" Time Capsule "
Much of "What'd I Say" that you'd expect, but nicely done, (03/18/10)
Once again those wonderful compilation kings at Atlantic assembled a nine CD, one DVD glorious summation of Atlantic Records outstanding roster of stars spanning seven decades. There's also a 45 (Stick McGhee and his buddies with "Drinking wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee" backed by "Blues Mixture" included as well as a very high quality one-hundred-and-forty-page book with exquisite paper stock, fabulous photos and captions.
This mother box-set is presented chronologically. Disc one (1948-1959) features just two Ruth Brown tracks, which is somewhat odd considering that Atlantic was often referred to as the house that Ruth built. Nonetheless, early Blues-based classics include The Clovers' "One Mint Julep," Clyde McPhatter & the Drifters' "Money Honey," Professor Longhair's "Tipitina," Big Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle & Roll," Brother Ray's "I Got a Woman," and parts one and two of "What'd I Say," Ivory Joe Hunter's "Since I Left You Baby," Lavern Baker's "Jim Dandy," and Chuck Willis' "C.C. Rider." Bobby Darin's pop hits "Splish Splash" and "Mack the Knife," The Drifters' '"There Goes My Baby" as well as two by the Coasters, "Yakety Yak" and "Charlie Brown." Jazz was an early important component for Atlantic: Mingus' "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting," Coltrane's "Giant Steps" and Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" closes the first disc.
Disc two (1960-1967) standouts include such mega-hit classics: Ben E. King's "Stand By Me," Booker T. & the MG's "Green Onions," The Drifters' "Up On the Roof," Rufus Thomas' "Walking the Dog," Don Covay's "Mercy Mercy," Solomon Burke's "Got To Get You Off My Mind," Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long,' The Wicket Pickett's "Mustang Sally," Arthur Coneley's one-hit wonder "Sweet Soul Music," Aretha's "Respect," and "Natural Woman," The Bar-Kays' instrumental "Soul Finger," and the great Albert King's "Born Under a Bad Sign." Rock stars make their first appearance with Vanilla Fudge's "You Keep Me Hangin' On" which is the AM radio edit version at 3:03, thank goodness!
Soul and rock dominate disc three (1967-1970). Otis Redding's final "Dock of the Bay," Archie Bell's "Tighten Up," Dusty Springfield's "Son-Of-A Preacher Man," and the soul-jazz gem Les McCann & Eddie Harris' "Compared To What." Heavyweights Cream appear with "Sunshine of Your Love," Iron Butterfly's long version (17:03 yikes) of "In-A-Gadda Da-Vida,' Zeppelin's "Good Times Bad Times," Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home," that other one hit wonder (produced by The Who's Pete Townshend) Thunderclap Newman's "Something in the Air," and The Allman Brothers smoldering "Whipping Post."
Disc four (1970-1974) is also a soul and rock affair with King Floyd's (arrangements by Wardell Quezergue) "Groove Me," the great Donny Hathaway's "A Song For You," Aretha's "Rock Steady," Betty Wright's "Clean Up Woman," Roberta Flack's smash (produced by Joel Dorn) the Grammy award winning "Killing Me Softly," and Manu Dibango's "Soul Makossa." Rockers include The Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane," Derek & the Dominos' (typical) "Layla," Dr. John's "Right Place, Wrong Time," and the Stones' "Brown Sugar."
I'm getting weary by disc five (1974-1978) as disco makes its presence felt. I will spare you the details as the only roots music that captures my attention is provided by Zeppelin's "Kashmir," J. Geils' "Must of Got Lost," and Major Harris' "Love Won't Let Me Wait," though it was a hoot to hear the Brecker Brothers' magical horn charts on the Average White Band's "Pick Up the Pieces." What became apparent is how adeptly the Atlantic bosses adapted to the times and provided music fans what was popular at various times. Not an easy chore, and it shows how brilliant Ertegun & company were.
Disc six 1978-1983 is slim pickings as the Stones cleverly disco'd out on "Miss You," and the likes of Chic, Sister Sledge, Laura Branigan, and others had my fingers swiftly pushing the next track button on the remote. Though it was nice to hear Peter Tosh get down with "(You Gotta To Walk) Don't Look Back,' as well as enjoying the Blues Brothers (what a band) tear it up with "Soul Man." Disc seven (1983-1990) was a time when I lost touch with popular music, so I have little to report here, as well as with disc eight (1990-2001,) and by disc nine (2001-2009) I barely knew any of the bands and/or artists.
Disc ten is the DVD, (a PBS Documentary "The House That Ahmet Built") and focuses more on Atlantic earlier years, where the likes of Solomon Burke, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Aretha, Jagger, Ben E. King, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Jerry Wexler, and Ahmet Ertegun all make appearances, comments, and perform- ah!
So I guess it's a generational thing, as the first four, five or perhaps six discs worked well for me, but I have to say that I'd wish the compilers would have drilled down a little deeper for some rarities, and/or some previously unreleased selections, live or in-studio. But all in all, this limited edition and numbered box set represents a somewhat fading breed for compilations, as we are not seeing as many of these box sets as we'd used to, and far less as beautiful as this Atlantic Time Capsule. Must be a generational thing too... In summary Atlantic Time Capsule is a must-have for serious collectors/musicologists, and a great place to start for those who do not have many of these tunes in their music libraries.
Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com