One of country music s most eclectic heroes, Marty Robbins celebrated an extraordinary career as one of the genre s leading crossover artists. Spending more than 30 years in the music business, Robbins routinely refused to conform to contemporary trends, branching out into pop, rockabilly, Hawaiian, calypso and gospel music, all underlined by his trademark Southern twang. In addition to being a skilled player and performer, Robbins was also a magnificent songwriter, penning many of his best-known hits. He also undertook numerous ventures outside of music during his lifetime, appearing in films and even occasionally participating in NASCAR races. However, it is his music for which he is most fondly remembered, and Robbins retains his reputation as one of the finest ever country musicians and performers. This collection, presented across four discs and running in excess of five hours, collates the entirety of Marty Robbins output between 1952 and 1960, and in so doing, provides not only the perfect introduction to this country giant, but acts too as a welcome reminder for those already well-versed in Marty Robbins incredible work.
Bessie Smith, even on the evidence of her earliest recordings, well deserved the title "Empress of the Blues" for in the 1920s there was no one in her league for emotional intensity, honest blues feeling, and power. The second of five volumes (the first four are two-CD sets) finds her accompaniment improving rapidly with such sympathetic sidemen as trombonist Charlie Green, cornetist Joe Smith, and clarinetist Buster Bailey often helping her out. However, they are overshadowed by Louis Armstrong, whose two sessions with Smith (nine songs in all) fall into the time period of this second set; particularly classic are their versions of "St. Louis Blues," "Careless Love Blues," and "I Ain't Goin' to Play Second Fiddle." Other gems on this essential set include "Cake Walkin' Babies From Home," "The Yellow Dog Blues," and "At the Christmas Ball."
A pianist whose work transcended time, Lili Kraus was a Hungarian musician with a love for Viennese classics. Kraus made a career from an early age, performing internationally from the age of 18 and becoming a professor at age 20. She was not only a great solo artist, but was a renowned collaborator.
Among the dozens of sessions Django Reinhardt cut with various groups from 1934 to 1953, he would only rarely make trio recordings. This set compiles all of this existing instrumental trios, including a variety of different formations. As a bonus, a rare session by singer Nitta Rette backed by a trio of Django, Stéphane Grappelli and pianist Emil Stern (with plenty of solos by the three instrumentalists), as well as a series of quartet sides which feature Django as a prominent soloist.
In the 1970s, Bessie Smith's recordings were reissued on five double LPs. Her CD reissue series also has five volumes (the first four are double-CD sets) with the main difference being that the final volume includes all of her rare alternate takes (which were bypassed on LP). The first set (which, as with all of the CD volumes, is housed in an oversize box that includes an informative booklet) contains her first 38 recordings. During this early era, Bessie Smith had no competitors on record and she was one of the few vocalists who could overcome the primitive recording techniques; her power really comes through.
Hip-O's Ultimate Collection: The Complete Hits will likely be too much music for most audiences, simply because most listeners don't remember much more than "Love Will Keep Us Together," "Muskrat Love," and "Do That to Me One More Time" from Captain & Tennille. They actually had many more hits than that – 11 more, four of which hit the Top Ten, actually (for the record, they are "The Way I Want to Touch You," "Lonely Night (Angel Face)," "Shop Around," and "You Never Done It Like That"). All of them are here, along with several other singles and album tracks on this generous 22-track collection. To be frank, Captain & Tennille weren't quite varied or deep enough to make this collection not lose steam toward the middle, but the highlights – the three Neil Sedaka-penned tunes ("Love Will Keep Us Together," "Lonely Night (Angel Face)," "You Never Done It Like That,") plus "Do That to Me One More Time" – are all very good, standing proudly amongst soft rock hits of the time.