July 2017 Update. After emusic.com changed from a download only site to a download/stream hybrid site, I am happy to report that it’s still a good deal — despite the fact that albums are slightly more expensive, booster packs are less remarkable and some albums have disappeared. The website is a lot easier to use and more powerful. On the other hand, many of the links below no longer work — the forum was removed, and the URLs were not redirected. No matter. For some of the non-Roman alphabet albums, searching was impossible. My guess is that all albums from 2014 on should still be on emusic.com even if the links don’t work. (Maybe the prices aren’t as appealing though!). 2014 was when emusic lost a lot of the major labels, focusing on the less expensive indie labels. With new ownership and site improvements, Emusic has promised that the new site will gradually attract more labels, but I haven’t seen this yet.
Here are some more things to keep in mind about the site improvements. I haven’t found that streaming via the mobile app is that reliable; it starts and stops a little too often. On the other hand, they have improved their capability to upload and stream their own music — though unfortunately it only lets you upload mp3s instead of m4a, opus, etc. Bird is the Worm original blog (see esp the best albums of the year listed on top). For brevity’s sake, when I list/purchase a pick from his “best of the year,” I’ll just say (for example) “Bird Best 2014“. See also dataguy’s best emusic picks on rateyourmusic . Some other places I go for obscure recommendations include: Nine Bullets Essential Listening page (the blog is interesting too), Tom Hull’s On the web blog (Hull is the ultimate music geek; he has developed a database for gathering and storing ratings , Acclaimed Music’s list of best-rated albums by year; see also Pitchfork’s album reviews and popmatters music reviews. Emusers has a thread about bargains on the new emusic site (mostly classical and avante-garde stuff), thread about inside tips and mispriced box sets (probably not updated anymore) and a list of current labels and linernotes for emusic albums. See also my online database of music reviews from 2014 to present. Finally, I strongly recommend daytrotter, a music download service that lets you stream and download thousands of unofficial performances in studio environments … sometimes before the material is officially released. At $2.99 a month with unlimited downloads, it’s a steal!
Important Note: It’s easy to miss, but I’ve been listing my purchase by new artists on the SXSW listing between the entries for April 2015 and March 2015. Because I’ve been letting my account lapse, I haven’t bought as many SXSW singers in 2016 and 2017 (though eventually I will catch up; some are listed on Nov 2016).
July 2017. Too poor to afford booster credits, but I am getting some great deals on classical/modernist albums! All about a dollar!
- Music from Azerbaijan by Gochag Askarov. (5 tracks, 60 minutes, 99 cents).
- Inscriptions by Wil Bolton (5 tracks, 47 minutes, $1.99). This was number 1 on David Smith’s Top 20 of 2015 list, calling it “especially captivating, a cohesive suite of carefully textured ambient soundscapes of great warmth and delicacy.”
- Tiento de las Nieves by Thomas Koner (1 track, 68 minutes, 50 cents). Also highly recommended by David Smith.
- Avifaunal by Pausal (6 tracks, 46 minutes, 99 cents).
- Nirvana Haze by Alonefold (1 track, 63 minutes, 49 cents).
- Patterns in a Chromatic Field by Morton Feldman (1 tracks, 80 minutes, 49 cents).
- Lo-Def Pressure by Bill Laswell. (2 tracks, 48 minutes, 49 cents).
- Mausoleum / Hoketus by Louis Andriessen (2 tracks, 57 minutes, 49 cents). 2 minimalist rhythmic pieces from the 1970s. The first contains lots of rattling brassy orchestration, with dissonant choral protests (it’s an homage to Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin. The second piece is just percussive chamber music which despite the fast rhythm varies very slowly. Both startling and provocative pieces, but hardly inspiring.
May 2017. Now the site has been redesigned, with lots of new deals, broken links and albums which are missing or new.
- I wanna go backwards Box Set. Robyn Hitchcock. 102 tracks, 336 minutes, $6.99. 3 early acoustic albums, with 2 albums worth of rarities. I have my eyes on Part 2 of this box set, Luminous Grooves, which contains albums from the mid to late 1980s
- Vasks: Sala / Musica appassionata / Credo, Liepaja Symphony Orchestra & Atvars Lakstigala $1.99, 3 Tracks , 59 minutes 37 seconds. 3 Contemporary compositions by this Latvian composer. Romantic, full orchestration, dissonant, beautiful. (Read liner notes).
April 2017. Unsuspended my account again…. Hopefully for the last time.
- Box Set by William Onyearbor (37 tracks, 272 minutes, $6.99).
- 69 Love Songs by Magnetic Fields. (69 tracks, 172 minutes, $6.99).
- Eccentric Soul: Omnibus, Various (88 tracks, 288 minutes, $6.99)
- Kinks: Anthology 1964-1971. (140 tracks, 374 minutes, $6.99)
January 2017. (I forgot to suspend my membership, but ended up with a winner anyway).
- Cooking Vinyl 1986-2006 (compilation). (67 tracks, 276 minutes, $6.49). Nice and ample collection of A-list talents by a European label. (A good mix of American and European pop stars).
December 2016. Won’t be able to upgrade my account for a while, but managed to buy one album. In the meantime, I’m listening to one-off recordings by Daytrotter Studio (I downloaded 7000 sessions that I need to listen to).
- I’ve Got a Way by Kelsey Waldon. (11 tracks, 38 minutes, $5.39). Also selected songs from her earlier album The Gold Mine. Young rising country star sings slow, heartfelt and almost gothic blues ballads; it definitely feels more personal than prepackaged; Kelsey has a distinctive rugged voice which in its rock carnation kind of reminds me of Courtney Barrett. But what makes it special is the quiet dignity she gives to many of the songs.
November 2016. Back from a hiatus to do some purchases — mainly from the incredible stack of artists I discovered from 2016 SXSW.
- Julius Eastman: Unjust Malaise. (8 tracks, 193 minutes, $6.49). Eastman was a minimalist avante-garde composer who wrote complex orchestral pieces for piano and voice. He was unappreciated even by other composers and died homeless and penniless in 1990. This collection of longer pieces are sometimes discordant or hard to enjoy, but they are interesting and expressive (and really, not that different from what Glass and other people were doing in the 70s) But recently several critics have been championing his works. See this
longish piece in the Guardian .
- United Crushers by Poliça (sale – 12 tracks, 43 minutes, $4.99)
- Down to Believing by Allison Moorer (13 tracks, 46 minutes, $6.37). One of my greatest finds this year was the achingly beautiful album “Crows” by Allison Moorer which was released a few years ago. Because I had listened to a library copy, I vowed to buy an A.M. album to show my support and gratitude; as it happens, “Down to Believing” is just as lovely as “Crows” and as well regarded — and it’s a bargain on emusic.
- Place Called Bad by Scientists (80 tracks, 269 minutes, $6.99). The Scientists are a well-known Australian rock-punk group from the 70s and 80s. This band sounds fresh, punk and still relevant.
- Mutant Disco Volume 1 (12 tracks, 74 minutes, $5.88). I was watching a hilarious 1989 Richard Pryor/Gene Wilder comedy called “See No Evil, Hear No Evil.” As the credits rolled, I heard this amazing disco melody, which led me to investigate the group “Was (Not Was)” which sang it. This group was produced by Ze Records, who has several emusic compilations. I will probably buy more compilations by Ze Records, but to start out with, I purchased this album, which was positively reviewed by the emusic staff and includes several reviews by emusic fans. There are 4 volumes in this series (and each group is represented by at 4 or 5 songs in the entire series). As enjoyable as the Mutant Disco volumes are, Soul Jazz Records also has two also wonderful disco compilations on emusic which are longer and have more tracks.
- Watermelon Summer by Annabelle Chairlegs (10 tracks, 30 minutes, $4.90). Chairlegs is a Austin girl indie-rock album which doesn’t disappoint.
- Classic FM by Andy Clockwise. (30 tracks, 133 minutes, $6.49). This first album by versatile Australian rocker Andy Clockwise has been scandalously ignored by critics — even in Australia — though everyone seems to have a high opinion of Clockwise and his more recent projects. “Classic FM” is a concept album that tries to juxtapose a dozen different musical styles in one album — as though you were scanning the FM dial on a car radio. Sure, you may not like everything here, but it’s all different, interesting and original. (I would compare this to double albums like the Beatles’ “White Album” or Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” which were initially criticized for being sprawling messes, but were later appreciated for what they were). By the way Clockwise lives and performs in the US, and his earworm song Open Relationship has an entertaining and bizzare music video.
- You Hear Me: A Retrospective 1983-2009 by Tommy Keene. ( 41 songs, 192 minutes, $6.49). Amazingly I bought this a year ago and never listened to it!
- Soul Jazz Records Presents VENEZUELA 70: Cosmic Visions Of A Latin American Earth – Venezuelan Experimental Rock In The 1970s. (16 tracks, 62 minutes, $6.99) Intriguing genre, and the album pretty much delivers. See this PopMatters review. BTW, because of the current economic chaos in Venezuela, now is as good as any time to show your support for musicians for that country!
- Back to Venezuela by Billo’s Caracas Boys. (41 tracks, 128 minutes, $6.49) Billos Caracas Boys is an immortal Venezuelan dance orchestra fronted by Billo Frómeta and lasted from the late 1930s to the 1960s or 1970s. The band is pretty amazing — jazzy/samba with vocals. Personnel changed from year to year, and unfortunately there is not good documentation for this album about when these songs were originally released (or if they are simply re-releases from other albums). But many of the songs here sound like original stuff — probably from the 1940s or 1950s. I want to emphasize that this album merely scratches the surface of what is out there — and doesn’t include many of the tunes which are considered signature songs. Emusic has about 100 albums by Billos Caracas Boys, and this the best and cheapest of the “greatest hits compilations” which I was able to find.
July 2016. Back from hiatus to take advantage of another double credits sale. I have a backlog of things to purchase and have some wonderful picks from this year’s South by Southwest torrent.
- Best of GEM 2008-2012. By G.E.M. (24 tracks, 95 minutes, $5.99). Earlier this year I heard the remarkable Heartbelt album by G.E.M. which immediately made me want more. This compilation album seems equally fun and ethereal — certainly not callow forgettable tracks.
- Final Wild Ride. by Long Ryders ( 48 tracks, minutes, 170 minutes $6.99).
- Glacial Glow (and other selected tracks) by Noveller. (8 tracks, 34 minutes, $3.92). Known for New Age ambient with guitar, all of her tracks are interesting. I found two other albums from another service (“No Dreams” her best known and “Fantastic Planet” her most recent). I plan to obtain all of her wonderful albums eventually.
March 2016. After a hiatus, I have started buying again.
- Заждалась by Анастасия Приходько. (15 tracks, 53 minutes, $5.99). Lots of great pop singles by this Ukrainian-born singer who was popular in Russia. Interestingly, after representing Russia in the Eurovision song contest, she has vowed never to perform in Russia again. This and other Ukraine gems come from the fantastic Moon Vinyl S.R.O. label .
February 2016. Ok, I bought $10 of double booster credits to buy some great compilations.
- I Am the Center: Private Issue New Age Music in America, 1950-1990 . (20 tracks, 132 minutes, $6.49). A good collection of early New Age/space music, from quite a few well-knowns. A Popmatters review of the album writes, “This is new age music before it became a commodity, before it evolved into aural wallpaper and background music. When it was the domain of outsider artists, eccentrics and experimentalists. As evidenced by this collection, the music’s goals were often lofty.” (My minor complaint is that 5 of the 20 are excerpts from longer pieces, but it’s still a good value).
- Juke Joint Blues Black Cat Rag (54 tracks, 154 minutes, $6.49). Here’s a good collection of blues tracks with reasonably high fidelity and lots of performers I have never heard of (and I have heard of a lot!) Though the first few tracks didn’t particularly impress me, the overwhelming majority of the tracks were keepers. Sadly, this seems to be part of a larger series which never made it to emusic. (The album shows it as “Juke Joints 4 — Volume 2”). Still, what we have is pretty special. Lots of Southern bluesy stuff, with harmonica, a good fast beat and a variety of voices).
- Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia Presents PZYK Vol.1 by Various Artists. (31 tracks, 147 minutes, $6.49) paraphrasing from Piccadilly Records website where the album made their best of 2015 compilations list, is “a deluxe triple vinyl compilation celebrating the current neo-psychedelic underground. Featuring a mix of exclusive tracks, re-mixes, rarities and album cuts, the compilation spans and charts the global PZYK diaspora, with artists from around the world contributing to an international selection comprising 30 of the current movement’s key noisemakers.” I really loved this collection. Lots of electronic which sounded more psychedelic than trance or techno.
January 2016 (skipped December 2015). I suspended my subscription, renewed it, received $10 in courtesy credits because the site has been down a lot, and then for two weeks my account was available! It’s all behind me, and more importantly, emusic has added in the cost of subscription an ability to stream your purchases. That’s a cool feature! They have also updated the android and apple app so that you can hear it from cell phones. The semi-permanent double value booster sales have officially ended, thus relieving me of any temptation to buy more music until I get a steady paycheck!.
- A Badly Broken Code by Dessa. (15 tracks, 47 minutes, $5.99). Filipino Dessa did a remarkable album Parts of Speech which consisted of lots of adventurous rap songs with excellent and expressive lyrics (no profanity), magnificent arrangements and a variety of styles (though the slow rap song seems to be her default). Her albums seem a tad overproduced; I wish we can just enjoy the melodies apart from the lyrics or the strong emotions. Despite my nitpicks, this album – like Parts of Speech — are absolutely first-rate and bring additional rewards with repeated listens.
- Baroques (Remastered). by the Baroques. (25 tracks, 82 minutes, $5.99). Very obscure Milwaukee psychedelic music group from the 60s. Although labels from that time were pretty open to experimentation, I think the Baroques abandoned the pop sensibility, lost their record deal and broke up. Sad story, but the songs they made are incredible and fun.
- O Vertigo by Kate Miller-Heidke (12 tracks, 42 minutes, $5.88). I’m going to be selecting tracks from this album and others to zero out my balances. Miller-Heidke is this unbelievably talented Australian opera-trained singer who first came to my attention by doing these wild cover versions of well-known songs (like this one and this one and this one ) . Turns out she and her husband write and perform lots of original songs and most recently an opera! A lot of her best stuff is not on emusic though O Vertigo is pretty great).
November 2015. Wow, it seems that my unemployment will once again reduce my purchases (after months of indulging). I may even suspend my membership temporarily. Fear Not. I have lots of listening to catch up on.
- Best of Old School Hip Hop. Various. 20 tracks. 93 minutes, $3.89. Upbeat urban rap from the 90s. Heavy beat, kind of silly and juvenile and not too raunchy or violent. Plus, the lyrics are actually comprehensible! Everything feels like the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and at least the lyrics are interesting and tell a story. These are not great tracks, but the musical arrangements are all interesting.
- Best of 00-10 by Ladytron. (17 tracks, 68 minutes, $5.99). Hits compilations by one of my alltime fave bands. They know how to write catchy pop songs with hooks and occasionally rock it up (Blue Jeans, Destroy Everything You Touch). The singer Helen Marnie is great and stylish, but the synthesizer parts are also fantastic! Updates: Silly me. I forgot I already bought individual tracks, and had accumulated another album’s worth of tracks through samplers, etc. Also, it appears that Marnie has started to go solo. So much as I loved this album, I totally did not need it!
- Boom Tic Boom by Allison Miller (8 tracks, 58 minutes for $3.92). This awesome jazz drummer put together a multi-talented jazz band which put together the zippy album No Morphine, No Lilies which I thought was outstanding.
- Boddie Recording Company: Cleveland, OH. (64 tracks, 190 minutes, $6.49). Multi-decade compilation by a lesser known Cleveland recording company. Not as polished as the Motown stuff, but still very interesting.
- Fats Navarro Collection 1943-1950 (39 tracks, 140 minutes, $6.49). Feisty trumpet recordings by a jazz virtuoso who died at a shockingly early age (26) from a combination of TB and a drug overdose.
October 2015. I finished listening and rating my 2011 SXSW torrents and have been amassing things to buy for it. Here are some other purchases:
- Bird Call! The Twin City Stomp of the Trashmen. 80 tracks, 224 minutes, 5.99. Lots of variant recordings and live recordings
- Hits, Hits, Hits Vol 1 and Hits, Hits, Hits Vol 2 are two huge compilations of 70s disco/early 80s hip hop music from P& P Records. Each volume is more than 530 minutes! (Read this Guardian critic’s review of this series). It’s true that both volumes are padded with instrumental versions and extended versions (you have a 13 minute disco version of the Charlie’s Angels theme — and trust me, it’s great!)
- Terry Farley Presents Acid Rain Deep House 1985-1991 61 tracks, 387 minutes, $6.49). Great collection of hard techno/early EDM stuff.
- Northern Soul — Soundtrack– Extended Version (54 tracks, 146 minutes, $6.49)is a collection of “Northern Soul” (British-based soul plus a lot of semi-obscure American stuff thrown in)This comes from a movie about the time period. I am especially loving this one.
- Weekender: (Music from the Movie & Further Inspiration).
- Traxbox (Trax Records Remastered). 226 tracks, 1200 minutes, $6.49. It’s true that there are 2 and maybe 3) versions of each song
- Northern Soul 60s Mod. 45 tracks, 128 minutes, $5.99
- Dark Tree by Horace Tapscott. (9 tracks, 127 minutes, $6.49). Widely praised Live Double jazz album from 1989.
- Guillaume Du Fay: Motets, Hymns & Chansons BLUE HERON. (16 tracks, 73 minutes, $5.99). Recommended early classic music, and it is fantastic.
- Blues and the Abstract Truth. Oliver Nelson. (12 tracks, 77 minutes, $6.49). Highly recommended jazz album.
- Welcome to the Country by Gram Rabbit (10 tracks, 39 minutes, $4.90). Outstanding collection of strange psychedelic country by a group known for shifting genres often. (They do heavy metal, punk all with a psychedelic twist).
- Sanremo in the Fifties. (43 tracks, 170 minutes, $6.49) Italian pop music culture revolves around the annual Sanremo festival which started in the 50s (and is still active). This compilation contains a lot of the contest winners (and more importantly, the ones which didn’t win but are still great songs.) Most of the recordings are decent quality
- Sapore di Sale (100 tracks, 307 minutes, $5.99) has many of the same singers from the Sanremo collection, but different songs released in the 60s. (Some are live recordings, possibly from later Sanremos). You have to overlook the Sedaka, Paul Anka and Petula Clark here, but there are multiple songs by quite a number of singers, including Quartetto Cetra, Gino Paoli and Peppino di Capri.
- Great Greek Composers (123 songs, 360 minutes, $6.49) which seems to be a wrong name for it, because all the songs are simple pop songs from several decades and the song metadata doesn’t contain any useful information on the songwriters. (Strangely it lists the musical genre as “reggae” — go figure). Someone mentioned that it sounds like Schlager music (that light-hearted folksy stuff that seems old-fashioned to our ears), and I don’t think that’s offbase. Sound quality is mostly decent, and a few songs are standouts, though all are generally pleasant.
- Duo Chrisses Fones – Two Golden Voices: ROZA ESKENAZI & RITA ABATZI (45 songs, 145 minutes, $5.84) is definitely older and more folksy stuff (we’re talking 1920s-1940s). Sound quality could be a lot worse, but it’s about what you’d expect for the time. Roza Eskenazi has the more interesting and melodic voice, while Rita Abatzi sings more emotionally and wistfully. They sing in a rebetiko style, which uses various Turkish song elements. This album is more a musical time capsule than something which feels modern, but I found it interesting still.
September 2015. As luck would have it, there was an “accidental” Double the Value Booster credit sale and I went ahead and spent $50 to obtain $100 in credits. I have lots of things on my list but probably won’t be buying anything until early October. (For the record I’ve been listening — and rating — the 1100+ free mp3 downloads from the 2011 SXSW music torrent — which will eventually result in lots of purchases of favorite band discoveries).
- Trilogie de la Morte by Eliane Radigue. costs $5.99 here for a total of 168 minutes. It’s drone/ambient, very meditative, but interesting enough to keep your attention. The allmusic review said “it is based on the composer’s complete immersion in Tibetan Buddhist teaching, and takes its title from Thomas Merton’s Trilogy on Death.”
- Hot French Chicks in the Garage. (37 tracks, 91 minutes, $5.99). Compilation of French female singers from the 60s and 70s.
- Perfect Lives by Robert Ashley. (7 tracks, 174 minutes, $6.49). Avante-garde opera project from late 70s, consisting of long, extended arias in English which consist of nonsequiturs, strange poetic pronouncements and pop culture. Ashley intended this to be “opera for TV” (and indeed, there is a DVD version of the performance which makes this intent apparent). and it resembles the ramblings in Glass’s Einstein on the Beach.
- Bunny Striker Lee Story. (101 tracks, 316 minutes, $5.99), Giant compilation of 60s and 70s Jamaican reggae by a noted music producer.
August 2015. I bought another booster credit, so the buying spree continues (at least for the next month). I’m still buying things from my SXSW and the Russian Music stack (see below). Because I’m out of work again, I couldn’t max out on booster packs, but these 2 for 1 booster pack sales are coming every 3 months, so that gives me time to catch up on listening.
- 50 Tunes of Jazz from Venus Records. (50 tracks, 239 minutes, $6.49). Compilation of a jazz label from Japan. Generally great stuff.
- Deep Soul Moments: Sometime, Someplace, Somewhere. (27 tracks, 67 minutes, $3.24) Outstanding collection of 60s soul. Slow melodies and vocals.
- Illinoise by Sufjan (22 tracks, 74 minutes, $4.99).
- Cecil Gant Collection 1944-1951 (52 tracks, 143 minutes, $6.49). Bluesy vocalist and pianist with some boogie woogie inclinations.
- Jailhouse Blues & Murder Ballads (180 tracks, 570 minutes, $6.49).
- Mose Allison Collection 1956-1962 Volume 1 and Volume 2 (Each costs $6.49 and consists of 146 minutes). Jazzy blues singer and pianist who collaborates with Stan Getz and Zoot Sims. His band plays many jazz standard here. Great stuff, relaxing, joyful, Still alive today!
- Complete Singles A’s and B’s 1949-1962 Vol 2 by B.B. King.
- Dark Light Up by Eleni Mandell. (12 tracks, 39 minutes for $6.99). Eleni Mandell is not known for mainstream pop, but this album tries to do that — and mostly succeeds.
- The Peregrine by Lawrence English. (34 minutes for $3.43) Recent ambient recording.
- Margaret Whiting: Collectors’ Edition 1942-1960. (87 tracks, 236 minutes, $5.84) Whiting sang a lot of vanilla jazz standards in the 1940s, but her interpretations are so lovely and charming that I forgive her for not venturing outside familiar territory.
- Girl in a Coma. Tracks from all of their albums, especially Trio B.C. This is a fiesty girls punk band from San Antonio, headed by singer Nina Diaz. They famously met up in MIDDLE SCHOOL! Apparently Diaz and the rest of the band are going off on separate projects, but their Coma stuff is great. Although their original stuff is great, I wanted to point out that their album of cover songs is particularly juicy (though I checked it out of the library instead of buying it).
- Music for Airports Live (Music by Brian Eno) by Bang on a Can All Stars. A music group does the impossible: perform a live performance of something originally written not to be performed. This is a classic of the New Age genre, and the live performance is faithful to the original recording –though it feels softer and more human.
- Unremembered. Composed by Sarah Kirkland Snider, performed by Shara Worden and others. (13 tracks, 54 minutes, $5.99).
- Earl Bostic Collection 1939-1959. (50 songs, 145 minutes $6.49) Really great jazz. Often compared to Sidney Bechet, this is smoother and more elegant.
- Complete Aristocrat and Chess Singles A’s and B’s (Volume 1 of 2) by Muddy Waters. (49 tracks, 141 minutes, $6.49). I ran out of credits, so I bought Volume 1 for now.
- One Hundred Hits of Bing Crosby. (100 songs, 299 minutes, $5.99) Bing Crosby had numerous hits in the 40s, and this mega-compilation gives you a better idea of his variety of styles. Lots of random oddball tracks (such as “Road to Morocco”) make this one always delightful.
July 2015. Note that even this month I am still adding a substantial number of albums to other lists below (like the Russian and Ukrainian compilations under June 2015 and SXSW picks under March 2015). In fact, about 95% of my purchases by rising bands come from my SXSW stack. Even though I bought them this month, they are not listed under the month I bought them. I am starting to list some jazz albums reviewed and praised by Bird is the Worm. He reviews them faster than I can listen to them!
- Cosmopolitan Classics: George Jones. (98 Tracks, 249 minutes, $5.19) An amazing collection of songs for the price. I ended up liking every song!
- Dub Side of the Mule Deluxe Edition (34 tracks, 227 minutes, $6.49). Recording of a live musical “happening” by the remnants of the Allman Brothers and some guests (Toots Maytal, according to this review). Apparently they release a lot of these things built around a certain theme, with them all priced pretty low on emusic.
- La Sortie by Low-Res. (7 tracks, 49 minutes, $5.99). Bird Best 2014. This set of jazz pieces don’t overwhelm, but really flow well together.
- Wurm Series No. 1. by Oophoi. (1 track, 65 minutes for 49 cents!). Great ambient track.
- Enter by Fire Orchestra. (4 tracks, 53 minutes, $3.30). Bird Best 2014. Great choral jazzy thing which is full of emotional power and energy. Wow!
- Exclusively for my friends (live) by Oscar Peterson (37 tracks, 236 minutes, $6.49).
- King of Highlife Anthology by E.T. Mensah and the Tempos.
- Figs: What Keeps me up at Night and The Figs. Two interesting albums by Louisiana blues band with Jillian Johnson (who recently was killed in a shooting in Lafayette LA).
- LAVINIA MEIJER Glass: Metamorphosis, The Hours. (12 tracks, 63 minutes $1.40). Amazingly these Glass-approved transcriptions for harp are terrific!
- Vivaldi: 12 Violin Concertos – “La Cetra”, Op. 9 (36 tracks, 117 minutes, $1.40). HOLLAND BAROQUE SOCIETY. Well-reviewed album of lesser-known Vivaldi violin pieces.
- The Graham Bond Organization – Wade in the Water – Classics, Origins & Oddities. (96 tracks, 308 minutes, $6.49). Outstanding early 60s British pop/jazz. Very influential on British invasion bands and others.
- Absolut Duke Ellington (157 tracks, 529 minutes $6.49).
- Dimensions Live by Daniel Schlappi, Jorg Bucher & Colin Vallon (14 tracks, 107 minutes, $6.49).
- Minimal Piano Collection, ( 93 tracks, 615 minutes, $4.54). performed by Jeroen Van Veen. This huge collection features generous performances from Glass, Arvo Paart, Nyman, Adams, Cage, Riley, etc). I spent all morning listening to the Aarvo Paart, this evening listening to the Glass and can happily report that it is generally excellent and an extraordinary value!.
June 2015. Not only did I purchase $150 of double-booster credits, I discovered some great Russian music compilations which I’ll note below.
- Boys can be Mean.60 tracks – $5.84. Fun thematic 60s compilation about girls complaining about boys.
- Nigeria 70 Lagos Jump.16 tracks, 77 minutes for $5.99
- Nigeria 70 Sweet Times Afro-Fun, Highlife and Juju from 1970s Lagos. 79 minutes, 13 tracks, $5.99
- I Hate CDs: Norton Records 45 RPM Singles Collection Vol 1.
- Roadrunner 1955-1962 Original Chess Masters (Remastered Edition). Bo Diddley.
- Complete Chess Singles As & Bs 1955-1961. Chuck Berry.50 tracks for $6.49
- Complete Soul Essentials by Ike and Tina Turner. 75 tracks for $5.84. The version of some of the signature songs is different (and probably inferior), but the vast collection covers the range of songs Ike and Tina used to sing.
- Various songs of Novecento. C’ E’ Un Mondo Che… (complete album) and 4 songs each from these albums: Dreamland, Necessary and Secret. Novecento is an Italian band that started out in 1980s Euro-disco pop and gradually migrated into Jazzy Easy Listening pop. Perhaps it seems way too mellow for the modern ear, but it is extremely relaxing and pleasant to listen to. Female singer Dora Carofiglio was the “real” Jessica Jay in the 90s dance pop band (which I wrote about at length here).
- Two famous multidisc recordings by jazz legend Hampton Hawes: All Night Sessions! 1-3 with Jim Hall (17 tracks, 123 minutes, $5.84) and Trio: Complete Albums (featuring Red Mitchell & Chuck Thompson). (35 tracks, 156 minutes, $6.49).
- Tristeza / Poema / Canto / Images On Guitar. BADEN POWELL . Classic 60s albums by a famous 60s Brazilian guitarist.
- Chavela Vargas. Sus 40 Grandes Canciones. (40 tracks, 134 minutes, $5.84).
- Buckle Up by Steve Krase. (10 tracks, 39 minutes $4.90) Great electronic blues/rock band led by Krase who plays a mean harmonica. I saw him perform with Trudy Lynn last night; they were fantastic!
- Royal Oaks Blues Cafe by Trudy Lynn (with Steve Krase). Trudy sings some rowdy libidinous blues even though she’s in her 70s. Direct, comic and slightly outrageous.
- 40 Successos de samba & Bossa Nova. Elis Regina. (40 tracks, 110 minutes, $5.99). Great collection of songs by the famed bossa nova singer who died in her thirties.
- 25 Years of Brazilian Beats (Mr. Bongo Presents) Part 1 and Part 2.
- Jelly Roll Morton — Complete Congress Recordings.
- Digital Collection Vol 4. Noor Jehan. Here are the Punjabi language songs.
- 100 Anos de Historia Musical Vol 3. Lucho Bermudez. (20 tracks, 57 minutes $6.49). Wish it had more tracks, but the ones here are dynamite.
- Louisiana & The Old New Orleans Sound. (100 tracks, 285 minute, $5.84).
- Amara Toure 1973-80. (10 tracks, 63 minutes, $5.99) Influential 70s Senegal singer with a Cuban/Afrobeat feel.
Special Russian and Ukrainian Compilations. As strange as it sounds, I finally found some reasonably-priced Russian/Ukrainian albums on emusic.Typing the words Grand Collection produces a list of double size compilation albums by several well-known Russian pop singers. Also try searching for “Коллекция”in the search engine. Unfortunately the links of titles with Cyrillic letters doesn’t work too well, so most of these links will not link. Often copying the Cyrillic names into the emusic search engine will work, or sometimes just searching google can help.
- Коллекция лучших альбомов. Анна Герман (Anna Hermann) (8 hours for 120 tracks, $5.99). Hermann was a much beloved Polish singer who died early but was widely beloved in the 70s and 80s by the entire Soviet Union. Sound quality on this collection varies, but it contains a lot of her hits which made her famous.
- АЛСУ – GRAND COLLECTION / ALSU (known also as Alsou). (28 tracks, 101 minutes, $5.99). (listen on youtube). Alsou is a beautiful singer and was predicted to appeal to Western audiences. That didn’t happen as much as it should have; she did win 2nd in a Eurovision contest for an utterly forgettable song, but make no mistake; she’s a major talent, and her tracks always sound great!
- Grand Collection. DIDULYA (ДИДЮЛЯ). (79 minutes, 19 tracks, $5.99). Great guitar-driven pop by a Belorussian guy who likes to infuse folk and Middle East elements into melodies.
- Коллекция легендарных песен. ГРАЖДАНСКАЯ ОБОРОНА (Grazhdanskaya Oborona). (85 tracks, 260 minutes, $5.99). Oborona is an early Soviet punk-psychedelic singer (and I do not exaggerate when I compare their early stuff to Sex Pistols or the Ramones or the Residents). I like how the wikipedia article describes the band’s lyrics as progressing from the political to the metaphysical. (Alas, if only my Russian were good enough to understand them! — But I find the literary references mentioned in the wiki page reassuring).
- Коллекция. АНДРЕЙ ГУБИН. (Andrey Gubin). (42 tracks, 167 minutes, $6.49). Upbeat dance pop, full of catchy numbers.
- Я не скажу “прощай” by Татьяна Овсиенко. (17 tracks, 65 minutes, $6.49). A good Ukrainian pop singer. Very sophisticated dance pop with some slow ballads thrown in.
- Большая коллекция, Часть 2 by “АЛЁНА АПИНА” (Elena Apina). This is only part 2 of a box set, but this part contains 50 songs and 184 minutes of dance and disco fun by one of the leading Russian pop singers in the 90s. (She is also one of my fave singers too).
- Grand Collection: Леонид Агутин. (Leonid Agutin). 112 minutes 28 songs. $5.99.. Agutin has a smooth almost Latino singing style which won me over when I first heard him in the 90s. This compilation contains the songs from those albums and more recent stuff as well.
- Skryabin. Selections from Various Albums. Ever since the lead singer died a year ago, I wanted to revisit this Ukrainian band which I used to listen to while living in Ukraine. Despite the fact that it cost more (about $20 in credits), I ended up buying selected songs from various albums. Their eclecticism of styles reminds me of Talking Heads (although Skryabin is definitely cooler, darker, moodier). If I were to single out some albums, I would have to pick Mova Ryb (very upbeat and pop) and the 82 minute compilation album Balady.
- Grand Collection: БОЖЬЯ КОРОВКА (“Lady Bird”). Zany light hearted pop from a male-female singing duo.
- Grand Collection: Vitas. (28 tracks, 105 minutes, $5.99). Ukrainian-born Russian pop singer with an operatic voice, crazy appearance and who sings techno-dance songs. This reminds me a lot of Ukrainian singer El Kravchuk (whose album I also bought on emusic).
- Коллекция ФИЛИПП КИРКОРОВ (Collectsya by Phillip Kirkorov) . 952 minute 246 track album for $6.49. Phillip Kirkorov is a major presence for the last few decades in Russian pop (kind of like Elton John or Neil Diamond for the English-speaking world). An awesome deal. A lot of these tracks are winners!
- Valentina Levko: Star of the Bolshoi is a (176 tracks, 676 minutes, $4.54 fascinating 10 hour collection of arias and classical songs by a Russian singer. I have only sampled some of the tracks; the ones I know sound excellent.
- Большая коллекция by СУРГАНОВА И ОРКЕСТР. (129 tracks, 490 minutes, $6.49). Pop band headed by Svetlana Surganova. Really interesting sound; it combines folk, jazz and classical elements to produce a nice pop sound. Her singing is gentle and relaxed, and the melodies and productions are always interesting.
- МИХАЙЛ ШУФУТИНСКИЙ – GRAND COLLECTION. MIKHAIL SHUFUTINSKY. (28 tracks, 109 minutes, $5.99). This zany album consists of a lot of live traditional tracks. They sound a lot better than the two studio albums I have by him.
- Лучшее by ИГОРЬ ТАЛЬКОВ (Igor Talkov). (50 tracks, 252 minutes, $5.99). Collection of a Russian music icon. Parts of it sounds rough and downbeat, but remember, this was the 80s and 90s. Most of the hits I already know were here — and then some. Curiously missing was my favorite song “Летний дождь” (Summer Rains) which you can download separately from the Моя любовь album.
- Все пучком by ПОТАП И НАСТЯ (Potap i Nastya) (23 tracks, 56 minutes, $5.99). Outstanding upbeat pop/rapping duo from Ukraine. This group produces so many fun and amazing songs (and vids!) that it’s a wonder they are still unknown in the West. Also, highly recommended was their earlier album Не люби мне мозги which was just as amazing (though I didn’t buy it from emusic; I checked it out of the library).
- Время и Стекло by Время и Стекло (Vremya i Steklo , or Time & Glass) (18 tracks, 58 minutes, $5.99). Very young and telegenic Ukrainian dance pop duo from the same label as Potap i Nastiya. They sing more dancey/EDM; Less clever than Potap i Nastiya but more stylish.
- Verka Serduchka: (ВЕРКА СЕРДЮЧКА) Selections from various albums such as Do Re Mi and Tralli Valli .Serduchka gained notoriety with his outrageously fun song in a 2007 Ukraine Eurovision performance. Though his comedy songs are great (and make great vids), the more mainstream songs are good too. Let’s give him credit for reinventing the folk pop song.
- Irina Bilyk (ИРИНА БИЛЫК). Selections from various albums. By the way, I saw Bilyk perform at a concert in Lutsk, Ukraine in 1997 with a similar Russian singer, Linda. Bilyk’s songs are pleasant, moody, lightly arranged. Fast techno dance track often combines with a slow downbeat (almost whispering) style of singing. (which reminds me a little of Suzanne Vega). Her 1995 album Нова consists of mainly dance-techno songs and has lots of great moments. The 1996 Так прост doesn’t have as many memorable melodies, but lots of good vocals and arrangements. Later albums are more lyrical (and not as successful). I ended up loving her slower 2014 album Рассвет. This singer has definitely grown on me over the decade.
- Благо дарю by ОЛЬГА ГОРБАЧЕВА (Olga Gorbacheva). (43 minutes, 12 tracks, $5.88) Cute young blond who sing serious/sincere songs in the same vein of Irina Bilyk (indeed this album shares a track with Bilyk’s 2014 album which I mentioned above).
- НЕАНГЕЛЫ: Selections from two albums Best of and Роман. I would describe this as dramatic but unostentatious pop with a slow and slick techno sound. It’s fast and danceable but not particularly memorable; at the same time, it’s pleasant enough to listen to.
- Live Шоу “Каролина” by Ани Лорак (Ana Lorak). (25 tracks, 103 minutes, $5.99). Spectacular concert by Ukraine’s music superstar. This concert (which is fully available on youtube) has lavish sets, a full band and chorus and several surprise guests. The songs are not as amazing as the electrifying way they are performed. In fact, I’m at a loss to provide an American equivalent. Perhaps Jennifer Lopez or Diana Ross or Shania Twain or Tina Turner. She’s not rap or really EDM, but more traditional singing which really soar when she’s in a duet with frequent guests.
- Коллекция легендарных песен by ОЛЕГ МИТЯЕВ (Oleg Mityaev). (50 tracks, 171 minutes, $5.99). Megacompilation by Russian bard/folk singer who got started in the early 1980s. His style is traditional folk (and frankly the melodies can get monotonous). About half the tracks are live recordings, and most consist of some combination of piano, accordian or acoustic guitar. Some of the slower ballads are gems. Fun fact; he hails from Chelyabinsk (near the Ural Mountains). In late November as I write this, its temperature is 17 degrees F below zero!
May 2015. I have been winnowing my list of SXSW performers and will soon buy albums by new talents (see April 2015).
- Milton Hopkins and Jewel Brown. (41 minutes, 12 tracks for $5.88). Jewel Brown was the main singer when Louis Armstrong was touring overseas in the 50s and 60s. Jewel Brown is no Ella Fitzgerald, but she has some great songs — most of which are hard to find because they were recorded under the name of Armstrong’s band at the time. Brown retired in 1971 for personal reasons, living in Houston, running a hair salon and doing the occasional concert. In the last few years she has been performing with local blues legends, and this album is one of these collaboration. This album combines a bluesy guitar with Jewel Brown’s lively singing. It’s more bluesy than jazz, but it’s still a worthy album and a lot of fun.
- Blade Runner: 30th Anniversary Celebration (Music from the Motion Picture). Apparently there has been no full release of the actual mysterious Vangelis soundtrack, but this musician decided to reconstruct the soundtrack in its original form as best as he could. It sounds great and apparently has satisfied most of the people who were complaining about the previous soundtracks.
- All Your Love by Siti Nurhaliza. (10 tracks, 42 minutes, $4.90). Nurhaliza is an amazing (and beautiful to look at) Malaysia singer who I discovered during my yearlong period of downloading all sorts of pirated albums from Audiogalaxy in 2001. I loved her stuff to death. Fun, pop and catchy in an Asian way. This English album probably isn’t her best, but it’s in English, has some good songs and is the only thing emusic has by her. Which is fine (for now at least).
- Grandes voces melodicas. Leonardo Favio. (30 tracks, 93 minutes for $5.99). Longest compilation of this versatile Argentine singer, actor and director. Mainly love ballads and random stuff; some very catchy stuff here which when combined with Favio’s brooding and poetic voice make this a winner.
- Best of Ho Ngoi Ha. (23 tracks, 101 minutes, $5.99). I first heard this woman sing the traditional part on a great and funky duet on Suboi’s rap album. This is also a good collection (though the arrangements are fairly minimalist and the songs slow and bland).
- Live in 67 (by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers). (13 tracks, 77 minutes for $6.37). Outstanding but low-fidelity live performances of John Mayall and the three founding members of Fleetwood Mac. Amazing stuff.
- The Yardbirds Story by Giorgio Gomelsky. (89 tracks, 290 minutes for $6.49). Amazing 4 CD collection of Yardbird stuff between 1963 and 1966.
- Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll. Music Soundtrack. 20 tracks, 68 minutes, $5.99).
- Acadian All-Star Special: The Pioneering Cajun Recordings of J.D. Miller. 78 tracks, 209 minutes for $7.50) . Pioneering is a fine word for this great compilation of early Cajun stuff. Apparently JD was a collector of old 78s, and these haven’t been heard in a long time.
- Ondatrópica by Ondatrópica. (Soundways Recording). (19 tracks, 77 minutes). Multigenerational collaboration of Columbian singers (old and new), featuring cumbia mixed with a variety of contemporary styles.
- Predestinación by ARIES VIGOTH. 12 tracks, 47 minutes for $6.49.
- 20 Exitos De Cristina Maica CRISTINA MAICA. 20 tracks, 60 minutes for 5.99.
- Ekstasis (Expanded). Julia Holter. (15 tracks, 92 minutes for $6.49). Experimental mood music.
- Various 80s Ital0-Disco compilations, starting with this double-disc one: The Best Off Disco 70/80, Vol. 2 (30 tracks, 174 minutes, $5.99). Other volumes in the series go about 110-120 minutes. which all have about 110-120 minutes: Best of Italo-Disco Vol 1, Best of Italo-Disco Vol 2 (not to be confused with the double compilation listed above) and Best of Italo-Disco Vol 4. Personally I liked Vol 1 the best (maybe because it’s the first of the series I listened to). The vocals don’t particularly stand out, but the retro disco instrumentals can go to remarkable places. This label has a limited number of artists in its stable — and these are NOT the well-known ones in Italo disco, but these are lively and mindlessly fun.Here’s a Pitchfork article about the phenomenon: “Who on earth ever thought that these were good ideas for songs, or that they could become hits? And why, ill-fitting as it is, do I still find some of these strange songs stuck in my head? There will always be something a bit off about Italo but that might be what makes it so pliant, so resilient. It’s failures become its strengths. Its sexiness is like a mannequin posed for a hug, its futurism like a cyborg soaked in seawater, trying to pass as human.”
April 2015. I now have $300 worth of credits to my name. Time to do some serious music shopping. For the next few months, I can stop going for the compilations and start buying newer artists and even fit in some jazz artists (thanks to the smart reviews of the latest jazz releases on the birdistheword blog).
- Sun Rockabilly Meltdown, (103 tracks, 236 minutes for $5.84). Besides the familiar Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, a lot of new new names to me.
- Snake Box by Harvey Mandel (47 tracks, 236 minutes for $6.49). Famed blues player in a gigantic box set. Incredible compilation!
- Boleros: Volume 1 and Volume 2 are both hefty albums, weighing in at 180 minutes each for $6. Boleros are slower, gentler songs, and both volumes contain lots of classic singers like Olimpo Cardenas, Los Ponchos, Julio Jaramillo, Los Dandys and Daniel Santos.
- Grandes Exitos Vol 3 and Vol 4 by Las Hermanas Calle (each are 16 tracks, 45 minutes for $6.49) Emusic didn’t have volumes 1 or 2. This sister duet from Venezuela has some lovely ballads and boleros dating over several decades. (Bio in Spanish here). Traditional but engaging stuff.
- (On bandcamp, not Emusic — but worth mentioning anyway because of the bargain aspect, 250 substantial tracks for minimum $18 donation). Touched Two compilation of ambient/electronic music. Quality varies (and I heard some glitchy things which I removed), but for the most part it sounds like ambient/New Age music by lots of electronic artists. (I assume that they are British/European, because the money benefits cancer research in England).
- (On Amazon, for $5 – $1 credit). Greatest Hits: Lean on Me by Bill Withers. (18 tracks, 74 minutes for $5 make this one a steal).
- Everything I do Gonh Be Funky By Allen Toussaint. (40 tracks, 107 minutes for $6). Compilation of greatest 50s, 60s and 70s arrangements of this famed Louisiana-based musical producer.
- Happy Times in New Orleans ( Early Sessions: 1958-1960) By Allen Toussaint. (20 tracks, 40 minutes for $6). Lively minimalist jazz piano pieces with occasional vocals.
Special SXSW List I am keeping a separate list of SXSW finds which are priced normally — but still good deals considering the booster credits. This list will incorporate more than one month. Update: I am still only about 1/3 into my 2015 SXSW picks, and I started listening to great tracks from 2011 SXSW. For convenience I will be mingling all SXSW discoveries on this list.
- Walk by Suboi (9 tracks, 32 minutes for $4.41). Suboi is a Vietnamese rap singer whose songs are peppy and bilingual and fun.
- It’s Alive by La Luz. (11 tracks, 33 minutes $5.39). Good upbeat girls surfer rock by a featured Los Angeles group at SXSW 2015 with hints of anarchy throughout.
- Bernhari by Bernhari. (11 tracks, 46 minutes, $5.39). Energetic Canadian instrumental band with elements of dream pop. Absolutely original.
- Your Old Droog by Your Old Droog. (18 tracks, 59 minutes for $6.49). It is rare when I stumble upon a rap album which 1)is not laced with profanity, 2)has nice musical elements and clever lyrics. This album is the pleasant exception. Ironically the singer (who was initially mistaken for NAS) is actually a young Ukrainian-American living in NYC.
- Total Strife Forever (Deluxe Edition), East India Youth. (12 tracks, 107 minutes, $8.99). This great electronic album also contains the 54 minutes “20,000 Leagues under the Sea.”
- Kalaboogie and the Prosper Project by Doomsquad. (Each about 45-55 minutes for $5.99). Electronic/percussion Toronto-based band with moody hypnotic effects — including the occasional vocals. Think Yo La Tengo with a dance beat.
- Another Way to Live and the World You’re Living In by Amber Digby. (35 minutes for each $5.88 album). This Houston native sings unassuming and winsome country songs which remind me a lot of Willie Nelson.
- Hanging Spoons by Gina Chavez. (12 tracks, 55 minutes, $5.88) Eclectic half-Mexican Austin singer-songwriter who alternates between the Latino sound and Texas country — a little like Rosie Flores.
- Ways Over Water. Fritz Kalkbreiner. (13 tracks, 72 minutes, $5.19) Berlin electronic artist.
- Obsidian Spectre by Crosss. (8 tracks, 42 minutes for $5.99). Grandiose and Symphonic-sounding heavy metal.
- Solstice by the Heaters. (8 tracks, 26 minutes, $3.92). Fierce surf-psychedelic garage rock by a Michigan band. A hard pounding drum beat ensures that you don’t get lost in the haze. This band has become one of my fave discoveries from this year’s SXSW.
- Life as a Dog by K-Flay (11 tracks, 44 minutes, $5.39). Gnarly and Arty rap by a San Francisco girl.
- Unorthodox by Sno that Product. (17 tracks, 49 minutes, $5.99). Latin rapping by a tough-talking California girl. Think of Eminem, but it’s a lot more danceable. Actually she’s the Latino M.I.A. with lots of electro-pizzazz underneath the lyrics. Some pottymouth-ery, but generally there’s a social purpose behind it.
- Ninety Thirty Thirty by Fielded. (11 tracks, 36 minutes, $5.39). Lyrical self-produced album by Lindsay Powell, a girl with a voice like Blondie, clever arrangements, surprising space melodies and deliberately slow tempos.
- Fantastic Negrito Deluxe EP. R& B with guitars. (7 tracks, 26 minutes, $3.43).
- Everyone you love will be happy soon. by Quiet Company (15 tracks, 60 minutes, $5.99). Plaintive country rock.
- Loose Ends by Francisco the Man. (10 tracks, 50 minutes, $6.99)
- Insides by Fort Rameau. (8 tracks, 52 minutes, $6.99).
- Under the Surface by Marit Larsen. 11 tracks, 37 minutes, $5.99. Larsen is a Norwegian pop sensation and songwriter who seems like a less angrier version of Alanis Morissette.
- Where We All Live EP by Wheelchair Sports Camp. 6 tracks, 24 minutes for $2.94. A sort of rap/jazz/punk band from Denver fronted by a rapping girl in a wheelchair. Sounds like a freakshow, but it’s actually good music — and also very fun.
- Black Hole Lace. by Kemp & Eden. (9 tracks, 30 minutes, $4.41) Slow and Arty two-part harmony dream pop by two cute girls with offbeat lyrics.
- Selections from Analog Rebellion. Texas Songwriter Daniel Hunter writes a lot of off the wall songs with bizarre themes and lyrics, but the music is always remarkable. Hunter’s band is prolific, and I ended up picking songs from all his albums. The albums I took the most songs from included: Ancient Electrons, Evaders, and Cavanaugh, Something.
- 1993-2003: 10 Years of K’s Choice. Compilation. 18 tracks, 64 minutes for $5.99 Laid back 90s grrl rock. It probably needs to be rowdier, but a good restrained Greatest Hits album.
- Waving at the Sun by K’s Choice. 12 tracks, 34 minutes, $5.88. More recent album by the band which is absolutely ethereal.
- You can’t take a bad girl home. Fabulous Ginn Sisters. (10 tracks, 33 minutes, $4.90).
- Collection 1: An Embarrassment of richard. by Richard Barone. (15 tracks, 63 minutes, $5.99). Volume 1 compilation album of Richard Barone, singer for the Bongos and music producer who writes slow catchy pop songs. Update: I also bought Collection 2: Before and Afterglow (22 tracks, 76 minutes, $5.99) which I liked even better. It’s slower, more interesting and still fun.
- 2 Albums by Secret Colours: Peach and Positive Distractions.
- Selections from Extra Classic. (From Showcase and You Light like White Elephants). This San Francisco group plays a lot of easygoing dub/reggae (more). The songs are somewhat interchangeable, but the girl’s singing and the jamming guitars makes it refreshing to listen to.
March 2015. Wow, another booster credit sale! Although I will be scoping out the mega-compilations, I want to grab some by newer artists, especially discoveries from SXSW.
- Boston by Fleetwood Mac (30 tracks, 213 minutes for $11.80). Great and expansive blues track by early Fleetwood Mac when Peter Green was fronting it.
Feb 2015. Finishing off the credits and returning to normal. But I still have a lot of megacompilations to buy! Over the last 3 months I seem to be getting most of my emusic recommendations from a single forum post about multidisc compilations. Indeed, I’ve added a lot to this thread as well.
- Rare Soul and R&B Masters. (100 tracks, 263 minutes for $6.49). Wonderful collection of singers and songs I have never heard of. I had expected to recognize a few names, but with the exception of Tony Orlando(!), Brenda Lee (!) and Gloria Gaynor, none of them ring a bell. Like other compilations, these are digitalizations of “needle-drop recordings” from the 60s, but they are still lively and good-sounding.
- Mag All Stars Vol 1 and Vol 3 are compilations of lively 50s Peruvian nightclub gems. Lots of salsa/mambo/nutty jazz stuff by unfamiliar names. Each about 71 minutes for $6.49, both are great deals which come from Repsyched Records.
- Lucho Gatica. (107 tracks, 350 minutes). This A to Z collection is a grabbag, but it contains the major hits of this Latin American singer.
Jan 2015. Continuing to spend the booster credits from last month.
- Five Album Set & Bonus EPs. (72 tracks, 291 minutes for $5.99). The American Dollar. Great rock instrumentals which have a symphonic quality. Engaging, exciting (like early Rush).
- Petula Clark Legacy. (57 tracks, 150 minutes, $6.49).This generous album contains mainly minor tracks, show tunes and cover tunes– before Petula Clark hit the big time and started producing great 60s rock songs. But the songs here show an earlier style; they are fascinating, very hummable and entertaining. The good news is that there is virtually no overlap between this album and the more conventional compilation Petula Clark albums. See also the practically identical compilation It Had to Be You. Unfortunately the best compilation of her rock period (Ultimate P.C.) used to be on emusic, but was taken off during last year’s exodus of big labels.
- Ibiza’s House of House (Compilation 52 tracks, 323 minutes, $5.99). This excellent and long compilation of recent progressive trance has many high moments, plus the songs are all unedited, so you get the full versions.
- Countrypolitan Classics by Eddie Arnold (44 tracks, 121 minutes for $5.19). This Great series contains long compilation of country legends for bargain prices.
- Lo mejor de Julio Jaramillo (78 tracks, 224 minutes for $5.84). Great compilation by the great Ecuadorian singer.
- Cuba Cubaneando by Benny More (91 tracks, 273 minutes for $5.84). Great combination of old tracks by this Cuban crooner.
- Best of Caterina Valente. (52 tracks, 151 minutes, $6.49).Really outstanding compilation of 50s and 60s showtunes/Latino and early rockish sounds by an Italian singer who also made it very big in US and other countries. I loved almost every song. Some of them were just wacky!
- Indie Psyche Rock: Rare Recordings from the Attic (58 tracks, 176 minutes $5.84) This is a great, energetic and zany compilation. Really one of my favorite emusic purchases!
December 2014/January 15. Another 2 for 1 Booster Credit Month. This time I bought $75, so I’ve been buying a lot of stuff.
- Celia Cruz la Reina de Cuba. (45 tracks/126 minutes for $6.49).
- Scared to get happy (Compilation of British punk hits — 50 tracks/149 minutes for $6.49). Update: Further listening to this album makes me less than impresed.
- VA – Kerrville Folk Festival – The Early Years 1972-81 ($6.49, 518:08, 135 tracks)and VA – Kerrville Folk Festival – The Silverwolf Years ($6.49, 397:56, 95 tracks)
- 100 Años de Historia Musical, Vol. 1 and Vol 2 by Lucho Bermudez (each 60 minutes for $6.50). Latin America’s equivalent to Benny Goodman and Big Band. Great stuff.
- Los Reyes del Merengue by CHAPUSEAUX Y DAMIRÓN (12 tracks for 30 minutes). A really fun and elegant album by the great merengue masters. Appearances by vocalist Sylvia de Grasse and flautist Gilberto Valdes really balance it all out and make it feel like a magical combination.
- Discos Fuentes Guillermo Buitrago Collection (25 tracks, 74 minutes for $5.99)
- Discos Fuentes Pedro Laza Collection PEDRO LAZA Y SUS PELAYEROS (25 tracks for 68 minutes for $5.99)
- Wartime Years — Wartime Memories, (200 tracks, 596 minutes for $6.49)
- Moochin’ Abouts Stateside Hitlist 1962 (292 tracks, 760 minutes for $6.49).
- Moochin’ about Bossa Nova, (70 tracks, 217 minutes for $6.49).
- Various psychedelic compilations: London Underground ,(46 tracks, 156 minutes for $6.49), Rare Tracks (89 tracks, 256 minutes for $4.40), 100 Psychedelic Trips (Stoner Rock, Garage Rock, Acid Rock) (100 tracks, 328 minutes for $5.84).
- Wussy, Attica. (11 tracks, 42 minutes for $5.39). Rated A+ by Robert Christgau
- Retrospektive Deluxe Edition by Nektar. (38 tracks, 194 minutes for $5.84). Great symphonic rock.
- Girls, Girls, Girls, Vol 1. (174 tracks, 421 minutes). Random grabbag of unknown female tracks from 50s and 60s. I recognized almost none of them!
November 2014. OMG 2 for 1 Booster Credit Month. Time to go crazy!
- City: Works of Fiction (Expanded Edition) by Jon Hassell. (202 minutes for $8.60) Phenomenally interesting free form ambient jazz soundscapes by a well known avante-pop artist who frequently collaborates with Brian Eno. This totally wowwed me and I am looking forward to picking up Fourth World: Volume 1, which is a classic work which should be available in digital form very soon.
- Grandes Exitos de Tete Montoliu . More of the great Spanish jazz pianist (See my comments below).
- Kenya Special: (Selected East African Recordings from the 1970s and 1980s). Another great Soundways compilations. Unfortunately overpriced at 11.98, I can afford it with my booster pack credits.
- Blind Troubadour of Oaxaca . Alonzo Cruz. Damn those overpriced high-quality Smithsonian Edition recordings. Here’s a 42 minute compilation from the 1960s which is great, spare and memorable.
- Myaskovsky: Selected Symphonies. 204 minutes for $6.50
- Two Marimbas from Oaxaca, Mexico . by FAUSTINO GONZÁLEZ RIVERA AND SILVERIO PASTELÍN NAVARRO
- Salmanov: Symphonies Nos. 1-4 (Live). 115 minutes for $6.50
- Various Punk 45 Compilations from the 1970s. “There Is No Such Thing As Society: Get A Job, Get A Car, Get A Bed, Get Drunk! Underground Punk in the UK 1977-81”, “Sick on You ! One Way Spit ! After the Love & Before the Revolution ” and “Kill the Hippies! Kill Yourself! The American Nation Destroys Its Young“. Amazing and jarring compilation of rowdy songs by various underground bands and one hit wonders. Opened a new musical world for me.
- Still Some Light by Bill Fay (123 minutes for $6.49). Soulful and almost spiritual ballads with a New Age sound. Bill Fay is an overlooked gem.
- Afrosound of Columbia Vol 1 (158 minutes, 43 tracks for $5.84).
- 2001-9, Durutti Column, (329 minutes for $11.96).
- Jazz on Film (New Wave) Vol 1-7. (385 minutes for $6.49). Great stuff from European 60s films
- El Barrio: Ultimate Collection of Latin Boogaloo, Disco, Fun & Soul (Fania Records). (240 minutes for 6.50). Good collection by a major U.S./ Latin label from the 60s. This label brought us a lot of names which we regard as household names in Latin music now.
- Clair Denis Film Scores 1996-2009 by Tindersticks. (189 minutes for $3.89).
- Moochin’ about Stateside Hitlist (1961). (853 minutes for $6.49).
- The Bats: Volume 1. (169 minutes at $6.99). Great compilation of a leading 90s Australian punk band.
- Jazzactuel: Collection of avante-garde/free jazz psychedelia from 1969-1971 (223 minutes for $5.99). Pretty trying cerebral tracks, but a good change of pace.
October 2014. Classical music time:
- Complete Symphonies by Shostakovich , 700 minutes for $6.49, conducted by KIRILL KONDRASHIN. See this laudatory article about this cycle.
- Cantares de la Revolución Mexicana y Canciones Norteñas, Various. (117 minutes for $6.49). This random 2 disc compilation of songs from the Mexican Revolution period (1910-1920) stands out as containing a fair number of well-known singers and unknowns, not terrible sound quality (though not great), a variety of songs and really beautiful melodies.
- Music for Anna by Tete Montoliu. Excellent bargain-priced ($3!) jazz session in the later part of Montoliu’s career. This Spanish jazz pianist seems to be little known, and yet his career spans decades. Next month I will definitely be grabbing the Grandes Exitos de Tete Montoliu (105 minutes for 5.84) which takes from several different albums.
September 2014. Amidst the scary announcement that emusic is dropping lots of titles by the big labels, there is still lots of good indie stuff to get into:
- Deep in the Shallows by The Church.(154 minutes for $6.49). Outstanding compilation of 20 years of hits by this Australian jangle rock band. One reviewer called the songs on CD 2 to be amazing, and I agree. As the album winds down, the sound is more balanced and moodier. Less about trying to rock you, more about trying to grasp at something unfathomable.
- Спасибо by Zemfira (ЗЕМФИРА). Zemfira is a female singer who hit the Russian pop scene in the 1990s with her self-titled debut album. All my students liked her, and I did too. 15 years later, I can’t help but wonder what she has done in the meantime. Here’s the answer! Although some of her intervening albums were forgettable, this one had lots of great moments.
August 2014. I upgraded my membership so I had $16.99 of credits per month by paying $134 for the year. On another note, I made a major purchase of used CDs from half.com, including a bunch of ultracheap imports of jazz box sets and all sorts of random 90s stuff. So I haven’t been wanting for music.
- RCA 100 Anos de Musica by Tony Camargo. (107 minutes for $11.10) As tempting as the RCA 100 Anos de Musica compilation albums are, I’ve resisted because they are so damn expensive. Instead, I have been downloading for free from Freegal select songs by Pedro Vargas, Roberto Jordan, Armando Manzanero, Los Churumbules de Espana (awesome!), Emmanuel and other collections. But I couldn’t resist the Camargo collection; it sounds like early Tito Puente or 1940s Big Band; almost every track is fun and fresh.
- Self-Titled by Ultimate Spinach, (9 tracks, 36 minutes for $4.41). Good 60s psychedelic music from Boston. In September I also bought the excellent sequel Behold and See soon.
July 2014. They had their 2 for 1 emusic credit special, so this month will have some intense purchases. (Also I checked out some amazing things from the library and bought several amazing used CDs. Many titles were inspired by this great list of emusic albums (which is further evidence that great evidence are everywhere if only they can be noticed).
- Car Wash OST by Rose Royce (73 minutes for $5.19). A terrific album with lots of funkiness and soul. Great jazzy instrumentals too. I saw the movie for the first time a few months ago and couldn’t believe how awesome the background music sounded.
- В Добрый Час (Good Luck) (1986) by Time Machine (Машина времени). Some light-hearted songs with a folk feel but also keyboard and guitar and hints of rock and roll. This 38 minute album from the 80s capture the early adventures of the group. Stylistically it reminds me of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine phase — frivolous, lackadaisical and a good kind of weird.
- Speak No Evil by Wayne Shorter (48 minutes, 7 tracks for $3.89).
- Wattstax: The Living Word, VA. (Live Concert). (47 tracks, 224 minutes for $11.10). Classic blues concert (which was later made into a blues documentary). Also, I added a few extra tracks from Wattstax: Highlights from the Documentary which were not included in the main concert album.
- Live at the Summit Club by Johnnie Taylor. (10 tracks, 64 minutes for 5.19, but you can skip the first track, which is just an introduction). This concert was recorded for inclusion in the Wattstax documentary, but only one of the songs ended up being used. Here’s what was left on the cutting room floor.
- Hello Avalanche by Octopus Party. ($6 for 43 minutes). This Austin avante garde electronica band is fun and soothing and silly. All their albums can be streamed on their bandcamp site, but the albums are cheaper to purchase on emusic. It’s worth noting that their band site has several free downloads.
- Lift Your Skinny Fists like Antennas to Heaven by Godspeed you! black emperor. ( 4 tracks, 87 minutes for $5.84). Symphonic space rock composition which is purely instrumental, gradually building up and exciting.
- Greatest Rhythm and Booze Collection by Amos Milburn. ($6 for 77 minutes). Outstanding and fun 50s R&B tracks by a Houston singing legend. Update: Apparently songs from this album and other songs can be downloaded for free from archive.org . (See here and here). A cursory listen to the free tracks indicates that they don’t suck.
- Best of Perception & Today Records compiled by DJ Spinna and BBE Soundsystem (154 minute compilation for $6.50). Double album compilation of 70s funky NY ethnic soul. Lots of horns, instrumentals and yelling. I liked it more for the overall “sound” and the instrumentals than the vocals.
- Rock-a-billy: Boogie Woogie Blues Man. By Roy Gaines. (37 minutes for $6). More R&B stuff by a Houstonian I hadn’t heard of. (Actually I guessed correctly that he was related to Grady Gaines of the Upsetters).
- Feel the Heat by Henry Paul Band. A recent Southern blues rock band with lots of power. Great mainstream kind of sound.
- Come Again by Even. Surprisingly engaging Australian pop band from the 1990s that has a 60s like Beatles sound (along with occasional dissonances and wit).
- Irish Tour by Rory Gallagher. (Live concert: 71 minutes for $4.54). Highly regarded concert of Irish blues guitarist Rory Gallagher when he was in his prime.
- Mark-Almond ’73 by Mark-Almond. (40 minutes for $2.94). Unclassifiable downbeat rock.
- Black-top Blues-o-rama Volume 4, by Various Houston blues artists performing at New Orleans (I think). Some great and powerful stuff, especially Grady Gaines and Big Robert Smith.
- Live by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. (48 minutes for $5.39). This album was dinged on allmusic for bad acoustics, but I didn’t notice it. This album shows how exciting Gatemouth can be in person (I saw him once and can attest). He floats effortlessly between genres, and this particular recording emphasizes the more energetic jazz stuff.
- Soul Makassa by Lafayette Afro Rock Band. (Plus 1 or 2 tracks extra from other albums including the great Ozan koukle)
- Rosie Flores by Rosie Flores. (30 minutes for $5). Great 1987 debut album by this Texas country singer . Traditional country with a strong guitar presence and hints of rock and roll. She sticks to the genre pretty closely, and I personally prefer the more soulful songs like “Somebody loves, somebody wins” than the more upbeat numbers.
- #7885 Electropunk to Technopop 1978-1985 by Cabaret Voltaire. (77 minutes, 19 tracks for $7). A fairly accessible collection of CV’s midcareer works, and a good introduction to what this avante pop/electronica band was all about.
- Full Gain by Grady Gaines and the Texas Upsetters. (Selected tracks at 49 cents each). I spent the rest of my balance on this classic Texas saxophone-led blues band. Although the fast-paced stuff is fun and funky, the slow numbers (like If I loved you a little less and Miss Lucy Brown) are really where this band shines.
June 2014. I’m still on the basic plan (hopefully I can upgrade in 1 or 2 months). But I found 3 great low-cost LA punk compilations.
- Beach Blvd. Compilation (30 tracks, 65 minutes for $1.95). Here’s a Posh Boy compilation of 70s Los Angeles punk, including Negative Trend (with Rik L Rik), etc.
- Posh Hits #1. Compilation (20 tracks, 49 minutes for $1.95). More of basically the same genre, with Pariah, Redd Kross, Simpletones. Etc.
- Four Days in a Hotel Room by the Nuns (24 tracks, 72 minutes for $1.95). A really fun and versatile female-led punk group which is always sly, seductive and naughty. Liked this a LOT!
May 2014. I downgraded my membership to the basic while I look for a job (Remember I went on a buying spree last month, so don’t worry about me!). But I bought something amazing:
- Francophonic 2. (13 tracks, 148 minutes for $6.49). Volume 2 of the Franco compilation featuring tracks from the last decade of Franco’s short life. Francophonic 1 (which is the same price and duration, but covers the early years) is also unbelievable. I bought 3 other Franco collections below for low prices as well: Roots of OK Jazz, Very Best of 1960-2: Franco and Lisanga Ya Banganga. By Grand Maitre Franco, all of which are terrific. Although there are dozens of Franco CDs, these 5 budget compilation albums have probably no overlapping songs (well, maybe 1 or 2).
March -April 2014 (combined). I took advantage of the 2 for 1 booster credits to gain $100 of credits for only $50. Just in the nick of time because my To-Buy list is growing incredibly large.
- El Kravchuk. Luchshye pesni – 15 let. (18 songs for $5.99) El Kravchuk is a Ukrainian singer with an almost operatic voice who sings tunes with a techno pop. Some of the pieces seem low-key, lyrical, soaring, danceable. This is a compilation from the last 15 years and truly wondrous. I didn’t warm up to it immediately when I first heard it in Ukraine, but now I can’t get enough of it.
- Chess Blues Box Set. (101 tracks/290 minutes for $26) I’ve been salivating over this box set for years, and it bugs me that I haven’t been able to get it from ILL (interlibrary loan). Because the price of the digital box set is steep even with the discounts, I can only justify buying this when I have bought 2 for 1 credits. But it is great! (I am eagerly awaiting from ILL another blues box set called Juke Joint Blues which contains no overlap with this one).
- Anti 2010 Fall Sampler and Anti 2010 Spring Compilation are each about 50 minutes and cost only $ 1.99.
- Samantha Stollenwerck, Carefree. I’m a huge fan of this Los Angeles singer who seems like a funkier version of Sheryl Crow with J.J. Grey’s rip-roaring bluesy style. Note that you can download some of her live concerts (legally!) for free.
- Dual Mono by the Greenhornes. Rowdy, traditional rocking, with almost every song a winner.
- Distant Earth Remixed by ATB. Really exhilarating EDM, starting with the song accompanying the incredible Hulafantastica video.
- Awaara/Shree. An album which combines 2 well-known soundtracks from Bollywood movies. A bargain! (Update: Just listened again to it. What a great collection of songs!)
- Noor Jehan Collection in Urdu Volume 3.
- Advisory Committee by Mirah. Very well-received moody shoegazing female songs.
- Elegancia Tropical by Bomba Estereo.
- Lo Mejor De Lo Mejor de RCA Victor by Libertad Lamarque. (Compilation: 40 tracks/112 minutes for $11.10) Great compilation of an Argentine singer who became wildly popular in Mexico. This stuff contains lots of songs from her Argentina days in the 1930s-40s and her later stuff for Mexican films in the 50s and 60s. The songs are good and gushy romantic, but her voice is outstanding and very expressive. Update: I still like this album, but very few songs really stand out as great.
- Originales — 20 Exitos by Jeanette. Great 20 track compilation of Jeanette’s best songs from the 80s. Lots of hidden gems here. Jeanette has a soft coy soft like Suzanne Vega, and these tunes are catchy, pensive and very sweet. Like a Bacharach song, these songs seem deceptively simply and formulaic, but after you unpack the lush orchestration and crescendos, you realize that there’s a lot more here than you expected. (Note: “Originales 20 Exitos” is a generic title for single artist compilations from previous decades (most are smaller than the RCA 100 Anos de Musica). Often you can choose the single CD compilation titled “Originales 20 Exitos”
- RCA 100 Anos De Musica – Segunda Parte ( Grandes Baladas De Los 70s) (Compilation: 36 tracks for 120 minutes at $11.10). Outstanding compilation of Top 40 Easy Listening Ballads of the 70s by all the Mexican greats. Honestly, I wish I could buy every single of the 50+ titles — even though they were rather expensive. Unfortunately, the Mexican music business don’t have low cost compilation CDs, so this is all you’re stuck with. In addition to single artist compilations, there are some good 2 disc compilations by multiple artists. Honestly I was torn between 3 different compilations and this one won…
- Slave Ambient by War on Drugs. Great guitar rumblings and electronic background to a man who sings like Bob Dylan. I can’t for the life of me understand what this singer is saying (the guitar strumming drowns it out), but the music is exciting and at the same time low-key.
- Snakebite by Eleni Mandell. I’ve been following Mandell for years. She writes quirky, dangerous and off-the-wall songs. Great lyrics, lots of dissonance and crazy melodies. Sure, she’s mellowing out with her later albums, but this albums comes from her I’m-still-crazy stage. Check out this awesome review of this album.
- Tele by Pjusk. ($4.41) Slow subterranean ambient music that moves at a glacial pace. It’s made by two Norwegian guys who say their music is influenced by the natural landscape — living in the mountains in the snowy winters. A nice change of pace and a genuinely beautiful soundscape (dare I call it music?)
- Adams Effect by Pepper Adams. Last recorded performance of jazz great Pepper Adams in a cheap ($3.43) recording. This album has been on my list for over a year, and I finally got around to buying it. Lively perfection and a historically important recording.
February 2014. What luck! I posted the Refer a Friend $50 Credit and Earned $50 more credits to my account. (PS, If you want me to send you the $50 offer, email me).
- Various Polyvinyl Samplers. To take advantage of the 2 week Polyvinyl sale, I’ve started downloading a number of free and very cheap ($1.50) Polyvinyl samplers. After listening to those I’ll purchase some actual albums. Polyvinyl samplers are everywhere, so here are some links: Free samplers on emusic: PV Digest, Hey Girl Hey, Polyvinyl SXSW 2013, Winston’s Essentials. Free samplers on Amazon (but not emusic): PV 15 year anniversary, Sells for $1.40 on emusic: PV 2005 Sampler, PV 2004 Sampler, PV Summer/Fall 2005 Sampler, Simple Mental Math (2009), PV 2002-3 Sampler, PV 2009 Sampler. There’s usually 1-3 duplicates on each album, but considering that I spent only $8.40 for about 150 unique indie tracks from an edgy label (about 4 or 5 per artist!), that’s a great deal!
- 100 Hits Lounge (456 minutes for $11.98). Probably a frivolous choice, but a good value and I had LOTS of fun listening to it on rdio. The concept is simple: 100 mainstream pop songs are reinterpreted and rearranged by mostly South American jazz/lounge DJs. So almost every tune is familar, but the reinterpretations (often with jazzy vocals) are fresh, unusual and surprising. I listened to and enjoyed another 100 track lounge compilation for $5.99 called Lounge Top 100 (listed below) which contains unfamiliar tunes and I see that there’s a low-cost sequel called Lounge Top 100 Vol 2 which I have yet to buy, but almost certainly will do so eventually.
- Roots of OK Jazz (59 minutes for $5.99). Early musical offerings by the legendary Congolese jazz band led by Franco. This tracks feature more of the band and less on individual stars (like Franco himself). Just as good as I’d imagine it.
- Very Best of 1960-2. Franco and L’Orchestra OK Jazz. (121 minutes for $6.49). Both of these albums are great; this album is a double set. Significantly, with the exception of one track, there is virtually no overlap between this album or Roots of OK Jazz or the Francophonic 1 compilation.
- Places like This. Architecture in Helsinki. ($5 for 31 minutes) . Peppy rhythmic Australian band with lots of weird sound effects and vocals. Reminds me of Talking Heads or B52s, with a healthy dose of silliness.
- Fluorescence by Asobi Seksu. Great hazy electronic band by a Japanese-American artist. Shoegazing, meditative, flighty stuff with lots of unusual beats that leave you off-balanced. I actually prefer her earlier work Citrus which was really moody, Goldfrappy and stirring in a bold way, but Fluorescence was on sale by Polyvinyl, so I decided to get this first. Still an excellent album to contemplate by.
- I need you bad. Various. (Sale $5 for 15 tracks at 48 minutes). Random collection of West Coast garage bands. No single track stands out, but there’s a variety of styles and a lot of slow/whispery/underwater-sounding tracks. Though I loved it at first listen and like being exposed to these kind of bands, nothing really wowwed me.
- Noor Jehan Digital Collection in Urdu Volume 2. (73 minutes for $5.99). Sounds like Bollywood with some individual flourishes. I generally love her voice.
- Cartagena! Curro Fuentes & The Big Band Cumbia and Descarga Sound Of Colombia 1962 – 72 (Soundway Records). 68 minutes for $5.99. Not a bad track in the bunch. Really amazing stuff and no overlap with my other compilation albums (such as Diablos del Ritmo below).
- King Of History – Classic 1970s Benga Beats From Kenya. (84 minutes for 5.99). This music is characterized by fast jumpy beats, and call and response by the chorus and the jumpy guitars . A critic writes,” the songs normally start off with a snappy guitar riff as introduction, followed by voices over lulling guitar work. Then, with the singing out of the way, the instruments get down to the serious business, galloping into double time as the guitars trade short, frantic phrases.” Love it overall, but there doesn’t seem to be any musical climaxes, just lots of rapidfire beats.
January 2014. Still trying to figure out what to get.
- Noor Jehan Digital Collection Volume 1. (72 minutes for $5.99) Jehan is Pakistan’s most famous singer who sang in movies and as a playback singer. She appeared in a number of Bollywood movies as well. She has recorded over 10,000 songs (compared to 26,000 songs each for Asha and Lata). This is the first of 9 volumes. Unfortunately this digital collection doesn’t have any sort of organization (chronological or otherwise), but the songs are great.
- 1992-2012 Anthology by Underworld. A 3 1/2 hour anthology for $6.50 certainly seems like a good deal, especially because the compilation of tracks by this legendary 90s techno group provides highlights of many famous albums, including their early 90s stuff. This sells for almost 3x the price on Amazon and itunes. Update: The price recently doubled on emusic. Shucks!
- 100% Hits der 60er 70er 80er. (53 tracks/ 153 minutes for $4.50). I was browsing through many random compilations and came across this ultra-budget compilation of upbeat German folk hits from previous decades. This hoaky Lawrence Welkish style (called Volkstümliche Musik) was popular among a certain class of German society — but almost certainly not German’s youth; it is roughly analogous to U.S. country, but with oompahs and occasional yodeling. I’m aware that these tracks are easy to mock, but when I learned German at college, the music teacher used to play these songs occasionally — and it never really occurred to me that real people actually listened to this kind of music outside of an academic setting. There is not even a whimper of rock and roll here, but a few drops of classical music. In favor of this album, most (or even all of it) seems to be by the original artists. A great glimpse into a European musical style that was buried by rock and roll and disco.
December 2013. I have since found lots of interesting things, but can’t decide what to spend it on. Indeed, I have found several double albums and box sets available here which though cheap exceed my monthly credit. Good things will have to wait, I guess.
- Angola Saudade 60*70. (194 minutes for $.4.40). Apparently someone at emusic goofed, and the 4 CD version is as expensive as each individual cd. Update: This album has been removed altogether from emusic, but it is still available on Amazon. Each of the 4 CDs cost $6.99 in digital form on Amazon. It’s still a fun and remarkable album.
- Diablos del Ritmo 1960-1985: The Colombian Melting Pot (Afrobeat – Puya – Cumbiamba – Terapia – Mapalé – Caribbean Funk. (108 minutes for $11.98 — note: This was available on Amazon for 10.49)). I wasn’t pleased at having to pay “full price” for this album, but this album is so smooth and fun when I listened to it on Rdio that I know I will play it to death. The compiler wrote a nice long intro to the songs and how he came to know about them. This double album ranks up there with the Soundways Original Sound of Cumbia 1948-1979 which is one of my alltime favorites. (note: this second album is also $2 cheaper on Amazon than on emusic. What’s the deal with Columbian music being cheaper on Amazon?)
November 2013. Using more of last month’s credit. Overdosing on Cambodian pop and neo-pop. One interesting historical fact is that about Cambodian musicians were very influenced by Western rock and dance styles; about 20% of them were killed by the Khmer Rouge.
- Dengue Fever Presents Electric Cambodia. Dengue Fever collects some of their favorite Cambodian pop from the 60s and 70s. Pretty rocking stuff. Highly recommended.
- Cambodian Psych Out. Another Cambodian song compilation with an emphasis on psychedelic guitar rock.
- Dengue Fever Presents: Dancing through the Mekong. This half-compilation also features DF themselves playing some classic and original tunes. All very good, but I should add that I fully expect to buy a DF only album next month.
- Not Easy Rock and Roll. by Cambodian Space Project. Apparently another group from Australia also is trying to squat on this Cambodian/world beat space. Surprisingly modern and cool.
- Now Hear This! Winners of the Independent Spirit Award (Free sampler). A surprisingly cool collection of song winners, most of which I enjoyed. 66 songs total.
- Vida Mia and Very Best of Lydia Mendoza are two dynamite compilation albums by the Latino/Tejano singer from Houston who later lived in San Antonio. Born in 1917, most of Mendoza’s songs are from the 1930s and are absolutely boffo. Most consist of simple lyrics (all in Spanish), solos with acoustic guitar. Yet they have a lot of vitality and heart. They are sweet and relaxing, full of Latin strumming, danceable rhythms and soulful vocals.
- Dandelion Gum by Black Moth Super Rainbow. Experimental arty rock by a Philadelphia band. I listened to their other incredible album Eating Us . Each song tries something different. Sounds like downtempo dream pop with almost a cooing Yo Lo Tengo vibe. These songs are individually so interesting that I find I can relisten to these two albums a lot.
October 2013. Still recovering from last month’s listening and buying orgy.
- Lyadov Complete Piano Works, performed by Marco Rapetti (248 minutes for $6.49). (Liner Notes). 19th century Russian composer Lyadov wrote a lot of very short romantic programmatic pieces. Insubstantial, but colorful, complex. Hilariously uninterested in sonata-allegro forms, his music is reminiscent of Scriabin and Schumann. Apparently a lot of these pieces are performed here for the first time, so for $7 in emusic credits, you can get an outstanding deal. Please note that this and other recent classical music acquisitions (aside from Argerich) are re-releases from Brilliant Classics, a budget but high-quality label. Highly recommended, if only for historical novelty.
- Prokofiev. Symphonies Number 1-7. Zdenek Kosler, Czech Philharmonic. 248 minutes for $6.49. (Long outside Review here).
- Nouela. Chants. Nouela Johnston is a Seattle singer and pianist who has played with a variety of alternative bands, including Say Hi and Mon Frere. She also recorded the solo album People Eating People which I think is great. Chants is basically Nouela with a piano; it shows versatility, a mastery of the jazz genre and heaps of soul. I love it.
Sept 2013. Took advantage of the Double-the-Value of your booster pack. I added $50, which meant a whopping $100 of emusic credits. I gave my nephew $30 of the music credits, that that let me still have $87 of credits which I put to good use quickly. I’m still in Africa, although I’m starting to venture into Classical Land and 80s Land. (Update: I ended up spending those $30 in credits meant for my nephew — sorry, Dylan!)
- Lisanga Ya Banganga. By Grand Maitre Franco. This is a collection of duets by Congolese singer Tabu Ley Rochereau and singer-guitarist Franco. I’m continuing my obsession with the Congolese jazz guitarist and singer Franco which started with the amazing collection Francophonic 1 compilation which I bought a year ago. I will certainly buy Francophonic 2, although interestingly, Amazon has lowered the price of both compilations to be $2 cheaper than emusic’s prices. This collection emphasizes singing more than instrumentals; it is very slow, tropical, laid back, and neither singer dominates any of the pieces. The album actually combines two albums — one of them “Omana Wapi” was called by Robert Christgau one of the best albums of the 80s. Actually, though, I liked the 3 pieces not in that album called “Suite Lettres” which are softer, faster and more contemplative. This album didn’t wow me as much as Francophonic did, but it definitely will grow on me. Highly recommended.
- Martha Argerich — The Collection 1. (liner notes). I was tempted to blow my entire credits on the 4 volume set, but this volume costs $14.40 and contained 374 minutes, and so I know that would keep me happy for a while. This volume contains the “solo recordings” and the selections seem to come from her remarkable and iconoclastic early performances. Next I’ll be buying Volume 2: The Concertos, but I already knew some of her early concerto performances already, so it wouldn’t exactly surprise me. By the way, I realize that now she’s in her 70s, but some of the photos from her early days (which appear on all her album covers) are really sexy. Update: It now appears that the encoding rate for this compilation is substandard (ie., 160 bps VBR compared to 256CBR on Amazon.com). This is both puzzling and disappointing. I have notified emusic about this, and hopefully this can be resolved. Update 2: They gave me a credit which I applied to volume 2 — which I am assured is high fidelity quality. Everybody is happy.
- Martha Argerich — The Collection 2. The Concertos. (461 minutes for $16.30 — liner notes) I am happy to report that sound quality on this volume is perfectly fine. It includes her early concert of the Ravel concerto in G and Prokofiev #3 (which are electrifying and great, the definitive recording for each piece). Included also are standard works by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Schumann. These are all a delight; highly recommended. One note: there are duplicate recordings of the Ravel, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven #2, so the total time is somewhat deceptive.
- Next Stop…Soweto is a compilation of works from South Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. Volume 1: Township Sounds From The Golden Age Of Mbaqangwa contains lots of happy stuff .Volume 2: Soultown. R&B, Funk & Psych Sounds from the Townships 1969-1976 is (oops, I haven’t listened to it yet!). The tracks from Volume 3: Giants, Ministers and Makers: Jazz in South Africa 1963-1984 are twice as long as the other two volumes, and contain lots of interesting world jazz numbers.
- Singles and Sessions 1979-81 by Delta 5. Delta 5 is a British girls punk band I had never heard of (and frankly was flummoxed to learn that they even existed). But their rowdy smartalecky lyrics was accompanied by genuine musical ideas and unexpected transitions. I heard about them on an NPR radio show about The 80s: Were they really that bad? and even though I never heard them until 2 months ago, they’re practically my fave 80s band now. Highly recommended.
- Nigeria Rock Special: Psychedelic Afro-Rock & Fuzz Funk in 1970’s Nigeria is another Soundways album which I nearly bought 2 months ago.By now I know a lot about what was going on in Nigeria in the 1970s, but there were some excellent tracks not anywhere else.
- Shout: The Very Best of Tears for Fears. I was vaguely aware of this 80s band and never really cared for them, but while listening to one of their songs in that same NPR radio show, I began to really like the moody synth sound and the pulsating rhythm permeating almost all the songs. I still am not a huge fan of the genre or the time period, but I have to concede the brilliance behind the music on this album.
- Kokomemedata by Komeda. I just love this Swedish band to death. It’s always dizzyingly fun, inventive lyrics backed by traditional rock sounds and slight electronic effects. I bought the very early Pop Pa Svenska a few months back and loved it with reservations. This album is more mature, a lot more fun and solid. Ironically I haven’t listened to their middle (and most famous) album The Genius of Komeda, but I’ll be hitting that next. This album is fun, fast and brilliant.
- Electro Perfecto by Mike Viola. I found out about Mike Viola from Willfully Obscure’s Top 100 albums of the decade. Ironically I didn’t buy the 2 albums this blog recommended, but this one is very clever and well-put together. Unconventional lyrics, catchy melodies. I’m definitely going to check out his other works, especially the Candy Butchers stuff he did in the 90s.
- Lil’ Golden Book by Princess Chelsea is more slow dreampop, this time from New Zealand. It’s moody, electronic and full of keyboard, child-like melodies and really memorable singing styles. Sounds more like crazy kids lullabies than pop songs though.
- Czech String Quartets by Stamitz Quartets 903 minutes! (liner notes here) contain quartets by Dvorak, Smetana, Martinu and Janaceck.
August 2013. Finishing the low price but gigantic Middle Eastern singer collections.
- Mohamed Fawzi Complete Works. (176 tracks for 904 minutes).
- Layla Mourad Complete Collection (90 tracks for 369 minutes).
- Mughal-e-azam. Movie Soundtrack. Songs by Naushad Ali. Voiced by playback singers such as Lata Mangeshkar and classical music artists such as Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan (who sang some qawwalis songs). Unbelievably good (and famous soundtrack) which features uplifting and philosophical songs. Highlights (for me) include Mohammad Rafi’s Ae Mohabbat Zindabad and Teri Mehfil Mein Kismat, qawwali duet where two women battle over the heart of the Prince (and the nature of love itself). Each song costs 49 cents and there’s no album discount, making it good to use when you have extra credits.
- United Breaks Guitars (and the two sequels) . Dave Carroll. The two sequels to the original viral video song are just as good and fun…plus they only costs 49 cents each. Love the fact that the songs immortalize United Ms. Irwig (what a name!).
- Free Sets. Various.
July 2013 (includes a $20 booster which I paid for). I’m taking advantage of a great sale of Soundway Albums. All these albums were $4.99 until the end of July.
- 24 Hours in a Disco 1978-1982. Kiki Gyan. This album came from nowhere. It is as good as disco gets. KIKI GYAN joined the well known Afropop/ Worldbeat band in the 70s at the age of 16, They performed in UK, came in contact with lots of American pop luminaries, until Gyan decided to try his luck in the US. This album bears an uncanny resemblance to the Donna Summer/Disco Inferno sound. My fave track is Disco Dancer (great jivin’ keyboard!), but Disco Train did somewhat well. Highly recommended ( though there are only 7 tracks).
- A Nigerian Retrospective 1966-1979 (Double CD Album). Tunji Oyelana. Some of the tracks are more artsy/expressive than fun, but for a double album, it’s a great buy. Highly recommended.
- Nigeria Afrobeat Special: New Explosive Sound in 1970s Nigeria. Highly recommended. This album really rocks. I love almost every track
- The World Ends: Afro Rock & Psychedelia in 1970s Nigeria (Double Album). Some of the tracks are so-so, but highly recommended because it’s a double album and still has a lot of obscure winners.
- Dancing Time, the Best of Eastern Nigeria’s Afro Rock Exponents 1973-7 Funkies. I downloaded selected mp3s here. (I had two of their songs from other compilations). Great stuff.
- Soundway presents Ghana Soundz (Afro-Beat, Funk and Fusion in 70s Ghana). Highly recommended.
- Ghana Soundz Vol. 2: Afro-Beat, Funk and Fusion in 70s Ghana
- Afro-Baby: Evolution of the Afro-Sound in Nigeria 1970-9. A good album, but I didn’t have enough credits to buy the whole thing. Instead I bought the rare Fela Kuti track.
- Soundway presents Nigeria Special Vol 2 (Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds and Nigerian Blues). I bought Volume 1 on Amazon (for twice the price), and I’m assuming Vol 2 is just as good.
- Kings of Benin Urban Groove 1972-1980. T.P. Orchestra Poly-Rythmo. Highly recommended.
- Emusic Hidden Treasures 2013 Sampler (38 tracks/157 minutes! for free! A great compilation of tracks from hot artists from various genres. With the exception of one death metal track (ugh!), all the tracks are delightful.
June 2013: (includes a bonus “Thank You” credit of $20 from Emusic)
- Sabah. Complete Collection (146 tracks — 868 minutes! for $6.49) Sabah is a great Lebanese singer who sang and appeared in many movies in the 1940s and 1950s. Definitely more upbeat and pop than Kalthoum. Also, the songs are shorter, more dramatic and energetic — many came from movies. For this reason, I think Westerners would find her music more than palatable. This and the other “complete collections” have a few recordings of subpar quality, but most are listenable. For the record, Sabah has recorded thousands of songs, so I’m assuming that this is a good sample.
- OUM KALTHOUM. Complete Golden Collection (Remastered) (60 tracks — 2276 minutes for $5.84). Kalthoum is a famous classically trained Egyptian singer who was famous for singing numbers which lasted as long as an hour or two. This comprehensive collection includes her beloved Enta Omri song/concert as well as lots of other extended numbers. She usually sings with a full grand orchestra, and her extended songs sound more like symphonies alternating between the orchestra and her intense solos.
- Mohamed Abdelwahab (Complete Collection) (249 tracks — 1957 minutes for $6.49) Mohamed Abdelwahab is a classically trained singer/composer and contemporary of Kalthoum. He was known for his Western influences and for the songs he wrote for Kalthoum and other people.
- Farid El Atrash (Complete Collection). (111 tracks — 980 minutes for $5.84) Farid El Atrash is a Syrian-Egyptian singer and composer who performed in many movies in the 1940s through 1970s.
- Shadia (Complete Collection) (137 tracks — 784 minutes for $6.49). Shadia is an Egyptian actress and singer who was features in many films between 1940s and 1970s.
- Abdel Halim Hafez (Complete Collection) (115 tracks — 1429 minutes – $6.49). Abdel Halim Hafez is a legendary Egyptian singer who sang a lot of uplifting and patriotic songs. He was also a protege of Mohamed Abdelwahab (listed above).
- Mark Bernes. Song “Cranes”. A gorgeous song written and performed by Bernes a month before his actual death. The words come from a famous poem about soldiers who died in World War II. I’ll buy the rest of the album later. Update: I bought about 5 other Bernes songs, all of them good but not as good as Cranes.
- DJ Rap. In the Lazers EP. is a cheap dance-techno EP which cost only $1.96. I basically bought it to spend my remaining balance, but I’m a big fan of it too.
- El Inolvidable by Tito Rodriguez is a great and almost comprehensive collection of vocal hits by the Puerto Rican mambo singer (i.e., the other Tito). Note that this album is identical to another album Anthology which is slightly more expensive. The 12 minute intro number introducing each performer is rather insufferable but quaint too, but even so, 107 minutes for $6.50 is an amazing deal.
- Ima by BT is an early 1990s trance album by BT with some great soaring moments (Loving You more) and a sampling of Tori Amos which was wildly popular (Blue Skies). The first album ESCM is also legendary (though somewhat New Age dreamy by contemporary standards). Unfortunately the album itself is not for sale digitally, but I made a youtube playlist of it.
- A certain smile, a certain sadness by Rocketship is a vivid and retro mellow electronic album in the style of Stereophonic. This album (their only one) first came out in 1996.
Now here’s the rest of the albums which I had been purchasing since December 2012.
- Best Of Mushroom Jazz, Vol 1 – 5 by Mark Farina. Farina makes these slow and funky jazzscapes full of random samples and spoken words. It blends together very well, and actually it’s soothing enough that it doesn’t distract. I have fallen asleep to many of these unending mixes. I would have rather bought each volume separately, but this is a good sampling. Sometimes things sag and slow down, but like Gong’s soundscapes (see below) it’s always headed to interesting places. Ultimately, I bought this more for novelty’s sake than any other reason, but I was not disappointed.
- One Day I’ll Be on Time by The Album Leaf. I have no idea why I bought this ambient instrumental album other than it had a dreamy meditative quality and it still had vestiges of a rock band (drums, guitar, etc). It’s more mood music than anything melodramatic, but almost every track has a rhythmic energy that keeps things chugging forward.
- Selections from Hotel Hell and Stand Up and Fight by Richard Lee Wilson. Richard Lee Wilson is a great blues guitarist whose rough and roaring melodies will remind you of his idol, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Highly recommended even though some of his tracks have an uncanny resemblance to Stevie Ray. Hey, sometimes it’s ok to be derivative!
- Call the Doctor by Sleater-Kinney. Shrill 90s Grrl band. This album was highly recommended in multiple places, but I couldn’t get into it except for maybe 2 or 3 songs.
- Pirates Choice by Orchestra Baobab. I have become a sucker for anything by this Senegalese band. They combine many styles: mbalax jazz with danceable Cuban rhythm. A saxophone is front and center of almost each performance, and singers alternate between Spanish and Oolof. This was a one-session album from the 1980s (“Pirate’s Choice “ ironically refers to how often their albums were being bootlegged). Highlights include bluesy Ndiaga Niaw and the slow and deliberate Ultrus Horas. Highly recommended.
- Selected Ambient Works by Aphex Twin (1985-1992): This early electronic album has been called an early groundbreaking work of electronic music. Personally I found it too minimalist for my liking. Not bad, but it had a tinny and cheap techno feel sometimes. It’s certainly a good listen, but it doesn’t compare to the richer symphonic creations of Tangerine Dream (see below).
- Pragamatic by Praga Khan. Praga Khan provides the turbocharged electronic energy behind the ground-breaking underground band, Lords of Acid. All of his 90s albums are great (I have them as CDs). Classify under hard-hitting /house/dancey band with a European feel.
- Rehearsals for Departure by Damien Jurado. One emusic editor recommended this acoustic singer-songwriter, and for the hell of it I decided to buy this early album. Jurado has a distinct and fragile voice, and his country songs are rich, tightly written and arranged with traditional harmonica and guitar. I think the poetic lyrics are more interesting than the melodies (which are slow, lilting and heartfelt). But the whole package is so pleasant and sincere that I am able to overlook the fact that the songs aren’t particularly hummable.
- Best of Douglas Sahm & Sir Douglas Quartet (1968-1975) . Tom Moon of 1000 Recordings to Hear before you die ranked this Texan singer’s compilation CD as one of his fave recordings. Doug Sahm plays a lot of downhome country songs with a slight Tejano and polka feel. A pleasant addition to the traditional mix of instruments is a jazz sax; however, the songs demonstrate a variety of styles and instruments ranging from rock blues (I’m not that Kat anymore), country ballad (Texas Me), funky pop, and even 50s rock and roll. Everything feels simple and old-fashioned (even for 70s music) but I think his best songs are these slow, understated upbeat country songs like Mendocino and Sunday Sunny Mill Valley Groove Day.
- Tangerine Dream: The Virgin Years (1974-1978). I was only vaguely familiar with Tangerine Dream, but I heard that their early electronic stuff was more interesting and intense. This double set includes 4 complete early albums; that’s enough to get an idea about the ground-breaking stuff they were doing. The music has enough momentum and keyboard crescendos to take your breath away. It’s exhilarating, eerie, perplexing and spacey without sounding too abstruse. Highly recommended.
- (Real Love) (Optimo Remix) by Factory Floor. Here’s a dynamite single track recommended by the NPR music editors.
- Nothing but the Blues and Texas Swings by Herb Ellis. Herb Ellis is an easygoing jazz guitarist who plays lovely melodies. His rendition of “American the Beautiful” is one of the most beautiful I’ve heard, and he has collaborated with many immortals (Getz, Hampton, etc). I bought Texas Swings a long time ago, and it was one of my favorite easy listening tapes. Nothing but the Blues is one of his best collaborations.
- Rough Guide to Psychedelic Africa Rough Guides are a steal (especially on emusic). They usually contain 2 CDs worth of music, and are impeccably chosen. I check out a lot of them from my public library, but this one was conspicuously missing. The featured performer is Nigerian Victor Uwaifo, whose 10 tracks here show the jazzy highlife sound. Other highlights include great tracks by Orchestra Baobab and other performers unknown to the west. Noteworthy about Uwaifo was the prominence of the flute in his mostly guitar-driven songs. By the way, you can subscribe directly to Rough Music albums. 2 albums per month at 10$ a month (minimum 12 months).
- Submarine Bells by The Chills. Wonderful 80s New Zealand band who play these incredible soft rock ballads. This album is just perfect – lots of different styles, most of it lowkey synth rock with laid back qualities. I’m thinking of the Eagles/Fleetwood Mac/Police, but really I don’t think the US has any real equivalent. Highly Recommended.
- Shoes – 35 Years: The Definitive Shoes Collection 1977-2012. I heard a piece on NPR about how the Shoes have basically been ignored by the public despite being loved by music critics. When i heard an excerpt of their “easy listening” sound, I thought, “that’s just like The Chills!” I didn’t immediately love this compilation; the sunniness of the songs can grow tedious after a while, and the singer’s voice doesn’t have a lot of emotional range. Songs like Too Late, Girls of Today, Curiosity, Feel the Way I do and Three Times are interesting (and catchy) songs, but they feel a little meandering. Over time I have come to appreciate the fine textures of both the vocals and instrumentation. These songs are not supposed to overwhelm you, but they have surprisingly intricate rhythms and melodies; I just wished the songs were more memorable.
- Best of “Rock El Casbah” by Rachid Taha. This Algerian singer does a variety of rock and dance styles while preserving the Middle East feel. I didn’t love this album as much as I thought I would – it seemed too mainstream and pop, but it still had great moments.
- Classic Titles by Boubacar Traore Traore is a great singer from Mali, and I forgot why I bought this man’s music. He sings these slow and gorgeous ballads with a solo guitar. His voice is always plaintive and yet the expressive guitar counterbalances the melancholy. Aside from the fact that the songs from this album all seem to resemble one another, they are powerful, intense and by far my most remarkable find on emusic. Highly recommended.
- Live at the Old Quarter by Townes Van Zandt This live recording is supposed to be Van Zandt’s best album, and it has some interesting qualities – the small talk in between songs for example. Van Zandt has a great voice, and his songs are earnest and gentle – more country than blues. But no particular song stood out in my mind. Contrast that with Steve Goodman’s comedy songs (see below) whose songs always made me say, “Wow.” I realize it’s unfair to compare comic songs with serious ones and that I’m supposed to love this intimate presentation of Van Zandt songs. But to tell the truth, I don’t think any of the songs came close to “moving” me. Let’s compare and contrast Boubcar Traore with Townes Van Zandt. They both have beautiful voices and a soulful style; unlike Van Zandt (who gives the guitar a mostly accompanying role), Traore integrates the guitar deeper into the song and uses it more expressively. Traore’s guitar almost overshadows his voice in importance to the songs.
- Very Best of Toot and the Maytals. Imagine Ray Charles or James Brown singing reggae songs. The songs on this compilation album are funky but also seem laid back for reggae; perhaps one could call slower songs like Never Get Weary or In the Dark gospel or soul. Toot knows how to rock with fast songs like 54-46 That’s my number or Monkey Man or Pressure Drop or Pomps & Pride. It’s hard to imagine a reggae singer not being overshadowed by Bob Marley’s memory, but these songs seem less political, more about faith and good feelings. To some, this underlying message might seem bland, but at least it shows that Toots is not simply trying to head down the same path Marley did.
- DJ Rap Presents Propa Classics Volume 1 . I’m a big fan of DJ rap’s stuff from the 1990s, but this isn’t my favorite album of hers. I really dug Deep Inside and the downtempo Spiritual Aura 2001 (which ended the album). But the faster version of Aura was really fun too, and so was Diggable Bass. Hardstep was funky and good dance stuff. But I thought there was way too much chitter-chatter on tracks in the middle, especially Your Mind and The Lickshot. (Update: I am really liking some of her more recent stuff, including the $1.96 In the Lazers EP).
- World of Daevid Allen and Gong CD 1 and CD 2 So far I’ve bought 2 CDs of the 3 CD collection which contains the best of Gong from the early 1970s. When I first listened, I admit I wondered if this freeform jazzy/prog stuff was pulling my leg – it just sounds like a long drug trip. But the slow and emerging melodies always go to interesting places. It sounds like a more colorful and less dark Pink Floyd. Highly recommended — just for the experience.
- Steve Goodman Anthology. Goodman is a legendary folk singer who sings these fun songs about baseball, TV, sex, food. This great compilation album includes lots of great live performances and hilarious songs with guitar accompaniment. The songs are catchy, upbeat, and clever. This double album costs 11.98 on emusic vs. 17.98 on Amazon. Highly recommended.
- Curve EP by Last Charge of the Light Horse . I used to know one of the performers from high school, so it was a treat to hear this album. Jean-Paul Vest has an interesting voice, and the jazzy instrumental touches really make these songs for me. The best and most accessible song is the lyrical Lately track…a real winner. The other pieces are moodier and less about the lyrics or the singing than about the winding instrumentals and silences.
- Pop På Svenska + Plan 714 Till by Komeda. Komeda is a great Swedish electronic/punk band that combines dazzling special effects (a la Stereophonic) with strange rhythms and beeps, and lovely warblings by its lead female singer. Their later stuff was more palatable for the masses (one song even was played on a Powderpuff Girl cartoon). But this album (actually 2 albums re-released later ) consists of their juvenalia when they were still experimenting with styles and forms (oh, yes, the singer sang only in Swedish). This album isn’t perfect, but it is bold and dazzling and even mind-bending.
- 100 Jazz Essentials by John Coltrane. This amazing collection of Coltrane includes both the familiar and unfamiliar. At the low price of $6, it’s a must buy.
- 100 Disco Hits of the 70s, 80s and 90s . ($6) Some have criticized this (and other) collections for not including original recordings. A number are “one off recordings” (By that, I mean “different recordings of the same song by the same artist). Let’s not split hairs. 75% of the time, I couldn’t tell the difference, plus I enjoyed the grabbag of stuff from three decades which combines the well-known with the obscure.
- 100 Greatest Gospel Classic. ($6) I totally loved this collection for $6, although it seemed to emphasize African-American gospel a little too heavily. Sound quality is ok considering that it contains lots of stuff from 30s, 40s and 50s.
- 100 Greatest Motown Hits . ($6) A lot of “one-off” recordings, plus a lot of singers I’ve never heard of before mixed with Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, etc… Still, I enjoyed it.
- 100 Original Blues Kings. ($6!) Some of the specific recordings sound terrible, but there’s enough variety and stuff from little known artists to make up for it.
- Lounge Top 100 ($6) This is my favorite big compilation, especially because I haven’t heard of any of the musicians. Lounge/downtempo jazz is a genre totally unknown to me, populated by lots of South Americans and Europeans. Highly recommended.
- Number 1 Latin Jazz Album Ever! (6$) This compilation of 100 Latin jazz tracks has a lot of odd selections – quite a number from 1940s and Big Band era and Desi Arnaz? and I suspect that these are quite a few one off recordings. Still it’s a lot of fun.
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Original Soundtrack by John Williams. One late evening I awoke from bed and felt various melodies from Close Encounters flowing through my head. Aside from the amazing interplay of the musical motif between spaceship and humans in the final scene, there is a lot of good incidental music along the way. This soundtrack was nominated for an Oscar for best musical score, but lost to John Williams’ Star Wars soundtrack (which I consider a lesser work by Williams). Of course, these are programmatic symphonic works, but it’s fun to compare and contrast with Holst, Debussy, Ligeti… Highly recommended.
- Wild Ones by Flo Rida. (recommended by nephew). This collection of middle-of-the-road techno-rap tracks has sweet spots (especially in the Sweet Spot starring Jennifer Lopez samples, Good Feeling and Let It Roll tracks). Clever instrumentals and good and catchy dance tracks, but its repetitive format gets old very quickly. Also, it seems a victim of the loudness wars; everything is at a constant volume and can be exhausting on the ears. I think the duets between Flo Rida and females work especially well, and as long as you don’t listen too often to these tracks, they will seem great.
- Overexposed by Maroon 5 (recommended by nephew). These songs are described on allmusic as “soul groove,” and that’s as fair a category as any (although it inevitably includes some electronic kicks). Highlights include: Daylight and Lucky Strike and Sad (an interest slow number). This album sounded a little too fashionable and prosaic for my tastes and really didn’t leave much of an impression on me.
- Some Nights by fun.(recommended by nephew). I was pleasantly surprised at how engaging this pop album is. The main vocalist Nate Reuss reminds me of Freddy Mercury — naked, boyish, expressive, full of attitude (though not as histrionic as Queen). The songs are catchy, never overproduced and always have interesting lyrics. The sunny Why am I the one? sounds so much like the Afternoon Delight/Sara Smile easy listening of the 1970s that it’s refreshing to hear something so unapologetically retro.
- Various albums by Sergent Garcia. I saw French-born Cosmopolitan singer perform at a Brazilian international festival in Houston. He and his band sung in so many genres that I had trouble catching up. I ended up buying $8 of his 49 cent songs from 3 different albums, and got some great stuff especially from the Mascaras album. He fuses reggae with salsa and cumbia and everything else and a rapid rapping vocal accompaniment. They were amazing in live performance. Highly recommended because of the band’s versatility.
- Nortec Collective Presents Clorifila: Corridos Urbanos is a great and funky series of electronic jazz pieces with occasional cameos from horns and accordians. Everything has a tribal/ industrial/synthesized feel to it, but the occasional vocals (Naked Ladies), and the dreamy downtempo songs (Nicole Ya No Baila Aqui and 4:15) make it clear you can’t categorize this album very easily. This complex pieces are actually collages of Mexican folk with electronic bursts and lots of percussion (almost too much at times). Highly recommended if only because of their ground-breaking sound.
- Politico by Mexican Institute of Sound
I want to mention some other titles which I bought on Amazon, Google Play and other indie sites. Generally, emusic has everything cheaper, but Amazon has some amazing prices on compilation albums and occasionally “flash sales” for 1 day on Top 40 albums.
- Anthology by The Clean. I bought this amazing double album for $7 on Google Play when it was on sale. (now it’s selling for $11.50). The Clean is an important New Zealand alternative band who at times resembles a good rowdy grunge/garage band (Side On, At the Bottom), and at other times sounds like 60s psychodelic pop. Try the mind-blowing Outside the Cage, Point that Thing. Franz Kafka at the Zoo. I guess they’re a kind of Velvet Underground, only smarter and more obsessed with producing good guitar riffs than meaningful vocals. I liked this album so much that I listened to it continuously for 3 or 4 days and did not feel bored once. Highly recommended.
(Below is a series of prefaces about emusic and their recent changes of album offerings. It used to be at the top of this post, but eventually I decided to move it off the top — because I refer to this web page so frequently).
Oct 2 2014 Update. Last Week Emusic announced major changes to its services which is really gutting emusic’s catalog. (I suspect that emusic’s agreements for discounting prices with the major labels ran out, and now they are all refusing to renew). Some of the titles which are purchased below may not be available. At the moment, it’s unclear whether emusic is still a good deal. I’ll post my thoughts prominently when I figure things out. In the meantime, I still have about a year’s worth of credits to spend…. Update 2. I checked the links below. About 30-40% of the links no longer work. I’m leaving the links here despite going nowhere because of the possibility that the titles may be retored to emusic, and maybe later I’ll delete them. No longer active links include: The Martha Argerich collections — which were incredible deals –, the RCA 100 Anos de Music (excellent but overpriced even on emusic), John Williams’ Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, compilations by Caberet Voltaire and by a few non-US singers, some of the Bollywood soundtracks, some hits from the 90s like Sleater Kinny, Carwash OST and top 40 crap like Flo Rida and fun.
In preparation for my book on music collecting, I signed up for emusic and starting downloading (and paying for) digital music. At first glance it’s hard to get what emusic is all about. Its website is slow, you can’t stream easily, plus there’s a membership fee. You may initially not see what the big deal is (especially because as a non-member, you only see non-member prices). But look further.
Comparison of Prices for Digital Music Albums
|Name of Album||Emusic (member price)||Itunes||Amazon||Google Play
|Francophonic by Franco Vol 1||6.49||17.99||11.98||16.49
|Call the Doctor by Sleater-Kinney||5.88||9.99||9.99||Not found
|Some Nights by fun||6.49||9.99||5.99||9.49
|Close Encounters of the Third Kind Soundtrack||6.49||9.99||9.99||9.49
|Rough Guide to Psychedelic Africa||6.49||9.99||9.49||9.49
|World of Daevid Allen and Gong CD 1||5.99||9.99||9.99||9.49
|Truth about Love by Pink||8.24||10.99||7.99||10.99
|12 Bit Blues by Kid Koala||6.99||9.99||8.99||11.49
|Grace by Jeff Buckley||6.49||9.99||5.00||6.99
|Revolution by Miranda Lambert||7.14||10.99||5.00 ||10.99
About the prices listed on this table. I wanted to show the dramatic price differences between emusic and everybody else. I picked these albums here at random — making sure to include a mix of Top 40 (Pink, fun) with some rather obscure new works (Kid Koala), obscure semi-oldies (Sleater-Kinney) classics (Francophonic, Close Encounters) and some series (Rough Guides). As you can see, member prices for emusic are dramatically lower than most other music sellers. Top 40 and “hot artists” are somewhat lower on Amazon. In addition to these “normal” lower prices for popular albums, Amazon will occasionally offer 1 day sales on bestselling albums for $1.99 or $2.99 which are definitely worth watching. Google Play store does this occasionally too. Also, Amazon has a special section for select golden oldies/best sellers with regular prices of $5 (“Dolly Parton’s Greatest Hits”, Jeff Buckley’s “Grace”, Black Keys’ “Magic Potion”, ) which beats emusic and all the others. Each store will have its special sales and promotions, but on the whole, unless the album is currently “hot,” you can find it on emusic for 10-20% less than anywhere else. Emusic has lots of low-priced compilation albums (see below for my recommendations), and so does Amazon, although not the same ones. Amazon has a good number of budget classical music compilations, while emusic has more and cheaper pop music compilations. Both services offer lots of free samplers, with Amazon.com probably offering slightly more.
For emusic you pay a membership fee which applies to your purchases. Usually when you sign up, you receive some kind of introductory gift certificate (mine was $25). You are given several membership tiers, but you shouldn’t worry worry about that too much. Just decide how much want to spend, then sign up for the appropriate membership level. You can downgrade or even cancel later. I’ll let you in on a secret. If you do cancel, they will dangle a free month worth of credits – how awesome is that? If you sign up for higher tiers of membership, you get bonus credits. If you prepay a year for a Basic $12 membership or a Plus $16 membership, you receive a 30% discount. So when I pre-paid for one year a Plus membership, I paid a one time fee of $134 for credits totalling $204 ($16.99 per month for 12 months). (Here’s a complete breakdown of emusic’s prices on their site). Emusic’s member prices are almost always 10-20% lower than itunes and Amazon, and sometimes even more. (Its non-member prices are basically the same as Amazon and itunes). Besides having cheaper prices, emusic also has a higher percentage of music-savvy consumers. Emusic staff write a lot of reviews, and these are often great picks – not only for new releases but also obscure music and jazz stuff.
Here’s the downside. You don’t get particularly good deals with Top 40 stuff, and you can only download it once or twice. Emusic’s website kind of sucks and it lacks a cloud solution and doesn’t even stream music well. So when you download, you must backup your files to Amazon cloud player or Google Play cloud player. Also, there are holes in emusic’s music catalog — though most of the time it’s only compilations. One customer pointed out that emusic doesn’t list the bit rate for the mp3s — which is also a bummer, but I have to assume that the mp3s for sale are almost always high enough quality.
Two other interesting things worth pointing out: There’s an emusic free daily download which changes every day. Generally a good deal. Plus — although the interface sucks, here’s links to various emusic lists of bookmarked albums which I’m considering buying.
For yuks, I decided to do a comparison with Amazon prices for the things I bought in March-April 2014 (see below):
The Amazon list price for these albums amounted to $191.43
The emusic member’s price for the same albums is $124.54.
If I subtract from the total my monthly bonus credit of $5.82 and the 2-for-1 credits ($50), that means that the total I paid was $68.72 for albums which I could have gotten from Amazon for $191.43
If you add that to the fact that every day on emusic you get free tracks from random bands and that every two months or so you get a free music sampler, that adds up to a tremendous value proposition. Heck, I know I sound like a commercial for emusic, but despite its warts and all, you can really get a great value here.
Before I describe my emusic purchases, I want to make three general observations about my music collection habits.
First, the things I buy on emusic are things I couldn’t obtain cheaply as CDs. Hey, music labels, if your digital prices were cheaper than the cost of used CDs on half.com or Amazon, I would stop buying used CDs altogether.
Second, because of the lower price, I take a lot more chances with the things I download/buy. I’ve made some mistakes (see below), but I’ve also found some amazing things.
Third, I also pay $5 per month to use RDIO’s streaming music service. I can often stream entire albums and later decide whether I want to buy them on emusic. One might ask if the album is available already on Rdio, why not just listen to Rdio and never buy anything? The answer is simple: streaming services pay shit to artists!
Each month I get $17 worth of credits, so I’ll tell which ones I get each month. My main rule for buying is that I need to buy at least one album by a living/still performing artist — it’s easy to focus on the old stuff, and it’s important to put money into the hands of artists now so that they can perform and record tomorrow. I won’t list half-albums below if I have already bought portions previously.
Note: Since I’m generally loving to death every single thing I buy, it’s no longer necessary to mark an album as Recommended or Highly Recommended.