A Consumer Guide to the Trailing Edge:
Recycled Goods (#26)
by Tom Hull
The preponderance of jazz in the Briefly Noted has become an
occupational hazzard: I just get more jazz than anything else,
and spent almost all of November sifting through the jazz piles
for the Jazz Consumer Guide column I write for the Village Voice.
Given how much new jazz there is to write about, I'm tending more
and more to only review new releases in the Voice and slip all
the reissues into Recycled Goods. The top section is more evenly
distributed, in part because I held some of the jazz back. The
best of the hold-backs is Art Pepper's Winter Moon -- the
most sublimely beautiful sax-with-strings album ever made.
Cameo Parkway 1957-1967 (1956-67 , Abkco, 4CD).
Bernie Lowe's label scored over 100 chart singles during its decade,
but the most striking thing about this 115-song collection is how
much it all sounds like something else. This is partly because Allen
Klein, who picked up the defunct label in 1968, has been sitting on
it all this time. But it's mostly because Lowe, lyricist Kal Mann,
and producer Dave Appell were masters of derivation. They didn't
specialize either: they did big band swing, crooners, teen idols,
doo-wop, rockabilly, girl group, dance anthems, folkies, mariachi,
cowboy, bubblegum, punk, spoken word novelties, you name it. Typical
is the label's biggest star: named for his Fats Domino impression,
Chubby Checker took Hank Ballard's "The Twist" to the top of the
charts -- twice, not counting its derivatives and variants. Checker's
heyday was the label's prime, in large part because the doo-wop and
girl groups and dance crazes were such maleable formulae. The label
faded fast when the Brits invaded and Motown crested, and Lowe sold
out in 1965. The final third here is only sporadically interesting,
with novelties like Senator Bobby's "Wild Thing" prevailing before
Neil Bogart discovered Cameo Parkway's last #1 hit in Flint, "96
Tears," setting off a regional search that netted Bob Seger's James
Brown impersonation on "Sock It to Me Santa." One could argue that
there's a real good album buried somewhere in this mess, but historians
of a certain age and temperament will be delighted to have it all. (I,
for one, am thrilled to hear "Wolverton Mountain" again.) On the other
hand, youngsters and prudes and the supercilious will be dismayed. Those
were the days when popular culture was meant to be trashy.
The Very Best of Rosanne Cash (1979-2003 ,
Nepotism was suddenly fashionable in the election year of Bush vs.
Gore, but after Eugene Scalia and Michael Powell, not to mention
GWB, a backlash is overdue. But while Rosanne benefitted
from her dad's experience and connections, not to mention branding,
but she had her own sound early -- she hopped from country to pop
without wasting a minute on countrypolitan -- and developed into
a thoughtful songwriter. Her albums from 1985's Rhythm and
Romance through 1993's The Wheel are as well crafted
and smartly observed as anyone's, and Rules of Travel lost
very little despite the ten year gap. As with most album artists,
a best-of that skips lightly around two decades of work misses as
much as it hits. But having proved her independence, she welcomes
her father back for a guest duet.
John Fogerty: The Long Road Home (1969-2005 ,
The first fruit of Fogerty's reconciliation with Fantasy Records is
that he gets his early records back, and that stabilizes a career
retrospective that would be skimpy otherwise. The numbers tell the
story: sixteen Creedence Clearwater Revival songs, including two
new remakes, vs. nine post-Creedence songs, again including two
new remakes. Still, they're all written by Fogerty, all of a piece.
The biggest surprise for me are remakes of two songs from Fogerty's
eponymous 1975 album -- I missed that one, but know the songs well
from other artists, never realizing that what sounded like vintage
rock and roll classics had been penned by the man whose every new
song back in 1969-70 sounded like a long-lost timeless classic.
The difference between the old songs and the live remakes is sonic:
the old ones sound more relaxed, weary even, and thinner, while the
remakes are more immediate and urgent. The post-Creedence songs fit
in -- he's not a guy who's evolved much. So I wouldn't recommend
this over a superb Creedence collection like Chronicle, but
not by much.
Global Hip Hop: Beats and Rhymes -- The No World Culture
(1998-2003 , Manteca).
Suppose you have no command of English but want to pull together a
globe-straddling hip-hop compilation: you'll probably want something
by Run-DMC, but you'll probably pick something like "Rock Box," with
its overwhelming musical force, over "Sucker M.C.'s," which hangs
on words you can't grok anyway. That's basically why this collection
doesn't sound much like hip-hop at first: rap is a music of words,
but words are trapped in languages that don't travel well. Beats, on
the other hand, travel fine, so they predominate here. But again,
these are rarely the beats we associate with domestic hip-hop: they
are local beats, in this case from India and Lebanon, from Mexico and
Chile and Brazil, from Senegal and Tanzania and South Africa, from
Greece. So if the words are impenetrable and the beats are eclectic,
what holds this together? The attitude, the fresh attack on all forms
of folk and pop orthodoxy. As the Sona Family puts it in one of the
few lyrics I do get, "go crazy."
Andrew Hill: Andrew!!! (1964 , Blue Note).
Bobby Hutcherson!! John Gilmore! That's roughly the pecking order
here, with Richard Davis and Joe Chambers rounding out the quintet.
Blue Note founder Alfred Lion recognized in Hill a successor to
Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols and recorded him extensively
from 1963-70, but the records were erratically released -- this
one didn't appear until 1968, many of the later sessions have
only appeared recently, and many more are still out of print.
After 1970, Hill mostly recorded obscure solo and trio sessions
for European labels before returning to the limelight with larger
groups since 1999's Dusk (Palmetto). This quintet fits
somewhere between his small and large group moves: Hutcherson's
vibes reinforce the angularity of Hill's piano, while Gilmore's
single horn riffs along, again leaving the piano central. These
dynamics make this an exceptional record for focusing on Hill's
Bob Marley & the Wailers: Africa Unite: The Singles
Collection (1970-80 , Island/Chronicles):
For many Marley not only is reggae, he's all that reggae is -- quite
an accomplishment for a guy who died at 36. The discography isn't all
that complicated: he cut his first song as a teenager for Leslie
Kong, joined Peter Tosh, Bunny Livingston, and others to form the
Wailers, and recorded for Coxsone Dodd's Studio One from 1963-66.
The group split, then reformed in 1968, working with Lee Perry's
Upsetters. They moved to Tuff Gong in 1971, then signed with Chris
Blackwell's Island Records for U.K. and U.S. distribution. Island
released ten Bob Marley & the Wailers albums, and those are
the ones he's known for. The overwhelming majority of 300-plus
Marley albums in print are redundant compilations of his '60s
work, which with few exceptions can safely be ignored. It's safe
to say that had Marley died before Catch a Fire came out
in 1973, he'd be less famous today than Alton Ellis. Even within
the Island series Marley's fame lagged his accomplishments. The
two Wailers albums with Tosh and Livingston were extraordinary,
and the first solo album, Natty Dread (1974) was even better,
but his first U.S. hit was the relatively lackluster Rastaman
Vibration (1976). The rest of the studio albums were solid or
better -- the weak link was the second live album, but the first was
a revelation, demonstrating that one thing that made Marley unique
was his ability to transplant reggae into the arenas of Babylon. When
Marley died in 1981, his acclaim kept growing. A posthumous scraps
album appeared in 1983 with a fine single, "Buffalo Soldier," then
a canonical collection of U.K. singles, Legend, appeared in
1984. Subsequent efforts to compile him, including the Songs of
Freedom box, never added much. But the endless search for more
product gives us another singles-based collection, duplicating 12
of Legend's 14 or 16 cuts. The bait includes four pre-Island
singles (available on Trojan's Trenchtown Rock anthology),
an outtake from 1979, and two remixes -- none of which improve on
the missing "Redemption Song." So this is redundant and mostly
superfluous, but what else is new?
Thelonious Monk Quartet With John Coltrane: At Carnegie
Hall (1957 , Blue Note):
Small world it was back in 1957. The program for Carnegie Hall's
Thanksgiving Jazz concert -- two shows, top-priced tickets going
for $3.95 -- lists a few other folks you might like to hear: Billie
Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker with Zoot Sims, Sonny Rollins
("introducing in concert the brilliant"), and "special attraction"
Ray Charles. But Monk's two sets add up to 51:35, and satisfy our
craving to hear something more substantial from his short-lived,
rarely recorded Coltrane quartet than that cruddy-sounding Five
Spot tape that was acclaimed as Discovery! back in 1993.
It turns out that the concert was recorded by Voice of America
for overseas broadcast, but the tapes have languished ever since
in the Library of Congress vaults until Larry Appelbaum made his
discovery. The sound is fine. Monk engages quickly, but Coltrane
is revelatory, especially on the one non-Monk tune where he kicks
everything up a gear, then sustains that level to the end.
The Essential Tito Puente (1949-63 ,
A Puerto Rican from Spanish Harlem, Puente took over the drum kit
in Machito's Afro-Cuban band when he was 19, and a decade later
was running his own band, garnering plaudits like "the king of
mambo," or just El Rey. He played anything you can hit with a
stick or mallet, but was best known for timbales -- a kit with
two tuneable drums, cowbells and cymbals. He recorded more than
one hundred albums, working steadily up to his death in 2000,
but his classic recordings date from the '50s, when he as much
as created the craze for mambo and cha-cha. His bands were huge,
the brass driving home every point, the complex percussion flat
out racing. My appetite for salsa, which roughly speaking is
the next generation beyond Puente and Machito, has long been
limited by its slick overkill, but for once the title here is
right: this is essential.
Papa Wemba: 1977-1997 (, Stern's Africa, 2CD).
A flamboyant singer, Wemba has been a major figure in the evolution of
Congo's rhumba/soukous guitar pop since the early '70s. He was a founder
of Zaiko Langa Langa, later the leader of Viva La Musica, with dozens
of albums under his own and/or his groups' names -- only a couple easy
to find hereabouts. I doubt that two hours over twenty years does more
than scratch the surface -- note that the first disc, starting with
six songs culled from 7-inch vinyl, only makes it to 1983, and the
balance pulls no more than one song per album, missing all but one
of the half-dozen albums I'm familiar with. The exception is a great
one from 1986, L'Esclave.
- Aesop Rock: Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives
(2005, Definitive Jux): the underground rapper's record is new,
but considered to be an EP, clocking in at 30:45; the packaging
introduces a new gimmick in recycling: an 88-page booklet with
the lyrics to this and four previous releases; the EP is par for
the course, deft beats and a firehose torrent of words.
- Albert Ayler: New Grass (1968 , Impulse):
girlfriend Mary Maria Parks takes the horn by the balls and cuts
loose with a raucous r&b record; the saxophonist offers some
old-fashioned honking, but mostly reverts to form, juxtaposing his
usual plaintive, tortured search against the certainty of Pretty
- Gato Barbieri: Chapter Four: Alive in New York
(1975 , Impulse): like many live performances, this one
picks up speed as it progresses, eventually delivering on its
Coltrane to cha-cha-cha promises; like many live performances,
it's also thinner sounding than its studio predecessors.
- Brandy: The Best of Brandy (1994-2004 ,
Atlantic): Debuted at 15; 10 years later she has four albums and
a convenient profit-taking best-of; strikes me as ordinary progress
from ingenue to property, both producer-heavy, with the usual kit
bag employed for the usual results.
- Kenny Burrell: Prestige Profiles (1956-63 ,
Prestige): an important bop guitarist, but even when he headlined
albums he usually gave way to whoever else Prestige lined up for
the date -- even in selecting for his solos we wind up with a lot
of piano solos (Tommy Flanagan, Mal Waldron), saxophones (Coleman
Hawkins, John Coltrane), trumpets (Donald Byrd, Idrees Sulieman),
even flute (Jerome Richardson), so the focus is weak, but as a
late-'50s smorgasbord there is much to taste.
- The Very Best of Canned Heat (1967-73 ,
Capitol): the most devoted of America's blues rock bands back in
the day when American rockers were just discovering the blues locked
away in their closets; two freak hits from 1968, three cuts from
Monterey Pop in 1967, two cuts from best album Future Blues,
three cuts from the period when Bob Hite tried to carry on after
Alan Wilson died, one with Little Richard.
- Rosanne Cash: Seven Year Ache (1981 ,
Columbia/Legacy): second album, title song her first great one,
enough pedal steel to pass as country, as if her name wasn't
pass enough; good sign that her songs are the best things here;
not so good sign that she only wrote two of them, but Nashville
ways die hard.
- Rosanne Cash: King's Record Shop (1987 ,
Columbia/Legacy): three albums later, she's still only up to three
originals; good ones, natch, but she's picking them better than
ever -- "Rosie Strike Back," "The Way We Make a Broken Heart,"
"Runaway Train," "Tennessee Flat Top Box"; still, the title
memorializes an old record store, so maybe that's concept.
- Rosanne Cash: Interiors (1990 ,
Columbia/Legacy): this time she wrote or got first credit on all
ten songs, while soon-to-be ex-husband Rodney Crowell is down to
one co-credit and a bit vocal; the two songs featured on Very
Best don't stand out, everything else as sharply observed and
finely drawn; one song claims "no one gets past these eyes to the
truth" -- still a critic fingered this as a divorce album, which
was right but it's more.
- Don Cherry: Where Is Brooklyn? (1966 , Blue
Note): after his apprenticeship with Ornette Coleman, after two
ambitious large band projects, this is a rough edged, bare bones
blowing session, with Pharoah Sanders bringing on the noise, and
Ed Blackwell dicing up the rhythm; long out of print, this is a
missing link in Cherry's discography -- an update of The Avant
Garde, his 1960 meeting with Coltrane; a prequel to Mu,
his 1969 duets with Blackwell.
- David Allan Coe: Penitentiary Blues (1970 ,
Hacktone): first album, more or less, by the guy who went on to sing
the perfect country song, but these are basic blues, presumably
written in jail; short, derivative -- reminds me of the Animals
here, Clapton there, both pretty derivative too -- but his cackle
and perverse sense of humor were original.
- John Coltrane: One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note
(1965 , Impulse, 2CD): radio broadcast tapes, long circulated
as bootlegs, finally cleaned up for an official release; the group
is the famous McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones quartet, but
near the end of their run, with Coltrane ready to head off for other
dimensions; worthwhile, of course, but not as fresh as some of the
earlier live material, of which there is quite a lot.
- The Red Garland Quintets: Prestige Profiles
(1957-61 , Prestige): featuring John Coltrane, noted on the
cover, and Donald Byrd, not noted, except for one cut with Richard
Williams and Oliver Nelson up front; trumpet-sax-piano-bass-drums
is the classic bebop quintet lineup, a point made all too obvious
by starting with "Billie's Bounce"; best thing here is Garland's
own "Soul Junction," with a long intro that lets you enjoy the
piano before Coltrane enters like he's easing into a warm bath.
- Dexter Gordon: Daddy Plays the Horn (1955 ,
Shout! Factory): between drugs and busts, bebop's first major
tenor saxophonist recorded little in the mid-'50s; this exception
shows that it had nothing to do with his skills -- the big tone,
the powerful swing, his wit and demeanor are all evident, as is
Kenny Drew's redoubtable piano.
- Elmo Hope: Trio and Quintet (1953-57 ,
Blue Note): two 10-inch LPs -- one a trio, the other a quintet
with Freeman Lee on trumpet and Frank Foster on tenor sax --
plus three tracks from a later quintet with Stu Williamson and
Harold Land; Hope was a fine bebop pianist, best heard on the
sparkling trios, but interesting throughout, even when he takes
a back seat to Foster's swinging leads.
- Lightnin' Hopkins: Prestige Profiles (1960-64
, Prestige): the first and thus far only artist on Prestige's
Bluesville label to be included in this series; past his prime,
but while he changed with the fashions, he never changed much,
and age just sharpened his features; prolific as always -- this
reduces a 7-CD box, but doesn't improve it much.
- Yusef Lateef: Psychicemotus (1965 ,
Impulse): there is something odd about Lateef's world music --
in some ways he's ahead of the times, but in others it feels
like he found his exotica in old National Geographics; here he
hops about the globe from flute to bamboo flute, never settling
anywhere long enough to get comfortable, neglecting the tenor
sax which is his true calling.
- Hugh Masekela: Revival (2005, Heads Up): South
Africa's most famous jazz trumpeter returns home to a scene run
amok with kwaito -- South Africa's take on hip-hop -- and works
through his own twist on South African r&b, singing most of
the songs, although I find his trumpet even tastier.
- Jackie McLean: Consequence (1965 , Blue
Note): from a period when McLean more often leaned avant, but this
is a straight hard bop bowing session, starting with one called
"Bluesanova" -- more blues than nova; minor in terms of the leader,
but fans of Lee Morgan and Harold Mabern will be pleased.
- Blue Mitchell: Down With It! (1965 , Blue
Note): lightweight but a terrific hard bop set -- Al Foster and
Gene Taylor keep the pot bubbling, young Chick Corea has some
fine stretches on piano, journeyman Junior Cook muscles up on
tenor sax, and Mitchell's trumpet is clear and bright.
- Derrick Morgan: Moon Hop: Best of the Early Years
(1960-69 , Trojan/Sanctuary, 2CD): these days the ska star is
known for two songs: "Forward March," which deserves to be Jamaica's
national anthem, and "Tougher Than Tough," which leant its name to
the canonical anthology of Jamaican music; nothing else here matches
either, but you get plenty of context and choice filler.
- Oliver Nelson's Big Band: Live From Los Angeles
(1967 , Impulse): your basic big band brass orgy -- four
trumpets, four trombones, six saxes (including Nelson's soprano),
piano, guitar, bass, drums -- staffed by west coast stalwarts who
checked their cool at the door; not much of a swingfest, but the
brass pyrotechnics are thrilling.
- Ol' Dirty Bastard: The Definitive Ol' Dirty Bastard
Story (1995-99, Elektra/Rhino): two albums, three low chart
singles, no real hits, but famous enough for his Wu-Tang connection,
rap sheet, and death two days short of his 36th birthday that this
is his second best-of, complete with DVD of his three crappy videos;
he was a comic, a scam artist, an attitude with no superego, such a
fuckup his death came as a relief, but the pieces here are solid
popwise, and not just when RZA or the Neptunes were on hand to bait
- Evan Parker: The Ayes Have It (1983-91 ,
Emanem): starts with four trio exercises from 1983 with Parker
spinning out elegantly abstract saxophone runs; concludes with
a 36-minute quartet piece, with Walter Wierbos' trombone power
for counterpoint; Parker's discography runs over 200 albums, of
which I've heard maybe a score, so I'm no expert, but this one
lives up to his rep as one of the most formidable improvisers
of our times.
- The Best of Tito Puente (20th Century Masters: The
Millennium Collection) (1991-99 , Hip-O): well
down the road -- the first of the RMM albums sampled here was
called The Mambo King: His 100th Album, and the last
was cut a year before he died at age 77; the live "Oyo Como
Va" at the end has seen better days, but everything else is
typically bright and sprightly.
- Pharoah Sanders: Elevation (1973 , Impulse):
the title piece is an 18-minute rough retread of "A Love Supreme";
the second side opens with infectious Nigerian juju, with Sanders
singing instead of blowing; Joe Bonner's piano is central, but this
wanders a lot, swamping everything in psychedelic percussion.
- Luciana Souza: Duos II (2005, Sunnyside): the
fine art of Brazilian song, just gentle guitar and slinky, seductive
voice; the guitarists include Romero Lubambo and Marco Pereira,
names worth remembering.
- Studio One Women (1966-81 , Soul Jazz): ten
(or more) albums into in Soul Jazz's Studio One series, this may be
no more than a way of grouping obscurities that didn't make it into
any of the extant categories -- Ska, Roots, Rockers,
Scorchers, Funk, etc.
- Gabor Szabo: Spellbinder (1966 , Impulse):
a jazz guitarist from Hungary, offers clean metallic picking over
the latin beats of Willie Bobo and Victor Pantoja, with Ron Carter
and Chico Hamilton steadying the light swing; his deadpan "Bang Bang"
vocal works as a novelty.
- Stanley Turrentine: That's Where It's At (1962
, Blue Note): Mr. T's robust tenor is in full swing, especially
when pianist Les McCann picks up the pace, which is most of the time;
on the other hand, the ballads drag a bit compared to T's more typical
organ-based soul jazz, but not enough to dampen spirits.
- Johnny "Guitar" Watson: The Funk Anthology (1976-94
, Shout! Factory): a minor bluesman from the '50s, Watson got
a second wind in the late '70s with a series of cheesy light funk
albums, almost as transparent as the jokes on the album covers: e.g.,
Ain't That a Bitch showed him stretching out on a couch with
a gorgeous Afghan Hound while two babes are curled up on the floor.
- Michael White: The Land of Spirit and Light
(1973 , Impulse): a clash of styles, with White's violin
weaving between Bob King's guitar and Prince Lasha's woodwinds and
various percussionists, achieving a form of world fusion rooted in
no place in particular; it gets most interesting when Cecil McBee's
bass picks up the groove and the odds and ends flow together.
- Legend of the Wu-Tang: Wu-Tang Clan's Greatest Hits
(1983-2001 , BMG Heritage): starts with seven cuts from their
first and best album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), before
they metastasized into a holding company of solo artists; subsequent
albums, as RZA stayed on to manage the farm, yield 4, 2, and 1 cut,
respectively, diminishing returns but consistent enough; the beats
thud, the murk oozes, the chants turn into mantras -- "ain't nuthing
ta f' wit" indeed.
- Zucchero: Zucchero & Co. (1988-2003 ,
Concord/Hear Music): having made a mint off Ray Charles duets,
Starbucks searches high and low for more cross-marketing, finding
Adelmo Fornaciari mixing it up with everyone from John Lee Hooker
to Luciano Pavarotti in the sort of trans-world kitsch that is
everywhere and native to nowhere, much like Starbucks.
Additional Consumer News
I haven't heard these recent reissues in their latest packaging,
but I know them from previous editions. Some may have extra tracks,
which usually don't help much, but don't hurt much either. Grades
are from previous editions: caveat emptor.
- The Drive-By Truckers: Pizza Deliverance (1999
, New West): seems crude, or raw anyhow, compared to the
albums that followed, but this was the first hint -- first one
I noticed, anyhow -- that southern rock could survive Lynyrd
Skynyrd's plane crash.
- Andrew Hill: Judgment! (1964 , Blue Note):
quartet with Bobby Hutcherson's vibes shadowing the pianist, similar
to Andrew!!!, but without the complementary horn the focus
on Hill is if anything sharper.
- Bobby Hutcherson: Oblique (1967 , Blue Note):
also a piano-vibes quartet, with Herbie Hancock especially loquacious
in the piano chair; one of Hutcherson's finest albums.
- Freddie Redd Quartet With Jackie McLean: Music From "The
Connection" (1960 , Blue Note): one of the great jazz
soundtrack albums; Redd was a fine bebop pianist in rare form, but
McLean is the star, and this is a key item in his discography.
In an infinite universe, all the music you'll ever need already
exists somewhere. We find more each month: vintage rock (John
Fogerty), profitable pop (Cameo Parkway), jazz masters (Thelonious
Monk, John Coltrane, Andrew Hill, Don Cherry), mambo (Tito Puente),
rhumba (Papa Wemba), country royalty (Rosanne Cash), many more
Copyright © 2005 Tom Hull.