Musoscribe’s Best of 2010: Compilations

Some amazing compilations albums came out in 2010. From my standpoint, five of these are especially noteworthy.

A highly-regarded DJ and champion of the Northern Soul movement, Scottish-born Keb Darge has curated a long line of compilations. These collections balance the cratedigger/archivist aesthetic with the goal of providing just plain great music. One of Darge’s 2010 comps was titled Legendary Rockin’ R&B, and that pretty much says it all.

Renowned guitarist Phil Manzanera has created a wide-ranging and impressive body of work with collaborators and groups (Eno, Roxy Music, Quiet Sun, 801, David Gilmour, Split Enz) and on his own. The package The Music – 1972-2008 is a worthy survey of his career to date, and it includes a DVD stuffed with fascinating goodies as well.

UK independent label Ember managed to release some great music in the 60s and early 70s, but few people heard it then. Fantastic Voyage has secured the rights to the Ember catalog, and is issuing all sorts of compilations, nearly all of which are highly recommended. For me, Looking Towards the Sky is hands-down the best, with its focus on psych, prog and folk-rock.

Concord has established itself as sort of an Elektra for the 21st century: the label takes a non-exploitive, artist-centered approach to its catalog and releases, and this is especially true with regard to back-catalog compilations. Its Definitive series surveys the work of jazz artists who recorded for Riverside, Prestige, Concord Jazz and other labels. All are worthwhile, but the Coltrane 2CD set is the best (albeit by a small margin) so far.

Otis Redding’s career was cut down in its prime by that tragic plane accident. But we have the music. And now we have even more than before. Live on the Sunset Strip brings together all extant tapes from the vocalist’s bravura residency at that Los Angeles hot spot. Large chunks of this material have been available before, but this collection brings it all together, Talk about definitive! It’s the best compilation release of 2010.

Next we’ll survey album reissues from 2010: some biggies, and some ultra-obscurities.