Virginians Ralph and Carter Stanley, the Stanley Brothers, took the traditional Appalachian string band songs of their home and updated them into a traditionally rooted modern bluegrass sound that was singular for its authentic tone, no-frills simplicity, and at times haunting and astonishing beauty, the very model of the high lonesome sound. This expansive four-disc, 111-track box covers the later part of the middle period of their recording career, collecting virtually every side the brothers recorded for the King record label between 1961 and 1965. That's a whole lot of Stanley Brothers, but the musical quality, integrity, and execution of this storied duo never waver here, and indeed, they never really did waver one bit any time the two of them stepped in front of the microphones.
On December 3, 1963, at age 62, when most folks are thinking about retirement, Louis Armstrong recorded the sprightly "Hello, Dolly!," the title song for a Broadway show. Thus began a six year-long series of recordings that brought arguably most important 20th Century musician back into the limelight and, in fact, gave him his greatest recording successes ever.
The Early Starday-King Years: 1958-1961 is a 109-track, four-disc box set that compiles every track the Stanley Brothers cut for Starday and King during that era. At the time, the group were releasing albums both on Starday and King, so there was an immense amount of confusion between the releases; the box set helps clarify the matters, by gathering all of the music together and presenting it in chronological order. This way, it's possible to hear their progression, as well as the differences between the recordings for the two labels; on the King recordings, the Stanley Brothers tended to be more experimental, working in electric instrumentation. Though there is plenty of fine music on the set, The Early Starday-King Years is, overall, too thorough and extensive for anyone but bluegrass historians.
Guilty: 30 Years of Randy Newman is a four-disc box set released in November 1998 that chronicles the first three decades of singer songwriter Randy Newman's musical career.
This is a superb collection comprised of Billie Davis' singles for England's Decca Records, most of them dating between 1967 and 1970 (with four tracks from her 1963 stint with the label), and augmented with a handful of tracks from her self-titled 1970 album. It's all superb girl group-style pop, with a distinctly American, soulful edge and even an occasional psychedelic intrusion, highlighted by her spirited rendition of "I Want You to Be My Baby" and her impassioned version of "Wasn't It You," among other tracks. There's not a loser in the bunch and, in fact, the songs all show an amazing consistency despite origins as different as Joe Cocker, Carole King, Ian Anderson (yes, she covered "Living in the Past"), and Neil Diamond. Strangely enough, the appending of the four early Decca sides at the end of the CD is sort of jarring, throwing listeners back to an earlier (though still eminently enjoyable) era of British pop/rock. The sound is excellent throughout and the CD comes with an excellent career overview on Davis.
THE ANALOGUE YEARS presents a 50-Album overview across 54 CDs, in original jackets, of the celebrated international recordings that emerged from the London-based record label in that pre-digital era.