Holiday gift guide - Music

Power pop glory

The Move
The Move $28.98
Shazam $17.98
Salvo/Fly (UK import)

It'd be damn hard to overestimate the Move's far reach. Forget that it's the genesis of Electric Light Orchestra. Fuck that. There'd be no Cheap Trick (or even Britpop) without the Move — Shazam's brilliant "Hello Susie" set Trick's template. And where'd old Bowie be without having first heard the Roy Wood-penned "Curly" (much less the band's metal-foreshadowing cover of Mann & Weil's "Don't Make My Baby Blue," on which Move singer Carl Wayne shows his cock is bigger than any early hard rock shouter.)

Indeed, the band brims with frisson and authority, pure pop craft and gentle beauty. Moved by inner-band conflict and guitarist-songwriter Roy Wood's, um, eccentricities, its 1968 debut, The Move, was this unpredictable amalgamation of sub-three-minute mod-pop-psyche with winks to the Who and Beatles — and amped up by a handful of UK Top Ten singles. It's often orchestrated and borderline baroque, and spectacularly colored with Wood's gray-cloud humor ("The green and purple lights affect your sight/Your mother cannot comfort you tonight"). You can almost hear the quintet's battered 1966 Birmingham club shows, notorious for chick mayhem and TV sets busted on stage. This reissue boasts the first album in mono, plus a second disc (dubbed New Movements) of 16 unreleased stereo versions of Move songs, b-sides, and singles.

But it's the second album, 1970's Shazam, that's the group's centerpiece. The time-shifting power-pop powerhouse "Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited" — reworked here from the band's debut — could be, as one critic said, too powerful to fit on Sgt. Pepper. Even Tom Paxton's early '60s folk beauty "The Last Thing On My Mind" gets a lovely 12-string Byrdsian shine and "Beautiful Daughter" is a stunner stroked by Tony Visconti's string arrangement.

These two releases are sourced from the original analog master tapes, for the first time in any Move reissue configuration. And many bonus tracks are remixed from the original multi-track tapes. Sonically these trump previous editions, though bat-eared Move fans might nitpick the occasional (if unfortunate) use of noise reduction and compression in the mastering.

In all, these are great: Salvo went lengths. Each reissue comes housed in lovely digipaks, with colorful booklets crammed with rare pics, wonderful essays and band/song anecdotes. A swell gift for any budding pop or rock 'n' roll head unaware that in the UK pop pantheon (the band never did dick in the states), the Move stand alongside the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Small Faces and the Who. Look for more Move reissues early next year from Salvo/Fly. —Brian Smith


Rediscover a giant

Lee Hazlewood
The Very Special World of Lee Hazlewood, $17.98
Lee Hazlewoodism: Its Cause and Cure, $17.98
Something Special, $17.98

A kind of hedonism drifts just below the surface of Lee Hazlewood's songs — those things of tattered beauty, of witty singtalk melody, of a musical landscape often as open and melancholic as a Cormac McCarthy Texas sky at dusk. It's a subtle kind of country hedonism, littered with droll truths: "Mickey Mouse ain't no kid/Since he read the Wizard of Id ... If you're 20 then you're old/In our Time." And these reissues of Hazlewood's three solo records for MGM (1966-1968) showcase his most fruitful period.

Forget fake-fringed Paris hipsters and shut-in songwriting tourists who've gone to the Hazlewood altar on bended knee decades after the fact. That shit ruins it; they ruin it — it somehow condenses Hazlewood's whole deal to easy irony and misinterpretation. No, man. The one-time Arizona country radio DJ made godhead masterstrokes mixing country, pop, folk, creepy lounge, borderline novelty and rock 'n' roll — musical snapshots that could've only been created in specific moments in time. And the way in which these records were recorded captured moments too — a tambourine in its space is as powerful as an amped guitar; Hazlewood's scotch-aged baritone can unsettle wood floors; gentle piano tinkles and Billy Strange-arranged strings summon images of gents in messed-up suits and elegantly fallen women with smeared lipstick gently swaying hips together in some drunken bordertown barroom. There's power-pop country-folk in "I Move Around" and literate libido-tingling subtext in "The Girls in Paris," and geographical pain in "Fort Worth."

His work with Nancy Sinatra is well-documented, as is his work with Duane Eddy, and Dino, and so on. But remember: his solo music rose (and was overlooked) against a backdrop of powerful, culture-shifting pop music (Byrds, Doors, Beatles, etc.). But Hazlewood was hardly a pop-chart opportunist. Nah, he was an odd-duck libations enthusiast who did what he did, period; his material has its place among the era's giants.

1968's Something Special is the weakest here; it borders self-parody at times, as if his own shtick was wearing thin — a fall Harry Nilsson mastered nearly a decade later — but it's still a monster. Who else could write "Chivas and women killed a friend of mine (killed him dead)/But if I remember right/He took a long time dyin'"? As Thom Jurek wrote in one set of liner notes: Lee Hazlewood was post-modern before the term was coined.

Also noteworthy: Like many Water releases, the mastering is great; audiophile quality in that it retains the naturalness and dynamic range of the original recordings. Why fuck with perfection? —Brian Smith


Powerhouse indie

Vee-Jay: The Definitive Collection
Various Artists, Shout Factory

Known as the first American label to capitalize on the Beatles (releasing six of their first Top 40 hits stateside) as well as for being the largest black-owned record company of its time, the legacy of Vee-Jay Records — and the focus of this long-overdue boxed set — is that, of a powerhouse indie as crucial to the development of early rock 'n' roll as Chess, Sun and Atlantic.

Vee-Jay's first recording in 1953 was not only a hit, it introduced bluesman Jimmy Reed to the world. "High and Lonesome" was an irresistible mix of lazy vocals, behind-the-beat shuffle and simplistic harmonica that influenced not only the Rolling Stones but about every damn bar band on earth. That song fittingly kick-starts this four-disc, 87-track Vee-Jay tribute that, until now, has never been anthologized properly. Finally we get Chicago bluesmen Billy Boy Arnold and Eddie Taylor, Windy City soul kings Jerry Butler and Dee Clark and unforgettable vocal groups the Spaniels and El Doradoes alongside lesser known —but equally great — sides by Snooky Pryor, Pee Wee Crayton, Billy "The Kid" Emerson and the Five Royales. John Lee Hooker and Rosco Gordon are both here with their smash hits "Boom Boom' and "Just A Little Bit," as is Gene Chandler with "Duke of Earl." Then there's the gospel, beginning with the Staple Singers' otherworldy 1954 hit "Uncloudy Day" — Pops Staples' eerily tremoloed guitar coupled with the haunting lead vocal by 12-year-old Mavis seemed to forecast something, as "High And Lonesome" had a year earlier. Success followed for the Swan Silvertones, the Highway QC's, the Harmonizing Four and the Blind Boys of both Alabama and Mississippi, all well represented here. This box is an essential holiday gift; a true American treasure trove. —Michael Hurtt


Davis says ...

Miles Davis: The Complete On the Corner Sessions
Columbia Legacy, $139

The Miles Davis Reader: Interviews and Features from Downbeat Magazine
Edited and compiled by Frank AlkeyerHal Leonard, $24.95, 356 pp.

Miles Davis famously said that his need to change was like a curse, and by the early '70s, he was changing so quickly that he never connected with the larger audience that he might have had. He pioneered jazz-rock fusion with In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew, then blew through new possibilities in the next five years or so, leaving reels and reels for producer Teo Macero to splice into records that never came close to the impact of the twin breakthrough discs. Meanwhile, it was Miles' sidemen — Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and John McLaughlin, in particular — who reaped success by replacing the frenetic with things a little more formulaic.

The flip side of Davis' furious pace during those years is that we're still making sense of the music — and still hearing new booty dredged from the vaults of Columbia Records. In fact, the grand arc of Davis' recording career — which is apparent all the more these 16 years after his death — is that someone so intent on pleasing himself first has left something that ought to please just about everyone. The marketers have even spliced and diced up albums like Miles Plays for Lovers and Miles Plays Classic Ballads for people who want Miles without the turbulence. And there's Kind of Blue — the essential modern jazz disc that no home should be without. You can listen to Miles from his days under the wings of Charlie Parker and the first-wave boppers through cool and hard bop, through two classic acoustic quintets (featuring John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, respectively) and on into his first fusion era and then (after a six-year hiatus) his last electrified hurrah.

This year's entries into the Davis discography notably include a slight but tantalizing EP of hip-hop style remixes, Evolution of the Groove, and more significantly The Complete On the Corner Sessions, six CDs surveying the final studio sessions before the hiatus. The On the Corner sessions still come off as conflicted and confounding, especially the tracks that became the original album On the Corner; these are at once avant-gardish and (for Miles, at least) poppy, with skin-tight, hooky rhythms, electronic hand claps and what sound like funky sleigh bells; now, however, you can hear the unedited masters as well as the released version. But there's plenty, plenty more here, including a half hour each of the brooding slow-mo dirge "He Loved Him Madly" (an otherworldly tribute to Duke Ellington) and the menacingly funky "Calypso Frelimo" (an apparent reference to Mozambique's liberation front, and calypso, it ain't).

Meanwhile, Downbeat magazine has scoured its archives for all things Milesean to assemble short news items (his famous 1959 run-in with New York's finest, '60s retirement rumors, projects, health woes, marriages, extortion plot-shooting, car crash), features and interviews, a career-spanning compendium of reviews (as contradictory as Miles' work is varied), plus photos and covers featuring Miles. It's a scrapbook rather than a coherent picture of a man who resists easy summation in any format. —W. Kim Heron


King Rockers

Crash Of Thunder
Various artists, Vampisoul

In recent years, Spain's Vampisoul imprint has released tons of soulful sounds of all stripes and colors, zeroing in on musical landscapes as varied as the Peruvian underground, East Los Angeles and Spanish Harlem. They've anthologized Detroit's Dennis Coffey, Erma Franklin and Nathaniel Mayer, reissued rare LPs by country soul pioneer Johnny Adams and jazz lounge king Cal Tjadar and resurrected New York's Latin soul and boogaloo scenes with a vengeance, resulting in the resurrection of one of its key progenitors, Joe "Mr. New York" Bataan.

But lest we forget that soul music's finest format is the mighty 45, Crash Of Thunder is here to remind us. Like its predecessor, Action Speaks Louder Than Words, this weighty box set of ten 7" platters in thick, die-cut sleeves is a wonder to behold, as well as to blast from the nearest phonograph.

Its contents?

Some of the rarest (and finest) funk to ever come out of Cincinnati, Ohio's storied King/Federal/DeLuxe recording empire. King honcho Syd Nathan may have hated James Brown's "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" but that didn't stop him from releasing it. (His assessment of Brown's debut single, "Please, Please, Please"? "That's the worst piece of shit I've ever heard!") King had become ground zero for the funk revolution. Nathan even cut Wayne Cochran, whose peroxide pompadour and soulful scream were the white mirror image of the Godfather himself.

In assembling this set, New York City DJ (and Detroit native) Mister Fine Wine chose Cochran's horn-drenched "Chopper '70" to set the stage for mythical Kentucky and Indiana funk combos such as the Presidents and the Swinging Seven (as well as the fabulously monikered Lord Thunder). The set hits its money shot with Marie Queenie Lyons, who brims with the kind of sexuality that Bette Davis only dreamt about. Seamless. Michael Hurtt


Aural pleasure

Vibe Duo Nero Earbuds

The V-Moda Vibe Duo earbuds are the clear, or at least early, contender for the best iPhone-iPod earbud replacements on the market. While Apple has reinvented the way most listen to music, sound quality has plummeted. And, unfortunately, the masses refuse to sport the air-traffic controller look of the high-end cans and insist on Apple's more fashionable, near-inaudible earbuds (your playlist would sound crisper in the Detroit sewer system!). The Vibe Duo features metal-cased buds with three interchangeable silicon fittings to fit your ears — canalbuds really, as they penetrate the ear canal with surprising comfort. The buds are stylish with the black and silver finish you'd expect from a product crafted for Mr. Job's minimalist icon. Designed specifically for the iPhone, the Vibe Duo's complete with an inline microphone and one-touch answer system to seamlessly take calls before returning to your playlist (and the noise cancellation system works both ways, so don't fear, passers-by won't hear Soulja Boy pouring from your headphones). However, the Vibe Duo does not work with all music phones and Mp3 players due to the needed extra long plug designed specifically for the iPhone. And, at $99.99, the Vibe Duo ain't cheap, but neither was that iPhone. —Dustin Walsh

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