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  Listen Up! 1/22/03 Listen Up!

Wednesday, Jan. 22

Traffic, “John Barleycorn Must Die,” Island Records. The remastering job on the Traffic catalogue is terrific, and this is no exception. Try to pretend you haven’t spent the last 35 years or so hearing these songs on rock radio stations, and you’ll realize that this is a consistently inventive, richly detailed album of great jazz/folk/rock. Me, I never get tired of hearing the familiar cuts, because I keep hearing nuances I hadn’t caught before.

Sonny Rollins, “The Best of Sonny Rollins,” Blue Note Records. On the back cover, there is a sub-heading: “The Blue Note Years.” Because otherwise, it’s totally unrealistic to call this “The Best of Sonny Rollins,” since it doesn’t include tons of great material like “Tenor Madness” or his work with Monk, or “The Bridge” or the calypso stuff or . . . That said, in 1956 and 1957, when these recordings were made, Rollins was sharp as a tack, and in the company of great musicians. A fine compilation, just not the whole story.

Various Artists, “Crucial Guitar Blues,” Alligator Records. Some of these cuts suffer from a lack of control, i.e. the guitarists just wail and wail and throw out so many licks they lose sight of the attempt to communicate anything beyond technique. But, several of them are strong examples of modern blues. You can’t argue with Luther Allison, Albert Collins, Roy Buchanan, Son Seals, Lonnie Mack (even augmented by Stevie Ray Vaughan), and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. At least I can’t argue with them.

--Steve Pick



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