The U.S. Army didn’t skimp on talent when it filmed “Country Style U.S.A.” from 1957 to 1961 as a TV recruitment tool.
Each black-and-white film episode was only 15 minutes long, yet a dazzling array of Nashville’s top acts were spotlighted. Bear Family has collected 52 programs — four full seasons — spread across four separate DVDs, and they’re astonishing: Ray Price, Marty Robbins, Ferlin Husky, Webb Pierce, Ernest Tubb, Eddy Arnold, Don Gibson, Hank Snow, Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, Buck Owens, Faron Young (he hosted the final season) and plenty more, all in their prime, singing live and looking great. (www.bear-family.de)
The new documentary “Movin’ On Up: The Music and Message of Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions,” out on DVD from Reelin’ in the Years Productions and Hip-O Records, does a marvelous job of assembling 19 full-length video clips of Mayfield, half with his Impressions, from such disparate sources as Hullabaloo, Hollywood A Go-Go, Upbeat and In Concert (there are five additional bonus clips).
Mayfield’s pioneering role as musical social commentator is highlighted by illuminating interviews with the late soul great, his arranger Johnny Pate, and surviving Impressions Sam Gooden and Fred Cash. (www.reelinintheyears.com)
When Atlantic Records signed R&B vocal groups, it was a safe bet their harmonies were polished to a gloss and their lead vocalists were exceptional.
Naturally, Rhino Handmade’s four-CD Atlantic Vocal Groups (1951-1963) contains generous helpings of The Clovers and The Drifters (both with and without Clyde McPhatter), but there’s plenty of room for The Chords, The Cardinals, The Diamonds, The Sheiks, The Regals, The Sensations, The Pearls, The Flyers, The Bobbettes, The Royal Jokers, The Coasters and The Penguins. Disc four boasts a load of late ’50s/early ’60s doo-wop rarities. (www.rhinohandmade.com)
Have the vaults run dry of unreleased gems by Diana Ross and The Supremes? No way: Hip-O Select’s Let the Music Play: Supreme Rarities from its Motown Lost & Found series packs two CDs with 47 amazing finds, from a delicate “You Can Depend On Me” from their first Hitsville date to the rocking “Hey Baby” and “Too Hot,” a Florence Ballard-led “I Saw Her Standing There,” freshly unearthed versions of “Not Fade Away,” “Mickey’s Monkey,” and “Satisfaction,” the Diana-only sizzler “Believe In Me,” a Norman Whitfield-helmed “Ain’t No Sun Since You’ve Been Gone,” and fascinating alternate versions of “Love Child,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” and “Someday We’ll Be Together.”
Everything is Everything, Diana’s second solo Motown album from 1970, is a delightful Deke Richards production that kicks off with the effervescent “My Place” and a surging “Ain’t No Sad Song,” contrasted by U.K. blockbuster “I’m Still Waiting.”
Hip-O Select’s reissue adds “Wish I Knew”and six more. (www.hip-oselect.com)
The Motor City was smoking outside the walls of Hitsville, too.