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MOYA BRENNAN-CORMAC DEBARRA/Voices & Harps: Can Celtic music have a pomo contingent? Probably not, but if it did, this duo that has worked with U2 but listened to Clancy Brothers, as well as led Clannad, might fit the role. Taking something like Pentangle one step farther, this isn't what you would think of from the title and packaging. Miles away from being a run of the mill ethnic/new age set, this duo blow the lens wide open presenting something familiar that sounds like something you've never heard before. I guess this is the opening shot of nu Celtic? It's smoking adult music and that's no blarney, Barney. Check it out, to hear it is to love it.

LORETTA LYNN/Icon: Whew, it's been 20 years since the be all and end all box set on Lynn, and she hasn't really needed to add to that legacy in all that time. This comes on the heels of a solid twofer last year that did an equally fine job of documenting her highlights in limited space. This time around, Icon boils it all down to the early 70s time when Lynn burned brightest as the anti-Tammy Wynette who wasn't about to stand by her man if he treated her wrong---and she wasn't gonna stand for any hoors mixing in either. Killer, pre-crossover country sides that defined an era and are more than nostalgia. Anyone looking for some distaff, cornerstone country for their collection from the modern era, this set makes some mighty fine one stop shopping.

PARLIAMENT/Icon: It doesn't matter how many times you tear the roof off the sucker, George Clinton and the James Brown Runaway Federation made funk for the ages and the most golden part of it is on display here. Hard to believe this stuff is over 30 years old, the music and the players laid it down tight and it stayed down. A killer set that delivers the funk, the whole funk and nothing but the funk.

GAP BAND/Icon: After years of backing up Leon Russell, the Wilson brothers got in touch with their inner brother and found the funk and made hits that appealed to the area around your rooter as well as the area around your pooter. It was loaded with grooves, but there was something it's symmetrical simplicity that actually made you think. Strange but it worked---and we're not talking about it being message music. We are talking about funk. If it's been a while since they dropped a bomb on you, it's time to give these dusties a dust off and get down with them again.

KOOL & THE GANG/Icon: When Island inherited Casablanca and Mercury, it looked like it became one of the great repositories of contemporary funk. Kool and his pals were really a legacy group as Mercury got them from De-Lite. A party hearty funk crew, the music was/is welcome from stepping parties to bar mitzvah and weddings everywhere to this day. A fat load of goodies any suburban dj needs to rip to his hard drive if he hasn't already, this what he'll be playing when he isn't doing the rave mix. A can't miss collection.

FOUR TOPS/Icon: Don't know what it is about white people, but when they think of male vocal groups from the classic Motown era, they think of the Miracles and the Temptations ahead of the Tops, and the Tops sold way more records. I mean they soooooolllddddd records. They soooooollldddd soooouuuuullll records and this set kicks it off in non-stop high gear with songs that as much a part of our collective musical DNA as early 70s Marvin Gaye. Get with it white people. No wonder Barry Gordy wouldn't put pictures of the acts on the album covers so he could sell them to easily fooled white, honky, crackers. This distillations of hits proves the Tops were tops!

WAR/Icon 2-The Hits and More: Celebrating their 40th anniversary, they show they easily have enough hits to fill out a twofer to keep the party going. Burning brightest between 1972 and 1976, it was probably having the Danish guy on harmonica that helped them build a bridge to bring funk and roll to the suburbs as a bunch of unlikely Cisco kids were swaggered around the mall singing the praises of low riders. They had a credo back in the day they followed religiously that is thoroughly unrepeatable today but it basically made it clear that the music was so good and lasting due to the brio, bonhomie, gusto and good spirits they brought to bear. This stuff is more anthemic than it is pop music.

ELLA FITZGERALD/Live in Japan-S'Wonderful: Except for the part about spending her golden years in a wheel chair because of diabetes taking her legs, it must have been really cool to be Ella. This previously unreleased twofer was actually on the release schedule in 1964 and pulled at the last minute because there was so much Fitzgerald in the marketplace and so much more in the can ready to go that the label feared too much cannibalization of the marketplace. She had just put out another double live album. Hell, look at all the cool period stuff in the Verve Master Takes series she had in circulation. You can look at this as the companion piece to the Ella in Hollywood sides, but these previously unreleased takes show her a few years later with the 2.0 version of her band in tow and a clear cut desire never to return to her humble roots leading the way. There must have been something in the times or the performers themselves that Ella, Frank, Dean etc could record the same tunes over and over and keep bringing something to the table, but now it's simply our's to enjoy for the ages. Quintessential, killer stuff that it's great to have finally escape from the vaults and delight all fans of jazz vocal work that just don't quit! When they talk about ‘the works‘, this is it!

Volume 34/Number 255
July 15, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2011 Midwest Record

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