Tempting as it may be, it's not quite accurate to call Jeff Lynne the rock & roll George Lucas, a technophile who can't resist tweaking his famous older work to bring it up to modern standards. Unlike Lucas, Lynne doesn't paint over his original work, turning it into something vaguely reminiscent of the past: with Mr. Blue Sky: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra, he simply re-creates his old arrangements with new technology…
Louis Armstrong was the first important soloist to emerge in jazz, and he became the most influential musician in the music's history. As a trumpet virtuoso, his playing, beginning with the 1920s studio recordings made with his Hot Five and Hot Seven ensembles, charted a future for jazz in highly imaginative, emotionally charged improvisation. For this, he is revered by jazz fans. But Armstrong also became an enduring figure in popular music, due to his distinctively phrased bass singing and engaging personality, which were on display in a series of vocal recordings and film roles. Armstrong had a difficult childhood. William Armstrong, his father, was a factory worker who abandoned the family soon after the boy's birth…
Originally a two-LP set, The Very Best of Poco was a decent compilation in its time, assembling the group’s best-known songs from singles and album cuts in a straightforward order with no particular surprises.
Ray Charles was the musician most responsible for developing soul music. Singers like Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson also did a great deal to pioneer the form, but Charles did even more to devise a new form of black pop by merging '50s R&B with gospel-powered vocals, adding plenty of flavor from contemporary jazz, blues, and (in the '60s) country. Then there was his singing; his style was among the most emotional and easily identifiable of any 20th century performer, up there with the likes of Elvis and Billie Holiday. He was also a superb keyboard player, arranger, and bandleader. The brilliance of his 1950s and '60s work, however, can't obscure the fact that he made few classic tracks after the mid-'60s, though he recorded often and performed until the year before his death.
The material here was recorded for the Verve and MPS labels, and this two-disc, import retrospective of the work of legendary pianist Oscar Peterson is not only representative, but solid from top to bottom, showcasing many of his finest moments on wax in both live and studio recordings with his great trio of Herb Ellis and Ray Brown as well as in other settings. This is as fine an introduction as there is and, for the money, simply cannot be beaten.
Midge Ure's career, as fans well know, did not begin or end with Ultravox, and so If I Was: The Very Best of Midge Ure & Ultravox attempts to give an overview of one of '80s' Britain's most popular singers. As a career retrospective goes, however, it's pretty spotty. The Scottish vocalist first found fame with the pop band Slik, who scored a chart topper with "Forever and Ever" in 1976. Unfortunately, you won't find that here, nor its hit follow-up, scored just as a car accident took the band out of the charts. Once recovered, Ure moved on. His first port of call, in 1978, was ex-Pistol Glen Matlock's punk/post-punk supergroup the Rich Kids, who released a single and album, although this compilation draws nothing from this period, either. The following year, with the Kids in disarray, Ure helped form the even more illustrious Visage. Joining him there was Ultravox's Billy Currie and, before the year was out, Ure was fronting two hit-bound bands. Visage gets short shrift here, with Ultravox invariably, if unfairly, better represented. But even this wasn't enough to keep the singer busy. In 1981, as both bands' albums and singles swept up the charts, Ure linked up with Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott for yet another hit, "Yellow Pearl".
Playlist: The Very Best of Quiet Riot features 15 tracks defined on the back jacket as "the life-changing songs, the out-of-print tracks, the hits, the fan favorites everyone loves, and the songs that make the artists who they are." While it may boast little in the way of rare, live, unreleased, or "out-of-print" material, it certainly eclipses 1996's Greatest Hits collection as the most listenable Quiet Riot overview on the market. All 14 tracks (15 is a CD-ROM cut) are culled from the group's three biggest albums – Metal Health (1983), Condition Critical (1984), and QR III (1986) – and while many listeners may only know the group's breakout hit, a cover of Slade's "Cum on Feel the Noize," the band consistently turned out its own quality pop-metal during its mid-'80s heydays.