The Dells were one of the few groups that rode the transition from doo wop to smooth soul without missing a beat and without falling off the charts. Just as remarkably, the group did so without declining much in quality, as Hip-O's definitive double-disc Anthology proves. Throughout these 36 tracks, the music changes, from street-corner R&B to string-drenched disco-soul, but in all their incarnations, The Dells always sound wonderful. There are a handful of minor hits missing, but all the big singles – including both the Vee-Jay and Cadet versions of "Oh, What a Nite" and "Stay in My Corner" – are here, assembled chronologically.
Basically, what you see is what you get: all of the recordings Stan Getz did for the Norgran and Clef between December of 1952 and January of 1955. Most of this material has been issued several times – at least – by numerous labels legally and illegally. What makes the Hip-O Select set the definitive issue is, besides proper licensing, that all of these cuts, the 10" albums – Stan Getz Plays, The Artistry of Stan Getz, all three Interpretations volumes, and Stan Getz & the Cool Sounds – along with all the single and EP releases for a total of 45 sides – three of them previously unreleased – and a pair of studio cuts that appeared on the otherwise live Stan Getz at the Shrine appear in chronological order.
Following an unsatisfying three-year stint at Mercury Records, Chuck Berry returned home to Chess in 1969, just like Phil Chess predicted. Heading home didn’t necessarily mean retreating, as the four-disc Have Mercy: His Complete Chess Recordings 1969-1974 illustrates. During his time at Mercury, Chuck followed the kids wherever they went, aligning himself with the psychedelic ‘60s in a way none of his peers did. This shift is immediately apparent on “Tulane,” the very first song he cut upon his return to Chess. An ode to a couple of kids who dealt dope underneath the counter of a novelty shop, “Tulane” puts Chuck on the side of the counterculture, and over the next five years, he never strayed back to the other side of the fence, often singing about getting stoned, dabbling with a wah-wah pedal, rhapsodizing about rock festivals, cheerfully telling smutty jokes.
Respect/Livin’ It Up, a two-on-one release from Verve Select, brings together two classic albums from Jimmy Smith, the world’s premier jazz-soul organist. Smith became a star with Verve Records in the mid-1960s. He leaned on superb big band arrangements by Oliver Nelson, a change from his earlier, small-group recordings on Blue Note. With Respect in 1967, Smith did something that thrilled his fans: he returned to a small group setting in Rudy Van Gelder’s now-legendary studio with his old Blue Note guitarist Thornel Schwartz, as well as Eric Gale, bassists Ron Carter and Bob Bushnell, and drummers Grady Tate and Bernard Purdie.
An appearance in Hollywood for a first-rate jazz vocalist was not necessarily an opportunity to broadcast your visage and pander to everyone from Tacoma to Tallahassee. It could also include a date at the Crescendo, the Sunset Strip's best chance to find premier jazz. Gene Norman's nightclub hosted dozens of jazz legends (and a comic or two), and produced more than its share of excellent LPs recorded on location. Better even than Mel Tormé's 1954 classic, the Ella Fitzgerald LP that resulted from her May 1961 appearances generated one of the best (and certainly most underrated) live records in her discography – and almost 50 years later, it became a four-CD set compiling ten days' worth of performances.
At four discs and 55 tracks, Hip-O's Funk Box seems to want to be the last word on funk, and while it's a pretty good set, it ends up more representative than definitive of its chosen genre. Virtually all of funk's most important artists are featured, but not always by their most significant singles – sometimes the collection gets it right…