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Noteworthy CDs

Notable CDs | Five noteworthy reissues reviewed by Arsenio Orteza

In Concert

Style: 1992's live Silhouetted in Light plus another mostly live late-'80s disc of plaintive acoustic folk from the late founding member of the Byrds.

Worldview: That but for booze and drugs, Clark could've become as successful as his fellow ex-Byrds Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman.

Overall quality: Clark's weathered tenor makes up for Carla Olson's brazen alto and, for the most part, the absence of anything upbeat.

The Complete On the Corner Sessions

Style: Six discs' worth of the freeform subterranean funk that was edited into 1972's On the Corner.

Worldview: "[W]hy were the jazz critics talking about what Miles was doing when . . . we were no longer playing jazz?

. . . [W]e had to wait for a new generation of critics to come along before On the Corner got true respect" (percussionist James Mtume).

Overall quality: Challenging, fascinating, still ahead of its time.

I'm a Man: The Chess Masters 1955-1958

Style: Two discs' worth of seminal hits, misses, and alternate takes by the fourth occupant (along with Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Ray Charles) of the black rock 'n' roll Mount Rushmore.

Worldview: That with a famous beat, a careening rectangular guitar, and a goofy sense of humor, one man can move the world.

Overall quality: Some redundancy (eight songs twice, one song thrice); 29 songs once; lots of fun.

The Blue Thumb Recordings

Style: Three discs' worth of the late Arthur Lee's ambitious blend of soul, hard rock, and psychedelia, 1968-1970.

Cautions: Profanity ("Gather 'Round"); lasciviousness ("Bummer in the Summer," "I'll Pray for You").

Worldview: Three of the four loves: philia, eros, and agape, in that order.

Overall quality: Twenty-seven polished studio attempts to escape-and 11 raw live attempts to dispel-the shadow of Love's 1967 classic Forever Changes.

The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 8: 1968

Style: Six discs' worth of "The Sound of Young America" (Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, and 30 other [mostly] pop-soul acts).

Worldview: That sometimes you can avoid going broke by overestimating the taste of the American public.

Overall quality: The Motown formula refined to perfection; even the misses, which outnumber the hits, and their B-sides sound like lost classics.


In her book Hole in Our Soul: The Loss of Beauty and Meaning in American Popular Music, Martha Bayles coined the term "extroverted modernism" to refer to music that "actively engages both the modern world and the artistic past" and the term "introverted modernism" to refer to the music of the musician who, "while despising the larger public, . . . demands veneration from a tiny circle of initiates whom he sees as the vanguard of his artistic revolution."

It would be hard to find two clearer examples of Bayles' categories within late-'60s/early-'70s black music than the ebulliently "extroverted" Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 8: 1968 (Hip-O Select) and Miles Davis' notoriously "introverted" The Complete On the Corner Sessions (Columbia/Legacy). It would also be hard to find better reminders that, in Bayles' lexicon, neither the extroverts nor the introverts belong to the nihilistic category of "perverse modernism." At a combined length of over 13 hours, the sets incarnate almost every mood worth indulging.


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