Recent collections from the Legacy Recordings branch of Sony Music are in the spotlight again this week as we wrap up a two week look at some of the reissue label’s latest offerings. For those out there unfamiliar with the Legacy imprint of Sony Music, it is one of the leading reissue houses in the world, let alone the U.S. having at its disposal a massive archive of recordings housed in the Columbia, Epic and associated labels’ vaults. The releases typically combine state-of-the-art remastering technology with comprehensive liner notes, track information and rare and historic photos. The latest batch of goodies from Legacy is no exception. The Compact Capsules spotlight this week is on the continuation of Legacy’s long-running “Essential” series with the two most recent installments showcasing country stalwarts Dolly Parton and Marty Robbins. Rounding things out is a reissue of the original soundtrack to the Dukes of Hazzard television series and a re-release of the 1984 Ray Charles recording Friendship which paired him with a variety of mid-1980s heavy hitters from the country singer ranks.
Offering comprehensive, career spanning collections, the long-running “Essential” series from Legacy Recordings has been a boon to folks looking to go the retrospective album route vice the individual recording route for a particular artist or band. The two latest entries in the series focus on a couple of heavyweights from the country & western ranks in Dolly Parton and the late Marty Robbins.
With a heavy emphasis on her 1970s and early ’80s output, the 37-track retrospective The Essential Dolly Parton begins in 1967 with the recording “Dumb Blonde” made when Parton was a fresh-voiced feline not too far removed from her Smoky Mountain home and takes the listener up through 2001 and the song “Shine” which is taken from one of a recent series of bluegrass recordings by the grand dame for Sugar Hill Records. In between, all the tree-top numbers from the legendary song bird are here from such early greats as “Just Because I’m a Woman”, “Muleskinner Blues”, “Coat of Many Colors”, “Jolene”, and “The Seeker” to such later hits as “9 to 5” and “To Know Him Is To Love Him”. If you’re looking to add a little Dolly to your CD collection, The Essential Dolly Parton is the perfect place to start.
Perhaps no other country singer covered as wide a range of material as the late Marty Robbins. Hardcore honky tonk, rockabilly, ballads, and cowboy songs were all part of the Robbins repertoire at one time or another during his career with Columbia Records. Spanning his entire 30-year run with the label before his untimely death, The Essential Marty Robbins (Legacy C2K 92569) is a highly representative collection showcasing just how versatile a vocalist the Country Music Hall of Famer Robbins was. It begins with the 1952 chart topper “I’ll Go On Alone”, moves to such other number one hits as “That’s All Right”, “Singing the Blues”, “A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation)”, “El Paso”, and “Big Iron”, and even deeper to other smashes like “Devil Woman”, “Begging To You”, “Ribbon of Darkness”, “My Woman, My Woman, My Wife” and “El Paso City”. A clear tenor voice that had few rivals in the country ranks, the highly recommended The Essential Marty Robbins is a stern reminder of Robbins’ monstrous talent as both singer and songwriter.
Dukes of Hazzard
I’m thinking there is probably a ton of fans of the old The Dukes of Hazzard TV program out there. What with CMT showing reruns of the program on a daily basis and a full-length motion picture remake due the first week of August, it and the music featured on the show are no doubt back in folks’ minds. At least that is what the powers at Legacy Recordings are hoping and to the point that the newly released reissue The Dukes of Hazzard: Original TV Soundtrack (Legacy CK98792) will reap the benefits of both old and newfound Dukes mania. There’s no getting around the fact that the soundtrack had some star power what with the likes of Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Cajun fiddler Doug Kershaw lending their talents. (Sadly, Jennings is known more for his theme song to the program than the countless hits he had during a lengthy and highly productive recording career.) Yet, for every track from one of those tried and true types, you have to suffer through stars of the program such as John Schneider, Tom Wopat and the god-awful Catherine Bach’s attempts at singing. Sometimes nostalgia is good and sometimes it’s not. Here in 2005, The Dukes of Hazzard: Original TV Soundtrack sounds dated. In other words, this one is for diehards of the original article only.
Friendship – Ray Charles style
There’s arguably no hotter property in popular music these days than Ray Charles. The unfortunate thing is that he’s not around to revel in it. Originally released in 1984, the album Friendship is described as “a crowning achievement in one of many phases of Charles’ career.” Y’all can be the judge to those types of descriptions, but Friendship is an album that has aged somewhat gracefully. A country haze had always hung over Charles’ work with the early 1960s album Modern Sounds in Country Music a landmark moment in the convergence of soul and country. Friendship brought together soul great Charles with a kingpin in the country production ranks in Billy Sherrill. It showcased Charles in a mostly straight-up country setting applying those soulful pipes to duets with both legend types (George Jones, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr.) and stars of the day (Oak Ridge Boys, Janie Fricke, Ricky Skaggs, Mickey Gilley, B.J. Thomas). On the whole, it’s a concept that worked. Now available for the first time on CD, the reissue of Friendship (Legacy CK 94564) also adds a couple of bonus tracks to the original ten cuts and it is there that the collection takes a serious misstep with the addition of highly out of place duets with Tony Bennett on “Everybody Gets the Blues” and Billy Joel on “Baby Grand” neither of which came from the Sherrill sessions and bring nothing to the country concept of Friendship. (Legacy Recordings, 550 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022, or www.legacyrecordings.com)