To call the multitalented Gatemouth Brown, a mainstay of the Texas music scene for over half a century, a bluesman would be inaccurate. Not completely wrong, for Brown's influence on Texas blues has been enormous, but certainly not the whole picture. On Blackjack, Brown (who sings and plays harmonica and a plethora of stringed instruments, from guitar to viola) goes from blues ("Chickenshift") to jazz ("Honey Boy," with a nice drum solo from David Peters) to country ("Dark End of the Hallway") and back again. Not every musician can handle this kind of variety, but Brown makes it work, whether it's the straight-ahead blues of "Here Am I" or "Street Corner" (which has a great harmonica intro), the Cajun-inflected "When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again," or the jazz-blues feel of "Tippin' In." It's easy to see, or rather to hear, why Brown has been so influential: every track on Blackjack is performed with the deft assurance of a master.
This is the definitive collection of the Pretenders' recordings issued under the Warners banner from 1979 to 1999 in unique outer slipcase. This 22-disc box set (14 x CD, 8 x DVD) brings together all eight deluxe digipak reissues (six 2 CD + DVD sets and two CD + DVD sets) of Pretenders (1980), Pretenders II (1981), Learning To Crawl (1984), Get Close (1986), Packed! (1990), Last Of The Independents (1994), The Isle Of View (1995), and Viva El Amor! (1999).
Twenty-five tracks round up an extremely haphazard but nevertheless intriguing "best of" Marc Bolan's last five years, drawing equally from the regular albums and familiar boogies, and the wealth of archival material excavated by the Unchained and Alternate series. Certainly not compiled with the hit hunter in mind (only "The Groover" and "Dreamy Lady" truly fall into that category), Very Best of, Vol. 2 is instead devoted to illustrating as many facets of Bolan's career as it could, from the pensive introspection of "Spaceball Ricochet," to the grinding self-aggrandizement of "The Groover," and onto the sharp autobiography of "Over the Flats" and "Funky London Childhood." As such, and especially when viewed in tandem with Very Best of, Vol. 1, it serves up a delightful portrait of Bolan's '70s, at a price that is difficult to squabble with.
The story of the Cranberries is one of dogged survival. Debuting with a maiden release that everybody seemed to rate as a portent of great things, the band suffered not only a "difficult" second album but also an absolute stinker of a third one, as the bandmembers strove desperately – too desperately – to live up to their reputation for sensitivity and thoughtfulness, and completely lost sight of their true virtues in the process. Internecine squabbling, health problems, and general disaffection all took further toll, so much so that, as the band prepared to release its fourth album, 1999's Bury the Hatchet, many observers were shocked to learn that the band even existed any longer, let alone was capable of actually making a new record – especially one that was as good as Bury the Hatchet turned out to be. Filmed at the Paris Omnisport de Bercy on December 9, 1999, toward the end of that album's accompanying tour, Beneath the Skin captures the full 84-minute concert performance, with the band ranging and, occasionally, raging through a veritable greatest-hits collection. The 22 tracks date back to the shimmering beauty of the Everybody Else Is Doing It era, fast forward through the highlights (and there were a few) of the two albums that followed, and then climax with eight cuts from the new record, including an opening salvo of "Animal Instinct," "Loud and Clear," and "Promises" that restates Hatchet's own defiant kickoff.