Reissue CDs Weekly: Bill Withers, Massive Attack, Django Reinhardt, Diablos Del Ritmo | New music reviews, news & interviews
Reissue CDs Weekly: Bill Withers, Massive Attack, Django Reinhardt, Diablos Del Ritmo
Well-packaged soulfulness, an all-time great bedroom album, gypsy-jazz vitality and an immersive journey to Colombia
This box set is several cuts above the usual major-label, no-frills cheapo collection gathering together a selection of an artist’s albums. Produced with evident care, it’s a superb tribute to a distinctive soul great. The clam-shell box contains Withers’ nine albums, originally issued between 1971 and 1985. Each disc comes in a card reproduction of the original album sleeve, even including a facsimile of the fold-out triptych cover to 1972’s Still Bill. Liner notes, annotation and a brief, newly written introduction from Withers come in a separate booklet.
The aesthetic niceties are overshadowed by the music. The hits "Ain't No Sunshine", "Lean on Me" and “Lovely Day" will always define Withers, but – as these fine albums amply demonstrate - there was a lot more to him. His first album, issued on the Sussex label (who also had the equally genre-busting Rodriguez on their books), included versions of The Beatles’ “Let it Be” and Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’”, and also featured the playing of Stephen Stills. All the subsequent albums (with one exception – the Clifford Coulter-composed “Wintertime” from 1977’s Menagerie) solely featured material written by Withers. But those early cover versions were signposts that his intimate, confessional yet immediate brand of soul potentially possessed widespread appeal. And appeal it did. His organic music was seductive. Never more so than with 1976's Naked and Warm.
+’Justments, from 1974, is probably the highlight. As much of a landmark album as Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’ On, it literately tackles Withers’s navigation of the balances which have to be struck in day-to-day life. Looking for a gift for the Michael Kiwanuka fan in your life? Buy them this for Christmas.
Massive Attack: Blue Lines
Thomas H Green
It’s generally acknowledged – and I can only doff my cap in awe and concur - that the 1991 album Blue Lines is a stone-cold classic, laying the template for a new British soul deeply infused with dub, hip hop and electronica. What’s less well remembered is that it would never have come into being without Neneh Cherry, a major pop star then, and her long term production team of Cameron McVey and the late Jonny Dollar, who co-produced with the band. Cherry - who also sings on “Hymn of the Big Wheel” - was the key to Massive Attack blooming from Bristol spliffhead DJs into one of the most influential groups of the Nineties. The songs still sound amazing on this new remastered edition and for audiophiles there’s also a DVD containing 96K/24 audio versions. Boasting Shara Nelson’s exemplary heartfelt vocals on deathless classics such as “Safe From Harm” and “Unfinished Sympathy”, Blue Lines has gone from being the given soundtrack to smoky post-rave living rooms at dawn to an album that, like Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin' On, is an essential for any household that enjoys popular music which is both emotionally raw and sonically sophisticated. Also, of course, for lovers everywhere it remains one of the all-time great bedroom albums.
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