winding his way through Bob Florence's more delicate arrangements; the songbook is a bit obvious, the time had past, and he didn't stick with it, but for a moment it was all he ever wanted to do; short (31:02). A-
  • A Proper Introduction to Rosco Gordon: No More Doggin' (1951-53, Proper): early work from longtime Memphis bluesman who scored once with "Booted" (two versions here), but otherwise this is typical of the swamp that spawned Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King. B+
  • Rosco Gordon: No Dark in America (2002 [2005], Dualtone): a whiff of fame from his feature in the Martin Scorsese blues series gets him a new record, then he dies, which may be why they didn't try to clean up or sort out this mess; he's all pounding piano and gravelly voice here, strikingly crude on "You Look Bad When You're Naked." B
  • Jazz Moods: Sounds of Autumn (1977-2003 [2004], Concord): the VCs who bought New England's most successful retro swing label and moved it to L.A. deleted over 300 albums then launched this series of catalog exploitation; these songs were selected by title ("Autumn Leaves," "September Song," "When October Goes" -- did they even play them?). B-
  • Jazz Moods: Twilight in Rio (1982-99 [2004], Concord): more catalog plunder; lightweights (Manfredo Fest, Hendrik Meurkens), guitarists (Charlie Byrd), singers (Karrin Allyson), odds (Joanne Brackeen) and ends (Toots Thielemans), nothing that required travelling to Rio, but some of it works anyway (Ken Peplowski). B
  • Peggy Lee: Black Coffee (1953-56 [2004], Verve): cut with two small jazz groups that do everything right, Lee works through a fine set of standards with equal aplomb; recommended to the Kansas Board of Education: "It Ain't Necessarily So." A-
  • Guitar Moods by Mundell Lowe (1956 [2004], Riverside OJC): shimmering curtains of sound, not ambient guitar so much as its precursor: ambling guitar. B
  • Miriam Makeba: Reflections (2004, Heads Up): the grande dame of South Africa has been all over the world and evidently survived by singing all kinds of shlock, but this look back is hopelessly confused, the song selection astonishingly inappropriate, the production sometimes inspired, often just ridiculous; do you really want to hear her sing in French? what about German? (or is that Yiddish?) C+
  • Boban Markovic Orkestar: Boban I Marko (2003, Piranha): Serbian brass, out of the same folk roots as jazzman Dusko Goykovich, but more intent on rousing the locals than wowing the beboppers. A-
  • María Márquez: Nature's Princess/Princesa de la Natura (2003 [2004], Adventure Music): Venezuelan singer, now based on Oakland CA; the music has an unfamiliar, non-specific latin feel to it, evenly paced and wrapped in lush arrangements, but it is her voice (sharp, almost arch) that you will love or hate; I'm starting to get used to it. B
  • Mosaïc: Ultimatum Plus . . . (1976-78 [2004], Mio): French rock group in a prog vein from King Crimson and Gong, i.e., long instrumental stretches with violin and thumping bass, but rougher and heavier, like they're getting antsy for punk to come along, or better yet, Wire. B+
  • Now That Sounds Kosher! (1955-2004 [2005], Shout! Factory): most of the jokes are as obvious and trivial as "Be True to Your Shul" by the Beach Boychiks and "Man of Constant Tsuris" by the Soggy Matzoh Boys, but songs by Mickey Katz, Allan Sherman, and Tom Lehrer are classics of a type, and Mel Brooks' Torquemada musical is classic; another choice cut: "You'll Never Get the Party Started," by Mrs. Pinkus. B+
  • Anita O'Day and Billy May: Swing Rodgers and Hart (1960 [2004], Verve): a sequel to their better known Cole Porter album, with the artists working hard to keep up a proper level of frivolity, running with odd ("To Keep My Love Alive") and charming ("Ten Cents a Dance") songs; she sounds fine, his band sounds as anonymous as ever, and the strings don't help. B
  • Pure Brazil: Bossa4Two: Great Duets for Great Moments (1963-97 [2004], Universal Latino): Elis and Tom, Tom and Chico, Toquinho and Chico, Toquinho and Vinicius, Tom and Astrud, Astrud and João, Ivan and Beth, Tom and Dorival, and so forth; Jobim is at the center of most of these duos (some plus, including Stan Getz on you know what), writing as well as performing. B+
  • Pure Brazil: Bossa4Two Vol 2: Great Duets for Great Moments (1977-2002 [2004], Universal Latino): younger, more recent pairings, less classic, less consistent, or perhaps just more idiosyncratic; Caetano Veloso is the class of the field, appearing three times. B
  • Pure Brazil: The Girls From Ipanema: From Astrud to Bebel (1963-2000 [2004], Univesal Latino): Bebel Gilberto's song is the only one post-1975; otherwise this is classic samba, with more/less big name singers, and a good deal of Jobim, but not as classic, and probably not as much Jobim, as it ought to have. B
  • Pure Brazil: The Girls From Ipanema Vol. 2: From Astrud to Bebel (1963-2003 [2004], Universal Latino): despite common endpoints, this is more recent, more obscure, more idiosyncratic than the first volume, which doesn't make it better, or worse. B
  • Pure Brazil: Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars: Bossa Nova Sung in English (1965-2001 [2004], Universal Latino): not that the lyrics are so bad they can't bear translatation, but they lose mystique, and the training wheels come wrapped in strings. C+
  • Pure Brazil: Samba Social Club: The Masters Sing Their Best (1974-2002 [2004], Universal Latino): don't know that the Buena Vista allusion holds water -- the "masters" are mostly lesser-known but firmly established stars like Martinho da Vila and Beth Carvalho, their folkish pre-samba aesthetic helped by the recent introduction of old-sounding instruments like banjo. B+
  • Pure Brazil: Samba Soul Groove (1969-2001 [2004], Universal Latino): a bit more Yankee influence, the beat compressed, the guitar tighter, here and there some soul horns, more Jorge Ben and less Gilberto Gil, a catchy piece of bubblegum from Os Mutantes. B
  • Putumayo Presents: Acoustic Brazil (1979-2004 [2005], Putumayo World Music): maybe a bit folkier than average, certainly a lean towards tropicalia, but the guitars that dominate mainstream Brazilian pop have always been acoustic -- often with nylon strings for a less metallic sound -- so "acoustic" means little here; a mix of some famous names and some possible comers, fine as far as it goes. B
  • Putumayo Presents: Blues Lounge (2000-04, Putumayo World Music): blues samples transported to a world of dreamy electrobeats, makes for pleasant background, but with a little bite to remind you this is still the real world; Moby is the name and the model here, but the unknowns pull off the same neat trick. B+
  • The Rough Guide to Fado ([2004], World Music Network): from the cafés of Lisbon and Coimbro, a venerable Afro-European ballad style with guitarra portuguesa and torch singers, pitched for maximum emotional impact; well-programmed, ranging from legends like Amália Rodrigues to newcomers like the photogenic Joana Amendoeira. B+
  • The Rough Guide to Mambo (1948-2003 [2004], World Music Network): the Afro-Cuban dance music is as formal as tango, and its variability as subtle; this surveys the style's '50s pioneers (Pérez Prado, Xavier Cugat, Noro Morales, Cal Tjader, Tito Puente, Machito, Mario Bauza) and a few modernizers (Eddie Palmieri, Snowboy, Fruko), all sounding much the same; I like the endpoints (Morales, Fruko) for their simple formalism, and the track that speaks most directly to me, "I Don't Speak Spanish (But I Understand Everything When I'm Dancing)." B+
  • The Rough Guide to the Music of Brazil: Bahia ([2004], World Music Network): up the coast from Rio, south of the easternmost tip at Pernambuco, Bahia was the core of the old Brazil -- the Brazil of sugar and slavery, its people uprooted but not far removed from Africa; compared to the sambas of the southern cities, the beat is harsher, the harmonics more obscure, as if in pursuit of a primitivism that Africa gave up long ago; the exception is Edson Gomes' sambafied reggae, my favorite track here. B+
  • Santana: Santana (Legacy Edition) (1969 [2004], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): their grungy first album, prog keybds meet congas and a still undistinguished guitarist, plus all the spare parts they could find, including live cuts that cook; a rare case where the bonus disc is an improvement. B
  • 30 #1 Hits of the '30s (1930-39 [2005], Collectors' Choice, 2CD): more jazz than the so-called Jazz Age of the '20s, with Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, and Mildred Bailey all scoring hits; more conventional pop, too; less interesting historically than 20 #1 Hits of the '20s because it's more familiar. A-
  • The Incomparable Ethel Waters (1933-40 [2003], Columbia/Legacy): the first Afro-American pop star (as opposed to blues or jazz star), although there's no reason to think she ever forgot where she crossed over from -- indeed, she incorporated it into her accomplishment; her earlier hits have only been collated casually, often with rough sound, but this one gives her a fair hearing. A-
  • A Western Jubilee: Songs and Stories of the American West (1995-2004, Dualtone): new wave cowboy music, proof that nothing ever dies in American culture -- it just gets sillier; it helps that this never sticks on one sour note too long (e.g., Waddie Mitchell's idiot poetry, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra plays "Shenandoah", the Sons of the San Joaquin sounding like a choir of Marty Robbins clones, Glenn Ohrlin's belly music); all the proof you need that Don Edwards is the most important singer in his genre since Gene Autry. B
  • Johnny Winter: Second Winter (Legacy Edition) (1969-70 [2004], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): on his second album, the covers, obvious as they are ("Slippin' and Slidin'," "Johnny B. Goode," "Highway 61 Revisited") tower over his originals, the sure mark of a journeyman; the extra disc is a live show, less of the same, puffed up to look like more. B-
  • Johnny Winter: The Progressive Blues Experiment (1969 [2005], Capitol): predating his commercial breakthrough with Columbia, this feels like a long Cream jam minus jazz pretensions -- wailing guitar, gutbucket bass, tortured vocals. B+
  • The Best of Frankie Yankovic (1947-65 [2004], Columbia/Legacy): a brief but choice selection from the "polka king" -- a sobriquet he obtained the old-fashioned way, by earning it. 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.

  • Brian Eno: Here Come the Warm Jets (1973, Astralwerks): leaving Roxy Music to the dilletantes, his first oblique strategy a set of glam power anthems with randomly conjured lyrics. A
  • Brian Eno: Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (1974, Astralwerks): second oblique strategy, a song cycle that makes sense, based on a Chinese opera that doesn't. A+
  • Brian Eno: Another Green World (1975, Astralwerks): his post-constructivist utopia, a series of short synth pieces with occasional songs, a paradigm that has never been succeeded. A+
  • Brian Eno: Before and After Science (1978, Astralwerks): slouching further into the ambient mire, but at this stage it still seemed like an adventure; plus one last song, possibly his greatest: "Kings Lead Hat." A



Copyright © 2005 Tom Hull.