SoundStage! Music Online Editor's Pick Archives
March/April 2001

The Ultimate Isley Brothers
Epic Associated/Legacy ZK 62196, 2000

SnapShot! Rating:

As its title loudly proclaims, this disc collects the greatest hits of the Isley Brothers, one of popular music's most resilient groups, spanning two generations of Isley siblings and changes from R&B to soul to funk. Isley music has shown up in movies as different as Out of Sight and Animal House and TV commercials too, "That Lady" (from 3+3, a great record) used to sell shampoo. It's perfect music for these retro-loving times, and Legacy, Sony Music's preservation arm, has done a fine job of compiling the tunes here. The remastered sound has clarity and inner detail to spare, making this, perhaps not coincidentally, a great disc for boombox blasting. But don't let this prejudice you. If you feel like exploring, the diversity of this collection will reward you. I've been playing this disc habitually for months -- it has practically commanded me to. Get drunk on the funk....Marc Mickelson

Tom Russell - Borderland
HighTone HCD8132, 2001

SnapShot! Rating:

Tom Russell's previous album, the brilliant Man from God Knows Where, was a song cycle that explored Russell's familial and musical heritage. His latest collection, Borderland, has Russell returning to his roots as a storyteller steeped in history both personal and cultural as well as inner knowledge. Songs like "Touch of Evil" and "The Santa Fe at Midnight" are thematically quintessential, spanning the border between the US and Mexico in their instrumentation and probing the emotional border between lovers in their lyrics. The great "California Snow," penned by Russell and friend Dave Alvin, makes an appearance too, but Alvin's version on his collection Blackjack David is slightly better -- more reserved and emotionally wrought at the same time. The autobiographical "What Work Is" is the story of three jobs, the people met while working, and the weight of the past on the present -- a complexly universal motif. Cynical listeners may find Russell's songs to be overly sentimental, but Russell's work rarely fails to move me, his eye for detail and ability to convey its deeper meaning proving how wise and functioning his heart is. Borderland will make you think and perhaps regret, and both will make you a better person.....Marc Mickelson


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