This week I take a look at several recent releases in Sony Legacy's essentials series, including two-disc retrospectives featuring Sade, Bob Dylan, Earth, Wind and Fire, Doris Day and Julio Iglesias.
These "essential" discs are always a great bargain and usually feature the cream of a crop of an artist's career along with a few rarities or oddball stuff.
Starting with Dylan, most of disc 1 is devoted to the songs of the 1960s that made his name - as a folkie with "Blowing in the Wind" to the folk-rock excellence of "Like a Rolling Stone." There really aren't any surprises here, but it's fascinating to hear Dylan's growth from earnest folkie to nearly cynical rocker.
Disc 2 is where things get interesting, as Dylan often gets written off as just an old has-been, a relic from the 1960s. But disc 2 shows Dylan was writing excellent songs in his middle age and outstanding material as he experienced his second renaissance beginning with "Time Out of Mind" in 1997.
No one can deny the power of Dylan's best material from the 1970s on, including "I Shall Be Released," "Forever Young," "Knocking on Heaven's Door," "Tangled Up in Blue," "Everything is Broken" and "Things Have Changed." I don't honestly think a more comprehensive retrospective of this complex artist is possible.
Most people think of Julio Iglesias as the "Latin lover" crooner from the 1980s, and it's true he played on that mystique. But Iglesias also was a singer who loved singing Latin standards, and disc 2 is devoted entirely to the music of his native land.
Disc 1 is full of the pop stuff he became famous for, including duets with Willie Nelson on "All the Girls I've Loved Before" to other cool pairings with Diana Ross, Sting, Dolly Parton, Paul Anka and Frank Sinatra.
"The Essential Earth, Wind and Fire" is just what you'd expect - a lot of great, funky stuff from their stellar career. A mix of rock, funk and pop and wonderful vocals, Earth, Wind and Fire was a first-rate band.
Sade is just one of those amazing pop divas who never seems to age. Beginning with the monster hit "Smooth Operator" in the 1980s, Sade retained a mysterious, exotic aura while her material was polished and consistently first-rate. The two-disc retrospective shows she was much more than just a one-hit wonder.
I admit it - I love Doris Day. And "The Essential Doris Day" is one of those left-field releases Sony sometimes throws out there that aare overlooked gems. Yes, she was perky, but she also was an extremely talented actress and singer, and I love the standards on this release. Nothings gets any better than hearing Day's warm voice on "Sentimental Journey," "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," "When I Fall in Love" and "The Very Thought of You."
There also are several excellent duets with Buddy Clark, Frank Sinatra, Frankie Laine, John Raitt and even pianist Andre Previn. Don't underestimate Doris!
Most of these retail for about $12, which is a great deal for two discs. All are highly recommended.