January 30, 2018

2017’s Standout CDs

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As a tumultuous year for
our planet comes to a close and we plan ahead, let ‘s take a look at some of the best CDs and boxed sets of 2017.

The Singles

The Doors

(Elektra /Rhino)

Perhaps you first heard The Doors perform “Light My Fire” on The Ed Sullivan Show. Or “Touch Me” on The Jonathan Winters Show. Or on the radio. The Doors were always something different, something else. An L.A. band that could craft classic singles and albums that were perhaps best heard at or after sunset. Drummer John Densmore, guitarist Robby Krieger, key-boardist Ray Manzarek and vocal-
ist Jim Morrison collectively blended poetry, poetic lyrics, jazz, blues, classical, flamenco and rock to form one of history’s most enduring bands.

This stellar collection of singles from ten albums from The Doors and Strange Days (both recently remastered) to Alive, She Cried feature A-sides and B-sides with stereo and mono edits that showcase the band’s range. Chops with confidence. Lyrics that hadn’t happened before. May they inspire the uninitiated to check out their brilliant collection of albums.

Fight Fire: The Complete Recordings (1964-1967)

The Golliwogs


Most people only know of
The Golliwogs as John Fogerty’s band before Creedence Clearwater Revival. Originally signed to Fantasy’s Scorpio label, they hated the name foisted on them and the wigs they had to wear (for a while). Meanwhile, they gigged around the West Coast and scored some airplay for good reason — they had talent. John Fogerty emerged as a songwriter and the group’s leader, as he, his brother Tom, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford evolved into a solid garage rock group. Standouts include “Brown Eyed Girl” (not the Van Morrison tune).

The Power of Peace

The Isley Brothers/Santana


The Isley Brothers have had decades of R&B, funk and rock milestones, from “Shout” to “It’s Your Thing” and “Caravan of Love” to a two year stint with a pre-Experience Jimi Hendrix. Guitarist Carlos Santana is rock history, from his band’s triumphant appearance at the 1969 Woodstock festival to classic albums like Abraxas and Supernatural. Now they come together for an album of heartfelt covers including Curtis Mayfield’s “Gypsy Woman,” Bacharach and David’s “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology).” Vocalist Ronald Isley and his versatile guitarist brother Ernie have worked well together for so long, it’s no surprise that they and Santana make such beautiful music together.

Don’t Give Up On Love

Don Bryant

(Fat Possum)

A key figure at Memphis label Hi, Don Bryant is best known for co-writing “I Can’t Stand the Rain” with Ann Peebles and for discovering Al Green. Here, Bryant makes an assured return to the studio after four decades. Anyone lucky enough to hear him open for Bonnie Raitt this past summer knows he is the definition of the term soul survivor. A brilliant vocalist, Bryant and his associates lay down some memorable grooves.

All American Made

Margo Price

(Third Man)

It’s not easy to write about how big issues affect everyday people, but some make it look and sound easy. Enter Margo Price, singer-songwriter, chronicler of those struggling to stay alive. Highlights include a spare, understated duet with Willie Nelson, “Learning to Lose.”

Classic Brunswick and Columbia Teddy Wilson (1935-1942)

Teddy Wilson


To many, Teddy Wilson was a first-rate accompanist, backing up everyone from Billie Holiday to Phoebe Snow. Ms. Snow fondly remembered a session for her debut album where Wilson showed up and asked her what she wanted him to play. Astonished, she thought, “This is not happening!” But it was.

Here, Wilson is featured solo and with small groups, big bands and singers including Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne. This 7-CD set, with 20 previously unreleased tracks is awash in great moments.

The Authorized Bang Collection

Van Morrison


There is nothing quite like Van Morrison in flight, soaring through original stereo mixes of “Brown Eyed Girl” or Leadbelly’s “Midnight Special.” Longtime fans and newcomers will appreciate this 3-CD set, his complete output on the Bang label, with stereo and mono mixes of these classic New York sessions. Rarities include alternate takes of different songs including ”Brown Eyed Girl.” There’s also the “Contractual Obligations Sessions” which features Van’s sense of humor on a number of tracks. Van’s liner notes take you back to those heady days. Listen to and enjoy these classic songs that influenced so many artists.

Any Other Way

Jackie Shane

(The Numero Group)

It could make a great screenplay. Jackie Shane grows up in Nashville and Ohio, blossoms into a soul singer, makes it to Toronto where she develops a devoted following. She records for indie labels Sue and Modern, appears on TV and makes a real splash. Her recording of William Bell’s “Any Other Way” becomes a hit in Toronto, she builds a following in Boston, appears on TV. She turns down The Ed Sullivan Show when they ask her to tone down her gender-bending outfits.

She wouldn’t tone down her voice either. It was capable of dramatic, gritty covers of “Money,” “You Are My Sunshine” and “Sticks and Stones,” as well as passionate originals like “New Way of Lovin'” and “Cruel, Cruel World” before disappearing from the scene in 1971.

There is also a live CD with steamy versions of Dee Clark’s ‘Raindrops” and “Don’t Play That Song.” Jackie Shane is alive and well. Hopefully more people will get to know her by hearing
these tracks.


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