6 OF THE BEST BOX SETS OF 2012.

6 OF THE BEST BOX SETS OF 2012.

As 2012 reaches its final few days, and a new musical year beckons, it’s time to look back at the best music released during 2012. Over the next few days, I’ll look back at the best compilations, reissues and new releases. Before that, I’ll pick what I think have been the six best box sets of 2012. Now this is something of a labor of love for me. Why? Well, I can’t resist the delights of box sets. Over the years, I’ve bought more box sets than I’m willing to admit. Whether, it’s label retrospectives, compilations of musical genres or an artists back-catalogue, I just can resist a box set. During 2012, I’ve reviewed many box sets, and just in case anyone with a music-loving friend of relative is wondering what to buy their loved one, here’s six ideas in the order they were released.

AL KENT-THE BEST OF DISCO DEMANDS.

Al Kent’s five disc, disco Magnus Opus The Best of Disco Demands was released on 9th January 2012 by BBE Music. Not only was one of the first box sets released this year, but set the bar high for other box sets. The Best of Disco Demands is no ordinary box set. Quite the opposite. You’ll not find the tired and predictable tracks that many disco compilations feature. Instead, Glasgow’s disco don, DJ and crate-digger extraordinaire digs deeper, in his never-ending quest for hidden disco gems. 

In total, there are forty-five disco delights over the five discs of The Best of Disco Demands. Many of these tracks are reedited by Al, giving them a new, 21st DJ friendly sound and style. Each disc comes complete with seventies style covers that bring to mind old K-Tel compilations. The Best of Disco Demands was very much a labor of love for Al Kent. His love of disco and music in general shines through, resulting in some of the gems he’s unearthed.

Like his previous two volumes of Disco Love released by BBE Music, Al Kent has unearthed some real gems. This includes Curtis’ How Can I Tell Her, which I guarantee after one play will become a favorite. One of Philly’s legendary musicians, Don Renaldo, whose a veteran of many a Thom Bell, Philadelphia International Records and Salsoul Records’ session provides Fiddlin’ Around, a read hidden gem from the disco era. Then there’s Mr Qs Party Time, a track that epitomizes just what the disco era was all about. These are just a trio of the many highlights awaiting discover on The Best of Disco Demands.

For anyone who loves disco or their music soulful, then Al Kent’s The Best of Disco Demands is a must-have. Al unearths some of disco’s long-forgotten, hidden gems, which will soon become firm favorites. This will keep lovers of disco happy until Al Kent releases Disco Love 3 on BBE Music early in 2013. The Best of Disco Demands was one of the best box sets of 2012, and set the standard for other box sets that followed. One thing I haven’t told you about Al Kent’s The Best of Disco Demands, is the price. It costs less than £20, €25 or $30, so is one of the real bargains of 2012.

AL KENT-THE BEST OF DISCO DEMANDS.

PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL CLASSICS-THE TOM MOULTON REMIXES.

When Harmless Records announced they were releasing Philadelphia International Classics-The Tom Moulton Remixes in March 2012, it became one of the most anticipated box sets of the last few years. After all, here were thirty-one remixes on four discs, of some of the greatest music released by Philadelphia International Records. Not just any remixes though. Here, were thirty-one remixes, old and new from the man who invented the twelve-inch single and the remix..Tom Moulton. 

The thirty-one remixes were a mixture of Tom’s vintage remixes and new ones. Fourteen of the remixes were when Tom was Philadelphia International Records’ favored mixer. As if that wasn’t enough, Tom Moulton had been busy, really busy. He’d remixed seventeen Philly classics. These were brand new remixes, remixes that showed Tom Moulton was back with a bang. He still new how to build tension, and understood how to fill a dance-floor. Tom’s new remixes were up there with his best work of the seventies. 

Among the thirty-one remixes were some of Philadelphia International Records’ biggest names. This includes several tracks from The O’Jays, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, The Three Degrees and M.F.S.B. Then there were some gems like Archie Bell and The Drells’ Where Will You Go When the Party’s Over, Lou Rawls’ You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine, The Trammps’ Where Do We Go From Here and Billy Paul’s The Whole Town’s Talking. The four discs of Philadelphia International Classics-The Tom Moulton Remixes was like a voyage of discovery.

One minute you were rediscovering some of Tom’s old remixes, and then discovering the delights of some of his new remixes. Philadelphia International Classics-The Tom Moulton Remixes was a majestic, breathtaking musical journey, well worth waiting for. If you’ve never embarked upon that journey, then now is the time do so. Not  only is this four discs of vintage Tom Moulton remixes, but some of the best music Philadelphia International Records ever released.

PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL CLASSICS-THE TOM MOULTON REMIXES.

PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL RECORDS-THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY BOX SET.

Although Philadelphia International Classics-The Tom Moulton Remixes was widely anticipated, this is nothing compared to the frenzy that surrounded Harmless Records’ release of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set in May 2012. Here was a ten-disc retrospective celebrating the fortieth anniversary of Gamble and Huff founding Philadelphia International Records. For anyone like myself, who loves the Philly Sound, then Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set was like Christmas coming early.

The ten discs that comprise Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set were arranged in chronological order. Each disc covers a period. Founded in 1972, Philadelphia International Records quickly entered what I refer to as the classic period. This was between 1972 and 1975, and was when the label was at the height of its success. Billy Paul, The O’Jays, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, The Three Degrees and M.F.S.B. were the label’s biggest acts, transforming Philadelphia International Records into America’s greatest soul label, which provided the soundtrack to the early to mid seventies. Then in 1975, the original and classic lineup of M.F.S.B. left Philadelphia International Records, following a dispute with Gamble and Huff over money. 

This wasn’t just an exodus of musicians, but songwriters, arrangers and producers. When the original lineup of M.F.S.B. headed to New York becoming The Salsoul Orchestra, this coincided with the rise and rise of disco. Although disco was now the most popular musical genre, Philadelphia International Records still enjoyed success, although not as much as between 1972 and 1975. Teddy Pendergrass and Billy Paul were the biggest solo acts, while The O’Jays were the label’s biggest group. However, like the early years, it’s often the tracks that weren’t hits that are the most intriguing. Singles and album cuts are included, and there’s a plethora of hidden gems awaiting discovery. Then in the eighties, Philadelphia International Records became a very different label.

After The O’Jays’ success dried up, and Teddy Pendergrass left Philadelphia International Records, the label kept releasing music. The sucesss Philadelphia International Records had once enjoyed regularly was long gone, and music had changed. That didn’t mean the music suffered. There was still some great music being released. Some people argued that ten discs was too many, and that the cut of should’ve been 1979. However, that’s why they’re stacking shelves and not running a record label. Post 1979, The Dells, Shirley Jones, formerly of The Jones Girls, The Stylistics, Patti La Belle and Phyllis Hyman all released albums on Philadelphia International Records, music which is well worth investigating, and music that’s worthy of its place on Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set.

It’s not just ten discs that are included in the Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set. There’s also a lengthy, detailed and informative booklet, detailing Philadelphia International Records’ history. This is similar the sleeve notes accompanying Philadelphia International Classics-The Tom Moulton Remixes. This is just the icing on the delicious cake that is Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set. Given there are ten discs, containing over two-hundred tracks, the cost of roughly £50, €62 or $75, is something of a bargain. It’ll certainly be the best Christmas present you could give anyone whose a fan of the Philly Sound.

PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL RECORDS-THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY BOX SET.

P&P RECORDS HITS, HITS, HITS.

While the Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set contained ten discs, P&P Hits, Hits, Hits, released in May 2012 trumps this. It’s a fifteen-disc box set, that’s comprehensive overview of the music that Patrick Adams and Peter Brown created not just for P&P Records, but for its various subsidiary labels. Together, Patrick and Peter founded P&P Records in 1974, with their releases distributed by Morris Levy’s Roulette Records. Although many of P&P Records biggest hits were during the heady days of disco, Patrick and Peter realized that their music couldn’t stand still. After all, nothing lasts forever. 

This meant new labels for new sounds and styles of music. Gradually, they founded various subsidiary labels, twenty-four of which are represented on the fifteen discs that comprise P&P Hits, Hits, Hits. Among these labels are Clarence Music Records, Golden Flamingo Records, Heavenly Star Records, Land of Hits, Lonnie Records, Sound of Gold, Queen Constance Records, Hit Makers of American Music and Sound of The Universe Corp. Not only were these labels home to some of the biggest artists on the P&P Records’ roster, but contain many a hidden gem and golden nugget. 

Among the nearly two-hundred tracks that feature on the fifteen discs of P&P Hits, Hits, Hits, there’s everything from disco to proto-rap, with boogie and funk aplenty. This demonstrates just how innovative, influential and progressive both Patrick Adams and Peter Brown were. At less than £20, €25 or $30, P&P Hits, Hits, Hits is one of the biggest bargains of 2012. The only thing that lets P&P Hits, Hits, Hits down, is the lack of proper sleeve-notes. All that’s in the box are fifteen discs. That let’s P&P Hits, Hits, Hits down slightly. If there was a lavish booklet included with P&P Hits, Hits, Hits, then it would really lift the box set. Having said that, with music as good as is on P&P Hits, Hits, Hits, that’s just a minor quibble.

P&P RECORDS HITS, HITS, HITS.

ATLANTIC SOUL LEGENDS: 20 ORIGINAL ALBUMS FROM THE ICONIC ATLANTIC LABEL.

Back in October 2012, Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label box set was released. Someone, somewhere had been given one of the hardest jobs in music, choosing just twenty soul albums from Atlantic Records’ back catalogue. This was the result of their endeavors. Here was the reality. Now soul fans would argue about albums that were included and excluded. Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label cover the seventeen-year period between 1958 and 1975, and include albums from four labels. These are Atlantic, their subsidiary Atco, plus the Stax and Volt labels. Ten of the albums are from the main Atlantic label, three from Atco, while five albums are from Stax and two from Stax’s Volt subsidiary. 

These twenty albums cover the period between Ray Charles 1958 album What’d I Say to and Sam Dees’ 1975 album The Show Must Go On. Included in Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label are albums by true legends like Ray Charles, Booker T and The MGs, Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and Donny Hathaway. There are also a trio of hidden gems from Clarence Wheeler and and The Enforcers, Howard Tate and Sam Dees.

Interestingly, eleven of the albums that feature in Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label are debut albums. This includes albums from Booker T and The MGs, Solomon Burke, Rufus Thomas, Percy Sledge, Sam and Dave, The Barkays, Eddie Floyd, Arthur Conley, William Bell, Donny Hathaway and Clarence Wheeler and The Enforcers. In many cases, these debut albums are among the best albums these artists went on to release.

For anyone who loves their music soulful, jazzy and funky, then Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label is for them. It features twenty albums from four legendary labels, Atlantic, Atco, Stax and Volt labels. Many of these albums or worthy of being referred to as classics and are from some of the most talented artists in musical history. What makes this even better, is the price £35. €43 or $53. That’s a bargain price for some classic music.

ATLANTIC SOUL LEGENDS: 20 ORIGINAL ALBUMS FROM THE ICONIC ATLANTIC LABEL.

ACID JAZZ: THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY BOX SET.

My final pick is Acid Jazz: The 25th Anniversary Box Set. This is the third box set released by Harmless Records on my shortlist. It was released in November 2012 and traces the twenty-five year history of Eddie Piller’s Acid Jazz label. This is a compelling and captivating story. From the small acorns of a club night at Dingwalls, Acid Jazz grew into a label whose sales were in the millions. Then Acid Jazz bought the Blue Note nightclub. That was very nearly the end. When the Blue Note lost its license, Eddie Piller nearly lost everything. Courageously and determinedly, Eddie paid back the label’s debts. Rather than walk away, he spent ten years repaying the debts. It’s as if this was a matter of honor. The four discs of music provide the soundtrack to life and times of Eddie Piller’s Acid Jazz label.

Included in Acid Jazz: The 25th Anniversary Box Set are a four discs, a DVD, a limited edition 7 inch single, a detailed and informative book detailing the Acid Jazz as a label and musical genre’s history. Each of the four discs contained in Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set have a theme. 

Disc One is entitled Put it All Together and What Do You Get. It features nineteen tracks that are a typical playlist of an Acid Jazz night. This means tracks that range from jazz, soul, funk, Latin, hip hop and rock sit comfortably side-by-side. 

Something Happening At the Dance is the description given to Disc Two of Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set. This includes the new music played at Dingwalls, with hip hop instrumentals providing many of the highlights. Added to the hip hop sounds, were elements of other musical genres. Soul, funk, jazz and house music are all added to the mix. 

Disc Three of Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set, is entitled How’d We Get Us Here, and features seventeen slices of classic Acid Jazz. So that means tracks from The Brand New Heavies, Incognito, Snowboy, Jamiroquai and The James Taylor Quartet. It’s a collection of track’s that if you analyzed their musical DNA says Acid Jazz.  

Not only is Smokers Delight the title of Disc Four of Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set, but the perfect description of this chilled out, laid-back and late-night selection of thirteen tracks. There’s everything from vintage reggae to hip hop on this deliciously chilled out selection of tracks, that close this lovingly compiled box set.

Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set is one of the best box sets released during 2012. It’s best described as lovingly and carefully compiled by Harmless Records, who’ve surpassed themselves again. For anyone wanting a reminder of the heady, glory days of Acid Jazz, then Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set will provoke memories, musical and otherwise, aplenty. However, the music on Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set documents not just a record label, but a musical genre and scene. At £43, €54 or $65, surely Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set is worth it for all the memories and history involved.

ACID JAZZ: THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY BOX SET.

Choosing just six box sets from all the box sets I’ve reviewed during 2012 wasn’t easy, but these are what I consider the best of the year. For further details of Al Kent’s The Best of Disco Demands, Philadelphia International Classics-The Tom Moulton Remixes, Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set, P&P Hits, Hits, Hits, Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label and Acid Jazz-The 25th Anniversary Box Set are available elsewhere on this blog. These reviews will tell you everything you could ever want to know about these box sets. Given Christmas is just round the corner, I’m sure any music lover in your life will thank you for any of the box sets on this list. The only thing is, with so much music to listen to, it’ll be a while before you hear from the again.

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