Sounds Like The 1970's
Bay Area Reporter
by Greg Shapiro
January 6, 2011
Arriving at the beginning of the decade, Miles Davis' 1970 masterwork Bitches Brew (Columbia/Legacy) was poised to make an impact, and it did. Studio wizardry aside, it's the musicianship of Davis and the assembled players including Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin and Jack DeJohnette that make this such a groundbreaking recording. The 40th anniversary deluxe Legacy edition consists of two CDs (the original double LP, plus bonus material) and a DVD containing a Nov. 1969 concert filmed in Copenhagen. Setting the standard as it did, and paving the way for jazz fusion, Bitches Brew is bitchin'.
David Bowie sings about "the return of the thin white duke" on the near-epic, funky, clickety-clackety, transporting title track to Station to Station (Capitol/EMI), newly reissued in an expanded (almost 35th anniversary) edition. The disco influence of the title cut is replayed in "Golden Years" as well as on the soulful "Stay," unofficially qualifying Bowie as the ultimate detached disco diva. But don't dismiss the drama, there's plenty to be found on "Word on a Wing," "Wild Is the Wind" and "TVC15." The reissue includes a double-disc concert set recorded at the Nassau Coliseum in March, 1976.
Looking back, there's probably nothing that could have predicted the arrival of Akron, Ohio's Devo in 1978. One of the first new wave bands on any shore, Devo were unlike anything we'd seen before (although Blondie and Talking Heads hinted at their possibility). The expanded reissue of Devo's debut album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (WB) arrived shortly before the reformed band released a disc of new material, played Lollapalooza and toured. Early Devo classics, including their insanely inspired revision of the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and originals such as "Uncontrollable Urge," "Mongoloid," "Jocko Homo" and "Gut Feeling/(Slap Your Mammy)," still sound inventive and distinctive. The 11 live bonus tracks were recorded in London in the Spring of 2009 at a special concert performance of the album.
The 1970s weren't especially kind to artists from earlier eras. Peggy Lee, however, did her part to keep as current as she possibly could. She even had a hit single in 1969 with the song "Is That All There Is?" Her 1974 Atlantic Records release Let's Love (reissued by Collectors' Choice Music) not only features the title track, written and produced by Paul McCartney, but also an early Melissa Manchester composition ("He Is the One") and songs by James Taylor ("Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight") and the Stylistics ("You Make Me Feel Brand New").
To commemorate what would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday in October 2010, his entire solo catalog has been reissued by Capitol in remastered and repackaged editions with expanded liner notes. Beginning with the musical catharsis of 1970's Plastic Ono Band ("Mother," "Love, God" and "Working Class Hero"), these recordings not only illustrate the differences between Lennon and his former bandmates, but also function as the ultimate declarations of independence. Each disc, including 1971's Imagine (the timeless title tune, "Jealous Guy," "Gimme Some Truth"), 1973's Mind Games and 1975's Walls and Bridges (with the Elton John collaboration "Whatever Gets You Through the Night"), serves as a reminder of Lennon's indisputable contributions, and the great loss we suffered.
White-bread pop star Donny Osmond's career has lasted more than 40 years. The single disc Definitive Collection (Polydor/Ume) touches on the various phases, beginning with "One Bad Apple" and "Sweet & Innocent," songs he recorded as part of the singing group The Osmonds with his older brothers. It wasn't long before Donny, like Michael Jackson, left his brothers behind for a solo career. Donny's solo hits, including "Go Away Little Girl," "Hey Girl," "Puppy Love," "Too Young" and "The Twelfth of Never," are all featured here. Still not through, Donny teamed up with sister Marie for a string of wholesome hits such as "I'm Leaving It All Up to You," "Morning Side of the Mountain" and the goofy "A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock & Roll" (yeah, right). Osmond had one last bit of solo chart success in the 1980s with "Soldier of Love," before embarking on the ultimate career revival as Joseph in Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, as heard in the song "Any Dream Will Do."
Judy Collins is approaching her 50th year as a recording artist. A pair of Collins' 1970s Elektra albums, Whales & Nightingales and True Stories and Other Dreams (both on Collectors' Choice Music), have been reissued on CD. Released in 1970 at the height of the Vietnam war, Whales begins on a political folk bent with Joan Baez's "Song for David," Jacques Brel's "Sons of" and Dominic Behan's "The Patriot Game." The Bob Dylan cover "Time Passes Slowly" is one of the least political songs on the disc, as is the Collins original "Nightingale I." 1973's True Stories opens with the sweet Valerie Carter number "Cook with Honey," and is followed by several of Collins' own compositions, including "Song for Martin." Her reading of Stephen Stills' "So Begins the Task" is also a pleasure.