Lots of “best of” collections and box sets are hitting the shelves this month in preparation for the holiday splurge season. Rhino Records seems to be trying to corner the market on these, so here are a few recent additions to your local record store’s stock from the re-release label that you might want to note: Rhino has gone nuts on box sets over the past couple weeks, offering sets from Gang of Four, Burt Bacharach, Randy Newman and Ray Charles:
Charles had a phenomenal run of hits that started in the late ‘50s and ran throughout the ‘60s. While he’s mainly though of as an R&B and soul legend, a lot of his output qualified as country. Hence, the Rhino release of Charles’ The Complete Country & Western Recordings 1959-1986. A four-CD box, it offers 92 tracks, ranging from Charles’ recordings of “Bye Bye, Love,” and “You Are My Sunshine” to his big hits “I’m Movin’ On,” “Your Cheating Heart” and “I’ll Never Stand In Your Way.” There are duets with Hank Williams, Jr., The Oak Ridge Boys, Chet Atkens, Ricky Skaggs, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson and a 56-page booklet giving a thumbnail history of Charles’ recordings.
Bacharach has had an amazingly long run of writing adult contemporary hits for other artists, and occasionally, for himself as well. The Look of Love: The Burt Bacharach Collection features an impressive 75 songs by a variety of artists who have recorded Bacharach’s flowery, well-produced pop over the years. Included are Gene Pitney’s “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance,” Dionne Warwick’s “Walk on By” and “Promises Promises,” Lou Johnson’s “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me,” Tom Jones’ “What’s New Pussycat,” Cilla Black’s “Alfie,” Dusty Springfield’s “The Look of Love,” The Carpenters’ “(They Long To Be) Close To You,” The Fifth Dimension’s “One Less Bell To Answer,” B.J. Thomas’ “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head,” Christopher Cross’ “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” and Dionne & Friends’ “That’s What Friends Are For.” There are also a handful of songs recorded by the songwriter himself, including “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” and “Pacific Coast Highway.”
Newman has been a critically appreciated songwriter for three decades, though his list of actual pop hits remains countable on one hand. He broke through to the public eye with his biggest hit, the tongue-in-cheek “Short People” in the ‘70s, and followed that up with the radio-favorite over-the-top happy “I Love L.A.” in the ‘80s. Then came “My Life is Good,” and “It’s Money that Matters,” the latter driven by the unmistakable crunch guitar riffing of Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler. Rhino’s four-CD Guilty: 30 Years of Randy Newman includes all those songs, as well as more than 100 others. Newman’s songs are never simple pop tracks, even if the orchestration is only piano and voice — each is a quirky story that often bleeds social commentary with a wry grin. Over the past decade Newman has moved increasingly into film work, and there’s a whole disc here attributed to this, covering his music from Ragtime, Cold Turkey, Parenthood, Awakenings, The Paper, Maverick, James and The Giant Peach, Michael and Toy Story (which spawned the included hit “You’ve Got A Friend in Me”). There’s also a disc of odds and ends which is heavy on demo tracks that fans will love.
Gang of Four
Rhino’s Gang of Four box only features two CDs of the late ‘70s, early ‘80s funk metal outfit. The set, titled Gang of Four: A Hundred Flowers Bloom, includes not 100, but 40 tracks from the band that inspired the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against The Machine and others. Included are “I Love A Man In A Uniform,” “Paralysed,” “At Home He’s A Tourist” and “Anthrax,” among other fan favorites.
More Chicken Soup for the CD:
Four new Chicken Soup for the Soul song collections have come out from Rhino this month — Love and Inspiration, Triumph of the Spirit, and two discs for kids — What a Wonderful World and You’re A Special Person. The Triumph of the Spirit disc includes “songs of encouragement, motivation and overcoming adversity” by Elton John, Queen, Wilson Phillips and more. Included are “I’m Still Standing” by Elton, “We Are The Champions” by Queen, Pat Benatar’s “Invinicible,” Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman,” Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On,” Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” and Paul Anka’s version of “My Way.” Included on Love and Inspiration “Songs of Romance to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit” are Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful," Olivia Newton-John’s “I Honestly Love You” Bread’s “Everything I Own,” Nilsson’s “Without You,” Styx’s “Babe” and Engelbert Humperdinck’s “After The Lovin’.” The two kids’ discs include songs like Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy, Mahalia Jackson’s “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands,” The Rembrandts’ “Everyday People,” Dion and the Belmonts’ “When You Wish Upon A Star” as well as songs from The Broadway Kids, Raffi, Joanie Bartels, Animaniacs and more. Each disc closes with Soup book series authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen’s thoughts on the album topic.
For the kid in everyone:
A few weeks ago Rhino released an album of pop artists covering songs from the old popular “Schoolhouse Rocks” series of TV teaching spots. You know the ones — “Conjunction Junction,” “Interjections!” “I’m Just A Bill.” They played all the time in the ‘70s and ‘80s in between Saturday morning cartoons and taught a generation of kids to memorize the preamble of the Constitution with a catchy song and how to do proper grammar. Well, now Rhino has packaged those original songs on The Best of Schoolhouse Rock. The new CD includes 17 songs, including all those mentioned above.