THE BEST FIFTEEN BOX SETS OF 2014.

THE BEST FIFTEEN BOX SETS OF 2014.

As anyone with a penchant for box sets knows, that box shapes come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, the CDs or vinyl comes in a basic box, other times, the box set is luxurious and lovingly compiled. Examples of both feature in my list of the fifteen best box sets. Some of the box sets feature just one album, others feature an artists entire discography. A couple feature twenty albums from a label’s history. However, they all share one thing in common, they feature some incredible music. That’s why I’d recommend every one of these fifteen box sets. They’d make a welcome addition to any record collection.

ATLANTIC JAZZ LEGENDS-20 ORIGINAL ALBUMS FROM THE ICONIC LABEL.

Mention the great jazz labels, and automatically think of Blue Note, Impulse, Capitol Records and of course, Atlantic Records. It was founded in 1947, by Ahmet Ertegün and Herb Abramson. Eight years later, in 1955, Ahmet’s brother Nesuhi joined Atlantic Records. By then, Atlantic Records had embraced jazz. 

Jazz, Atlantic Records, believed was the future of music. They were right. There was an explosion in jazz’s popularity. This just happened to coincide with the introduction of the twelve-inch LP.  Soon, Atlantic Records became synonymous with jazz music. It was home to some of the most innovative and groundbreaking artists. Among them, were John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Herbie Mann, Chick Corea, Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk. Each of these artists feature on Atlantic Jazz Legends-20 Original Albums From The Iconic Label, which was recently released by Rhino. 

For newcomers to jazz, the Atlantic Jazz Legends-20 Original Albums From The Iconic Label box set, is the perfect introduction to twenty years of jazz released by Atlantic Records. It’s meant to be the perfect primer to what’s without doubt, one of jazz’s legendary labels. The albums in the Atlantic Jazz Legends-20 Original Albums From The Iconic Label box set were released between 1956 and 1973, and a are a tantalising taste of an iconic jazz label, Atlantic Records.

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CAPTAIN BEEFHEART-SUN ZOOM SPARK: 1970-1972. 

Having signed to A&M Records in 1966, Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band released thirteen albums. This included 1970s Lick My Decals Off, Baby, 1971s Mirror Man and 1972s The Spotlight Kid. These three albums, plus a disc of rarities feature on Sun Zoom Spark: 1970-1972, which was recently released by Rhino.  

For the newcomer to Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band. The three albums in the Sun Zoom Spark: 1970-1972 box set, 1970s Lick My Decals Off, Baby, 1971s The Spotlight Kid and 1972s Clear Spot are much more accessible than albums like Safe As Milk and Trout Milk Replica. They’re ambitious, adventurous albums of avant-garde, genre-melting music. This music is unique and innovate. So are the albums in the Sun Zoom Spark: 1970-1972 box set. The difference is, that albums like The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot are much more accessible.

Of the three albums in the Sun Zoom Spark: 1970-1972 box set Lick My Decals Off, Baby is much more like the music on Safe As Milk and Trout Milk Replica. So, rather than listening to the Sun Zoom Spark: 1970-1972 box set in chronological order, it might be best to listen to the albums in terms of accessibility. That would mean listening to Clear Spot, The Spotlight Kid and then Lick My Decals Off, Baby. After that, the more challenging and avant-garde albums, including Safe As Milk and Trout Milk Replica will make more sense. They are, after all, two innovative classic albums from one of music’s mavericks. 

Another classic from Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band was Lick My Decals Off, Baby. It’s an album that rivals Trout Mask Replica for the title of Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band’s finest hour. It’s the perfect way to open the Sun Zoom Spark: 1970-1972 box set. Following Lick My Decals Off, Baby are two of the most accessible albums Captain Beefheart released, The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot. An added bonus is Out-Takes, which makes the Sun Zoom Spark: 1970-1972 box set the perfect introduction to another of music’s mavericks and pioneers. 

He was way ahead of his time. That’s why commercial success eluded Captain Beefheart for much of his career. Captain Beefheart, like his old schoolfriend Frank Zappa, was always determined to push musical boundaries, sometimes, to their limits and beyond. Other times, like on The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot, Captain Beefheart yearned for commercial success. Captain Beefheart wanted to share his music with a wider audience. Sadly, Captain Beefheart never reached the heady heights his music and talent deserved. At least belatedly, Captain Beefheart a musical pioneer, is recognised as one of the most innovative and adventurous musicians of his generations. That’s apparent when you listen to the Sun Zoom Spark: 1970-1972 box set, which features Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band at his creative and innovative best.  

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RY COODER-SOUNDTRACKS. 

Ry Cooder’s solo career can be separated into two parts. There’s his studio albums and the soundtracks he’s recorded. In total, Ry Cooder has released sixteen soundtrack albums. Seven of Ry Cooder’s soundtracks feature on his Soundtracks’ box set.

Throughout the seven discs in the Soundtracks box set, which was released by Warner Bros. in  September 2014, Ry Cooder’s versatility is showcased. His music never stands still. It’s constantly evolving. Never does he resort to releasing the same album twice. No. He’s determined to push musical boundaries. That’s been the case throughout a career that’s spanned fifty years. 

That’s apparent on Soundtracks. There’s elements of everything from ambient, blues, country, experimental, free jazz, jazz and rock. Soundtracks is a truly eclectic collection of albums. However, these seven albums are just the tip of a musical iceberg. Ry Cooder has released many more soundtracks. There’s more than enough for a Soundtracks II. However, the albums that feature in the Soundtracks box set are some of Ry Cooder’s best work.

This includes Ry Cooder’s finest soundtrack album Paris, Texas. It played a huge part in the success of Paris, Texas. That’s the case with Crossroads. Without its award winning soundtrack, Crossroads wouldn’t be such a cult classic. Then there’s Ry’s soundtrack debut The Long Riders, the underrated Blue City and the groundbreaking Johnny Handsome. These Soundtracks are the perfect introduction to Ry Cooder’s soundtrack career.

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EMERSON. LAKE AND PALMER-BRAIN SURGERY SALAD.

For their fourth album, Brian Surgery Salad,  Emerson, Lake and Palmer set about recording an album they could replicate live. That hadn’t been the case with their their three previous albums. Something had to change, they realised.  So, Brain Surgery Salad, which was recently released by Sony as a three disc box set, marked the start of a new era for Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Brain Surgery Salad demonstrates Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their innovative and groundbreaking best. Here were Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their tightest and loudest. It was as if everything had been building up to Brain Surgery Salad. So when Emerson, Lake and Palmer released Brain Surgery Salad they were  a tight, visionary band. Their fusion of prog rock, jazz and classical music resulted in an ambitious, powerhouse of an album, Brain Surgery Salad which features Emerson, Lake and Palmer were at the peak of their creative powers.

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GEORGE HARRISON-THE APPLE YEARS.

After the breakup of The Beatles in 1970, John, Paul and Ringo embarked upon solo careers. Most of the attention centred around John and Paul. This suited George Harrison fine. 

George Harrison’s solo career began in November 1968, nearly two before the breakup of The Beatles. That’s when George Harrison released the soundtrack to Wonderwall, which is one of six newly remastered albums to feature in the luxurious and lovingly compiled box set The Apple Years. It features some of the most of the most innovative, yet underrated music released by a former Beatle.

The Apple Years includes George’s first six albums, Wonderwall, Electronic Sound, All Things Must Pass, Living In The Material World, Dark Horse and Extra Texture (Read All About It). This luxurious box set includes newly digitally remastered versions of each album. These remasters have been taken from the analogue masters. There’s also previously unreleased material and a DVD that’s exclusive to the box set. For all Beatles and George Harrison fans The Apple Years is essential listening. 

Especially since The Apple Years features George Harrison’s first two overlooked albums, Wonderwall and Electronic Sound. Both albums are truly groundbreaking, and feature music that was way ahead of its time. George Harrison was, and will always be remembered as a musical pioneer. However, there’s more to The Apple Years than two albums. 

The Apple Years features George Harrison’s two classic album All Things Must Pass and Living In The Material World, which are career defining albums. Dark Horse and Extra Texture (Read All About It), complete The Apple Years and are a reminder of George Harrison, the man who forever will be remembered not just as a Beatle, but the Dark Horse.

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LITTLE FEAT-RAD GUMBO-THE COMPLETE WARNER BROS YEARS.

Before founding Little Feat in 1969, Lowell George was a member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers Of Invention. Then in 1969, Lowell met Bill Payne who previously, had auditioned for The Mothers Of Invention. Bill however, never joined The Mothers Of Invention. No. However, in 1969 pianist Bill Payne and guitarist Lowell George formed Little Feat. They were joined by former Mothers Of Invention bassist Roy Estrada, and drummer Richie Hayward. Previously, Richie had been a member of The Factory, Lowell’s previous band, and later, The Fraternity of Man, who found fame with Don’t Bogart Me, a track from the Easy Rider Soundtrack. With Little Feat’s lineup complete, they would become one of the most influential and successful bands of the seventies. 

Having formed Little Feat in 1969, they signed to Warner Bros. in 1970. It was Frank Zappa that recommended Warner Bros. sign Little Feat. That was somewhat ironic. One rumour had it, that Frank Zappa had fired Lowell George from The Mothers Of Invention. Another rumour was that Lowell had written a song about drugs, Willin.’ A more plausible rumour is that Frank Zappa, realising just how talented  Lowell George was, advised him to form his own band. He then recommended Little Feat to Warner Bros.

It was at Warner Bros. that Little Feat released the best music of their career. They released a total of eleven albums between 1970s Little Feat, and 1990s Representing The Gumbo. Each of these albums feature in the Little Rad Gumbo-The Complete Warner Bros. Years box set, which was recently released by Warner Bros. Little Rad Gumbo-The Complete Warner Bros. Years which charts the life and times of Little Feat.

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LOUISIANA SWAMP BLUES.

One of the most eagerly awaited box sets of 2014 is JSP Records Louisiana Swamp Blues. It’s a four disc that features 101 slices of swamp blues and zydeco. Compiled by Neil Slaven, Louisiana Swamp Blues features contributions from the great and good of Louisiana blues and zydeco. 

Across Louisiana Swamp Blues’ four discs, there’s contributions from Leroy Washington, Jimmy Dotson, Lonesome Sundown, Big Chenier, Charles Sheffield, Tal Miller, Silas Hogan and Boozoo Chavis. There’s also contributions from groups like Cookie and The Cupcakes, Boogie Ramblers and Jay Nelson and The Jumpers. These tracks were released between 1954 and 1962. During this eight year period, Louisiana was a musical hotbed.

Between 1954 and 1962, low down, dirty, greasy blues R&B and zydeco provided the soundtrack to nights out in Louisiana. Providing the backdrop were many of the artists on Louisiana Swamp Blues. That’s how they started off. Soon, they were spotted by some of the producers that put Louisiana on the musical map.

This included J.D. Miller, Eddie Shuler, Sam Montel, Floyd Soileau and Carl Graffagnino. They were some of the most successful producers in Louisiana. They went in search of up-and-coming musical talent. This meant heading juke joints, night clubs, dive bars and wherever music was played. Sometimes, they struck musical gold. 

This includes many of the artists on Louisiana Swamp Blues. Other times, the artists on Louisiana Swamp Blues were either discovered by talent spotters and A&R men. They introduced the artists to some of Louisiana’s top producers. Once the introductions were made, the artist was taken into the basic recording studios. Accompanied by a studio band, they cut the low down, dirty, greasy blues R&B and zydeco that features on Louisiana Swamp Blues.

Featuring four discs crammed full of quality music, Louisiana Swamp Blues is the perfect introduction to the music of Louisiana during the late-fifties and early sixties. They conjur up images of Louisiana, during another musical era. This means music that’s emotive, evocative and atmospheric. Sometimes, it’s joyous, hook-laden and irresistible. Always, the music paints pictures of what life was like in Louisiana, between 1954 and 1963. Back then, Louisiana was one of America’s musical capitals. That’s apparent on Louisiana Swamp Blues.

Throughout the four discs that comprise Louisiana Swamp Blues oozes quality. Whether it’s blues, R&B or zydeco, the music is of the highest quality. That’s no surprise. Louisiana Swamp Blues features the great and good of Louisiana music. They’re joined by some lesser known names. Together, they’re responsible for Louisiana Swamp Blues. It’s a combination of blues, zydeco and R&B. Classics, old favourites and hidden gems from Louisiana’s musical past sit side-by-side on Louisiana Swamp Blues, which is without the best box set JSP Records have released during 2014.

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JOHN MARTYN-THE BEST OF THE ISLAND YEARS.

Last year, Commercial Marketing released The Island Years, an eighteen disc box set celebrating the twenty years John Martyn spent at Island Records. This included the seventeen albums John Martyn released between 1967 and 1987. Now, just over a year later, Universal Music have released The Best Of The Island Years a four disc box set. The Best Of The Island Years features fifty-six tracks spread across the four discs. These fifty-six tracks are a mixture of alternative takes and live tracks. This includes versions of John Martyn classics, including Bless The Weather, Solid Air, One World, May You Never, Glistening Glynebourne, Over The Hill and Angeline. However, there’s much more on The Best Of The Island Years than six classics. After all, John Martyn spent twenty-one years signed to Island Records. 

John Martyn left Island Records in 1988. A lot had happened during that period. John had arrived at Island Records as a nineteen year old folk singer. He left aged forty, having released a string of classic albums. Among them, were Bless The Weather, Solid Air and One World. Each of these albums were very different, as John’s sound continued to evolve during his time at Island Records. That’s apparent when you listen to the four discs and fifty-six tracks on The Best Of The Island Years.

Over the twenty one year period The Best Of The Island Years covers, John’s music incorporated everything from blues, country, dub, folk, jazz, psychedelia and rock. Constantly, John was taking his music in different directions. He was never content to find a “sound” and stick with it. That was for other artists. John was his own man, with his own ideas about music. One of these ideas was to be constantly pushing music boundaries, exploring and experimenting. To some extent, he did that every time he stepped onstage.

Live, John Martyn never played the a song the same way twice. Always, he gave the song a new twist. While the songs remained the same, John aided and abetted by his partner in crime, bassist Danny Thompson reinvented songs. With a mischievous glint in his eye, classics like Bless The Weather, Solid Air, One World, May You Never and Angeline took on new life and meaning. Seeing John live, was a case of expect the unexpected. He could dip into his back-catalogue, and pick out a long forgotten hidden gem, and take in a new and unexpected direction. Not many musicians could do that. Mind you, most musicians aren’t blessed with a fraction of the talent and imagination that John Martyn had. 

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MILES AT THE FILMORE-MILES DAVIS 1970: THE BOOTLEG SERIES VOLUME 3.

Throughout his career, Miles Davis was a musical innovator and chameleon. He constantly sought to reinvent himself and his music. This had been the case throughout his career. Miles wasn’t the type of musician who could stand still. No. So, in 1968, Miles changed direction musically and his electric period began. Miles’ electric period is celebrated on Miles At the Filmore-Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Volume 3, a four disc box set released by Sony Music earlier this year.  It features four concerts recorded between 17th and 20th June 1970. Each night, Miles Davis and his band took the stage at the Filmore East  and played to a packed and appreciative audience.

Six months after the fourth and final show at the Fimore East, Miles Davis At Filmore: Live At The Fimore East was released in December 1970. It reached number 123 in the US Billboard 200 and number one on the US Jazz charts. Miles Davis’ career had been rejuvenated. He was enjoying commercial success, which for four long years, had eluded him. Now, into the fourth decade of his career, Miles was back.

Despite Miles being just forty-four, his career had lasted twenty-six years. He made his professional debut when he left high school as an eighteen year old. Since then, Miles Davis had proved to be one of the most innovative jazz musicians of his career. He was perceived as the Godfather and founding father of cool jazz and modal jazz. He’d been at the forefront of these musical genres. Twenty years later, Miles made musical history again.

Now he was the Godfather and founding father of fusion. He brought together jazz, funk, psychedelia and rock. To that, he added elements of avant garde, experimental, free jazz and modal jazz. However, mostly, it was jazz, funk, psychedelia and rock that inspired Miles as he sought to reinvent himself and his music. Miles had been inspired by artists like Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone and James Brown. He met these artist through his second wife Betty Mabry. Having been inspired by these disparate influences, Miles fused them together on two classic albums In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew. They’re two of the best albums of Miles Davis’ “electric period.” 

Tracks from In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew feature on Miles At the Filmore-Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Volume 3, a four disc box set recently released by Sony Music. It’s essentially Miles Davis At Filmore: Live At The Fimore East, which was released in 1970. The main difference is the tracks haven’t been edited. They can now be heard in all their glory. There’s even three bonus tracks on Miles At the Filmore-Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Volume 3. All this means that Miles At the Filmore-Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Volume 3 is the equivalent to having front row seats for the four nights as Miles Davis and his band make musical history.

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MOGWAI-RAVE TAPES.

Nowadays, it’s a common occurrence for bands to release their new albums in a variety of formats. Usually, this includes CD, vinyl and MP3. Sometimes, there’s also a box set available. This is the case with Mogwai’s ninth studio album Rave Tapes. It’s a limited edition of 4,000 was released in January 2014 on Rock Action Records. Quite simply, is one of the best box sets I’ve come across. 

I realised this when I first opened up the Rave Tapes box set. Included is a heavyweight vinyl, CD and cassette version of Rave Tapes. A download code of Rave Tapes is also included in the box set. Then there’s twelve inch single and seven inch singles. Both feature tracks not on Rave Tapes. This includes Bad Magician 3 and Die 1 Dislike! on the twelve inch single and Tell Everybody That I Love Them on the seven inch single. There’s three 12″x12″ artwork art prints. They’re printed on 400 grams matt art paper and will look fantastic framed. Finally, there’s a forty page buckram wrap 12″x12″ hardback photograph book. It has a silver foil blocked cover design featuring exclusive images printed on 170 grams art paper. These photographs are taken by the legendary rock photographer, Steve Gullick, during the Rave Tapes album sessions in 2013. Essentially, the best way to describe the Rave Tapes box set is luxurious and lovingly compiled. However, what about the music on the Rave Tapes?    

Rave Tapes is best described as a groundbreaking, genre-melting musical journey from Mogwai. They’ve been together for nineteen years and still, are creating music that’sThis is what they’ve been doing since 1997, when they released their debut album influential, innovative and inventive. Mogwai Young Team. Sixteen years later, Mowai are still striving to reinvent their music. They’re not content to stand still. After all, what would the fun of that be? Mogwai leave that to stadium rock groups and has been remixers. They’re not the future. Mowai are. Why?

Well, Mogwai’s Rave Tapes is another album of ambitious, bold, challenging, influential and innovative music. This is music full of nuances, subtleties and surprises. During a ten track journey through ambient, avant garde, classic rock, electronica, experimental, indie rock and Krautrock, Mogwai push musical boundaries to their limits and beyond. During these ten tracks, the music constantly changes. You never know what’s about to happen. The only thing you can expect, is the unexpected. That’s no bad thing though. After all, we’d be complaining if Rave Tapes was full of predictable music. It’s not. Far from it.

Throughout Rave Tapes, Mowai’s music constantly changes. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe it’s the same band. The music veers between wistful, melancholy and pensive, to dark, dramatic and disturbing. It’s also eerie and moody. Sometimes, it’s beautiful and melancholy. The music on Rave Tapes is always ambitious, bold, challenging, influential and innovative as Mogwai take you on a genre-hopping musical journey that is Rave Tapes.

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MOTORPSYCHO-DEMON BOX.

Not many groups enjoy the longevity that Motorpsycho have. This year, Motorpsycho,who are one of Norway’s most successful bands, celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary. They’ve come a long way since were formed in Trondheim back in 1989.

Originally, Motorpsycho were alternative metal band. However, before long, Motorpsycho’s music evolved. They began to fuse grunge with heavy metal and indie rock. Having found their own sound, it was time for Motorpsycho to release their debut album

Motorpsycho’s debut album was Lobotomizer. It was released in 1991, to widespread critical acclaim. Suddenly, great things were forecast for Motorpsycho. The future looked bright for Motorpsycho. 

A year later, things looked very different. In August 1992, Motorpsycho released their single 3 Songs For Rut. However, it didn’t received the same critical acclaim as Lobotomizer. That’s despite Motorpsycho adding sonic scientist Helge “Deathprod” Sten to their lineup. Deathprod’s sonic noise experiments moved Motorpsycho’s music in a different direction. So as 1992 drew to a close, Motorpsycho knew that 1993 was going to be a pivotal year in their career.

The problem was, Motorpsycho’s contract was almost at an end. They only “owed” their record company one more album. It was a case of win or bust. Motorpsycho were up against it. This brought out the best in Motorpsycho.

In December 1992, Motorpsycho headed to Bragga Studios, where they recorded one of the most ambitious Norwegian albums of the nineties. This was Demon Box, a seventeen track double album. It was released in 1993 and proved to be a career defining album. Demon Box was received to the same critical acclaim as Lobotomizer and saved Motorpsycho’s career. After Demon Box, Motorpsycho became one of the most innovative and progressive Norwegian groups. 

Given Demon Box has played such an important part in the rise and rise of Motorpsycho, it’s fitting that Rune Grammofon have just reissued Demon Box as a five CD box set. The first two discs, Demon Box Volume 1 and 2, feature 1993s landmark Demon Box album. The A and B side feature on disc one, while sides C and D feature on disc two. Disc three is entitled Demon Box Volume 3, features the Mountain E.P. and Another Ugly E.P. The fourth disc, Demon Box Volume 4, is entitled The Ones That Got Away-Rarities, Outtakes and Live Recordings. The fifth disc, Demon Box Volume 5, is a DVD, which features Motorpsycho live in concert at Vera, on 19th September 1993. Just like the previous Demon Box’s four discs, Demon Box Volume 5 is a snapshot of Motorpsycho evolving and maturing as a band.

Since the release of Demon Box in 1993, Motorpsycho have established a reputation as one of Norway’s most successful bands. Now Motorpsycho are Norwegian rock royalty. They’re a musical institution not just in Norway, but across Europe and much further afield. However, this was because Motorpsycho had the courage of their convictions.

That meant releasing a seventeen track, genre-melting double album, Demon Box. That took courage. If this gamble had backfired, Motorpsycho’s career could’ve been cut short. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. Motorpsycho survived to tell the tale and thrive. Over twenty albums later, and Demon Box, which has just been released a five disc box set by Rune Grammofon. It was the album that launched the career of Motorpsycho. Demon Box, was an ambitious, innovative, genre-melting album; one that proved to be a career defining album for Motorpsycho; who went on to enjoy a twenty-five year career where commercial success and critical acclaim have been ever-present.

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WILLIAM ONYEAEBOR 2.

Enigmatic. That’s the perfect word to describe synth funk pioneer, William Onyeabor. He is, without doubt, one of the most mysterious and elusive musicians. There’s a good reason for this, Much of William Onyeabor’s life is shrouded in mystery. After releasing deight albums between 1978 and 1985, which feature in Luaka Bop’s nine CD box set William Onyeabor 2, William became a born-again Christian. He turned his back on music and refused to talk about his life or music. In some ways, this has helped perpetuate the myths surrounding William Onyeabor.

With William Onyeabor refusing to discuss his past, numerous rumours surrounded his life after music. Rumours were rife about what happened next. Some believe William studied cinematography in the Soviet Union, then returned to Nigeria, where he founded his own film company, Wilfilms. Then there’s the rumour that William studied law in England, then became a lawyer in his native Nigeria. Others believe William became a businessman in Nigeria. According to other people, William worked for the Nigerian government. No-one can say with any degree of certainty. The only person who knows what happened next, is William Onyeabor. 

William Onyeabor however, isn’t for telling. Thirty-nine after William Onyeabor found religion, and turned his back on music, he’s still refusing to discuss his past. This means still, little is known about Nigerian music’s most enigmatic musicians, William Onyeabor. The effect this has, is to perpetuate the myth of William Onyeabor. He’s a a musical riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Sadly, one that looks like never being solved. There’s no clues in William Onyeabor’s discography, which is documented in William Onyeabor 2. However, what a discography it is.

Over a seven-year period, William Onyeabor released eight innovative and inventive, groundbreaking, genre-melting albums. On each of these albums, was music that was way ahead of the musical curve. Everything from Afro-beat, cosmic funk, gospel, jazz, post-disco, proto-house, psychedelia, reggae, rock and soul was thrown into the melting pot by William Onyeabor. This is apparent in  William Onyeabor 2, which features all you need to know about William Onyeabor, but were afraid to ask. 

The music on William Onyeabor 2 is the work of  a musical visionary. That’s no exaggeration. After all, how many people could successfully mix sci-fi synths with soul and jazz? William Onyeabor could, and does on Let’s Fall In Love. Then on Fantastic Man, William like a mystic, foresaw the changing of the musical guard. The ghost of disco passes the musical baton to Chicago house. This fusion of post-disco and proto-house demonstrates the versatility of William Onyeabor.  

Constantly, William Onyeabor’s music evolves throughout the period between William’s 1978 debut album Crash In Love and 1983s Good Name. Whilst other artists were churning out albums of similar music, William was pushing musical boundaries. He wasn’t content to stand still. . 

From 1980 onwards, his music evolved. It became much more reliant on synths, keyboards and drum machines. Sometimes, it’s best described as futuristic, with a sci-fi sound. An example of this is Let’s Fall In Love, from his 1983 album Good Name. Buzzing, sci-fi synths are key to the track’s futuristic sound. To this inventive track, somehow, William welds soul and jazz. It’s a combination that shouldn’t work, but does. In a way, it’s just one example of the genius of William Onyeabor, which was lost to music after his 1985 album Anything You Sow.

That William Onyeabor turned his back on music, is music’s loss. Who knows what heights of innovation and inventiveness William Onyeabor might have reached? As a result, William Onyeabor 2 is a reminder of an elusive and enigmatic musical visionary.

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PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL-THE COLLECTION 20 ORIGINAL ALBUMS.

On February 13th 2014, Sony Music announced that it had acquired the worldwide rights to Philadelphia International Records’ post 1975 back-catalogue. At last, one label, Sony Music now had control of the rights to the entire Philadelphia International Records’ back-catalogue. This was progress. Maybe now, a proper reissue program of Philadelphia International Records’ back-catalogue could get underway? 

Like many people, I hoped for lavish and lovingly compiled box sets, remasters of classic albums and rereleases of some of albums that have never before released on CD before. Sony Music it seemed were thinking along the same lines. Immediately, Sony Music announced they would be releasing a box set featuring twenty albums, Philadelphia International-The Collection 20 Original Albums. 

Tantalisingly, there was no mention of what albums would feature in Philadelphia International-The Collection 20 Original Albums. Speculation was rife. Everyone had their wish-list of classics and hard to find albums. Ideally, Philadelphia International-The Collection 20 Original Albums would be a mixture of the familiar and hidden gems. When word got out about the contents of Philadelphia International-The Collection 20 Original Albums, that wasn’t what we were getting.

What people didn’t want, was a box set that was predictable. To some extent, that’s what we got. Obviously, Philadelphia International-The Collection 20 Original Albums had to feature artists  and albums that played an important part in the label’s history between 1972 and 1975. This included Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, The O’Jays, Billy Paul, The Three Degrees and M.F.S.B. Post-1975 successful and landmark albums were included by Lou Rawls, The Jacksons and Teddy Pendergrass. What frustrated some people, was that there were two albums from Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, The O’Jays and Teddy Pendergrass. This meant there was less opportunity for hidden gems and rarities.

The rest of the artists that feature in Philadelphia International-The Collection 20 Original Albums didn’t enjoy the same commercial success and critical acclaim as Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes and The O’Jays enjoyed. However, there were welcome additions included The Intruders, the innovative Dexter Wansel and the underrated McFadden and Whitehead. Surprising choices were Edwin Birdsong, Bunny Sigler, Jean Carn, The Jones Girls and Patti LaBelle. They divided opinion among the Philadelphia International faithful. Personally, I wouldn’t have included any of these albums. They only had walk-on parts in the Philadelphia International story. As a result, Philadelphia International-The Collection 20 Original Albums  was a box set that divided opinion. No wonder.

Trying to tell the story of Philadelphia International Records in twenty discs is impossible. Sony Music gave go on Philadelphia International-The Collection 20 Original Albums. Sony started well, concentrating on classic and landmark albums released between 1972 and 1975. They were responsible for transforming Philadelphia International Records into one of the most successful labels between 1972 and 1975. However, I’d have liked Philadelphia International-The Collection 20 Original Albums to feature more albums released between 1972 and 1975. Ideally, two box sets could’ve been released. 

The first could’ve covered 1972 to 1975. Another could’ve focussed on 1975 onwards. This would’ve allowed classics, hidden gems and rarities to sit side-by-side. Quite simply, twenty discs and one box set doesn’t do Philadelphia International justice. Instead, Philadelphia International-The Collection 20 Original Albums is just a  tantalising taste of one of soul’s legendary labels.

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THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND-THE 1971 FILLMORE EAST RECORDINGS.

There aren’t many bands who make a commercial breakthrough with a live album. That, however, is what happened to The Allman Brothers Band. Their third album, 1971s At Fillmore East which was recently reissued as part of Universal as a six-disc box set The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings, was a game-changer. At Fillmore East reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 200 and was certified platinum, and in the process, transformed The Allman Brothers Band’ career.

Since its release in July 1971, At Fillmore East is regarded as one of the greatest live albums ever. Rolling Stone magazine included At Fillmore East in its 500 greatest albums of all time. That is quite an accolade. Not as much as the US Congress choosing At Fillmore East as one of city albums to be added to the National Recording Registry in 2004. By then, At Fillmore East had attained classic status, and is perceived as part of any self-respecting record collection. However, for some music lovers, the original version of At Fillmore East is a mere musical amuse bouche. 

Having whetted their appetite, music lovers wanted ti hear more than the original double album of At Fillmore East. It featured just seven tracks on the four sides of vinyl. That’s just an introduction to the founding fathers of Southern Rock, The Allman Brothers Band. After all, over the three night in March 1971, The Allman Brothers Band played five concerts, over three nights At Fillmore East. So there was much more music in the Atlantic Records’ vaults. 

Belatedly, Universal recently released a luxurious, and lovingly compiled, six-disc box set The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings. This was a game-changer. It features the five concerts At Fillmore East in their entirety. These groundbreaking concerts transformed The Allman Brothers Band’ career, and turned them into the Kings of Southern Rock.

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THE NASHVILLE SOUND-COUNTRY MUSIC’S GOLDEN ERA.

By the mid-fifties, music was changing. Rock ’n’ roll had been born. This was a game-changer. Some genres, including blues and country, were no longer as popular. They were struggling to survive. It was a case of adapt or die. Country music realised this and changed.

Production values changed. The productions became much more polished. Immediately, the rough edges were smoothed away. Country music was transformed. Lush strings were added. Even the singing style change. Some singers adopted the crooning style that was popular amongst pop singers. All this this transformed the fortunes of country music. Not only was country music relevant, but the golden age of country music began.

The golden age of country music began in 1955. It lasted seven years, and finished in 1962. During that period, some of the greatest country music ever recorded was released. This came courtesy of country music legends like Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, George Jones, Charlie Rich, Marty Robbins, Skeeter Davis, Don Gibson, Brenda Lee, Burl Ives, Stonewall Jackson, Dolly Parton and Slim Whitman. Each of these artists feature on Proper Records recently released box set The Nashville Sound-Country Music’s Golden Era.

The Nashville Sound-Country Music’s Golden Era is no ordinary box set. It features ninety-nine tracks spread over four discs. There’s also extensive sleeve-notes and a detailed discography. It’s obvious that a lot of time and effort has gone into compiling The Nashville Sound-Country Music’s Golden Era. 

Each of the four discs on The Nashville Sound-Country Music’s Golden Era has a theme. Disc one is Four Walls, disc two I Fall To Pieces, disc three Lonesome Number One and disc four She Thinks I Still Care. On each disc, is a combination of classics and hidden gems. They all have one thing in common, their quality. That’s why, for a newcomer to country music, then The Nashville Sound-Country Music’s Golden Era is the perfect introduction the country music’s golden era. 

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