The Later Years
Three years on from the release of the shelf-bending The Early Years box set, rounding up the darker corners of their pre-Dark Side of the Moon output, Pink Floyd return with The Later Years, 16 discs dusting off the three studio albums, two live collections and the wealth of other odds and ends that they’ve accumulated across the last 32 years.
It’s not, perhaps, the headline hogging behemoth that its predecessor represented… disc after disc of Syd Barrett-era rarities, after all, are always going to feel more “essential” than another crop of outtakes from The Division Bell sessions and a 5.1 mix of The Endless River.
But dig deep and, while the 13 hours of unreleased material promised for this box set is not only more than they crammed into The Early Years (12 hours), it also promises, and delivers, immaculately upgraded versions of two of the band’s less appreciated releases—A Momentary Lapse of Reason, the studio album that marked Floyd’s first release following Roger Waters’ departure, and the Delicate Sound of Thunder, the live set that followed it.
To which we can add… a completely remastered version of the Pulse video concert; two wholly new-to-most-people live performances (Venice 1989 and Knebworth 1990), a healthy heaping of accumulated live B-sides and unreleased studio material, 5.1 mixes of all that and more, plus a wealth of related ephemera. Oh, and a couple of one-sided 45s as well, “Lost for Words” from the Pulse rehearsals, and—taking the story back to its very beginning—“Arnold Layne,” from the Syd Barrett tribute concert in 2007.
All of which still might not add up to everybody’s favorite Floydian interlude but, in terms of content and craft, it’s hard to find fault.
Plus, once you’ve sat and digested everything… well, maybe it will become your favorite period, after all.
The Complete Keen Years:1957-1960
His earliest recordings were with The Soul Stirrers for Specialty Records, and most of his Billboard Hot 100 chart entries were on RCA Victor. But it was while signed to Keen Records that Sam Cooke transitioned from group gospel singer to bona fide solo pop star, his vocal prowess and ability to personalize diverse material matching that of another future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer: Elvis Presley.
Released in January as part of a yearlong celebration leading up to the 90th anniversary of Cooke’s birth, The Complete Keen Years: 1957-1960 is a five-disc box set sourced from recently recovered original masters. By putting Cooke’s Keen albums in chronological order for this collection, which also contains bonus tracks, ABKCO also sequences Cooke’s evolution and artistic growth during those years.
Like many of his contemporaries, Cooke leaned on outside material, and he consistently made the most out of it. He tackled the oft-covered “Summertime” from the opera Porgy and Bess twice, with excellent results. On “Part 1” (included on Disc 5), he sings it fairly smooth and straightforward, throwing in soothing hums periodically, but on the swaggering “Part 2” (on Disc 1), there’s a slight edge to his voice throughout as he ad-libs “Don’t cry” at the start and between verses. There have been many interesting, moving versions of the ballad “Danny Boy,” but Cooke’s (also on Disc 1) is among the few that’s suitable for dancing. Disc 3 contains the entirety of 1959’s Tribute toThe Lady, his take on songs from jazz great Billie Holiday’s catalog that’s respectful but is by no means a mirror image.
Where Cooke had an edge on Presley in particular was as a songwriter. Credited at the time to one of Cooke’s brothers, “You Send Me” got the ball rolling, and Cooke’s final Top 40 pop hit on Keen was “Wonderful World,” which he co-wrote with Herb Alpert and Lou Adler. By the time he’d contributed to the latter song, Cooke’s growth as a writer and sense for what made lyrics relatable had reached new heights. “I don’t know what it would have been if he didn’t get involved, but what it became was because of him,” Adler said of the song in Peter Guralnick’s Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke. “Sam always told me, ‘You got to be talking to somebody.’” This collection shows Cooke spoke volumes while with Keen.
— Chris M. Junior
Nat King Cole
Hittin' the Ramp: The Early Years (1936 - 1943)
Even in the eyes — and ears — of his most ardent admirers, Nat King Cole will forever be known primarily as a smooth and supple pop singer whose many hits — “Mona Lisa,” “Unforgettable,” “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer,” “Smile” and the like — represented the best of what any quintessential ballad singer had to offer in the '50s and early '60s. Effortlessly accessible and characterized by his smooth croon, Cole was a superstar well before the term was even initiated.
However what many folks fail to realize is that in his early days, Cole excelled as an exceptional jazz musician who helmed a tight trio while he played piano and sang the songs. As a result, it comes as something of a revelation to hear these vintage recordings tapped from various sources in the late '30s and early '40s. Boasting nearly 200 songs on seven discs, Hittin’ The Ramp is a treasure trove of exceptional musicianship, tasteful arrangements and a sound that’s cool, casual and carefree. The band vamps its way through several standards — “Honeysuckle Rose,”“Three BlindMice,” The Sheik of Araby,” I Can’t Get Started,” “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” “Swanee River,” and even “Jingle Bells” — but the musicians cover these classics with a sense of mirth and merrymaking. Indeed, there’s a decided degree of playfulness and irreverence that allowsa common bond between pop, jazz, jive and improvisation.Cole is clearly the star of the show — his shimmering piano playing lends itself to the lighthearted fare — but the other individuals involved are no less impressive, especially in those instances where they’re given a solo spotlight. The fact that several of these selections weren’t even known to exist makes this seven CD/ 10-LP box all the impressive.As a comprehensive compendium, it doesn’t get much better. A booklet with interviews, photos and historical notes that detail the various sessions adds an essential element that allows listeners to gain a great degree of insight into both the efforts and the era. It is, after all, a lot to absorb, but even for the novice, it’s not only an excellent way to uncover Cole’s seminal roots, but to also gain an appreciation for music’s contribution to the popular culture during the initial stirrings of the swing era immediately prior to World War II. Clearly Cole and trio played a major role in that seismic shift, one that would later impact both race relations and the dominance of popular music in the decades to come.
Ultimately, credit should be accorded Resonance Records for the fastidious efforts made to assemble this ambitious collection, a task the Grammy- accorded company has undertaken in the past with the volumes they’ve devoted to other jazz greats, such as Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery, Sarah Vaughn and various others of that ilk.Their contribution to the American lexicon can’t be underestimated. With Hittin’ The Ramp they’ve taken those extensive efforts several steps further, not only in terms of exposing the early work of a fondly remembered musical master, but in sharing a historical legacy that lingers to this day.
– Lee Zimmerman
Wings Over America
1976’s semi-legendary, triple-disc Wings Over America is certainly one of the most revered live albums of the decade, and McCartney’s first-ever live release. Enough time had passed since Wings’ inception—and enough hits had been garnered by Macca and company—to allow for a sprinkling of Beatles classics in the setlist, including “Yesterday,” “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” and a few others. The performances are across-the-board-solid (the late Jimmy McCulloch in particular shines on lead guitar), and the audience enthusiasm is more than palpable, especially on The Beatles tunes and hits such as “My Love,” Band on the Run” and “Hi, Hi, Hi.” The only question Maccaphiles might be asking is, “Again?” since Wings Over America was just reissued in 2013 as part of the Paul McCartney Archive Collection series.
The LP versions of the 2019 issue contain the original souvenir poster, with the three colored vinyl LPs presented in transparent red, green and blue. (One wonders why red, white and blue were not chosen, since the original release dates from the year of the U.S. Bicentennial.)
—John M. Borack
Sin/Pecado - Strictly Limited Edition
There's limited edition releases and then there's 'strictly' limited edition releases.
Originally released by Portuguese metallers Moonspell in 1998, Sin/Pecado is now reissued by Napalm Records on yellow-gold vinyl and includes a 7-inch record, in the same color, of "Magdamix"/"3rd Skin" (Radio Edit).
Moonspell took a more experimental course on this album. Instead of focusing on black metal subjects such as traditional monsters and bloodsuckers, Moonspell journeyed towards electronica with dark mood swings while still staying true to their Goth roots.
“Moonspell’s biggest flaw or quality, judge for yourself, is never to be satisfied with anything," Frontman Ribeiro says. “There was true creative anguish burning inside us in 1997."
And if you are going to 'judge for yourself,' judge with this cool yellow-gold vinyl release while it is still in stock at a general retail price of only $24.99.