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Sunday, Dec 16, 2007

Preservation Hall Jazz Band - Made in New Orleans: The Hurricane Sessions [$69.98]

The tuneful musical gumbo from national treasure New Orleans is always a splendid gift. City of Dreams is four CDs of funk, blues, piano boogie, and second-line parade inspired songs. Focusing on the R&B side of the Big Easy’s musical heritage, this set is all about booty shaking. For the jazz side of things head on over to the ultra special Made in New Orleans.  It’s a two-CD/DVD set from the legendary Preservation Hall band and all manner of unique replica photos, Mardi Gras Doubloons, and archival material hand assembled down in the Big Easy. This literally a one-of-a-kind gift that will appeal to all jazz fans as well as all those smart folks who treasure the spirit and culture of New Orleans.


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Wednesday, Dec 12, 2007

The dizzying maze of Ike and Tina Turner compilations is long and winding. Countless budget packages have flooded the market over the years, reducing the rich Ike and Tina catalog to an impulse purchase at the checkout line. The few quality releases out there often only skim the surface. Except for the single-disc Proud Mary: The Best of Ike and Tina Turner (1991), there really hasn’t been an exhaustive anthology of their entire 15-year career, partly due to licensing music from the numerous record companies that own different parts of the catalog. (Ike was always on the hunt for a more lucrative record deal.) Time-Life has mustered the financial might to compile the definitive collection of Ike and Tina Turner: The Ike and Tina Turner Story 1960-1975 is, essentially, all you’ll ever need to know. Definitive in nearly every possible way, this set is the exclamation point on an act that bridged together rock and soul and black and white audiences. Often overlooked, but not easily forgotten, Ike and Tina Turner represent a time when the spectacle of a stage show and the talent of the performers were of equal magnitude. Colin Escott ends his liner notes with the following analysis: “These are some of the records they made. The ones that matter.” I couldn’t agree more.



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Monday, Dec 10, 2007

Vee-Jay: The Definitive Collection launches an upcoming reissue campaign of compilations and original albums from Vee-Jay’s vast catalog (here’s hoping they reach into the label’s considerable stores of unreleased material). To say it’s an education—not only into the label’s history, but also into the growth of American popular music—is an understatement, as the roughly-chronological set reveals how the label played a part in the development of multiple genres. It’s especially interesting to hear the smooth sounds of doo-wop glide into equally smooth R&B and Southern soul.


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Sunday, Dec 9, 2007

This is not Sinatra in his prime, the too-perfect demigod who ruled the roost of American popular music for roughly a decade and a half beginning in the early ‘50s and ending sometime after the ascent of the Beatles. This is the young Sinatra, the jazz singer who fought his way up from obscurity singing with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey’s wartime big hands, who broke out of the established mode of mannered slow dance music to create for himself an improbable career as a universal heartthrob and slightly dangerous talent as a brash interpreter of popular song. The four discs presented here arrange Sinatra’s career in a roughly thematic arc, beginning with the most indicative material of the Big Band years before segueing into his mushrooming solo career and the creative adventurousness that defined the era immediately preceding his mid-’50s breakout period. Not exactly chronological, it still does a good job of presenting exactly how Sinatra’s music evolved during the period in question, taking him from a precocious youth in giant suits (strikingly distinctive fashion choices which dimly anticipate David Byrne in Stop Making Sense), facing off against crowds of rapturous bobbysoxers, up to the point where he became something more: an artist of lasting import and impeccable taste.


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Wednesday, Dec 5, 2007

The Wilbury’s catalogue has shamefully been out of print for over a decade now. That a band could boast the greatest singer (Roy Orbison) and the greatest lyricist (Bob Dylan) in rock history and find its work completely nonexistent is an inexplicable crime. Thankfully, Rhino has righted that wrong with a two-CD/one-DVD set that chronicles the band’s history and output. The real prize of the collection, however, is the film included on the DVD, titled The True History of the Traveling Wilburys. Watching it makes listening to the albums a totally new experience, as it provides background and context that cast the songs in a new light. True, some of this stuff may border on music geek trivia, but it’s fascinating nonetheless. The inspiration for “Last Night”, for example, was “Sidebury” Jim Keltner drumming on jars in a refrigerator. And, just as odd, the lyrics for “Dirty World” were, in part, lifted from an auto magazine. If you’ve ever wondered how geniuses create, this twenty-five minute documentary is an enlightening watch.


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