Viewing: curation - View all posts

Another Imaginary Box Set 

This time we set our sights on the quiet Beatle, George Harrison, an artist who's for the most part been ill-served by compilations. Isn't it a pity, too, as of the Fab Four, George's solo career is arguably the most consistent.

Of those compilations, the first, The Best of George Harrison (1976), was assembled by former label Capitol without his approval. The song selection, as far as it goes, is excellent; but only half the record (roughly 24 minutes' worth) covers George's solo career to that point. The entire first side consists of Harrison-penned Beatles material. Great stuff, of course, but misplaced on what is nominally a solo artist's greatest hits album.

We'd have to wait until 1989 for the second collection, Best of Dark Horse 1976–1989. As the title suggests, this isn't a comprehensive career overview; it covers only George's work on his Dark Horse label. George was involved in this one, and it shows: in the quality of material chosen, the fact that all period albums are represented, and the two new songs specifically recorded for this project. That said, I'd quibble with a few of his choices, and have duly replaced the questionable songs with better ones on my homemade compilation.

Which brings us to Let It Roll (2009), touted as George's first true career-spanning compilation. According to the album's Wikipedia entry, "the track list was selected by George's widow Olivia with some assistance from close friends and family." Finally, the man has been given his proper due, right? Wrong. Sure, Let It Roll spans Harrison's entire career, but with gaping holes—three consecutive mid-'70s releases (Dark Horse, Extra Texture and Thirty Three & 1/3) aren't represented at all. Neither is 1982's Gone Troppo or the 1992 Live in Japan album. As a result, key singles are missing, like "Bangla Desh," "Dark Horse," "You" and "Crackerbox Palace." Worse, the compilers have managed to sneak The Beatles in again, through the back door this time (the three tracks from The Concert for Bangladesh are all Beatles songs).

So, this brings us to the compilation-that-should-be, namely mine. (I'm telling you, some record label really ought to hire me.) It's not that hard. Take all the artist's albums, cherry-pick the best three songs from each, add the odd soundtrack contribution and non-album single and put it all in chronological order. Oh, and toss in a couple of Beatles numbers when you have no other choice (Live in Japan). And here you have it: a truly representative, career-spanning compilation that easily fits on three CDs.

Disc 1 (69:44): Apple Years—1970-1975

  1. My Sweet Lord
  2. Isn't It a Pity
  3. What Is Life
  4. Bangla Desh
  5. Wah-Wah (live)
  6. Awaiting on You All (live)
  7. Beware of Darkness (live)
  8. Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)
  9. Don't Let Me Wait Too Long
  10. Living in the Material World
  11. Dark Horse
  12. So Sad
  13. Far East Man
  14. You
  15. This Guitar (Can't Keep from Crying)
  16. Tired of Midnight Blue

Disc 2 (61:35): Middle Years—1976-1987

  1. This Song
  2. Crackerbox Palace
  3. Beautiful Girl
  4. Blow Away
  5. Love Comes to Everyone
  6. Here Comes the Moon
  7. All Those Years Ago
  8. Writing's on the Wall
  9. Life Itself
  10. That's the Way It Goes
  11. Mystical One
  12. Circles
  13. I Don't Want to Do It
  14. Got My Mind Set on You
  15. This Is Love
  16. When We Was Fab

Disc 3 (43:20): Final Years—1988-2002

  1. Heading for the Light
  2. Cheer Down
  3. Poor Little Girl
  4. Cockamamie Business
  5. I Want to Tell You (live)
  6. Here Comes the Sun (live)
  7. Devil's Radio (live)
  8. Any Road
  9. Rising Sun
  10. Stuck Inside a Cloud

If you'd like to try on this box set ("playlist," as the kids would say) for yourselves, all the material is available on YouTube and probably various streaming services, too. Enjoy the soulful, melodic sounds of George Harrison.
 

Miles of Miles 

Before I start: thanks to those of you asking about Muswell. He's doing quite well! I'm still having to give him various pills, powders and potions, but they're working.

Several years ago now, a friend of mine initiated me into jazz via the iconic, visionary trumpeter Miles Davis. And though I can't say I'm a jazz buff yet, I really dig Miles a lot, if I may use some dated hipster lingo.

As a pop-rock person, my entrée into the world of Miles was his fusion period. When I first heard In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew, the language spoken there was roughly akin to some of the music I grew up with. What he's most celebrated for—and my friend's preferred iteration of Davis—is his 1950s work, culminating in the legendary Kind of Blue. For me this material has been a challenge to appreciate, and I'm still trying. In fact, the first time I heard Kind of Blue, which is universally acclaimed as the greatest jazz album of all time, I cheekily renamed it Kind of Boring. It's still not my favourite Miles album, but I'm slowly coming around.

Anyway, it's not just the longevity of Miles Davis' career that astounds but its dizzying breadth. From a Rolling Stone article: "Miles was once seated next to a senator's wife at a felicitation of various artists at the White House. The lady, obviously not familiar with jazz, asked Miles what he had done. 'I changed music six times, ma'am,' was the quick response."

Wanting to broaden my horizons, I went shopping for a career-spanning box set. Surely an artist of Miles' stature, active for 45 years, has been given the comprehensive overview treatment, right? Nope. Not unless you count the 70-CD Complete Columbia Album Collection. Comprehensive, yes; overview, no. So, I decided to make my own.

I took as my starting point The Essential Miles Davis, a double-CD collection that barely skims the surface and, in my opinion, glosses over some major works entirely. After a lot of research and digging through YouTube, I arrived at my version, which I'm calling ...

 

 
Even though mine is strictly an mp3 playlist, I curated it as if Columbia had hired me to create that career-spanning box. I've divided his work into six CDs, each representing one of the "six times" alluded to by the man himself.

A few ground rules I used:

  • The material is to be ordered chronologically, by recording date.
  • Each CD should be as close to full (80 minutes) as possible.
  • Every major album is represented by one song, whether that song is three minutes or thirty minutes.
  • Seminal, ground-breaking albums are allowed two songs.

Given those parameters, I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. Inevitably, some works are underrepresented and arguably, some are given more space than is warranted, depending on your tastes. Example: were my friend still alive, he'd probably split the periods much differently than I did. I can envision my Discs 3-6 crammed onto Disc 6 in his version, with the '50s/early '60s material taking up Discs 1-5.

Disc 1 (79:03): Hard Bop and Beyond—1945-1959

  1. Now's the Time
  2. Jeru
  3. Rocker
  4. Compulsion
  5. Tempus Fugit
  6. Walkin'
  7. It Never Entered My Mind
  8. 'Round Midnight
  9. Miles Ahead
  10. Générique
  11. Milestones
  12. Stella by Starlight
  13. Summertime
  14. So What
  15. Blue in Green

Disc 2 (76:36): Post-Bop—1960-1967

  1. The Pan Piper
  2. Someday My Prince Will Come
  3. Once upon a Summertime
  4. Seven Steps to Heaven
  5. My Funny Valentine (live)
  6. E.S.P.
  7. Circle
  8. Masquelaro
  9. Nefertiti
  10. I Fall in Love too Easily (live)

Disc 3 (76:35): Electric Cathedral—1968-1969

  1. Stuff
  2. Tout de suite
  3. Petits machins
  4. Ascent
  5. Shhh/Peaceful
  6. In a Silent Way

Disc 4 (78:23): Full-On Fusion—1970-1972

  1. Pharaoh's Dance
  2. Miles Runs the Voodoo Down
  3. Right Off
  4. Little Church
  5. Directions (live)
  6. Black Satin

Disc 5 (74:34): This Is Jazz?—1973-1975

  1. Calypso Frelimo (excerpt)
  2. He Loved Him Madly
  3. Prelude (live)

Disc 6 (76:55): The Man with the Horn—1981-1991

  1. The Man with the Horn
  2. Jean Pierre (live)
  3. Star People
  4. What It Is
  5. Human Nature
  6. Time After Time
  7. Orange
  8. Portia
  9. Mr. Pastorius
  10. Chocolate Chip
  11. Boplicity (live)
  12. Blues for Pablo (live)

And there you have it: the Miles Davis box that should exist but doesn't. If you'd like to re-create it, all the material is available on YouTube. Happy exploring!

Photographs by Carol Witwicky. Instrument illustrations and GZ logo © 2017 Grinning Zone Studios.
Album and lyrics page artwork © 2017 Gabriel Altrows. Web design by Vern Nicholson.
Sour Landslide and Benvereens archival footage courtesy Neil Whitlock.
All pages and contents © 2017-2019 Vern Nicholson.