Hundred-word Reviews for Nov./Dec. 2016, Part 1 of 10

Time to clear out the backlog before the year’s end. Here’s the first installment; lots of great titles here. Consider doing your holiday shopping, and note that I’ve provided purchasing links (when available) to Amazon. As it happens, these five are all from Real Gone Music, one of my favorite reissue/archival labels.


Fanny – Mother’s Pride (Expanded Edition)
Before there was the Bangles, there was Fanny. Perhaps not the first all-female rock band (Suzi Quatro‘s Pleasure Seekers predate them, I believe), Fanny was one of the best. In fact it’s a disservice to think of them as a female band; I mean, who describes the Beatles as a male band? Anyway, Mother’s Pride – the band’s fourth album – is quite good. It’s also one of Todd Rundgren‘s best production efforts. Mother’s Pride rocks hard in that oh-so-1973 way, but the gentle moments (“Long Road Home”) are superb, too. Real Gone Music’s expanded edition improves upon the original.


The Isley Brothers – Groove With You … Live!
Please, let’s set aside matters of authenticity, shall we? Because doing otherwise prevents us from considering just how good this album really is. The Isley Brothers were always a force to be reckoned with, and their approach combined the very best of close-harmony vocal ensembles and hot-shit instrumental prowess. “That Lady” is one of the best soul tracks of the ’70s (or any other decade), and it’s here alongside many other great tracks. But the “fake-live” bit does require a certain suspension of belief. An earlier reissue stripped away the audience overdubs; this one “restores” that. Your mileage may vary.


The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – Got a Mind to Give Up Living: Live 1966
One of the most important yet underrated outfits of the 1960s, the PBBB were awesome both in the studio and live. They never released a live album during their time together (East-West Live didn’t come out until the 1990s). This set captures them at – or perhaps just prior to – their pinnacle. The group fused blues, rock and soul like few others (their reading of Nat Adderley‘s “Work Song” is a revelation). Still, there’s no avoiding the fact that this is basically an authorized bootleg. If – only if – you can get past the low fidelity, it’s great.


Wilson Pickett – Land of 1000 Dances: The Complete Atlantic Singles Vol. 1
There’s a reason they called him “wicked” Pickett. The soul singer had a voice that burned; seething with passion and energy, Pickett also had the good fortune to be on a label that understood him. And he was helped by the best studio cats around, including Steve Cropper. This collection – all in glorious back-to-mono – brings together 22 singles (a-sides and little-heard b-sides) from 1964 to 1967. Lots of gems here. It’s essential for fans of soul and/or r&b. And while I don’t know when Vol. 2 will be out, I know that it, too will be required listening.


The Meters – A Message from the Meters
The Meters all but defined a genre: New Orleans funk/soul. Think of them as a kind of N’awlins answer to Booker T & the MG’s. This 2CD collection is nearly divided into two eras: the first disc (in mono) collects the group’s singles for the Josie label, and it’s where you’ll find the immortal “Cissy Strut.” The second disc is in stereo, and documents the group’s singles (1972 to 1977) for Reprise and Warner Brothers. This stuff is all tastefully played and arranged; sometimes the tunes are so subtle that you might miss out on just how well-put-together they are.

So-so-so much more to come.