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  Listen Up! 2/27/04 Listen Up!

Friday, Feb. 27

Various Artists, “60’s Girl Groups,” Warner Bros. Records. This compilation of obscurities snuck out back in 1998 to absolutely no fanfare that I can recall. There’s not a single familiar record on here, out of 17 hopefuls from the early to mid 60s. But, this gives us a chance to feel the shock of the new with the complex arrangements all these groups got. The blossoms, the Apollas, the Royalettes, the Three Degrees, the Dolls, and the other groups on here may not be famous, but they were just as talented – sometimes even more so – as the big hit makers of the day. It took me a while to get past the constant need for boyish reassurance that pretty much defines the genre’s thematic concerns. But, eventually, these soaring voices, these elaborate melodies and tricky juxtapositions won me over, and I’m falling in love with some new coulda-shoulda-wouldas. Impeccable remastering doesn’t hurt, either.

Emmylou Harris, “Roses in the Snow,” Warner Bros. Records. In 1980, Harris released this exquisite bluegrass record. But, it’s not a bluegrass record like any other, because a) Harris only chooses wonderful songs (including Paul Simon’s “The Boxer,” not generally thought of as a bluegrass number) and b) it’s Emmylou singing at the top of her game. While I still love this woman’s work, she hasn’t got the range anymore in her voice that she had in her prime. This reissue came out a couple years ago, and somehow escaped my grasp until today. Meanwhile, the first five Emmylou Harris albums were remastered and reissued this week. I am definitely planning to pick these up ASAP.

--Steve Pick

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