I remember when CDs were first introduced to the marketplace. There was a ridiculous amount of noise from retailers having to do with them being forced to reconfigure their existing racks to hold the small items. At the time, the “long-box” was introduced as a way to minimize shrinkage. My thought back then was to keep the 12” x 12” cover format, and house the individual CD inside. We would have preserved the glorious art (which has now been reduced to a joke) and nobody would have had to change a thing — except that you would have had the “indestructible” CD rather than the somewhat fragile vinyl method of delivery.
Well, 25 years later, the great label CTI has offered up their version of this idea with the beautiful CTI Records: The Cool Revolution. This four-CD set is packaged as a classic double LP. With cover art featuring reproductions of the original albums, a nice (full-sized) booklet, and the discs themselves, this is the definition of cool in my book.
Oh, and by the way, the music is pretty great too. With artists such as Chet Baker, Airto, and Stanley Turrentine (among many others), how can you go wrong? Turrentine’s “Sugar” opens the set, and sets us off in a marvelous way. Other highlights on the first disc include not one, but two versions of the great Miles Davis track “So What” from Kind Of Blue. Both Ron Carter and George Benson take their stabs at this de facto jazz standard.
I must confess that I took a lot of the jazz snobs at face value back when I was expanding my listening palette out from Ted Nugent and KISS. The line on CTI was that it was watered-down, vanilla muzak. Nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, how do you call a guy like Chet Baker a pale imitation? The man may have been white, but he could blow as fabulously as Miles did. Of this, there is no doubt in my mind. Give a listen to his “Autumn Leaves” if you do not believe me.
Maybe some of this ill-advised pretentiousness towards the label stems from their biggest hit, Deodato’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001).” I should have seen through the baloney right from the start, because I dug this track even as a little kid. And yes, it still sounds great.
In fact, all 39 tracks on this set deserve mention. Whoever came up with the title CTI Records: The Cool Revolution was a genius. This is about as cool a retrospective set as there ever has been. Thank you, thank you. What an excellent way to introduce yourself to a much maligned label, and style of music. Perfection.