Despite its age, this collection remains the best introduction to the wonderfully bizarre sounds of Jethro Tull – a unique combination of folk music, progressive rock, heavy metal, and of course, Ian Anderson's ubiquitous flute. Drawing exclusively from the band's '70s heyday, opener "Living in the Past" sets the retrospective tone, leading the way into the signature guitar riff of "Aqualung," the band's multifaceted pièce de résistance. Though lyrically indecipherable, "Locomotive Breath" is equally timeless, and the moment when John Evan's fanciful piano intro gives way to Martin Barre's guitar feedback remains thrilling. With his acoustic guitar in hand, Ian Anderson becomes a medieval bard, drawing the listener into worlds of legend both threatening ("Sweet Dream," "Witches Promise") and joyously carefree ("Thick as a Brick," "Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day"). The unbelievable kaleidoscope of sound which makes up "Songs from the Wood" is simply too original and intricate for words to describe.
This fabulous five disc set is replete with some of those old Stokowski warhorses all recorded in absolutely mind boggling Phase 4 sound, overblown perhaps but astounding for its time. Decca's remastering is absolutely magnificent and the discs are jam packed with almost six hours of music. This is another fine memorial to a great conductor who remained astonishingly vital until the very end of his life.
Ernest Ansermet enthusiasts will be thrilled by the items chosen for inclusion in this six-disc set dedicated to the Swiss conductor with L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the orchestra he founded and led. Many of them are first international CD releases – Haydn's Symphony No. 22, Beethoven's Symphony No. 4, and Sibelius' Symphony No. 4, along with nine others – while some of them are well-known and well-loved recordings from the conductor's huge catalog – Stravinsky's Pulcinella Suite, Ravel's Le tombeau de Couperin, and Honegger's Le roi David, along with 14 others.
The Kansas City swing blues of the Sweet Baby Blues Band is very difficult not to enjoy. Jeannie Cheatham's exuberant vocals (propelled by her forcefully swinging piano) inspire the many soloists on the blues-oriented material, and there is plenty of variety in tempo and feeling to keep this set continually interesting. Among the main soloists are ageless trumpeter Snooky Young, tenorman Rickey Woodard (making his debut on clarinet on two cuts), and guest altoist Hank Crawford, who sits in on four songs.