John Wendland's Posts
|I'm the host of Memphis to Manchester, a fun-filled and action packed three hours of soul, R&B, country and other great music each Thursday morning on KDHX from 7:00 to 10:00 am Central. I'm also a musician and songwriter with the band Rough Shop. Visit me on Myspace and Facebook.|
I thought 2012 was a really strong year for new music releases and I found the same to be true for reissues and compilations. Listed below are 15 of my favorite compilations and/or reissues from 2012. Looking for hours and hours of fun-filled, action-packed, and rewarding listening? I submit the following for your music-listening consideration.
1. Woody Guthrie – “Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection” (Smithsonian Folkways)
Woody Guthrie would have turned 100 in 2012 and Smithsonian Folkways paid tribute by issuing this 3-CD compilation and hardcover book which includes some of his lyrics, photos, letters, etc. This is a beautifully put-together package and combines some of his well-known songs with rare, previously unreleased tracks. If you want an overview of one of America’s greatest songwriters with a personal glimpse of the man behind the songs, this is a terrific place to start.
2. Various Artists – “Eccentric Soul-Omnibus” (The Numero Group)
Words almost don’t do this one justice. The Numero Group has put out some of the most elaborate, exquisitely-packaged reissues of the last few years. Owners of some of their sets like the “Light On The South Side” and Syl Johnson box sets can attest to this. However, this is their most ambitious project to date. This set is made up of 45 (!) seven-inch singles of rare 60s and 70s funk and soul and comes housed in a case along with a hardcover book of detailed liner notes and pictures.
3. Dan Penn – “The Fame Recordings” (Ace)
So many well-known soul songs were written by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham. In the 60s he recorded many demos at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. Most of these demos included backing by Spooner Oldham on keyboards, Jimmy Johnson on guitar, and Roger Hawkins on drums and have never been officially issued until now. This is a mother lode of southern soul featuring the soulful vocals of Dan Penn and to hear the original interpretations of songs like “It Tears Me Up” and “I’m Your Puppet” are a revelation.
4. Various Artists – “Holy Spirit: Spiritual Soul & Gospel Funk From Shreveport Jewel Records” (Harmless)
This 2-CD compilation is made up of 60s and 70s southern gospel soul and funk. Whether the tracks are originals, traditional gospel songs, or secular songs with re-written spiritual lyrics, the performances just tear it up and there are so many amazing vocals to be found on this 41-song collection.
5. Carole King – “The Legendary Demos” (Hear Music)
This single-disc collection is made up of previously unreleased demos recorded by Carole King. Some from the early Brill Building days where she was writing for other artists and some right before her 1971 solo “Tapestry” release. These intimate and stripped-down performances are beautiful.
6. Various Artists – “Behind Closed Doors: Where Country Meets Soul” (Kent)
An almost perfect collection of country soul. This compilation is made up of 60s and 70s recordings of country songs recorded by the likes of soul artists such as James Carr, Ann Peebles, Al Green, Esther Phillips, Solomon Burke, Joe Simon, Bettye Swann, and Little Milton. Sublime throughout.
7. Various Artists – “Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan” (AmnestyInternational)
This sprawling 4-CD, 76-track compilation of various artists performing Bob Dylan songs was released to honor Amnesty International’s 50th Anniversary. The wide array of musical genres represented and collection of artists from all over the world will likely result in a number of songs that don’t resonate with every listener but anybody should be able to find a whole lot of tracks to like on this. All of these performances are previously unreleased which adds to the specialness of this collection.
8. Various Artists – “Fender: The Golden Age 1950-1970″ (Ace)
Really fine single-CD compilation of various artists who used Fender guitars and an overview of how much they shaped the sound of popular music. Extensive liner notes about Leo Fender are included along with songs by some of the most influential artists from 1950-1970. Includes everything from songs by Dick Dale and the Beach Boys to songs by the Yardbirds and the Velvet Underground to songs by Booker T. and Otis Rush to songs by Buck Owens and Johnny Cash – all compiled in a way that makes sense.
9. Earl Van Dyke – “The Motown Sound – The Complete Albums and More” (Hip-O Select/Motown)
Earl Van Dyke played keyboards on a ridiculous number of Motown hits and also released a couple of solo instrumental albums. His band was originally billed as Earl Van Dyke and the Soul Brothers but these musicians are more commonly known as the Funk Brothers. This 2-CD collection is made up of the instrumental backing tracks to many Motown hits along with their two solo albums plus 21 bonus tracks. In other words, an instrumental collection of the highest order that can, finally, be found in one place.
10. Shorty Long – “Here Comes Shorty Long: The Complete Motown Stereo Masters” (Kent)
Shorty Long may not be too well-known because he died at the early age of 29 in a boating accident but he released two strong albums on the Motown label and they are both included on this compilation along with a couple of bonus tracks. He was a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter. He co-wrote and recorded the original version of “Devil with the Blue Dress On” and his version is the definitive version, as far as I’m concerned. He could be funny, funky (“Here Comes the Judge” and “Function at the Junction”), and there is one musical surprise after another on here. You’ll never want to hear “Chantilly Lace” any other way after you hear his version.
11.Various Artists – “Country Soul Sisters: Women in Country Music 1952-1978″ (Soul Jazz)
It’s unusual for the Soul Jazz label to make a foray into country music but this 2-LP compilation is really well-done and combines well-known tracks with lesser-known surprises. Some of the artists represented are Bobbie Gentry, Sammi Smith, Billie Jo Spears, Tanny Wynette, Jean Shepard, Lynn Anderson, Norma Jean, and Jody Miller.
12. Amy Winehouse - “Amy Winehouse at the BBC” (Republic Records)
This single-CD/single-DVD set of previously unreleased live performances made for radio and television between 2004-2009 shows what a talent she was when not ravaged by addiction. Some of this is absolutely brilliant.
13. Various Artists – “Death Might Be Your Santa Claus” (Sony Legacy)
Now a little something for Christmas music aficionados. Almost every one of these early Columbia and Okeh pre-war recordings can be found on CD collections put out by the Document and/or Dust-to-Digital labels but where else can you find them on vinyl where it wouldn’t cost a small fortune? This was made available as a Black Friday Record Store Day offering and they only made 3,000 copies. Maybe not readily available but well-worth seeking out if you are into this kind of thing (and I, most decidedly, am).
14.George Jackson – “Let the Best Man Win” (Kent)
George Jackson is one of the best soul singers and songwriters that you have never heard. He was a staff songwriter for the Fame studio and wrote songs for artists such as Wilson Pickett and Candi Staton. He also wrote “Old Time Rock & Roll” but that’s another story. This is the second volume of demo recordings made by George Jackson at Fame Studios that has been released by the Kent label and both collections are gems. One listen to this and you’ll be astounded as to why he wasn’t a star in his own right.
15.Various Artists – “Memphis Boys: The Story of American Studios” (Ace)
First-ever compilation of 60s and 70s recordings that came put of the Memphis-based American Studios. Every track on this is stellar. Joe Tex, Dusty Springfield, the Box Tops, James Carr, Bobby Womack, James & Bobby Purify, Sandy Posey, Wilson Pickett, Joe Simon, Elvis, Danny O’Keefe – they are all on here.
But, wait, there’s more…..
In case the above hasn’t satiated your 2012 reissue/compilation appetite, all of the following are also highly recommended:
Listed below are 15 of my favorite compilations and/or reissues from 2011. So much to choose from. I believe any of the following will provide hours of rewarding listening.
1. Ray Charles – “Singular Genius – The Complete ABC Singles” (Concord)
Every a & b side from his singles recorded with ABC-Paramount. This reasonably priced 5-CD set includes 106 tracks and comes with a 48-page liner notes booklet. Singular genius, indeed.
2. Various Artists – “The Fame Studios Story: 1961-1973″ (Kent)
This 3-CD set features recordings from various artists recorded at Muscle Shoals from 1961-1973. Absolutely no filler on this collection of not often heard singles, hits & deeper tracks. Packaged with a beautifully put-together hardback book.
3. Various Artists – “This May Be My Last Time Singing: Raw African-American Gospel on 45RPM 1957-1982″ (Tompkins Square)
Flat-out terrific 3-CD compilation featuring 72 rare independent gospel 45 tracks. The intensity of some of these performances will blow you away.
4. Mickey Newbury – “An American Trilogy” (Saint Cecilia Knows)
This collection consists of his trilogy of albums from 1969-1973 – Looks Like Rain, Frisco Mabel Joy & Heaven Help The Child – plus an extra disc of demos, rarities & unreleased tracks.
Featuring songs written by Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham recorded by artists such as Charlie Rich, Etta James, Sandy Posey, The Box Tops, James Carr, Dionne Warwick & Barbara Lynn. This is just a single-disc compilation so it only contains a fraction of the songs written by one of the finest pair of soul music songwriters ever but these soul, country and pop versions of their songs serve as a really satisfying introduction.
6. Willie Wright – “Telling the Truth” (The Numero Group)
Willie Wright was from Bayland, MS & later moved to Massachusetts. In 1977, he recorded this release & 1,000 copies were pressed. This soul-folk masterpiece remained buried in obscurity until unearthed by The Numero Group. One of the musical surprises for me in 2011. Reminds me, somewhat, of Van Morrison’s ‘Astral Weeks’ album.
7. Charlie Rich – “It Ain’t Gonna Be That Way: The Complete Smash Sessions” (Ace)
29-track, single-disc compilation of all the tracks he recorded for the Smash label in the 60s. Soul, country, rock & pop and it’s pretty great. Even includes an excellent rockin’ Christmas song as an added bonus.
KDHX DJs were asked to compile a list of their favorite ten releases of 2009. I decided to take it one step further and compile a list of my favorite ten compilations of 2009. Hey, somebody might be interested. Anyway, here goes……..
1. Light: On The South Side – The Numero Group
This gets my vote for the most beautifully-packaged compilation of 2009. This set consists of a hardcover book with LP-sized vintage black & white photos chronicling the night life on the south side of Chicago for the period of 1975-77 and a two-LP set of blues & soul (most of which I’ve never heard) emanating from those south side clubs. Throw in the usual detailed liner notes you get with a release by The Numero Group and include an introduction for the photo book written by Nick Hornby and you end up with the compilation of the year. Not inexpensive but something that will be treasured for years to come.
2. Can You Dig It? The Music & Politics of Black Action Films: 1968-75 – Soul Jazz (UK)
You’re not likely to find a better collection of music from so-called “blaxploitation” films than this 2-CD, 34-track set. Sure, it has the tracks you would expect (Theme From Shaft, Freddie’s Dead) but then it goes way deeper than that and I can guarantee there are plenty of tracks that you are not likely to have heard before. Those familiar with the Soul Jazz label know how well they do reissues from a sound & liner-note standpoint and they go even further this time by including a a 100-page booklet, mini-film poster cards and stickers.
3. Respect: Aretha’s Influences & Inspiration – Ace (UK)
This terrific 24-track compilation takes R&B, soul and gospel tracks recorded by various artists from the period of 1948-1972 that had an influence on and inspired the music of Aretha Franklin. Includes tracks such as “To Be Young, Gifted And Black” by Nina Simone, “Respect” by Otis Redding, “The House That Jack Built” by Thelma Jones, “Sit Down And Cry” by Jean Wells, “Soulville” by Dinah Washington, “Try A Little Tenderness” by Little Miss Cornshucks, “Prove It” by Mary Wheeler, “Let Me Me In your Life” by Bill Withers, “The Day Is Past And Gone” by Clara Ward, “Today I Sing The Blues” by Helen Humes and so much more.
4. Where The Action is! – Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-68 – Rhino
This latest installment of the Nuggets compilations put out by Rhino consists of 4-CDs and 101 tracks of pop, rock, folk-rock, country-rock & psychedelic music focused on the Southern California music scene from 1965-1968. This package does a great job of introducing us to many lesser-known acts and mixing them with rare tracks by well-known acts like The Byrds, Love, The Doors, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, Captain Beefheart, The Mama & The Papas, Lowell George & The Monkees. Lots of gems on this that will be included in future installments of Memphis To Manchester.
5. Blues, Blues Christmas, Vol. 2 – Document
Alright, this was, by far, the best Christmas music compilation of 2009 and one of the best compilations of any kind that I came across. 2-CDs and 44-tracks of some of the finest blues, jazz, street-sermons, gospel, doo-wop & boogie-woogie Christmas and holiday music that you are likely to hear. This set includes songs recorded between 1925-55 and ranges from the reverent to the risque. Not your everyday Christmas music set, that’s for sure. Flat-out terrific.
Read the rest of the list after the jump.
2009 was not that different from past years in that I was completely immersed in music. The main problem in trying to present a radio program like Memphis to Manchester (which airs every Thursday, 7 to 10 a.m. CT on 88.1 and streaming at KDHX.org), a show one hopes make listeners feel something – exhilaration, anger, joy, sorrow, sexiness, humor, groove or some combination, thereof – is that you realize that the more music one becomes exposed to, the more one realizes how much more there is out there to discover.
It’s a rewarding journey, something I’ve never grown tired of, but I find myself just as often going back to discover artists and musical styles I’ve missed than I do to find new artists. This is my longwinded way of saying that I’ve only heard a small fraction of artists’ new 2009 releases that I’ve intended to hear.
The amount of music being produced is so vast that I won’t even pretend to say that I can produce a list of top 10 2009 releases which doesn’t omit or overlook so many worthwhile releases that came out in 2009.
My criteria for the releases I’ve heard that made my top 10 list is simple – if I think I will still care about and be moved by the release ten years from now, it will be considered for my top 10. I’ll let the critics debate the merits & impact of a band like Animal Collective, for instance. Music is so subjective. But I do think the Allen Toussaint release (my choice for best release of the year) or the melody of a Neko Case song like “Magpie To The Morning” will still resonate to me years from now while I’m not convinced that a band like Animal Collective will. I might be wrong. Who knows? And my top 10 release if prepared a week from now would probably differ from this list. Nothing scientific going on here.
Top 10 Albums of 2009
- Allen Toussaint – The Bright Mississippi – Nonesuch
- Buddy & Julie Miller – Written In Chalk – New West
- Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career – 4AD
- Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens – What Have You Done, My Brother? – Daptone
- Leonard Cohen – Live In London – Columbia
- Neko Case – Middle Cyclone – Anti-
- Visqueen – Message To Garcia – Local 638
- Chuck Prophet – Let Freedom Ring – Yep Roc
- The Swell Season – Strict Joy – Anti-
- Grace Basement – Gunmetal Gray – Undertow
More Best of 2009 after the jump.
This Christmas Eve morning on Memphis to Manchester on 88.1 I had the pleasure of airing a recitation from A Christmas Carol, featuring the voice of Anne Tkach and the guitar of Andy Ploof (who are my band mates in Rough Shop). It’s pretty special, so I wanted to share it with online followers of KDHX.
My thanks to Anne and Andy (and fellow KDHX programmer Roy Kasten for recording the piece), and happiest of holiday wishes to you and yours.
“Scrooge Converted” (Anne Tkach and Andy Ploof)
2008 was a great year on the reissue front. Like my list of favorite compilations of 2008, I’m barely making a dent when talking about standouts among all the releases that came out. Hey, you do what you can…..
1. Bob Dylan: Tell Tale Signs – The Bootleg Series: Vol. 8 – Columbia
This really isn’t a reissue since almost every track on the 2-CD (or 3-CD ridiculously priced deluxe version) set has not been previously released. But seeing as how I left it off my list of Top 10 new releases and my list of favorite 2008 compilations, I had to put it somewhere because it is another tremendous release by one of our greatest artists. Tell Tale Signs features unreleased recordings and alternate versions of studio sessions & unreleased live performances from the last two decades. Songs like Most Of The Time and Mississippi are completely different and are, usually, as impressive as the versions found on his studio albums. And it’s Dylan so one can expect to hear the usual number of previously recorded songs omitted from studio albums that are as good as or surpass most of the songs found on the original studio releases.
2. The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 9: 1969 – Hip-O Select/Motown
Like esteemed writer and blogger David Cantwell has said, “these aren’t just collections, they are family heirlooms.” Pricey, yes. But wonderfully packaged and with great sound. This 6-CD, 148-track, 42-artist collection contains every A & B side of every Motown single released in 1969. The Motown catalog speaks for itself. People will still be listening to some of these recordings a hundred years from now.
3. Talkin’ About Ike: The Essential Works Of Ike Turner – Vol. 1: You Sure Could Do – P-Vine
Terrific release featuring 50s recordings by various artists that feature Ike Turner on guitar and/or as a producer. Artists such as Howlin’ Wolf, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Richard Berry, Betty Everett, and Otis Rush are all represented here. Sure, you probably won’t be able to read the liner notes because they are in Japanese but the song lyrics are all in English.
There have been a number of top 10 favorite releases for 2008 posted by KDHX DJs. I thought I’d try something different and share some of my favorite compilations that were put out in 2008. I’m only scratching the surface here but that’s the nature of Top 10 lists, anyway. Or, in this case, a Top 7 list. Suffice it to say that I think any one of these compilations yield an overabundance of musical gems.
1. Take Me to the River: A Southern Soul Story 1961-1977 – Kent UK
If there is a better introduction and retrospective to southern soul than this 3-CD compilation, I sure haven’t heard it. Southern soul classics mixed with rarities and accompanied with a 72-page hardcover booklet. It’s done by the folks at Kent UK so it’s a given that the sound and packaging is topnotch.
2. Oxford American 10th Anniversary Southern Music CDs – Oxford American
Every year, Oxford American magazine puts out an issue devoted to southern music. The latest issue (with Jerry Lee Lewis on the cover) is their 10th anniversary and comes with two CDs of music tangentially related to southern music. These CDs include a myriad of different artists and musical genres from recordings spanning over seventy years. So much wonderful music on here and quite a bit from artists I have never heard before. Then when you factor in the magazine, itself, with music writing by the likes of writers such as Peter Guralnick, what are you waiting for? Available at fine booksellers near you.
3. The Wire: And All the Pieces Matter — Five Years of Music from The Wire – Nonesuch
This compilation perfectly intersperses music tracks with dialogue from five years of the finest television series ever made. This compilation manages to capture the essence of the show which is not an easy task. Artists ranging from Jesse Winchester, Tom Waits, & The Pogues to DJ Technics, Lafayette Gilchrist, & Blind Boys of Alabama are sequenced in a way where it all makes sense. Most of the snippets of dialogue included, however, are not likely to be FCC-approved anytime, soon.