Perhaps channeling a yearning for nostalgia in the midst of all that 2020 has wrought, several extensively detailed compilations on the horizon take a fond look back at previous musical eras. Showcases of eclectic range with indispensable quality, our picks merely reflect all the different textures music can work through. Diversity Is strength!
Artist compilations from the OK Boomer ’60s hippie generation, golden era hip-hop royalty, a Detroit rock duo that rose to prominence in 2002 as part of the garage rock revival scene, the vanguard gospel and soul group worthy of 7 CDs, a UK sophistipop band from the early ’80s and raw funk-jazz from the ’70s. All of these music cycles converge to bring joy in the course of a ‘different’ Turkey day season. The release dates are comprehensive, but preparing for good things remains paramount. Enjoy our Holiday Out of The Crate recommendations.
The Staple Singers, Come Go With Me: The Stax Collection (Craft Recordings)
On an awful Sunday night around peak SweaterFunk time, while they were still running that party in the basement of Lipo Lounge, I had a come-to-Jesus moment. I was ticked off about an ex-girlfriend, housemates who don’t buy toilet paper, and several other ‘fun’ things. Ran into Lipo, did a shot of the horrible tasting Chinese Whiskey that you must-do if you’re going to attend this function in proper style, and then, in perfect screwface, made my way down into the sweaty expanse, full of bass and boogie.
Immediately, my church brain realized the legendary Staple Singers were on, controlling the frequency in the room, people swaying just a bit harder, with freedom in their step. Mavis Staples working a synth-funked up Talking Heads cover. This “Slippery People” hit differently. It’s like art-rock had a formal purpose for six minutes and change. Very quickly, things made sense. Or I just didn’t care to be bothered with the bullshit anymore. This right here, my Venn diagram of colliding worlds met and played nice. Suddenly there was peace in the valley. My burdens rolled out of my pores all night. I went home with toilet paper and let the Ex attend her sister’s wedding, dateless.
Come Go With Me: The Stax Collection features the greatest combo gospel-soul group to ever do it, The Staple Singers, and all of their studio albums released on iconic Memphis label Stax, spanning 1968–1974. Equipped with the hits “I’ll Take You There,” “Respect Yourself,” and “If You’re Ready (Come Go with Me).” Six of the studio albums were cut from the original analog masters, with the final, seventh disc providing rarities, non-album singles, and several live recordings from the legendary 1972 Wattstax music festival. Release your burdens here.
The Style Council, Long Hot Summers: The Story Of The Style Council (Polydor)
When Paul Weller announced The Style Council’s arrival in March 1983, he’d come a very long way. In fact, at the age of just 24, he was already a musical veteran with six albums and nine Top 10 singles under his belt with The Jam. As that seminal mod band’s leader, he had become a deity-like figure for his fans, The Jam’s split was unimaginable. But creatively restless and of an inquisitive mind, Paul jettisoned that band at its height to form a collective with an eventual core line-up of Paul with Mick Talbot, Dee C Lee, and Steve White. In a quest for new sounds, the group traveled to realms previously unchartered for a pop group, incorporating musical influences as wide-ranging as Blue Note jazz and Chicago soul, Claude Debussy and Erik Satie, Chicago House, and Jacques Brel.
But wait, lemme phrase it differently…
While The Jam was the angry young man phase, Style Council is Weller working with Big Dick Energy. Check it, if upbeat “My Ever Changing Moods” is the main course, slinky “Long Hot Summer” is desert with Weller winking “hello ladies.’ It’s such a caucasian Barry White panty-dropper move: To this day the song is in Weller’s live show, and he’s still cleaning up. Many of my “good looking white dude friends” or modish folk, who wear those funny “jazzbo” little hats, have attended his show, and left muttering to themselves ‘that cot damn Weller’.
The anthology, not just available digitally, arrives on double CD and triple album vinyl. Limited editions of both vinyl formats, black vinyl, and a highly covetable colored vinyl version, can be pre-ordered here.
Kool & The Gang, Kool and the Gang (De-Light, reissued by Real Gone Music)
According to legend when this band’s debut record hit the radio, due to the heavy percussive nature of the record, drum breaks flying everywhere, there was a bit of confusion if actually, it was Kool and The Gang. As Kool himself told Rolling Stone in 2015, “When that record first came out, they thought it was a Puerto Rican band. Yeah! When we first heard it on the radio, we said, “Ah, that’s us!” But because of the horns and bongos, people didn’t know.”
According to Ronald “Khalis” Bell, who left us this year, “The band would play a lot of percussion in the streets in the ‘60s, go to the park and start beating on drums and stuff in the street.” Kool added, ”Especially on Sundays. Everybody’s in the park playing bongos, drinking Budweiser or some type of booze”.
Which makes this debut so unique, It’s raw New York funk with a touch of jazz, an all-instrumental record, years away from the commercial successes of “Jungle Boogie” and “Celebration”—and a few light-years away stylistically, too.
With selections like “Let The Music Take Your Mind,” “Chocolate Buttermilk,” and the concrete groove of “Give It Up,” this was a band that knew how to get a crowd moving, down for the funk of it, in seconds flat. It’s real clear, within two seconds, why golden era hip-hop producers kept taking breaks, beats, and horn riff from this record. Complete unprocessed funk, for days. Fifty years later, still an extra-classic. Click here for purchase.
Joni Mitchell, Archives Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967) (Rhino Records)
Some artists, at a very young age, decide they will not be dealing with the bullshit.
I know there is a better way, a nuanced version of putting it, but it’d kinda be a BS explanation of Joni Mitchell.
Listen, I’m of a generation of music lovers who got the Bat-signal on Joni Mitchell by way of Prince, Janet Jackson, and that Mingus album she did with the Icon just before he passed.
From all I’ve been able to sus out about the five-disc box set, it establishes that Mitchell, very early on, was not going to be here to suffer fools. Her path, equipped with strange guitar tunings only she could understand and make work in songs that span generations, made sure she would be the bullish wolf–instead of being intimidated by one, or several for that matter.
In one of these live shows on this comp, she takes a shot at “golden boy” Bob Dylan, admitting not being so moved by his documentary at the time “Don’t Look Back,” teasing during the set she’ll honor Dylan anyway: “I’ve lengthened all my A’s in the next song.” Showcasing an ability to see above and beyond the vapid, her genius DNA was fortified from jump.
I always, and still to this day, lean on the brilliance of The Hissing of Summer Lawns from 1975, which up until a decade ago you still could find it for a buck at Community Thrift.
Ph.D. lessons in life, sexual politics, and calling out liberal jive—with The Jazz Crusaders, James Taylor, Graham Nash, Victor Feldman, David Crosby, and others backing her up—at a mere four quarters. Long May you live, Queen Joni. You can purchase the five-CD Box set here.
J Dilla, Welcome 2 Detroit 20th Anniversary Box Set (BBE Music)
The 20th anniversary of J. Dilla’s Welcome 2 Detroit is not just a landmark moment for the artist and his legacy. It’s a foundational blueprint pointing to where hip-hop is today. Honoring that lineage.
BBE Music will be releasing a remastered deluxe 7″ vinyl box set next February. First issued by the British imprint on Monday, the 26th of February, 2001, Welcome 2 Detroit was James Dewitt Yancey aka Jay Dee’s first solo outing and the debut appearance of his new “J Dilla” moniker (bestowed on him by none other than Busta Rhymes). The album also inaugurated the producer-led Beat Generation album series, which would later spawn classic LPs by DJ Jazzy Jeff, Pete Rock, DJ Spinna, Marley Marl, and even will.i.am, all of whom had been inspired to reach for new creative heights by hearing Dilla’s magnum opus.
The new set includes a remastered version of the original album, plus instrumentals, alternate mixes, studio outtakes, demos, and a book about the making of the album.
As Dilla tells it: “Peter (Adarkwah, founder of BBE) let me do whatever I wanted to do. So, I wanted to put people on there who are gonna spit y’know, lyrically and represent Detroit. Because I wouldn’t have been able to pull this album off if it came out under a major. Cos they’re not gonna let you just do a song or you can’t just do an instrumental. You gotta have this feature and you’re Jay Dee, why ain’t you got Erykah Badu? Why ain’t you got so and so on your album? I’d have had to go through all of that, instead of just putting out… y’know, Beej on this joint!”
Dilla’s mother Ma Dukes reflected: “I’m real happy that Welcome 2 Detroit was done by BBE. Because I don’t think another label would have helped him embrace his full creativity and given him the control to make it a piece of who he was! Because of BBE, he was able to pour more of himself into it, into every bit of music on this album. His spirit lives in Welcome 2 Detroit. It’s him! Alive and thriving in every song!” Pre-Order here.
The White Stripes, Greatest Hits (Third Man/Columbia)
The White Stripes are rolling out a greatest hits album set for release on December 4, via Columbia and Jack White’s Third Man Records. The first-ever official anthology of recordings from iconic rock duo Jack and Meg White collects 26 previously released songs for this essential, career-spanning set, such as “Seven Nation Army,” “Fell In Love With A Girl,” “Hotel Yorba,” “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground,” “Hello Operator,” “Icky Thump,” “Apple Blossom,” and more.
The Stripes’ melding of lo-fi garage-rock and gothic blues came with a bit o spectacle to boot—Meg White, the often underrated drummer of the duo, was at one time married to Jack White, yet they played public roles as brother and sister. Next to The Strokes, The White Stripes helped to revive a new found love for the guitar in the ‘00s.
Consequently, rock bands, especially in San Francisco, started booking themselves for DJ nights. All of this comes as Jack White has signed a historic agreement between Third Man and Sony Music Entertainment. According to a press release, that deal brings worldwide distribution for the majority of White’s work with The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, and solo under one conglomerate for the first time. Go here for more info and a tracklist.
Neil Young, Archives Vol. 2 (Reprise)
It took Stevie Nicks, the iconic two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, almost her entire life to figure out Neil Young was a dang softie. C’mon Stevie, Lotta Love, hello?
In a recent Forbes Magazine interview she confesses that going back over Young’s earlier work has given her a new perspective on the Godfather of Grunge. “I love Neil Young. I’ve been listening to a lot of Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young, and Joni Mitchell and just that whole era of people. Buffalo Springfield in the last seven, eight months. I’ve been listening to a lot of their music on my Sonos and it makes me happy. And I’ve decided that Neil Young was actually a lot more…he wrote a lot of very loving love ballads. He was not only the huge rock and roll crazy guy that I always thought. There are so many ballads I’ve gone, “Wow, you know what? You’re just a big pussycat. This guy, really seriously, in a way, wanted to be in love.”
His long-awaited Archives Vol. 2 box set, arriving just in time for the holiday season on November 20th, shall add to that heartfelt canon. Containing 10 discs chock-full of recordings from 1972 through 1976, according to a post on his Neil Young Archives website, 12 of these tracks have never been released in any format. There are also 50 alternate, previously unreleased versions of Young originals. Young’s Archives Vol. 1: 1963-1972, spread across 10 discs, was released back in 2009. To check out Vol. 2 go here