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Date: October 15, 2002 (release)
Release: Specialty #4437
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For nearly six years, Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers put religion in the hearts of all within earshot of their sanctified sounds. Theirs was a music that lightened your load and lifted your soul to heaven, spiriting away all the everyday hurts and hatreds long enough to make you honestly feel that God is love. Under the influence of Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers, even an agnostic sinner like me is able to see the light.

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Date: August 19, 1969 – February 6, 1970
Release: COLUMBIA #65570
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I am here to report on a completely undocumented supernatural tragedy. At some unknown moment in the last thirty years, a violent rip in the Soul-Funk Continuum allowed The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Volume One to take root in everyone’s CD collection and sucked every other Earth, Wind & Fire recording into oblivion. Musicologists are already reacting with horror at the discovery, fully aware that a single-disc best-of package, no matter how jammed with huge pop-funk grooves, is a scientifically inadequate representation of a superfunk supernova like Earth, Wind & Fire. How will they account for the deep, delicious album tracks on hit-spawning discs like Spirit and I Am? Who will answer for the solid, sprawling jazz/funk excursions of Open Our Eyes or Last Days and Time?

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Date: 1958
Release: Columbia #53629
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The 1958 Newport Jazz Festival has taken on mythic status. Over those four days in July Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, Chuck Berry, Dinah Washington, Gerry Mulligan, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Anita O’Day, George Shearing, Sonny Stitt, Chico Hamilton, and others played. That’s quite extraordinary, as is the fact that the event was so well documented. There were hundreds of feet of film shot, and filmmaker Bert Stern edited all of that down to 84 minutes of performances punctuated by the America’s Cup yacht race, which took place off the coast of Rhode Island at that same time. Plus, we have great CDs from the festival, especially Miles Davis‘s Live at Newport 1958.

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Date: 1973
Release: SONY #65431 (1997)
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“One of the best live releases from the ’70s” — All Music Guide

With the exception of jazz trios, I’m not a big fan of live albums. Nothing is more painful than hearing your favorite singer straining to bring a song to life that once seemed so effortless on the original record. Concerts are meant to be seen (and heard) once, then confined to the warm, hazy depths of concertgoing memory.

Leave it to Bill Withers to turn my world upside down with Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall. This 1972 concert captures Withers at the top of his game, before “Just the Two of Us” become overly covered pop cheese and the inspiration for a lame Will Smith song. From the opening number (his hit “Use Me”) Mr. Withers is warm, relaxed Read more »

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