|Me Estoy Enamorando||Salsa 2000||4:51|
|Que Cosas Tiene el Amor||Salsa 2000||4:45|
|Como Negarlo||Salsa 2000||5:21|
|Porque Me Abandono||Salsa 2000||4:43|
|Anoche Fuiste Mia||Salsa 2000||4:56|
|No Estas Aqui||Salsa 2000||4:35|
|Quedate Una Noche Mas||Salsa 2000||4:28|
|Dame Todo Tu Amor||Salsa 2000||5:40|
|Cometa Al Viento||Salsa 2000||5:04|
|Flor de Primavera||Salsa 2000||4:38|
This two-fer CD (which replicates a double-LP reissue from 1976) pulls together two strong albums Joe Simon recorded in 1969 onto one disc. While The Chokin' Kind sounds a bit more spare in terms of its arrangements and production, and Better Than Ever lacks any songs written by Harlan Howard, for the most part these two albums fit together quite well; both sets are steeped in Southern soul with a pronounced C&W influence, and both make the most of Simon's strong, sad, and smoky voice. Both halves of the disc are also seasoned with a healthy selection of covers, and if Simon doesn't exactly cut Otis Redding on "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" or Glen Campbell on "Wichita Lineman," he brings qualities to both that set them apart from the better-known originals. And Joe Simon is at the top of his form on all 22 tracks; impassioned without overplaying his hand, and displaying a disarming emotional honesty that brings a touch of sorrow to even his most optimistic moments, this is stuff anyone who loves Southern soul will fall for. Strong material well presented (except for some audio anomalies on "Wounded Man"), this isn't quite as useful for beginners as Rhino's superb Music in My Bones: The Best of Joe Simon, but anyone with a taste for Simon's early work will love it.
Handel's L'Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato was composed in 1740, and musically it shares much with Messiah, from a couple of years later. It has been comparatively neglected because, in several ways, it does not hang together as well as the later work. Based on a pair of poems by John Milton, L'Allegro (The Joyful One) and Il Penseroso (The Thoughtful One), with a third middle-of-the-road type added by Messiah librettist Charles Jennens (whom one satirist dubbed "Il Moderatissimo"), the work has been called an oratorio, a semi-oratorio, a pastoral ode, and more. It has no plot to speak of, and Handel kept revising the work to suit new performance demands, with the result that its performance tradition has accumulated a large number of random arias. This performance by conductor Paul McCreesh and his Gabrieli Consort & Players represents an attempt to reconstruct what Handel intended for the original performance, and far from being an exercise, this results in a concise work with a persuasive alternation of big, Messiah-like choruses and arias that embody the qualities depicted in the poems. For those who love Messiah and have never heard this work, sample the opening chorus-and-bass number on CD 2, "Populous cities please me then," with its big musical spaces. McCreesh introduces each of the work's three sections with an instrumental concerto, something well attested to in the original sources, and he benefits from an exceptionally strong group of soloists who capture the moods essential to what logic the work has. Strongly recommended for anyone interested in going beyond the Handelian basics.
As can be expected with a collection that spans the years 1966 to 1971, a time when the stylistic curve changed by the month, Grapes of Wrath is wildly inconsistent. The music is certainly derivative, but the songs are fairly accomplished derivations, so much so that listening to the collection becomes an exercise in "pick the influence." "If Anyone Should Ask" pounds like a Dave Clark Five garage outtake (and, thus, not on a level with actual DC5); "Not a Man" is subpar "Mr. Tambourine Man folk-rock (and as the "in sound" of 1967, received considerable local airplay); "Irene" is an answer to the New Vaudeville Band's "Winchester Cathedral" with a bit of Beatles and the Lovin' Spoonful thrown in; "Life's Not for Me (Only for You)" is a post-Revolver, sitar-singed raga dirge, completely of its time, but still enjoyable; and "If She Leaves Me" betrays debts, as does much of the recorded output here, to John Lennon. The Grapes of Wrath really began coming into their own as writers and musicians in 1968, reaching its undeniable early peak with "Have a Good Time on Me." Despite the wall of guitars that opens the song, "Have a Good Time on Me" is a fine piece of soulful pop/rock, like the Buckinghams without horns, but it is even more complex, adding a nice section in the middle as well as a coda coated in Beatles/Beach Boys harmonies. There was more decent music to follow, namely "Makin' It Through 71," a personal narrative on main songwriter Steve Whitehurst's difficult year (but also a walk through a Paul McCartney-styled, late-Beatles rocker) and "Shades of Lillian White," which marries the pretty acoustic work of George Harrison and McCartney circa White Album and Let It Be. But even those were disjointed in parts, as the band began fracturing. Grapes of Wrath won't change anyone's world, but it is a visible window into the changing face of pop music during the Vietnam era.