Guitar virtuoso Nuno Bettencourt made his name with the eclectic pop-metal outfit Extreme during the height of the guitar-shredder era, and embarked on a solo career after the band's breakup. As a soloist, Bettencourt's most immediately recognizable influence was Eddie Van Halen, but as a songwriter, he might draw from Queen, the Beatles, Prince, and anything in between. The youngest of ten children in a musical family, Bettencourt was born Nuno Duarte Gil Mendes Bettencourt in the town of Praia da Vitoria, on the island of Terceira in the Azores (an archipelago governed by Portugal) on September 20, 1966. His family moved to Boston when he was four and he began playing music as a teenager, trying out drums, bass, and keyboards, but settling on guitar. Bettencourt played in several area bands, sometimes with his brothers, and joined Extreme in 1985; after becoming quite popular locally, the group signed with A&M and released their debut album in 1989.
Issued in 2007 on the 4AD label, THE BEST OF LISA GERRARD collects many of the finest tracks by the former Dead Can Dance vocalist/multi-instrumentalist. While the compilation includes a few tracks by that revered act, most notably the mystical "Yulunga (Spirit Dance)," a song that showcases Gerrard's striking voice, it primarily focuses on her solo work and film compositions, which both draw from music across the globe. On these pieces, Gerrard often collaborates with fellow Australian native Pieter Bourke, as on the passionate "Swans" and the expansive "Sacrifice," the latter from the INSIDER score. Although this anthology is a mere fraction of Gerrard's recorded output, it does serve as an excellent introduction to her impressive catalogue.
Ray Charles was the musician most responsible for developing soul music. Singers like Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson also did a great deal to pioneer the form, but Charles did even more to devise a new form of black pop by merging '50s R&B with gospel-powered vocals, adding plenty of flavor from contemporary jazz, blues, and (in the '60s) country. Then there was his singing; his style was among the most emotional and easily identifiable of any 20th century performer, up there with the likes of Elvis and Billie Holiday. He was also a superb keyboard player, arranger, and bandleader. The brilliance of his 1950s and '60s work, however, can't obscure the fact that he made few classic tracks after the mid-'60s, though he recorded often and performed until the year before his death.