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Syl Johnson

Complete Mythology

(Numero Group; US: 9 Nov 2010; UK: 1 Nov 2010)

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Syl Johnson
Complete Mythology


Why would one want to invest in a costly six-LP, four-CD box set from an R&B artist of which few people beyond the elite force of Wax Poetic groove nerds have heard? It’s because of the fact that although Syl Johnson might not harbor the marquee status of his contemporaries like Otis Redding, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield and Al Green, this Mississippi-born former blues singer-turned-funkateer boasts a half-century-long career that saw him jam with Junior Wells and Howlin’ Wolf in the ‘50s, create a hit song in the ‘60s that would house one of the most coveted breaks of hip-hop’s golden age, and record with veteran producer Willie Mitchell for the fabled Hi Records imprint throughout the ‘70s. And Complete Mythology, flanked by 81 tracks featuring such rare gems as the 28 singles he crafted for such legendary labels as Federal Cha-Cha and Zachron, a perfect replica of his 1969 socially concious masterpiece Is It Because I’m Black? and ten previously unreleased compositions, is an essential addition to the fabric of the national conversation on the history of soul music that is far beyond overdue. Ron Hart


 

 



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Various Artists

Next Stop Soweto 1-3 (Limited Edition)

(Strut; US: 22 Nov 2010; UK: 22 Nov 2010)

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Various Artists
Next Stop Soweto 1-3 (Limited Edition)


This collection of South African township jive is crucial for a couple reasons. Not only have none of these songs appeared on CD before, until now, many of these artists have been invisible outside of locally-distributed singles and stray mentions in African music guides. But crate-digging intrigue aside, all 20 songs are glorious. You might know Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens from the Indestructible Beat of Soweto compilations, but just try finding anything else by Boy-Nze Na Maqueens, who contribute an irresistible groan-and-response manifesto with mile-high bass swoops; or by S. Piliso & His Super Seven, authors of a groovy three-chord piano skiffle. Francis Gooding’s notes are expert and thorough and the album’s pacing shows off the genre’s variety. Only two songs top three minutes and you can dance from beginning to end. If you’ve ever had a bad day, you need this music. Josh Langhoff


 

 



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Weezer

Pinkerton [Deluxe Edition]

(Geffen; US: 2 Nov 2010; UK: 8 Nov 2010)

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Weezer
Pinkerton [Deluxe Edition]


Whenever a new Weezer album crosses my desk I try in vain to put Pinkerton out of my mind. You’re not supposed to judge a band’s current output against an album they made 14 years earlier. Weezer have done themselves no favors this year, dropping a Deluxe Edition of Pinkerton between two new predictably subpar offerings. Long considered a cult classic, this ragged masterpiece of an album has finally taken its place among the most influential releases of the 1990s, if not all time. Though he probably never realized it at the time, the frigid Boston winter an oversexed yet romantically frustrated Rivers Cuomo spent subsisting on a steady diet of painkillers and Madame Butterfly would come to define his entire career. If we weren’t already convinced of this album’s unimpeachable power, the 24 bonus tracks here make the picture complete. Live and acoustic material is revealing if more than a little redundant (five “Pink Triangle’s” but not a single “Falling for You?). It’s nice to see long available B-sides, from the 3/4 doo wop of “Waiting on You” to the Petra Haden sung “I Just Threw out the Love of My Dreams” finally at home together. While these tracks are all essential, album-worthy material, it’s the long-lost set closer “Tragic Girl” that offers the biggest kick. On this towering six-minute track we get to hear the boys play with that Pinkerton swing for one last bittersweet time. Daniel Tebo


 

 



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R.E.M.

Fables of the Reconstruction (25th Anniversary Edition)

(Capitol; US: 13 Jul 2010; UK: 12 Jul 2010)

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R.E.M.
Fables of the Reconstruction (25th Anniversary Edition)


The only reason I can figure for Fables being regarded as a lesser R.E.M. album is because the band itself tends to badmouth the record. But all you have to do is listen to realize that Fables is a classic record just like all early R.E.M. discs. It might even serve as the crucial missing link between the “vintage” R.E.M. sound of


and Reckoning and the bolder sounds of Lifes Rich Pageant. With its fondness for rural portraits and scenes, Fables might also be the Athens, Georgia-based band’s most Southern album. This deluxe reissue includes demos of all the songs that made the finished record (along with one song that didn’t make the cut), but they’re not too different from the songs we know and love. However, it shines a much-needed light on a pivotal moment in R.E.M.‘s career, keeping Fables from staying in the shadows of other albums. Andrew Gilstrap


 

 



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Hank Williams

The Complete Mother’s Best Recordings

(Time-Life; US: 28 Sep 2010; UK: Import)

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Hank Williams
The Complete Mother’s Best Recordings


Reissues equal money. They’re a way to tap our collective memory or sense of history for bonus dollars. The best are also historical preservation. This massive collection seems a time capsule and an archive, more so than a collection of music to listen to. Listening straight through isn’t the point. Better may be to listen in short installments, daily, emulating the format of the original radio broadcasts. In 1951, Hank Williams and band, often featuring his wife Audrey, played sets of a few songs to listeners of WSM in Nashville. The show was sponsored by Mother’s Best flour, a product Williams sells at every step. That makes it a chance to hear a more jovial Williams than expected, and hear not just his tragedies but also gospel hymns and jokey songs. It’s a time-travel party, taking you to a different place at a different time. Dave Heaton


 
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