RARE TRAX is a continued series of promotional samplers given away with the german edition of Rolling Stone magazine since the 1990's and has reached volume 80 already. Each version covers a special topic and presents lesser known songs and/or artists.
The always eclectic Maria Muldaur, whose previous albums have paid tribute to Shirley Temple and blues women of the '20s, takes another musical detour in this collection of songs associated with Peggy Lee. In addition to her cool, sexy, relaxed voice, Lee was arguably more talented than other vocalists from her era. As a songwriter she co-penned some of her own material, including the swinging "I'm Gonna Go Fishin'" with Duke Ellington, which features the witty double entendres that spice several other songs. Muldaur possesses a similar ability to purr ("Some Cats Know") or sizzle (an opening tour de force of "Fever" and "Black Coffee") without breaking a sweat. So this collection of 12 tracks, backed by a talented yet restrained eight-piece band, is a natural extension of her vocal strengths. The stylish, retro arrangements include vibes and big-band-styled horn charts that sound as authentic as if they were recorded in the '30s. Even though there are some finger-popping swing numbers (a zippy duet with Dan Hicks on Ted Shapiro's "Winter Weather" is especially peppy), a late-night, languid blues-jazz vibe dominates.
Ray Bryant's first solo piano album is rightfully considered a classic. Bryant, at the time thought of as a young modern traditionalist, has always felt perfectly at home playing the blues. He performs five original and diverse blues on this set along with "Lover Man" and "Rockin' Chair," showing that he really never needed a bassist or a drummer to sound like a complete band. This Prestige album was reissued in the Original Jazz Classics but thus far only as an LP; highly recommended in any case.
In the excavation of Pompeii, a stone-encrusted body is found with a bronze medallion bearing a strange Etruscan inscription. Carlo Fiorillo, Italian archaeologist, speculates the robust body may hold some life; medical researcher Paul Mallon scoffs at the idea. But people left alone with the seemingly petrified "faceless man" keep dying of crushed skulls; and Paul's artist fiancée Tina starts having strange visions…