50 Years of Great Music

Atlantic Gold coverVarious Artists, Atlantic Records: 50th Anniversary Collection (Atlantic 1998) - The good record labels develop their own personality. Atlantic Records, founded by Ahmet Ertegun (the son of a diplomat), made its name in the 50's and 60's as a soul and blues label with such acts as Aretha Franklin, the Drifters, and Otis Redding, before developing in the 70's and 80's into a pre-eminent rock label with such acts as Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Abba. In the last few years, Atlantic has developed such artists as Hootie & the Blowfish, Jewel, and Tori Amos.

For this double-disc compilation, the choice of representative artists was a difficult (if enjoyable) task. Disc one starts with "Yakety Yak," a 1958 hit for the Coasters, and includes "Mack the Knife" by Bobby Darin, as well as performances by Sam & Dave ("Soul Man") and Cream ("Sunshine of Your Love").

Said founder Ertegun, "In the very beginning, I was really motivated by my love for the music and the desire of making historically important recordings, as well as recordings that people would want to buy. I think that we eventually began to achieve our aim, which was to make some records which would survive the test of time."

Talented behind-the-scenes players helped Ertegun, including Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, Phil Spector, David Geffen, and Doug Morris. That's heady mix of talent, which ably backed Atlantic's stars.

Disc two opens with "Layla" by Derek & The Dominos, segues into "Round About" by Yes, and includes hits by Sister Sledge ("We Are Family"), Phil Collins ("In the Air Tonight"), and Bette Midler ("Wind Beneath My Wings").

The collection finishes in the 90s, with songs by Jewel ("Who Will Save Your Soul?") and Tori Amos ("Silent All These Years").

Peter Wolf (the former lead singer of the J. Geils Band) wrapped it up in one sentence when he said, "We were ready to pay Atlantic to let us be on the label." The 50th Anniversary Collection covers a lot of ground, and is a showcase for the huge success enjoyed by Atlantic over the years.

Ceili Rain, Say "Kay-Lee" (Punch Records 1998) - Ceili Rain is the brain child of Bob Halligan, Jr., best known as a songwriter for such hard rock acts as Judas Priest, Blue Oyster Cult, and Night Ranger. Newly relocated to Nashville, Halligan has assembled a seven-person band to perform his brand of Celtic rock.

Ceili Rain features Halligan on lead vocals, acoustic guitar, and piano, Chris Carmichael on fiddle and cello, Michael McCanless on fiddle, Rick Cua on bass, Tony Hooper on electric guitar, Cactus Muser on drums and percussion, Hunter Lee on tin whistle and Irish flute, and Buddy Connolly on button accordion. Ceili Rain has made a name for itself in Music City with its energetic live performances.

It's hard to capture that energy on these 12 songs, which include such unlikely Celtic pop numbers as "Long Black Cadillac" and "666 Degrees." But there's some muscle behind this label, including Jeremy Morrison, who backed such successful acts as Howard Jones, Shawn Colvin, and Suzanne Vega. Ceili Rain deserves a spin.

All Saints, All Saints (London 1998) - Girl groups have never gone away: the recent success of the Spice Girls only fueled a dormant fire. All Saints, who call themselves "funky females," want to continue the tradition.

Blending sex appeal and stage presence, All Saints' members bring an assortment of international influences to the mix: Shazney Lewis has roots in Jamaica and Barbados; Melanie Blatt is English and French (and fluent in both); and Nicky and Natalie Appleton are Canadian-born, but raised in New York and London. Says Melanie, "We all have very different tastes, and you can hear those colors in what we do."

There should be some hits in these dance-oriented numbers. In particular, listen for "Under the Bridge" (originally by the Red Hot Chili Peppers), and a shimmering version of "Lady Marmalade" (an old disco hit).

Footloose and fancy free (one tracks is titled "Bootie Call"), All Saints want you to have a good time.

Speaking of a good time, I received an advance of Glitter by Al's Not Well (Tommy Boy Records). The disk surprised me, as I don't think of Tommy Boy as a home for power-pop ear candy. In particular, look for the cover of Blondie's "One Way or Another" (a great late 70's dance number). Fun and fresh.

- Randy Krbechek © 1998

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