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Release Round-Up: Week of August 12

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Billy ThermalBilly Thermal, Billy Thermal (Omnivore)

Before Billy Steinberg co-wrote with Tom Kelly a host of pop classics (“Like a Virgin,” “True Colors,” “So Emotional,” “Eternal Flame”), he fronted a little-heard band on Richard Perry’s Planet Records: their original five-track EP is expanded to a 12-track compilation with demos and outtakes! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Power in the MusicThe Guess Who, Power in the Music: Expanded Edition (Iconoclassic)

The final Guess Who studio album for RCA (and last with Burton Cummings) is remastered with two bonus rehearsal tracks. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

DeesuEtta James, It Takes Love to Keep a Woman: The Allen Toussaint Sessions / Eldridge Holmes, Now That I’ve Lost You: The Allen Toussaint Sessions / The Deesu Records Story (Fuel 2000)

The Fuel 2000 label has three new titles celebrating New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint including a 2-CD overview of his Deesu label (sister label to Sansu), rare material from Eldridge Holmes and a retitled reissue of the 1980 LP he produced for Etta James, Changes! All titles feature new liner notes from Bill Dahl.

Etta: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Eldridge: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Deesu: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Down to Love TownThe Originals, Down to Love Town / Platinum Hook, Platinum Hook (Big Break Records)

Big Break Records has two more rare treats from the Motown vaults: The Originals’ Down to Love Town (1976) and Platinum Hook’s self-titled LP from 1977, all expanded with bonus tracks!

The Originals: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Platinum Hook: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Written by Mike Duquette

August 12, 2014 at 08:08

It’s Love That Really Counts: Él Continues Vintage Burt Bacharach Series

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Burt Bacharach - Make It EasyIn 1962 alone, Burt Bacharach premiered more than 30 new compositions, recorded by a variety of artists from Marlene Dietrich to The Drifters.  It’s even fair to say that ’62 was the year the composer truly came into his own.  While previous years offered their share of hits for the songwriter – “I Wake Up Crying,” “Tower of Strength,” “Baby, It’s You,” “Magic Moments,” “The Story of My Life” – the Bacharach sound hadn’t completely crystallized.  With Jerry Butler’s July 1962 single of Bacharach and Hal David’s “Make It Easy on Yourself,” Bacharach became his own producer.  Vee-Jay’s Calvin Carter turned over the sessions to the songwriter when he realized “he felt the song better than anyone else did.”  The credit on the 45 still just read “Arranged by Burt Bacharach,” but a new chapter was being written.  That landmark song with melody, orchestration and production by Bacharach, gives the title to the third volume in a series of Bacharach collections from Cherry Red’s Él label.  Make It Easy on Yourself 1962 follows First Book of Songs 1954-1958 and Long Ago Last Summer 1959-1961 and compiles 27 of Bacharach’s songs (some in multiple versions) from one pivotal year with outgoing partner Bob Hilliard and incoming partner Hal David.

One of the essential “love triangle” songs in all of pop music, the stirring “Make It Easy on Yourself” was the fullest expression yet of the mature Bacharach style.  Ethereal backing vocals melded with majestic strings and wistful, sighing horns before Butler bleakly intoned, “Breaking up is so very hard to do…” in a way that Neil Sedaka couldn’t have imagined.  Bacharach and David found beauty and poetry in the blues: “And if the way I hold you can’t compare to his caress/No words of consolation will make me miss you less/My darling, if this is goodbye/Oh, I just know I’m gonna cry/So run to him before you start crying, too…”   Bacharach’s orchestration melded the above instruments with roiling drums, chiming percussion, and well-placed guitar licks, adding up to just over 2-1/2 minute of tension in which the music and lyrics were in perfect harmony.

The new compilation also makes room for the sublime original recording of “Any Day Now,” the most successful song penned by Bacharach with Bob Hilliard.  Soul great Chuck Jackson anticipates his lover’s departure (“My wild beautiful bird, you will have flown/Any day now, I’ll be all alone…”) with just enough anguish and pathos, finding the space in the offbeat arrangement which featured Bacharach playing an ashtray (!) as percussion.  (Jackson previously recorded Bacharach’s “I Wake Up Crying” in 1961; you can hear it on Long Ago Last Summer.)  A contemporary, more “pop” cover by Philadelphia’s Dee Dee Sharp is included for contrast’s sake.

Indeed, Bacharach and David were turning out stone-cold classics at quite a clip.  (After the success of “Blue on Blue” in 1963, Bacharach would make his partnership with David an exclusive one.)  Tremolo guitar and tinkling piano notes signify Tommy Hunt’s “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself,” another unbearably lonely, and unbelievably beautiful, song.  Hal David, as always, put into the words feelings that so many – perhaps everybody – had experienced at one time or another: “Goin’ to a movie only makes me sad/Parties make me feel as bad/When I’m not with you, I just don’t know what to do…”  Bacharach matched David’s words with another eloquent, sophisticated and dramatic melody that ran the gamut of emotions itself, veering from serene to pensive to pained.  It’s no wonder everybody from Elvis Costello to the White Stripes cottoned to the song.

Tommy Hunt is also the (unexpected) voice you’ll hear on “Don’t Make Me Over.”  This was the song that changed the lives of Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach and Hal David forever, beginning pop’s most successful “triangle marriage.”  But not long after Dionne charted with the defiant powerhouse of a ballad, Scepter reused its backing track for Hunt’s recording which sat on the shelf until 1986.  Much as “Any Day Now” was transformed from male to female, “Don’t Make Me Over” works just fine with a male singer, proving early on the adaptability of Bacharach’s hits.  Another great soul man, Jimmy Radcliffe, has his breakup moment with Bacharach and David’s deliciously offbeat, Latin-flavored “There Goes the Forgotten Man.”  One of the best of the quotient of (relatively) rare tracks here is “Don’t Envy Me,” which only received one other recording, by George Hamilton in 1963.  Both Powers’ vocal and the production by Hugo and Luigi are a touch histrionic, but the song has a killer melody rendered with almost reggae-style percussion, not to mention an amusing lyrical conceit from Hal David: the singer has lots of girls, but none of them love him…so he’s “filled with such misery,” imploring, “don’t envy me!”  Bobby Vee’s teen waltz “Anonymous Phone Call” is another enjoyable find, flecked with a light country sound.

There’s more after the jump, including the complete track listing with discographical annotation! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 4, 2013 at 11:26

Release Round-Up: Week of February 19

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Herb Alpert - FandangoHerb Alpert, Fandango (Shout! Factory)

Alpert’s 1982 album, long unavailable on CD, is now back in print! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Etta is Betta Than EvvahEtta James, Etta is Betta Than Evah! + Bonus Tracks (Kent)

Etta’s final album for Chess Records, released in 1976, is expanded with 10 extra tracks from other Etta projects from the mid-’70s. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

The Raw & The CookedFine Young Cannibals, Fine Young Cannibals: Deluxe Edition The Raw & The Cooked: Deluxe Edition (Edsel)

Both albums by the U.K. trio behind “She Drives Me Crazy” and “Good Thing” have been expanded as two-disc sets brimming with B-sides and remixes.

Fine Young Cannibals: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Raw & The CookedAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Five Star RemixFive Star, The Remix Anthology 1984-1991 (Cherry Pop)

The U.K. pop/R&B sibling act from the ’80s (just one of those existed, I think) get a two-disc set of their biggest 12″ dance mixes. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Marcos Valle - Previsao do TempoMarcos Valle, Vento Sul Previsão do Tempo (Light in the Attic)

Closing the loop on the week’s release schedule, another jazz-fusion artist has two of his long-out-of-print LPs (from 1972 and 1973, respectively) revived on both CD and vinyl, with Vento Sul featuring one bonus track.

Vento Sul CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. // Vinyl: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Previsão do Tempo CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. // Vinyl: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Clive bookClive Davis with Anthony DeCurtis, The Soundtrack of My Life (Simon & Schuster)

And finally, no music enthusiast’s release schedule would be complete without the new autobiography of one of the most notable record men of the century, who speaks candidly about his collaborations with Whitney Houston, Barry Manilow, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, Santana, Rod Stewart, Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson and a whole lot more! Copies purchased at Target retailers come with an exclusive CD featuring some of Clive’s favorite hits he oversaw, as well. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Written by Mike Duquette

February 19, 2013 at 08:05

Holiday Gift Guide Reviews: Etta James and Sarah Vaughan, “Complete Albums Collections”

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Etta James - Complete Private Rock BoxEtta James and Sarah Vaughan: by any and all accounts, two formidable women of song.  Now, these late legends are both receiving the deluxe treatment from Legacy Recordings on two box sets as part of the Complete Albums series.

Though Etta James’ most enduring recordings were made during her sixteen years (1960-1976) at Chess Records, including her oft-imitated but never-topped perennial “At Last,” the former Jamesetta Hawkins recorded for over fifty years in a variety of genres for a variety of labels.  Modern, Warner Bros., Elektra, Island, Fantasy, RCA, Verve: tenures with all of those labels yielded memorable music from the woman dubbed the Matriarch of the Blues. But one of James’ most lasting label affiliations was with Private Music, where she remained for roughly a decade between 1994 and 2003.  At Private, James explored two parallel artistic avenues, recording in both the idioms of jazz and blues/R&B.  With Legacy’s The Complete Private Music Blues, Rock ‘n’ Soul Albums Collection box set (88691 90589 2), a line of demarcation has been drawn between James’ two differing styles explored at the label.  The box collects seven albums in which she brings her life experience to songs by titans of all three named genres: blues (Willie Dixon, Robert Johnson), rock (Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Bob Dylan) and soul (Otis Redding, Al Green), and everything in between.  A future box set will likely collect the remainder of James’ Private recordings including her acclaimed sets of popular and jazz standards.  But this 7-CD box (containing two Grammy Award-winning discs) makes a compelling case that this elder stateswoman of music didn’t lose any of the fire or adventurous spirit that marked her incendiary tenure with Chess.

How to separate Etta James’ turbulent personal life from the music she created?  Indeed, her third Private studio album (and the first included in this box set), 1997’s Love’s Been Rough on Me, has a number of song titles that would apply in an autobiographical sense: not just “Love’s Been Rough on Me” itself, but also “Cry Like a Rainy Day,” “Don’t Touch Me,” “If I Had Any Pride Left at All.”  Even the last album in this set, the “bonus disc” Live from San Francisco (recorded 1981, released 1994), finds Eagles favorite “Take It to the Limit” recast soulfully by a singer who took life to the absolute limits for as long as she possibly could.

The blues form figured prominently even in the titles of these torrid albums: Life, Love and the Blues (a holy trinity if there ever was one for Ms. Etta James), Matriarch of the Blues, Blues to the Bone.  James may have been exorcising her considerable demons in song, but she did so with power, dignity and control.  She even self-produced or co-produced more than half of the albums here.  On the first album in this box to be recorded, the 1981-vintage Live from San Francisco, she imbues that Glenn Frey/Don Henley hit with more fire than the California cowboys likely ever imagined, growling its familiar words.  There’s also the opportunity here to compare that 1981 concert to a 2001 Hollywood gig preserved on Burnin’ Down the House.  With her Roots Band, James covers some of the same songs, bringing another twenty years’ of life experience to Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You” and Ellington Jordan and Billy Foster’s “I’d Rather Go Blind.”  She also revisits “At Last” in 2001, older and wiser, and with a certain amount of affection.  (She sounds grateful and without judgment when she introduces the standard with a simple “Every time somebody gets married, they say, ‘Sing ‘At Last.’”  The audience applauds when she complies, naturally.)

Etta James BoxThroughout the albums collected on the box, James connects with songs both expected and out of left field.  So comfortable in so many genres, she melds Rodgers and Hart to Al Green in an epic medley from Burnin’ Down the House of the Reverend Al’s “Take Me to the River” and “Love and Happiness” with the venerated Broadway team’s “My Funny Valentine.”  One of the most diverse LPs here, 2000’s Matriarch of the Blues, is also the most rocking.  It brings sassy, brassy southern soul to Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody,” another finely-chosen selection for an artist intimately acquainted with both the devil and the Lord, as the song goes.  In her hands, the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You” loses its disco sheen, its famous riff reinterpreted by a smoking horn section and Mick Jagger’s “woo-hoo-hoo” squeal reinvented as a guttural “Whoa-oh-oh.”  Surely the Glimmer Twins were pleased with their heroine’s recording.  Another rock legend, John Fogerty, gets the Etta treatment with her funky take on his “Born on the Bayou.”

In a decidedly less contemporary vein is 2004’s Blues to the Bone, with songs from Willie Dixon, of course, plus Robert Johnson (“Dust My Broom”) Jimmy Reed (“Hush, Hush”), Elmore James (“The Sky is Crying”) and one-time Chess labelmate Howlin’ Wolf (“Smokestack Lightnin’”).  The bands were generally small, tight, and sympathetic to each particular album’s requirements; on Blues to the Bone, the arrangements are stripped-down and no horn section is present.  Somewhere between these two extremes is Life, Love and the Blues (1998), with Willie Dixon’s “Hoochie Coochie Man” (here, “Hoochie Coochie Gal”) and “Spoonful” sitting comfortably alongside songs by classic southern soul men including Joe Tex, Brook Benton, William Bell and Al Green.  The most adventurous choice, though, hails from Detroit: Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).”

There’s more on Etta, plus a look at Sarah Vaughan’s Complete Columbia Albums box set, once you hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 14, 2012 at 10:06

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Ace Compiles Otis Redding Songbook, Louisiana R&B and King’s Northern Soul

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Ace Records has long been, well, aces where soul music is concerned.  Three recent releases have arrived courtesy of the Ace and Kent labels, and connoisseurs, collectors and casual fans alike will all find plenty to enjoy on these incendiary new compilations.

The rich recorded legacy of black artists has been a cornerstone of the Kent soul and R&B library.  Kent launched a “Black America Sings…” series with titles dedicated to the Lennon and McCartney and Bob Dylan songbooks, a sort of companion to the label’s Songwriters and Producers series.  With a new installment, Kent turns its attention to another singer/songwriter: Otis Redding.  Hard to Handle: Black America Sings Otis Redding brings together 25 sides of simmering soul, with every track written or co-written by the late Redding.  Naturally, the most famous recording of Redding’s most famous song is here: Aretha Franklin’s 1967 “Respect.”  The song earned both Franklin and Redding their first pop chart-topper and remains a cornerstone of the pop and soul songbooks today.  Not far behind is “(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay,” a posthumous success for Redding following his untimely death in a December 1968 plane crash, and heard here via the Staple Singers in a Stax recording produced by the song’s co-writer Steve Cropper.  James Carr takes on another iconic Redding composition, “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” in a 1977 recording for Goldwax, and William Bell offers “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)” in a 1967 Stax rendition.  You’ll also hear performances from soul royalty like Judy Clay, Maxine Brown, Irma Thomas, Percy Sledge, Arthur Conley, and Lou Rawls, and Kent has gone the extra mile (as usual!) with the inclusion of three previously unreleased tracks: Mitty Collier’s “I’m Missing You,” as recorded for Chess, Conley’s “A Year, A Month and a Day” from the Atco vaults, and Take 2 of Redding’s own Volt recording of “Loving By the Pound.”  Otis Redding is well remembered today for his scorching soul vocals, but Hard to Handle is a reminder of the man’s titanic gifts as a songwriter whose compositions were supremely adaptable in the pop, soul, funk and R&B idioms.  Indeed, some songs here were never recorded by Otis, so here’s a chance that shouldn’t be passed up to check them all out.

Another long-running series is continued with the third volume of King Northern Soul.  Volume Two arrived in 2001, but producer Ady Croasdell has located another 24 rare tracks from the vaults of the company that James Brown called home.  These tracks date from 1962-1973 and feature some of King’s brightest performers along with those on associated labels DeLuxe, Federal and Hollywood.  Naturally, Brown and his associated acts are represented in various capacities on the 24-track disc; JB co-wrote Charles Spurling’s “That’s My Zone (He’s Pickin’ On),” and The Brownettes’ “Baby, Don’t You Know.”  Marva Whitney is heard on Hank Ballard’s “Unwind Yourself,” and Ballard himself is represented with Rudy (“Good Lovin’”) Clark’s “I’m Just a Fool (and Everybody Knows)” produced by Steve Venet for Screen Gems but released on King!  Stax favorite “Packy” Axton appears via L.H. and the Memphis Sounds’ “Out of Control,” the Memphis Sounds being Packy’s group and L.H. being one L.H. White.  Billy Cox, of Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys, accompanies Hal Hardy on 1967’s “House of Broken Hearts.”  These funky and incredibly rare Northern Soul floor-fillers have been annotated by Croasdell for this volume, which will surely leave you wanting more!

After the jump: we go Boppin’ by the Bayou, and have track listings and order links for all three titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 20, 2012 at 09:55

Release Round-Up: Week of August 28

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Frank Zappa, Official Reissues #15-26 (Zappa Records/UMe)

FZ’s 1972-1979 discography, almost entirely sourced from original analog masters. (Joe breaks it all down for you here!)

Various Artists, A&M 50: The Anniversary Collection (A&M/UMe)

Three discs of hits and favorites from a most eclectic of major labels.

Elvis Presley, A Boy from Tupelo: The Complete 1953-1955 Recordings (Follow That Dream)

The King’s complete Sun tenure, with single masters, alternates, live takes and more – not to mention an enormous book of liner notes spanning over 500 pages.

Art Garfunkel, The Singer (Columbia/Legacy)

You know the voice; now, take a dive into Art Garfunkel’s career with this double-disc overview, curated by the man himself and featuring Simon & Garfunkel tracks, solo recordings and two brand-new tunes.

Johnny Mathis, Tender is the Night/The Wonderful World of Make-Believe Love is Everything/Broadway (Real Gone)

The first of a series of two-fers bringing Mathis’ Mercury discography back into print, including an unreleased LP of Broadway standards!

David Cassidy, Cassidy Live / Gettin’ It in the Street / Gary Lewis & The Playboys, The Complete Liberty Singles / The Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks Volume 28 (Real Gone)

The rest of Real Gone’s monthly lineup includes two David Cassidy discs on CD for the first time ever.

The Brecker Brothers, The Complete Arista Albums Collection / Etta James, The Complete Private Music Blues, Rock ‘n’ Soul Albums Collection / Sarah Vaughan, The Complete Columbia Albums Collection (Legacy)

The latest PopMarket boxes include a Brecker Brothers box entirely full of discs making their CD debuts.

Andrew W.K., I Get Wet: Deluxe Edition (Century Media)

2001’s ultimate party soundtrack, with a bonus disc of live and alternate material.

The Feeling Is Right: Kent Offers Expanded Etta James LP, Clarence Carter Singles Collection

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When Argo Records crowned Etta James The Queen of Soul on the cover of a 1964 LP, Aretha Franklin hadn’t yet staked claim to that title.  Revisiting that album today, Etta’s status as royalty still seems unassailable.  Thankfully, we have that opportunity thanks to Kent Records via its new expansion of Queen of Soul with fourteen bonus tracks added to the original LP’s ten songs.  Plus, Kent has delivered a new release from one of the undisputed kings of soul: Clarence Carter.  The Fame Singles Volume 1: 1966-1970 includes his career-making “Slip Away,” but that’s just one of the 24 soulful tracks you’ll find here.

When Etta James passed away earlier this year at the age of 73, it truly marked the end of an era.  The woman born Jamesetta Hawkins channeled her demons into passionate blues, soul and jazz over a career lasting nearly 60 years.  James charted two dozen singles during a remarkable 16-year reign at Chess (Argo’s parent label) between 1960 and 1976, and immortalized the standards “At Last” and “I’d Rather Go Blind.”  Kent’s reissue follows similar expansions of 1967’s Call My Name and 1971’s Losers Weepers from the label, and is a handy reminder of why nobody would have challenged James’ soul supremacy in 1964.

Most of Queen of Soul was recorded in Chess’ home base of Chicago, though some tracks originated in sessions held in both New York and Nashville.  Billy Davis was the primary producer, and some of the recordings dated back to 1962.  In his personal sleeve note, Garth Cartwright speculates that “perhaps the rise of the Motown and Stax sounds had made [James] appear old-fashioned or she was so out of control that DJs and the public were shying away from her.”  Whatever the reason, though, the music on Queen of Soul has aged incredibly well.  Chess had encouraged her to pursue the sophisticated, adult vein of “At Last,” but no matter what the repertoire, James’ fiery delivery couldn’t be tamped down.  A couple of tracks were written or co-written by Ed Townsend, the one-time “For Your Love” crooner who later co-wrote “Let’s Get It On” with Marvin Gaye.  The New York sound is present on Townsend’s “Bobby is His Name,” with James emoting over swirling strings and throbbing brass.  James paid homage to another soul queen, the one and only Soul Queen of New Orleans, with her cover of Irma Thomas’ “I Wish Someone Would Care.”   James is downright saucy on Clint (“You’re No Good”) Ballard’s “That Man Belongs Here with Me,” and when she offers “Flight 101,” it might as well have been a lesson in Soul 101!  “Loving You More Every Day” is a slice of barroom blues; James just can’t be contained as she questions, “What are doing to me?” to her man.  “Mellow Fellow” is anything but, with James wailing to a stomping beat.

The bonus tracks are drawn from a variety of sources including singles and CD compilations.  These tracks were recorded between late 1962 and 1965; three songs (including a take on Gene Autry’s “Be Honest with Me”) hailed from Nashville in November 1962, as did the album’s “I Worry About You.”  The bonus tracks also include collaborations with arranger Riley Hampton and a stab at Jule Styne and Bob Hilliard’s standard “How Do You Speak to an Angel” from the 1953 Broadway musical Hazel Flagg.  Billy Davis’ percolating “Pay Back” is another “should-have-been-a-hit,” with James ready to pay back what her guy is dishing out!  With its dramatic pauses, Bert Keyes’ arrangement is an unusual one, too.  Then there’s a near-definitive reading of another classic blues standard, “Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be),” and even a fun spin on the girl group sound with 1963’s “Two Sides (To Every Story).”  Kent’s CD includes a full-color booklet with numerous label scans as well as Cartwright’s notes.

Kent is also tackling the Clarence Carter catalogue, and we’ve got plenty about that after the jump!  Plus: track listings with discography, and pre-order links for both titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 18, 2012 at 11:58

From “Sassy” to “The Matriarch of the Blues” and Beyond: PopMarket Offers New Complete Box Sets in August

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Though it may be summer vacation for many of us, the folks at Sony’s PopMarket have been too busy to take much of a rest!  They’ll be releasing three more Complete Albums boxes from a triumvirate of artists who blurred the lines between jazz, R&B, pop and rock.  Box sets for The Brecker Brothers, Etta James and Sarah Vaughan will arrive at general retail as well as at on August 28.

Though most genres have been benefitted from the comprehensive Complete Albums series, jazz fans have been particularly lucky.  These three latest titles follow up the first 19 box sets in the series, and a cursory glance at that list reveals some of the most enduring names not only in jazz but in popular music: The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Stanley Clarke, Miles Davis (2009), George Duke, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Billie Holiday, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Return To Forever, Woody Shaw, Wayne Shorter, Grover Washington Jr., Weather Report 1971-1975 and Weather Report 1976-1982 (all on Columbia/Legacy); and Paul Desmond and Nina Simone (on RCA/Legacy).

For those not familiar with the Complete Albums series, the compact boxes contain every album released during a particular period of an artist’s career.  Each CD is packaged in a mini-LP sleeve replicating the original album’s front and back artwork, and many of the albums include bonus tracks.  Bonus discs have also been included in a number of the sets.  Booklets always contain discographical annotation and often contain new essays penned specifically for these sets.

The Brecker Brothers’ Complete Arista Albums Collection offers eight albums released between 1975 and 1981 from the duo of Randy Brecker (trumpet, b. 1945) and Michael Brecker (tenor saxophone, 1949-2007) on Clive Davis’ legendary label.  None of the albums in this set have ever appeared on CD in the U.S. before, making its release a particularly monumental one.  The Brecker Brothers have made their mark both individually and collectively with countless appearances on some of the best records of the day, from artists including Blood, Sweat and Tears, Paul Simon, Todd Rundgren, Rupert Holmes, James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra and Frank Zappa.

But they’re still much-loved for their Arista output as headline artists, during which time they crossed genre lines from jazz to funk to rock and back again.  At Arista, Michael and Randy were joined by an array of familiar musicians with equally-impressive credentials including guitarists Bob Mann, Steve Khan, Barry Finnerty, David Spinozza, and Hiram Bullock; bassists Will Lee, Neil Jason, Marcus Miller, and Tony Levin; keyboardist Don Grolnick; and drummers Harvey Mason, Chris Parker, Steve Gadd, and Steve Jordan.  George Duke and Luther Vandross also made vital contributions.  These albums showcase the Brothers’ winning combination of pop melodies, pure jazz improvisation and memorable compositions, as well as a mastery of the musical forms of the day likely honed during their time as ace session men.  Though the Brecker Brothers broke up in 1982, they reunited in the early part of the next decade as both touring and recording artists.  Randy Brecker contributes new liner notes to the box set.

We explore the sets for Etta James and Sarah Vaughan after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 13, 2012 at 13:38