Emmylou Harris: The Very Best of Emmylou Harris: Heartaches & Highways (Rhino, July 19, 2005) *****
Michael Jackson: The Essential Michael Jackson (Sony, July 19, 2005) ****
Pink Floyd: London 1966-1967 [Enhanced] (Pucka, July 19, 2005) ****
Eurythmics: 1984 (For the Love of Big Brother) (RCA, July 19, 2005) ***
Emmylou Harris: The Very Best of Emmylou Harris: Heartaches & Highways
Good old Rhino. If anyone needed a collection like this, it was Emmylou Harris. Harris is one of the greatest American female singers of the last four decades, yet her body of work is so large, has gone in so many directions, and has had enough ups and downs that it is difficult to know where to start with her. At 20 cuts, one could argue that this only scrapes the surface; she’s released 27 albums during her career, most of them good, some of them classic. Still, this is a great place to begin, as Harris herself chose the tracks and managed a mix of hits and representative non-hits that does a good job of capturing the breadth of her work. 19 tracks cover her work from her sweet-voiced early years through her later, carefully crafted albums, taking care to include many of the highlights of her collaborations with other artists. One new song is included, “The Connection”. Highlights include “Love Hurts”, “Pancho And Lefty”, “Two More Bottles of Wine”; there’s not a weak track here. Great for beginners; old-time fans may wish there was more, but will appreciate the usual care Rhino puts into the packaging and notes. A great collection from an artist who deserves much more recognition beyond her country roots.
Michael Jackson: The Essential Michael Jackson
With his trial over, it is now time to rebuild what’s left of his career. Another in the “The Essential” series, which has earned good marks so far, this disc attempts to collect the highlights of Jackson’s entire career, from the Jackson 5 days to his most recent work. At two discs and 38 songs, this includes more Jackson than non-fans probably want or need, yet Jackson fanatics may be upset by some of the glaring omissions. Disc One covers “I Want You Back” through “Thriller”, while Disc two picks up with “Bad” and concludes with “You Rock My World”. One could easily quibble with the song selection, particularly on disc one (no “Dancing Machine”, alas, or “Human Nature”), and the steadily weakening material on disc two points to just how dry his inspiration was becoming. Still, this is a far better collection than any that have been made available before, and it does put some of his lesser work in better company, which makes it sound better than it once did.
Pink Floyd: London 1966-1967 [Enhanced]
This peculiar release should be of interest to hardcore Pink Floyd collectors. The material has appeared on bootleg before, but never complete, or in this quality. The disc consists of 20-bit digitally remastered recordings of “Interstellar Overdrive” and “Nick’s Boogie”, clocking in at 16:42 and 14:21 respectively. They were recorded at Sound Techniques in London on January 11-12, 1967 and represent the psychedelic hyperdrive of the Syd Barrett-led version of the band in all its glory, before Barrett became incapacitated. Both were used in the film by Peter Whitehead, Tonight Let’s Make Love In London. The additional draw is the enhanced content, which includes interviews from Mick Jagger, David Hockney, Michael Caine, Julie Christie, plus Whitehead, as well as some of Whitehead’s films. Strictly a historical document of limited appeal, it nontheless captures a glimpse into an era, and “Interstellar Overdrive” in particular demonstrates well how Pink Floyd gained its early reputation as leaders of the English psychedelic movement.
Eurythmics: 1984 (For the Love of Big Brother)
Only for Eurythmics completists, but not without its charms. 1984 (For The Love Of Big Brother) was recorded for the soundtrack to the film adaptation of the film; released in 1984, it contained a U.K. top-10 hit, “Sex Crime (Nineteen Eighty Four)”. The Eurythmics’ soundtrack was ultimately rejected by director Michael Radford as sounding too “modern”, and a mainly orchestral score was used in its place, although pieces of it were used. Musically, it is certainly sountrack music, not a conventional album. As soundtrack music goes, it’s moderately interesting. Moody, dark, cold, clinical, it actually sounds better two decades later; in a modern context, it resembles some of the textures of electronica and ambient music. Most of the album is instrumental, but “I Did It Just The Same” and the haunting “Julia” feature some good Annie Lennox vocalizations. The album was largely dismissed at the time, but fans of the duo have always staunchly supported it.
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