Arriving in two distinctly different fan-friendly editions, "Backtracks" spans the length and breadth of AC/DC's career, bringing together rare songs, hard-to-find live performances and the long-awaited debut of "Family Jewels Disc 3", a DVD showcasing the group's music videos, live performances, and promotional clips from 1992-2009. (The original double-disc "Family Jewels" was named 2005's "DVD of the Year" by the U.K.'s Classic Rock magazine while the RIAA certified the collection 10x platinum for sales in excess of 1 million copies in the U.S. alone.)
A versatile pianist who has worked with singers, symphony orchestras, and jazz groups, David Budway, also has worked with drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts and Hubert Laws, in addition to recording several self-issued CDs prior to this Maxjazz release. With Watts and bassist Eric Revis as his rhythm section mates, Budway's session is filled with striking, thoughtful originals and well-conceived settings of familiar works. Marcus Strickland guests on soprano sax for his turbocharged "Japanese Brunch," which is marked by its tense post-bop rhythm and the leader's darting piano. Branford Marsalis is the soprano saxophonist for Budway's melancholy "Lonely Cane," a spacious ballad with an emotional impact.
The delicacy of many ECM recordings can be measured via degrees, but in the case of the music conceived by pianist Stefano Bollani, those increments of hushed tones are micro dynamic, rendered as quintessentially subdued. Within a typically formatted piano-bass-drums trio, Bollani alongside bassist Jesper Bodilsen and drummer Morten Lund can be described favorably as a cut below most groups of this type in terms of a sonic footprint. While Tord Gustavsen, Esbjorn Svensson, or Bobo Stenson may approach the similarly softer side of contemporary Continental jazz, Bollani has them covered in his utterly subtle approach, while still grasping an elusive, haunting quality to melody-making.
In 1998, it would have been a cheap joke to say that Mariah Carey had no other kind of hits than ballads, but in the ensuing decade she steadily remade herself into an R&B diva, obscuring if not quite erasing the well-mannered adult contemporary singer of the '90s. The 2009 compilation The Ballads – released just before Valentines Day 2009 – attempts to turn back the clock by focusing just on those AC tunes – 18 of them, in fact, including such mammoth hits as "Hero," "One Sweet Day," "Vision of Love," "I'll Be There," "I Still Believe," "Dreamlover," and "Always Be My Baby." Of course, this concentration on middle of the road ballads is a side effect of label affiliation: The Ballads is a product of Sony, who had Mariah during the '90s, before the club R&B overshadowed these office-friendly hits, so it's easier for them to cobble together a comp of Carey at her most sentimental. And that's what The Ballads is: nothing but big love songs sung in a big voice. For fans who have missed this side of Mariah in the 2000s, this is a welcome reminder of what they used to love.