By Team Backbeat
By Amber Taufen
By Jon Solomon
By Tom Murphy
By Jesse Livingston
By Alejandra Loera
By Stephanie March
By Tom Murphy
The Parachute Years: 1977-1980
Zorn has never pretended to make music for everyone: He is determined to explore the realm of sounds in a way that interests him, and if others want to listen in, they can. The Parachute Years provides the perfect opportunity to do so via seven CDs overflowing with the freest of free jazz and accompanied by oddball notes and doodlings by Zorn himself.
(Discipline Global Mobile)
Art rock is easy to ridicule, but it can be enthralling when it's done well--and Epitaph is. These two CDs of live material from 1969 aren't jam-packed with surprises: The three versions of "21st Century Schizoid Man" differ in length by less than thirty seconds. But Robert Fripp and the other musicians are in optimum condition, frequently transcending the studio versions from In the Court of the Crimson King.
The late Magic Sam didn't make as much music as blues lovers would have liked, but much of what he left behind is sublime. Legacy showcases thirteen previously unreleased songs made with lineups elevated by the striking tenor work of the aforementioned Eddie Shaw. It's magic indeed.
Upsetter in Dub
Arkology, a Perry boxed set on Island, has not wanted for attention this year. But Upsetter is actually a worthier effort--more than an hour of prime dub culled mainly from B-sides that haven't been widely heard since the Seventies. A perilous journey on the Black Ark with an inspired madman at the wheel.
Our Tired, Our Poor, Our Huddled Masses
Operating on the most frayed fringes of the entertainment industry, the eyeball-headed Residents have been around for a quarter-century--and they're still weirder than hell. The two-disc Masses, which draws intelligently from the combo's startlingly scattershot oeuvre, is an ideal way to get to know them.
Feel Like Going Home: The Essential Charlie Rich
Rich was several different performers: a country singer, a jazz man, a rock-and-roller, a rebel (after presenting a Country Music Association award to John Denver in 1975, Rich burned the envelope it came in). These Charlies and more are trotted out over the course of Essential, a bargain-priced two-CD overview that does the Silver Fox proud.
Chess Blues Classics: 1947-1956
Chess Blues Classics: 1957-1967
The Chess vault is crammed to the ceiling with must-have blues. But for people who want to get a taste of its abundance before sitting down to a full meal, Chess Blues Classics provides a way to do it. Once you hear a little Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, John Lee Hooker and Little Walter, you'll be hungry for more.
Kurtis Blow Presents the History of Rap, Vol. 1-3
Blow, whose song "The Breaks" helped bring hip-hop into the light, doesn't have his name on these albums for show: He produced History and wrote ebullient essays about the music on them. The first volume touches on rap precursors such as James Brown and the Isley Brothers; the second takes you back to the old school with Grand Master Flash and the Treacherous Three; and the third traces the Eighties with the help of Whodini, Run DMC and UTFO. The Nineties are next, Kurtis.
Poptopia! Power Pop Classics of the '70s
Poptopia! Power Pop Classics of the '80s
Poptopia! Power Pop Classics of the '90s
Here is what the Beatles wrought: sing-along songs with dreamy lyrics, heart-swelling harmonies and chiming guitars. Pop boosters may gripe about some of the programming, especially on the Nineties segment, but hairs needn't be split. Overall, the discs are so sunny and appealing that disliking them is impossible.
Pink Flamingos: Original Soundtrack
You don't have to be a fan of director John Waters's notorious low-budget shocker to prize its soundtrack, issued to commemorate the film's 25th anniversary. If nothing else, Waters has gathered an outstanding bunch of oldies, including hits that were ("Surfin' Bird," by the Trashmen, "The Girl Can't Help It," by Little Richard) and hits that should have been ("The Swag," by Link Wray & His Ray Men, "Chicken Grabber," by Nite Hawks).
Southern Journey, Vol. 1-6
We know as much as we do about America's musical heritage thanks to Alan Lomax, who was dedicated to recording the songs of just plain folks before they faded away. These six CDs are merely the first salvo in a full-scale campaign to bring Lomax's archaeology back into print. A history lesson you'll enjoy taking.
Earle didn't need drink and drugs to feed his muse; sobriety hasn't hurt him in the slightest. His music is more deeply felt than ever before, and his lyrics are audacious whether he's singing about current events or his beloved. If there was a finer album issued in 1997, I wasn't fortunate enough to hear it.
It's easy to tell the difference between insurgent country and the kind that hails from Nashville: One sounds a lot more like the genuine item than the other. Fulks errs on the side of authenticity; his songs operate by the rules of the genre set down by the hillbillies of yore, and God bless him for it. I'm sure Hank did it this way.
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