Current Album Reviews
Our take on some of the latest material from a variety of artists.
Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Charlie Brown Christmas (Fantasy / Concord Music Group) review A revelatory remastered Christmas classic
Just like the tree that Linus & Charlie Brown purchased at the end of the show, the soundtrack that accompanies this cartoon classic came from humble beginnings. Originally hated by CBS TV executives, who feared the jazz instrumental music would be too “high brow” for young audiences. Ironically, the opposite happened. The piano, bass, and drums format elevated the somewhat primitive animation, giving it a level of sophistication unrivaled in all of holiday specials. Plus, the jazz music actually gave the songs a buoyancy that was infectious. The signature track, “Linus & Lucy,” is one of the most recognizable pieces in all of popular music. Concord Music Group has just re-issued this stone-cold holiday classic in remastered sound with bonus tracks.
Various Artists - The Return of the Stuff That Dreams Are Made of (Yazoo) review
Face it. We’ve become spoiled when it comes to music. Once highly-coveted recordings by Robert Johnson, Louis Armstrong and Charley Patton, are now just as easily accessed as the latest track by Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga through any number of online means. But, we rarely stop to consider how we’re able to listen to these hallowed recordings. Sure, the artist is important, and so is the record company. But, there’s a third element - that of the avid record collector, who sacrificed large portions of their house (and oftentimes their marriage) to store these scarce records. Without them, we’d never be enjoying these songs so many years later. A new, 2-disc collection from Yazoo Records, The Return of the Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of, not only unearths some fantastic vintage music, it also gives proper due to several men, whose perseverance provided us with this great music.
Various Artists - Athens, GA - Inside/Out (Omnivore Recordings) review Now and again it happens - the perfect combination of talented artists, accommodating venues and enthusiastic crowds come together to create a scene. Just as in the late Sixties in San Francisco, and the early Nineties in Seattle, the mid Eighties were all about Athens, Georgia. The small college town gained notoriety when R.E.M. began making waves nationally, first on college radio, then in the mainstream media. Directed by Tony Gayton, Athens, GA - Inside/Out attempted to capture what that scene was like. Omnivore Recordings has just released the long-out-of print film, along with its accompanying soundtrack, which is making its debut on CD.
Beach Boys - Fifty Big Ones - Greatest Hits (Capitol Records) review
Hot on the heels of their successful reunion album, That’s Why God Made the Radio (see our review here), and a 50th anniversary world tour, comes Fifty Big Ones, their first-ever two-CD set of the biggest and most-loved songs of the Beach Boys. What immediately sets this compilation apart from the multitudes of collections before it, is that it covers the band’s entire career, nabbing their first national hit, “Surfin’ Safari” from 1962, and rounding up two songs from their reunion record, 50 years later.
Johnny Cash - The Greatest: The Number Ones (Deluxe Edition) (Sony/Legacy) review
You don’t realize how many great songs Johnny Cash had until you see a collection like this
Continuing a year-long celebration of what would’ve been Cash’s 80th birthday, Sony/Legacy has released a series of CDs dubbed “The Greatest,” covering several aspects of his career - there are other volumes, including those covering country, duets and gospel - but The Number Ones is just that, his biggest, and best-loved songs.
Electric Prunes - The Complete Reprise Singles (Real Gone Music) review The Electric Prunes created one of the strangest songs ever to hit the charts in “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night),” which just missed the Top Ten in 1966. As luck would have it, the band’s career would end up being even stranger. Unbelievably, The Complete Reprise Singles marks the first time this much-maligned band has had their output properly assembled on a single disc.
Booker T & the MGs - Green Onions (reissue) (Stax / Concord Music Group) review Some of the greatest art is made out of pure accident. The liner notes that accompany this new 50th anniversary edition of Green Onions tells the unbelievable story of how this legendary band came together during a session for rockabilly almost-legend Billy Lee Riley. Depending on which story you believe (there are several different ones in the booklet), Riley either was a no-show, or in true rock n’ roll fashion, was too drunk to record the session, leaving his de facto backup band with a surplus of recording time.
Ben Folds Five - The Sound of the Life of the Mind (Ima Vee Pee / Sony) review
First new album in 12 years
Damn the concept album. The Beatles were never the same after Sgt. Pepper, Brian Wilson lost his marbles during SMiLE, and Ben Folds Five broke up after their conceptual The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner. Folds had pushed the trio as far as they were going to go, and decided instead to go it alone. Over the last 12 years, he’s established himself as a formidable solo artist, collaborating with filmmaker Nick Hornby, and even scoring the kids movie Over the Hedge. But, as good as his music has been, there’s something about the original two guys - the bordering-on-chaos drumming of Darren Jessee and the as-muscled-as-a-lead-guitar bass of Robert Sledge, that’s always pushed Folds further. At their best, Ben Folds Five were a mix of 70’s AM melodicism and punk-fueled energy, augmented by oftentimes school-boy humor. After over a decade layoff, the trio is back with The Sound of the Life of the Mind, and it was well worth the wait.
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