THE A-Z OF THE BEST BOX SETS OF 2013-PART 3.

THE A-Z OF THE BEST BOX SETS OF 2013-PART 3.

PHILLY REGROOVED: THE TOM MOULTON REMIXES-SPECIAL VINYL EDITION.

Just over three years ago, in August 2010, Harmless Records released the first instalment in the Philly ReGrooved compilation series. Featuring twelve remixes of tracks from the Philly Grooved back-catalogue Philly ReGrooved: The Tom Moulton Remixes was released to critical acclaim. One of the best releases of 2010, fans of Philly Soul waited with bated breath to see if a second installment would follow? It did. Less that a year later, Philly ReGrooved 2: The Tom Moulton Remixes was released in May 2011. With another eleven remixes from the Godfather of the remix, Philly ReGrooved 2: The Tom Moulton Remixes enjoyed the same commercial success and critical acclaim of its predecessor. That whetted our appetite for further instalments in the series. 

2012 came and went with no sign of Volume 3. Nearly two years passed before Harmless Records announced the release of Volume 3. Unlike the first two volumes, Philly ReGrooved 3: The Tom Moulton Remixes would be a double-album. Released in June 2013, Volume 3 surpassed the first two installments. Featuring tracks from the back-catalogues of Atlantic, Atco, Buddah, Chelsea, Columbia and Roxbury, Volume 3 was crammed full of Philly Soul classics. Blue Magic, The Spinners, The Trammps, New York City and William DeVaughan, critics hailed Volume 3 as the best in the series. Plaudits, praise and critical acclaim came Tom Moulton and Harmless Records’ way for this two-disc opus. The only criticism of Volume 3 was, that it wasn’t available on vinyl. That is, until now, when Harmless Records will released another vinyl Magnus Opus.

It’s not just Philly ReGrooved 3: The Tom Moulton Remixes that can be found on Philly ReGrooved-The Tom Moulton Remixes-Special Vinyl Edition. No. There’s much, much more than that.The three volumes of Philly ReGrooved: The Tom Moulton Remixes Volumes can be found within this forty-track eight-album box set. Released in October 2013, Philly ReGrooved-The Tom Moulton Remixes-Special Vinyl Edition was a must-have for Philly Soul fans. Limited to just four-hundred box sets, this follows in the footsteps of limited edition vinyl box set of Philadelphia International Classics: The Tom Moulton Remixes, which was released by Harmless Records earlier this year.

Philly ReGrooved-The Tom Moulton Remixes-Special Vinyl Edition was released by Harmless Records on 28th October 2013. A luxurious and lovingly compiled compilation, Philly ReGrooved-The Tom Moulton Remixes-Special Vinyl Edition features some of the best Philly Soul to fill airwaves and dance-floors. Quite simply, Philly ReGrooved-The Tom Moulton Remixes-Special Vinyl Edition isn’t just an incredible compilation, but a thing of beauty. That’s almost one of the great understatements. Quite simply, Philly ReGrooved-The Tom Moulton Remixes-Special Vinyl Edition is one of the best box sets of 2013. 

 

PHILLY RE-GROOVED 3-TOM MOULTON REMIXES.

Philly Re-Grooved 3-Tom Moulton Remixes, features nineteen brand new remixes from Tom, plus sleeve-notes from myself. Long awaited, but well worth the wait, Philly Re-Grooved 3-Tom Moulton Remixes is a surefire bet to be one of the best compilations of 2013. After all, a Tom Moulton remix is still quite rightly perceived as a sign of quality. The nineteen tracks on Philly Re-Grooved 3-Tom Moulton Remixes are proof of this. These remixes see Tom cast his net much wider than in the first two volumes of Philly Re-Grooved.

On Philly Re-Grooved 3: The Tom Moulton Remixes Tom delves into the back-catalogues of Atlantic Records, Atco, Buddah Records, Chelsea, Columbia and Roxbury. They prove to be a veritable treasure trove for Tom. He was absolutely spoiled for choice. Eventually, he settled on nineteen tracks. This included tracks by The Spinners, The Trammps, Blue Magic, Bettye Swann, Melba Moore and Philly Devotions. Tom takes these tracks and totally transforms them. 

The remixes on Philly Re-Grooved Volume 3 Tom Moulton Remixes are the result of five decades experience and work. It takes time, experience, dedication and a huge amount of skill to create remixes as good as those on Philly Re-Grooved Volume 3-Tom Moulton Remixes. Compare these tracks to the other remixers and there’s no comparison. 

 

PROG ROCKS!

Although many musical genres divide opinion, some musical genres that tend to divide opinion way more than others. Everyone can think of their own example, but for me, three immediately spring to mind. These are disco, punk and prog rock. Of these three musical genres, when it comes to opinions, not many people tend to occupy the middle ground. You’re either for or against each of these musical genres. Prog rock, however, tends to divide the opinion the most. Even forty years after the genre’s birth, the merits or otherwise of prog rock are still debated. For prog rock’s accusers, they perceive the music as overblown, overindulgent and pompous. To them, prog rock is a musical genre that belongs in firmly in the past. That however, only tells one side of the story.

Proponents of prog rock point to a musical genre that’s inventive, innovative and complex. Influenced by art rock, jazz and classical music, prog rock drew inspiration from a many other influences.It eschews traditional time signatures, song structures, rhythms, instruments and influences. In many ways, prog rock was an innovative genre, one that railed against the blues’ influence in rock music. Groups like Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Genesis, Yes and Gong were among prog rock’s pioneers. They lead the way, and now, four decades later, new generations of prog rock groups are following in their footsteps, during the latest resurgence in prog rock’s popularity. To mark this resurgence in prog rock’s popularity, a new five-disc compilation Prog Rocks has recently been released by EMI. 

Having spent some time immersed in the five discs that comprise Prog Rocks! I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not just people who enjoy prog rock that’ll enjoy this box set. After all, not every track on Prog Rocks! can be categorized as prog rock. Indeed, many tracks could just as easily be categorized as rock, folk, psychedelia, garage or rock. However, I often think we spend too much time putting music into categories. That’s often an unhealthy obsession that gets in the way of what’s important, discovering new and old music. For many people, there’s so much great music awaiting discovery on Prog Rocks! Indeed, there are seventy-two tracks over five discs awaiting discovery on Prog Rocks! 

What I do hope that Prog Rocks! does, is change people’s perception of prog rock. After all, prog rock far too often, gets a bad press. Sometimes, prog rock is the butt of cheap jibes and sarcastic comments. Hopefully once people have heard the music on Prog Rocks! they’ll change their opinion on prog rock. Maybe then they’ll realize that it’s an innovative and inventive musical genre, one that’s been Influenced by art rock, jazz and classical music. Prog rock drew inspiration from a many other influences. It eschews traditional time signatures, song structures, rhythms, instruments and influences. That’s what makes prog rock and the music on Prog Rocks! unique, innovative and groundbreaking.

PSYCHEMAGIK PRESENTS MAGIK SUNRISE.

Sometimes, when you buy a compilation, the first time you play it, you’re blown away by its sheer eclecticism and totally smitten by the music. That was me, when I came across Leng Records’ latest compilation, Psychemagik Presents Magik Sunrise. This is a double-album, compiled by the prolific UK production team of Psychemagik. Disc One is a compilation of what’s describes as a mixture of cosmic disco, psychedelic funk, Balearica, Middle Eastern beats and much more On Disc Two, the  tracks are seamlessly mixed by Psychemagik. These  tracks showcase Psychemagik’s passion for crate-digging. With such an eclectic collection of music, finding the tracks must prove problematic? Not for Psychemagik.

Psychemagik are passionate and persistent crate-diggers, when it comes to unearthing hidden gems. Their quest in unearthing those elusive hidden gems, sees Psychemagik go where other crate diggers fear to tread. Whether it’s dusty basements, thrift stores, warehouses or record shops, nowhere is off limits. As a result, and unlike many other crate diggers, Psychemagik’s choice of music is truly eclectic. Rather than focus on one genre of music, no genre of music, it seems, is overlooked. Given that Psychemagik have such eclectic and discerning taste in music, it’s no surprise that Psychemagik Presents Magik Sunrise oozes quality.

As you’ll have realized by now, I was hugely impressed by Psychemagik Presents Magik Sunrise. I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the best compilations I’ve heard this year. There are several reasons for this. Of course one of these is the sheer eclecticism of the compilation. There’s everything from cosmic disco, psychedelic funk, Balearica and Middle Eastern beats right through to rock, Latin, jazz and even prog rock. Describing the compilation as eclectic, is almost an understatement.

 It seems Psychemagik no crates have been left unexplored by Psychemagik, in their quest for not just quality music, but outstanding music. Most of the tracks on Psychemagik Presents Magik Sunrise will be new to most people, even the most devoted and persistent crate-digger. Unlike other inferior compilations, neither is there any filler or poor tracks. All killer and no filler describes Psychemagik Presents Magik Sunrise. That’s a tribute to Psychemagik’s crate-digging skills and their discerning taste in music. As an added bonus, Disc Two features each of the twelve tracks seamlessly mixed  by Psychemagik. So for anyone who likes their music eclectic and loves discovering new music then Psychemagik Presents Magik Sunrise is a must-have compilation. 

SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE-THERE’S A RIOT GOIN’ ON.

Two years in the making, Sly and The Family Stone released There’s A Riot Goin’ On was released in November 1971. It was the followup to 1969s Stand, Sly and The Family Stone’s fourth album. Released to critical acclaim, Stand was Sly and The Family Stone’s breakthrough album. Reaching number thirteen in the US Billboard 200 and number three in the US R&B Charts, Stand was Sly and The Family Stone’s most successful album. That was, until the release of There’s A Riot Goin’ On, which was rereleased by Get On Down in July 2013. This is no ordinary rerelease. It’s a luxurious, lavish box set. That’s quite fitting. After all, There’s A Riot Goin’ On is no ordinary album. Far from it. It’s  psychedelic, genre-melting album full of biting social comment, There’s A Riot Goin’ On was instantly hailed a classic album. That’s despite the turmoil that surrounded a band lead by the charismatic Sly Stone. 

Ever since the release of Stand, chaos and controversy had surrounded one of the most flamboyant bandleaders of the sixties and the seventies, Sly Stone. There were tales of large scale drug usage, possible changes in personnel and involvement with gangsters. Then there’s the infamous violin full of drugs which accompanied Sly Stone everywhere. That There’s A Riot Goin’ On ever got made is a musical miracle. Much had changed in the world of Sly and The Family Stone. 

At this time, relationships within the band were at an all time low, especially among The Stone brothers Sly and Freddie, and bassist Larry Graham. Tense doesn’t come close to describe their relationship. Ironically, Larry’s bass playing would be crucial to the success of what became There’s A Riot Goin’ On. It provided the heartbeat to the album. Sadly, the tension between the band members wasn’t the only problem surrounding Sly and The Family Stone. The other problem was that drug use was rife within the band. Stories emerged that Sly Stone allegedly, carried a violin case full of drugs everywhere the band went. Drug use had worsened when the band had relocated to California. PCP and cocaine were now the drugs of choice for the band. This started to affect the recoding schedule and tours. Sly’s moods changed One minute he was upbeat and happy, then suddenly he was moody. His behaviour started to become erratic. Between concerts, it was reported that he spent much of his time taking drugs. For a band who’d just enjoyed two hugely successful albums, Sly and The Family Stone were shooting themselves in their foot at every turn. Despite that, they recorded a classic album… There’s A Riot Goin’ On.

Against insurmountable odds, Sly and The Family Stone recorded the greatest album of their career. Somehow, they overcame influence of drugs, gangsters and The Black Panthers. There was internecine warfare between members of the band. This lead to drummer Greg Errico leaving the band. Up against it, Sly and The Family Stone dug deep. Fusing blues, funk, jazz, pop, psychedelia and rock musical genres and influences combine. Influenced by Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, Muddy Waters, Sun Ra and The Beach Boys, Sly and The Family Stone recorded an eleven-song opus There’s A Riot Goin’ On.

Surrounded by a group of hugely talented musicians, they provided the genre-melting backdrop to his vocals. Veering between languid and lazy, to a rasping, grizzly, growl, sometimes his vocal is slightly muffled. Despite this, charisma oozes out of Sly Stone, the proverbial showman. A flamboyant showman, he was lead singer, multi-instrumentalist and producer.  

Produced by Sly Stone, he used multitrack recording to its fullest. Like a 20th century shaman, Sly locked himself in the studio and began work on his masterpiece. He recorded layer upon layer of music during long nights spent recording. Often he was on his own. This meant he’d no-one to challenge his decisions and authority. A perfectionist, much of the music was rerecorded. Overdubbing was used widely. Although it adds to depth and density to the music, it can detract from the sound quality. On There’s A Riot Goin’ On it adds to the album’s depth, darkness, charm and success. Certified platinum, and featuring the dual number one single Family Affair, which was certified gold, There’s A Riot Goin’ On was their fifth album, and an album that wouldn’t be better. That’s why it’s included in the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 best albums of all time. Sly and The Family Stone had recorded a stonewall classic. Up against unsurmountable odds, somehow, Sly pulled off the impossible and delivered an album that he’d never better.

SOUL JAZZ RECORDS PRESENTS: DEUTSCHE ELECKTRONISCHE MUZIK 2.

Sometimes, when it comes to compilations, sequels don’t quite live up the first volume in a series. Often, the first volume in a series has exhausted the supply of seminal music. So, when the eagerly awaited sequel is released, there’s often a sense of disappointment. Too often, the musical memory of the first volume ends up tainted by a disappointing sequel. The lesson to be learnt, is that once you’ve released one or two successful compilations, quit while you’re ahead. Sadly, often record companies realising that there’s an audience for their compilation series, let greed and avarice get in the way of common sense. After all, with some musical genres, there’s often a limited supply of quality music. Conversely, other musical genres have a plentiful supply of quality music awaiting discovery by enthusiastic and knowledgeable compilers. This includes what’s become known as Krautrock, which has become musical shorthand for a fusion of musical genres. Mining this plentiful supply of music have been Soul Jazz Records, for their compilation Soul Jazz Records Presents: Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2, which was released on 25th February 2013.

For those yet to discover Krautrock, this musical genre is a melting pot of influences. Indeed, there’s everything from rock, prog rock, jazz, psychedelia, folk and electronic music. While many people will have heard the music of Kraftwerk, Neu, Can and Faust, there’s much more to Krautrock than this. So, for anyone looking to discover Krautrock, then Soul Jazz Records’ latest release, Soul Jazz Records Presents: Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2, is the perfect starting point.  On the two discs  are twenty-seven tracks released between 1971 and 1983. They’re described as “experimental German rock and electronic musik.” This is the perfect description of the Krautrock. Together with the 2010s Soul Jazz Records Presents: Deutsche Elektronische Muzik, this is the perfect primer for the newcomer to Krautrock.

Not only does it feature tracks from some of the genres giants, including Can, Neu and Faust, but hidden gems like Niagara S.U.B’s and Electric Sandwich’s China. Having said that, there’s so much more to discover on Soul Jazz Records Presents: Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2. These tracks are inspired by an eclectic variety of musical genres and influences. This includes rock, prog rock, jazz-rock, psychedelia, jazz and avant garde classical music. To that, I’d add electronic, industrial, ambient and funk. Krautrock was inspired by all these genres and was a musical melting pot. Since then, Krautrock has inspired a new generation of musicians and producers. Sadly, despite this, Krautrock is often portrayed negatively in the musical press. That’s quite unfair, given how much quality music is awaiting discovery. There’s much more to Krautrock than just the music of Kraftwerk, Can, Neu and Faust. Not only will Soul Jazz Records Presents: Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2 act as a primer to anyone looking to discover the delights of Krautrock, but will lead them on a voyage of musical discovery, which could last a lifetime.

 

THE BETA BAND-THE REGAL YEARS 1997-2004.

Although The Beta Band were only together eight years, their music made a huge impact on music. Formed in 1996, The Beta Band split-up in 2004. In the intervening eight years, they’d released a trio of E.P.s and albums. The music on these E.P.s and albums influenced a generation of musicians. Innovative, influential and groundbreaking describes The Beta Band’s music. It’s best described as a fusion of influences and genres. The Beta Band fused everything from electronic, experimental, folk, trip hop and rock. This musical melange was known as folktronica, and saw The Beta Band achieve cult status in the UK, Europe and US. 

Soon, commercial success and critical acclaim came The Beta Band’s way. Hailed as one of the best bands of their generation, a great future was forecast for The Beta Band. Sadly, after the release of their third album 2004s Heroes To Zeroes, The Beta Band split-up. It was a case of what might have been.  Listening to the recently released the six disc box set, The Beta Band-The Regal Years 1997-2004, which was recently released by Regal Records, only reinforces that. Who knows what heights The Beta Band might have reached if they’d stayed together. Would they have reached the heights groups like Radiohead, Arcade Fire and Flaming Lips reached? We’ll never know. What I do know, is that The Beta Band have left behind a rich musical legacy, which is documented on The Beta Band-The Regal Years 1997-2004.

For seven years, The Beta Band released a series of groundbreaking recordings. This included three E.P.s and a trio of albums. They all feature on The Beta Band-The Regal Years 1997-2004, a six disc box set. Throughout the six discs, innovative, influential and groundbreaking describes The Beta Band’s music. It’s best described as a fusion of influences and genres. Everything from electronic, experimental, folk, trip hop and rock melts into one. Here’s music that’s totally different from everything else being released. It’s exciting, bold, ambitious and totally unique. That’s why this musical melange was known as folktronica. After all, no existing musical genre could describe The Beta Band’s music?

From their debut 1998 E.P. Champion Versions, right through to their third album 2004s Heroes To Zeroes, The Beta Band’s raison d’etre was creating music that was ambitious, bold, challenging, influential and innovative. It was music that was ahead of its time. By the time other bands cottoned on to what The Beta Band were doing, their music was evolving again. Their music was a living, breathing thing. To breath, it had to change direction. Standing still wasn’t an option. No way. If The Beta Band stood still, they’d lose their edge and advantage. That wasn’t going to happen. The Beta Band prided themselves on being innovators.  

Pioneering and revolutionary describes The Beta Band’s music perfectly. They became know for creating cutting-edge, swashbuckling music. That’s why The Beta Band enjoyed commercial success, critical acclaim and cult status. Each E.P. and album was a musical tapestry. Full of nuances and subtleties, The Beta Band created exciting, inventive and genre-melting music. The Beta Band took listeners on a musical journey that challenging and exciting them with music that was way ahead of the competition. Sadly, after the release of their third album 2004s Heroes To Zeroes, The Beta Band split-up. It was a case of what might have been. Who knows what heights The Beta Band might have reached if they’d stayed together. Would they have reached the heights groups like Radiohead, Arcade Fire and Flaming Lips reached? That might have been the case. However, we’ll never know. What we do know, is that The Beta Band’s influence is still being felt nine years after they split-up. Who knows when we’ll see their likes again?

 

THE KINKS-MUSWELL HILLBILLIES.

By the time The Kinks released Muswell Hillbillies in November 1971, they were no longer as successful in Britain. Their last three albums had failed to chart. The last Kinks album to chart in Britain was 1967 Something Else By The Kinks. It had reached number thirty-five. After that, 1968s The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, 1969s Arthur (Or The Decline Of The British Empire) and Lola Versus Powerman and The Moneygoround, Part One had all failed to chart. At least their singles were much more successful. Fifteen of their singles had reached the top ten in Britain. Over the Atlantic, The Kinks were enjoying much more success in America.

Since their 1964 debut Kinks, only The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society had failed to chart. Every other Kinks album had charted. This made The Kinks one of the most commercially successful British bands. They enjoyed a longevity and commercial success that very few other British bands enjoyed. That’s not surprising. Unlike so many bands of The Kinks’ generation, The Kinks eschewed throwaway pop music.  

Instead, they created cerebral music. It was intelligent, thoughtful, satirical and thought-provoking music. Proof of this was their last three albums. Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, Arthur (Or The Decline Of The British Empire) and Lola Versus Powerman and The Moneygoround were all concept albums written by Ray Davies. Each album was released to critical acclaim. While music critics “got” these albums, they passed record British buyers by. In America, which had more of an album culture, The Kinks enjoyed both commercial success and critical acclaim. They were one of Britain’s most successful musical exports. While this must have pleased The Kinks, deep down, they must have hoped their music would be more successful back home in Britain. 

Muswell Hillbillies which was recently rerelease by Universal Marketing as a Deluxe Edition, marked the start of a new era for The Kinks. It was their first album for their new record label RCA. Their previous albums had been released on Pye in Britain and Reprise in the US. However, with The Kinks no longer enjoying the success they used to, Pye didn’t offer them a new contract. So, having left Pye which had been their home for eight studio albums, Muswell Hillbillies marked the start of a new era. 

Sadly, this new era didn’t begin with a commercial success album. Commercial success eluded Muswell Hillbillies, when it was released in 1971. Forty-two years later, the album is just as relevant. The themes of poverty is still as relevant. So too, is the way that working class people have been affected. Their communities continue to be devastated. People who have lived in these communities are displaced, forced to live in badly built houses. Meanwhile their old communities are gentrified and property developers prosper. This is seen as progress. It’s not. 

Still these people are suffering from alcoholism, poverty and mental illness. Many of these people still feel as if they don’t belong. Just like in Twentieth Century Man and Complicated Life, they feel as if they can’t cope with modern living. Ray Davies lyrics bring all these subjects and problems to life. He was like a seer, a visionary, who forecasted the breakdown of traditional communities. The cause of this was supposed progress. Sadly, as the last four decades have shown, that’s not always the case. Despite being full of cerebral, thoughtful, satirical and thought-provoking music, Muswell Hillbillies wasn’t a commercial success. However, since then, critics have reevaluated Muswell Hillbillies.

Since them, critics have realised that Muswell Hillbillies featuresThe Kinks at their best. During the ten tracks on Muswell Hillbillies, Ray Davies introduces us to a whole host of characters. Some of the are angry and frustrated, others are troubled, despairing or resigned to their fate. Heartbreak, hurt and joy feature on Muswell Hillbillies. Full of pathos and nuances, it’s a literate, cerebral album. While the songs are full of social comment,  sometimes, like on Have A Cuppa Tea, features Ray’s trademark humour. Forty-two years later, the music on Muswell Hillbillies, a true hidden gem in The Kinks’ back-catalogue, is just as relevant as it was in 1971.

TRAX BOX.

There are some labels whose music epitomises everything that’s good about a musical genre. Think of Stax Records and Southern Soul, Blue Note and jazz, Chess Records and Chicago blues, Salsoul Records and disco or between 1972 and 1975, Philadelphia International Records and Philly Soul. Each of these labels produced some of the best music in the history of modern music. To that list, I’d add Trax Records. Trax Records were one of the most influential and innovative Chicago house labels. 

Founded in 1983, Trax Records enjoyed a longevity that few other house labels enjoyed. Trax were responsible for releasing some of the most important releases in the history of house music. Think of just about any of the Chicago house classics, and most likely, it’ll have been released on Trax Records. Along with DJ International, Trax Records dominated house music. Indeed, when it comes to Chicago house, its history can be divided into to periods. B.T, before Trax, and A.T. after Trax. 

Trax as you can see, was hugely important in the development and growth of Chicago house music. Would house music have become as popular as it has, without Trax. Similarly, would house music have enjoyed the longevity it has without Trax? In some ways, with Trax helped spread the Chicago house gospel far and wide. However, in the eyes of some people, Trax wasn’t a benevolent benefactor. 

No. Then again who is? Controversy and allegations surrounds some of its business practices. The same can be said of many labels. In the case of Trax, whether there’s any truth in these rumors, who knows? What I can say, is that it’s become part of the myth and aura that surrounds Chicago house music’s biggest label, who in 2013, celebrate their thirtieth anniversary. However, their clubbing days are far from over. No. Trax are reliving the heady, hedonistic days of Chicago house’s heyday with the release of Trax Box. 

Released by Harmless Records in September 2013, Trax Box is no ordinary box set. Far from it. It’s a sixteen-disc box set that features Trax Records’ first seventy-five releases. This includes the A and B sides. There are many a glittering hidden gem awaiting discovery during the sixteen discs. A voyage of discovery awaits the diligent crate-digger. It’s well worth spending the time listening to each disc. To do this, set aside two days. Do what I did, and immerse yourself in some of the finest Chicago house ever released between 1985 and 1989, which the Trax Box covers. Relive the music music that’s timeless and groundbreaking. That certainly is a good way to describe the music on Trax Box, which is a glorious reminder of Chicago house’s premier label, Trax Records.

 

VAN MORRISON-MOONDANCE.

Van Morrison was only twenty-five when he released his third album, Moondance in February 1970. Moondance had been two years in the making and was an introduction to Van’s Caledonian soul. It had taken Van ten months to write the lyrics to Moondance. The lyrics were written at Van’s mountaintop home, not far from Woodstock village, in upstate New York. For some time, Van had been living in Woodstock, which was now home for him and his wife. This was the perfect place to  write a classic album, Moondance hich was recently rereleased by Warner Bros.

Inspired by his surroundings, family and memories, Van set about writing the lyrics to Moondance. They are poetic, evocative and mystical. Like an artist used his palette to create pictures, Van used words. He takes you on a series of journeys. On And It Stoned Me, Van takes you back to the Belfast of his youth, while Caravan conjurs up images  of living life as a gypsy. You can imagine the pictures unfolding before your eyes. These were the lyrics that Van took into A&R Studios, in New York.

For the recording of Moondance, Van recruited his band from musicians based in Woodstock. They headed along to A&R Studios, in New York. When they got there, they discovered that Van hadn’t written the music to Moondance. No. The music and the arrangements existed in his head along. Somehow, Van had managed to make his band understated what he was hearing in his head. That’s no surprise. Van had recruited a crack band of musicians.

Van Morrison’s lyrics are on Moondance are poetic, evocative and mystical. Van’s songs takes you on a series of journeys. Full of imagery, he conjurs up images. These pictures unfold vividly before your eyes. Using inspiration from his life and everyday life, you’re introduced to a cast of characters and scenarios. Other tracks feature lyrics that are almost mystical and surreal. Then there’s songs about love, and love gone wrong. This includes Crazy Love and Come Running. Brand New Day is Van’s spiritual awakening. Of course, there’s the classic title-track, Moondance, which since 1970, has been a staple of radio stations everywhere. It’s one of the best known songs Van Morrison wrote, while Moondance is perceived as Van’s finest album.

Think of that. Van Morrison wrote Moondance, the best album of his career when he was just twenty-five. Moondance was just Van’s third album. After that, he’d go on to release another twenty-nine albums. While many of them were critically acclaimed and commercially successful, they never quite matched the quality of Moondance. Following Moondance, Van was constantly trying to replicate such a  groundbreaking, critically acclaimed and commercially successful album. There were times when we heard tantalising glimpses of the quality of music on Moondance, which was recently rereleased as a double album by Warner Bros.  

Quite simply, the music comes alive on the newly remastered version of Moondance. You hear subtleties and nuances you’ve never heard before. They clarity of music is much better than previous CD versions. It assails you and surrounds you. There’s a depth to the music. Layer upon layer of music reveal themselves. You can’t help but let the music wash over you and revel in is ethereal, emotive and spiritual beauty. As the music washes over you, Van Morrison’s unique brand of Caledonian Soul comes alive on Moondance. Genres melted into one on Moondance. Blues, country, jazz, R&B, rock and soul combined with Van’s Celtic roots. The result was Moondance, a cerebral, challenging and genre-melting album which showcased Van’s Morrison’s poetic genius. Moondance, like its predecessor Astral Weeks, featured Van Morrison at the height of his powers. That’s why Moondance is worthy of being referred to as a classic, which belongs in the record collection of anyone remotely interested or passionate about music.

 

During 2013, I’ve reviewed many box sets. The thirty I’ve mentioned are among the highlights. They’re an eclectic selection. There’s everything from Acid House, blues, Chicago, disco, funk, jazz, Philly Soul, prog rock, psychedelia and soul. Among them are lavish reissues of classic albums, including Sly and The Family Stone’s There’s A Riot Goin’ On and Van Morrison’s Moondance. Then there’s hidden psychedelic gems like Damon’s Son Of A Gypsy. Whether it’s classic albums, or hidden gems there’s something for everyone on my list of best box sets of 2013. Similarly, of you like your music dance-floor friendly, jazz tinged, funky or soulful, then there’s something here for you. There’s box sets with everything from one and fifteen discs. Most of them are lovingly compiled and lavish affairs. Each of them feature some of the best music released during 2013 and belong in any record collection.

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