Thursday, March 03, 2005

Boxed sets

It takes me quite a bit of time to digest boxed sets, I have a love – hate relationship with them: I covet the decadence of a large purchase, but many times the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Here are a couple of boxes that more or less make the grade:

The Faces – Five Guys Walk Into a Bar – Although I have a hard time taking any band with Rod Stewart in it seriously, this set really grew on me. Mixing soul and r&b with blasting rock and roll, The Faces created a unique synthesis. Highlights include some raucous guitar and drum work from Ron Wood and Kenny Jones, and rock solid bass from Ronnie Lane. Stewart’s raspy voice is heard to great effect on slower numbers like the band’s version of Paul McCartney’s “Baby I’m Amazed” and the band pile-drives him through the faster ones, like a killer previously unreleased demo of the Howlin’ Wolf/Willie Dixon classic blues “Evil.” In fact, there is a lot of unreleased material, much of it focusing on the band’s justly deserved reputation as a very hot live group.

The Complete Norman Granz Jam Sessions – Although these recordings don’t have the most stellar reputation among aficionados, I think they’re a blast. As a supplement to the Jazz at the Philharmonic tours which took some of the biggest names in jazz during the 40’s and 50’s around the world, producer Norman Granz also loved to cook up different combinations of musicians and let them loose in some competitive studio jam sessions. Great solos abound, Charlie Parker gets some wonderful spots early on in the set and then on disc three there's some wonderful organ work from Count Basie, an instrument he's not usually associated with but he has a great touch and swinging feel. Most of the music is riff based blues or standards, but if you love the informal side of jazz and don't mind the occasional fluff or mis-step, this box holds quite a bit of treasure.

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