Tuesday 3 December 2013

Me, myself and my CDs (part3)

Welcome to the final part of our trilogy of posts celebrating the album hardcopy. 

'Home Grown: The Beginners Guide to Understanding The Roots, Volumes 1&2' by The Roots [Geffen, 2005]

In an effort to complete their contract under then-record-label-home, Geffen Records, The Roots agreed to release a dual album 'best of' containing an inspriring selection of, not only their hits but also fan favourites, remixes and exclusive live recordings of their songs as well.  It's very much an exemplary way of releasing a 'best of' - why provide fans with music they already have and throw a new price tag on it?!  Further to that, however, the reason this compilation has found a place within this series of articles is due to the exhaustive liner notes prepared by the band's leader and drummer, Ahmir 'Questlove' Thompson.  Always one for finding ways to connect with his audience - hence the very reason exists - it was the liner notes that made fans of The Roots salivate in anticipation of these releases.  Detailed stories are outlined for each of the songs on the tracklist, including the stories behind the shockingly long list of singers that were approached, and in many cases, actually recorded their parts, for 'Break You Off' (D'Angelo, Bilal, Erykah Badu, Gerald Levert, Claudette Ortiz, among others...).   Essential reading for Roots fans.

'One Nite Alone...Live!' by Prince & The New Power Generation [NPG Records, 2002]
A glorious 3-disc opus spanning recordings from Prince's tour in 2002 in support of 'The Rainbow Children' (2001), and the internet-only album release, 'One Nite Alone' in 2002.  Prince, live, is as good as it gets!  If there's any doubt about that fact then the brilliant funk of '1+1+1 is 3' to the intimate playfulness of 'Adore' will prove this is the release to convert you, and then there's the bonus of the aftershow performance as well, featuring guests, George Clinton and Musiq Soulchild.  Thinking about it, it's surprising that this is the only offical live release that there is to purchase (DVDs aside)(?). 
The CDs are presented amongst two jewel cases within a nicely-pacakaged box set.  The full-colour booklet acts like a scrapbook of the performance containing fan testimonials, media concert reviews, plus comments and input from the band (a dream team line-up including Maceo Parker, Greg Boyer, Candy Dulfer and Renato Neto) regarding their favourite moments from the US tour. 

'Lou Bond' by Lou Bond [Light in The Attic, 2010]
This masterpiece of soul music was originally recorded in 1974 and released on the Stax subsidiary label, We Produce, but after having fallen by the weyside back then, it's Light In The Attic reissue in 2010 reintroduced this gem to a whole new audience.
As much as quality music purchasers should be applauded, fans are doing themselves a disservice by not picking up a copy of the CD itself as the icing on the cake to this reissue (aside from the previously unreleased bonus track) is really the bonus booklet that comes along with it, which features an incredibly written feature and interview with Bond himself, along with contributions from artists he played with, members of Stax and friends from his childhood.  Reading about Bond's childhood amongst numerous foster homes, and his time living on the streets, makes songs like 'That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be' even that much more significant, and haunting in its own way, as the Carly Simon-penned song muses over marriage and family, and the expectations and disappointments they can bring:
You say we'll soar like two birds through the clouds
But soon you'll cage me on your shelf
I'll never learn to be just me first
By myself

'The Dreamer' by Jose James [Brownswood Recordings, 2008]
Any chance I can get to wave the flag for Jose James then I'm damn sure going to take it.  From his Brownswood Recordings debut in 2008, and what I believe to be his great offering to date, may I present to you, 'The Dreamer'.  This album is one of three that I've ever bought based on the album covers (along with Khari Cabral Simmons's 'Clementine Sun' and Shirley Brown's self-titled 'Shirley Brown'), and this has gone on to be something of a definable image for James.  Photographed by Lars Beaulieu, the image is the perfect invitation to the world you're about to delve in to - it's intimate, it's sincere, it's engaging and it sets the mood and tone perfectly for the gems littered throughout the album.

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