No sooner did your catalogue correspondent pop a very old disc of John Denver’s 1985 Dreamland Express into the CD player than the news arrived that Dreamland Express would be collected along with 23 (!) other Denver LPs in Legacy’s new The Complete Albums Collection. But that’s not all. Following the first wave of releases which arrived just over two months ago, the catalogue initiative continues! For the uninitiated, The Complete Album Collection box sets bring together an artist’s entire tenure at a label (in these cases, Columbia, Kirshner, Sony Classical and RCA) in one tidy box set, with albums in individual mini-LP sleeves and booklets containing brief essays and credits for each album. The first four artists to receive this treatment were The Byrds, Sam Cooke, Stan Getz and Return to Forever, while joining the beloved country legend Denver in this new batch are jazz greats Grover Washington, Jr. and Wayne Shorter, plus classic rock heroes Kansas. There is even special material, when applicable. A rare privately-pressed 1966 LP appears on the John Denver box, Kansas’ live Two for the Show has been expanded into a 2-disc Legacy Edition for its 30th anniversary, and two bonus discs are in the Shorter box collecting the saxophonist’s compositions recorded by his group Weather Report.
We’ll put up track listings later, but in the interest of passing this information to you as quickly as possible, hit the jump for the titles included in each box set and the label-supplied information for each title! All titles can be pre-ordered exclusively at Sony’s indispensable online PopMarket store.
John Denver, The Complete RCA Albums Collection (RCA/Legacy, 2011)
On the face of it, John Denver was an unlikely candidate for pop stardom. He achieved fame with a message of wide-eyed optimism at a time when the U.S.A. was wracked by political scandals, economic uncertainty and the after-effects of the Vietnam War. His boyish looks and wholesome persona went against the grain of a society obsessed with hipness.
Denver provided an alternative vision — and millions responded to it. A veteran of the folk movement (including a stint with the Chad Mitchell Trio), he emerged as a positive voice who could reach across the generational divide with his music.
Included in this definitive set of John Denver’s recordings are his many gold and platinum-selling LPs including Poems, Prayers and Promises (with the hits “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and “Sunshine on My Shoulders”), Rocky Mountain High and Windsong (with such enduring compositions as “Annie’s Song” and “I’m Sorry”) as well as later forays into country and pop, all of which contain hidden gems worthy of deeper investigation.
A highlight of this set is a true rarity, the 1966 LP John Denver Sings, a privately pressed, limited-run album released only to John’s friends and family. The recording captures Denver’s youthful idealism and guileless spirit — qualities that remained a part of his music until his tragic death in a 1997 plane crash.
- Rhymes and Reasons (1969)
- Take Me To Tomorrow (1970)
- Whose Garden Was This (1970)
- Poems, Prayers and Promises (1971)
- Aerie (1971)
- Rocky Mountain High (1972)
- Farewell Andromeda (1973)
- John Denver’s Greatest Hits (1973)
- Back Home Again (1974)
- An Evening with John Denver (1975) (2 CDs)
- Windsong (1975)
- Rocky Mountain Christmas (1975)
- Spirit (1976)
- John Denver’s Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (1977)
- I Want to Live (1977)
- John Denver (1979)
- Autograph (1980)
- Some Days Are Diamonds (1981)
- Seasons of the Heart (1982)
- It’s About Time (1983)
- John Denver’s Greatest Hits Vol. 3 (1985)
- Dreamland Express (1985)
- One World (1986)
- John Denver Sings (Private Press Album) (1966)
Complete Classics Albums Collection
- (Columbia/Legacy, 2011)
With a sound as expansive as their home state, Kansas scored big in the 1970s by applying an all-American heartland sensibility to the influence of such British progressive-rock bands as Yes, Genesis and King Crimson. Merging complex, classically influenced arrangements with boogie rock punch, Kansas built a distinctive, commanding sound that propelled the band to platinum selling, arena filling stardom. Such timeless tunes as “Dust in the Wind,” “Carry on Wayward Son” and “Point of Know Return” became classic rock anthems.
By the time Kansas released its eponymous debut album in 1974, the band had already developed a powerful live act and built a solid regional following. Their subsequent releases Song for America and Masque expanded the group’s audience, but it was 1976’s multi-platinum Leftoverture that propelled Kansas into the commercial big leagues. Point of Know Return continued the band’s ascent, and the 1978 live album Two for the Show captured Kansas at the peak of its performing powers. Monolith and Audio-Visions showed Kansas continuing to refine its sound, while 1982’s Vinyl Confessions produced one of the band’s biggest singles, “Play the Game Tonight.” 1983’s Drastic Measures introduced Kansas to the MTV generation via the video/radio hit “Fight Fire with Fire.”
- For America
- Point Of Know Return
- Two For The Show (2 CDs)
- Audio Visions
- Vinyl Confessions
- Drastic Measures
The journey started in Newark, New Jersey where Shorter began drawing attention to his musical prowess as a teenager. His five year stint, starting in 1959, with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers alerted the jazz world to Shorter’s compelling voice on the tenor saxophone and his beguiling compositions. On joining Miles Davis in 1964, Shorter solidified what came to be called “The Second Great Quintet,” alongside the trumpeter, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams. Shorter’s tunes – “Footprints,” “E.S.P.”, and “Nefertiti” among them – and his alluringly elliptical playing were decisive elements in the critical success of the Davis band. Shorter’s own concurrently released albums as a leader have proved to be just as inspiring to subsequent generations of players as his work with Davis.
With Davis’s initial fusion foray, In a Silent Way, Shorter turned to the soprano saxophone, instantly cementing a new and highly influential voice on the instrument. After participating on the epochal Bitches Brew, Shorter joined forces with Joe Zawinul, forming Weather Report. Increasing commercial success, particularly after the innovative bassist Jaco Pastorius joined, marked the fusion super group’s notable fifteen-year run. Shorter’s own Native Dancer (1974), effectively introduced North American audiences to singer and composer Milton Nascimento.
With the dissolution of Weather Report in 1985, Shorter, the musician, was on his own for the first time. His albums Atlantis, Phantom Navigator and Joy Ryder found him delving deeper into extended composition while continuing to investigate electric fusion. Approaching his eighth decade, Shorter reverted to an acoustic setting once more, forming a highly lauded quartet noted for its risky improvisational ethos. Shorter remains what Hancock dubbed him: “the master.”
- New bonus disc – Weather Report Recordings of Wayne Shorter Compositions 1
- New bonus disc – Weather Report Recordings of Wayne Shorter Compositions 2
- Native Dancer with Milton Nascimento (1974)
- Atlantis (1985)
- Phantom Navigator (1986)
- Joy Ryder (1988)
- Grover Washington, Jr.
The Complete Columbia Albums Collection
- (Columbia/Legacy, 2011)
Whether he was playing R&B-infused jazz pop or straight-ahead swing, saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. always made one thing clear: he knew how to blow his horns. A thoroughly schooled musician who later learned to play genuine funky jazz with such masters as Johnny “Hammond” Smith and Charles Earland, Washington perfected a saxophone style that blended melodic elegance with soulful grit. His work on alto, tenor and soprano was a model of authentic communication; when he played, you listened, entranced by his from-the-heart tone and singing phrasing.
His work for Columbia made a good case for his diversity. There are plenty of fine albums that mix R&B, jazz and pop into a heady brew, including Strawberry Moon, Time Out of Mind, Next Exit and Soulful Strut. On these popular recordings, Washington shares space with the likes of icons Nancy Wilson, Ramsey Lewis and B.B. King; singers Lalah Hathaway and Levi Stubbs, and A-list players including Marcus Miller and Joey DeFrancesco.
But there were also special projects where Washington made sure that his instrumental prowess was fully noted. Then and Now and All My Tomorrows are straight up jazz albums on which Washington’s no nonsense playing was set off by such illustrious supporting musicians as bassist Ron Carter, pianists Herbie Hancock, Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan, trumpeter Eddie Henderson and singer Freddy Cole.
But there were even more dimensions to Washington’s musicianship. His way with a lyrical ballad is demonstrated on the Christmas album, Breath of Heaven: A Holiday Collection. The biggest surprise of all may have been Aria. On this selection of immortal classical works beautifully adapted for saxophone, Washington asserts that he was every bit the accomplished musician that some, blinded by his commercial success, may have been unaware of.
- House Full Of Love (Music from The Cosby Show) Featuring Grover Washington, Jr. (1986)
- Strawberry Moon (1987)
- Then And Now (1988)
- Time Out of Mind (1989)
- Next Exit (1992)
- All My Tomorrows (1994)
- Soulful Strut (1996)
- Breath of Heaven: A Holiday Collection (1997)
- Aria (Sony Classical) (2000)