Thursday, December 8, 2011

Musics not Over Rest in Peace LPS

When the Music's (Not) Over: R.I.P. LPs

Musics not Over Rest in Peace LPS, Anytime a celebrated musician passes away -- usually at much too young an age -- the dual motivations of posterity and profit kick into gear, resulting in at least one posthumous release. Sometimes they're of genuine merit, and sometimes they just exploit tragedy. With the imminent release of Amy Winehouse's "Lioness: Hidden Treasures," we present a survey of musical epilogues, from the truly essential to the totally unnecessary.

"Milk and Honey," John Lennon (1984)
Though the level of John Lennon's genius makes one want to laud everything he ever did, "Milk and Honey" is probably the highest-profile mixed bag ever put to tape. Recorded primarily during the sessions for "Double Fantasy" (1980), there's at least one gem in "Nobody Told Me," and a lot of mediocrities, such as "I'm Stepping Out" and "Grow Old With Me." Yoko Ono's half of the record, recorded in 1983, is, well, Yoko Ono. You either love it or hate it.
"Pearl," Janis Joplin (1971)

Released three months after her death, "Pearl" showed a newer side of Janis Joplin, one that mixed the feral fire of her earlier work with shades of introspection and even some budding calm. The record, which ended up as Joplin's strongest-selling release, is best-known for her cover of Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee," as well as the gospel effort and classic-radio staple "Mercedes Benz," co-written with Beat poet Michael McClure. Of course, no matter which track you pick, Joplin's amazing, plaintive voice is nothing less than thrilling.
"Closer," Joy Division (1980)
Few bands have proved more influential to white, college-educated musicians than Joy Division, the moody and broody post-punk Manchester quartet headed up by Ian Curtis, who died tragically at his own hand on May 18, 1980. "Closer," released a few months after Curtis' passing, was the band's second studio release, and the effects of its sonic gloom-scape can be heard across the indie-rock spectrum, from Radiohead to Interpol to Broken Social Scene.
"Dark Night of the Soul," Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse (2010)
A pop-centric circus of hurdy-gurdy tunes, "Dark Night" was the collaboration between producer extraordinaire Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse, and Mark Linkous, aka Sparklehorse. The pair brought in a number of vocal luminaries for the project, such as James Mercer from the Shins and Jason Lytle from Granddaddy, and also worked on the project with filmmaker David Lynch, who even sings on one of the tracks. Sadly, Linkous took his life not long before the album was released, giving the record a unique, processional vibe.

"Last Recordings," Billie Holliday (1959)
The high priestess of torch songs, Billie Holliday fused pop and jazz arrangements with a bluesy sensibility, creating a haunting and beautiful signature style that captivated audiences from the 1930s to her death from cirrhosis on July 17, 1959. "Last Recordings," a collection put to tape in March of that year, offers a harrowing and elegiac tour through a life of artistic triumph and personal struggle on songs such as "You Took Advantage of Me" and "Just One More Chance."
"Love Man," Otis Redding (1969)
Was there any artist more cut down in his prime than the ebullient and ecstatic Otis Redding? Only 26 when he died in a plane crash on Dec. 19, 1967, Redding had just recorded what would be his first smash hit, "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay." "Love Man" consists of recordings made from that fateful year, and tracks such as "I'm a Changed Man" and "Direct Me" show off the wild talents of this soul legend, and his joyous, ebullient voice.
"American Recordings V: A Hundred Highways," Johnny Cash (2006)
The fifth in a series of groundbreaking records made with producer Rick Rubin, "American V" saw The Man in Black bringing his genius to songs such as Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind," Bruce Springsteen's "Further on up the Road," and Hank Williams' "On the Evening Train." Though not as adventurous as some of the other "American" recordings – there's no Nine Inch Nails or Soundgarden here – the depth of sorrow and tides of bliss that Cash could create with that astonishing baritone are here in abundance. (A sixth volume of Cash recordings would follow, subtitled "Ain't No Grave," would follow in 2010.)
"Life After Death," Notorious B.I.G. (1997)

New York native Christopher Wallace, aka Notorious B.I.G., was never a stranger to violence. Still, the entertainment world was shocked on March 9, 1997, when he was gunned down in Los Angeles. "Life After Death," featuring collaborations with Jay-Z, Puff Daddy and R. Kelly, came out in the wake of this still-unsolved murder. It shows off all the talents that B.I.G. held in abundance and was a huge critical and commercial success, having sold over 10 million copies. W.O.W.
"R U Still Down? (Remember Me)," 2Pac (1997)
Poet, actor and hip-hop mega-talent Tupac Shakur died in Las Vegas on Sept. 13, 1996, a week after being shot by an unidentified assailant. "R U Still Down?," a grab-bag collection that came out a year later, received mixed reviews. While some praised the album for simply bringing the world more Tupac, others felt that by releasing such an uneven record, Tupac's mother, Afeni Shakur, was compounding the sense of exploitation that greeted Shakur's first posthumous release, 1996's "The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory."
"Vulnerable," Marvin Gaye (1997)
Though recorded over five years before his death in 1984, soul master Marvin Gaye shelved a group of songs that at the time was called "The Ballads." A collection of jazz standards, it took two decades for these tracks to finally surface as "Vulnerable." Better late than never: Ballads such as "The Shadow of Your Smile" and "This Will Make You Laugh" combine the smooth delivery for which Gaye was known with a certain understatement that the more reserved material demands.
"Grievous Angel," Gram Parsons (1974)
Several posthumous recordings add important elements to an artist's legacy, but few help create a genre. Such was the case with "Grievous Angel," the second solo record by Gram Parsons. Combining elements of country, rock, R&B and pop, and featuring appearances by Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, this collection mirrored Parsons' vision of "cosmic American music" and proved an essential part of the stylistic DNA of what we now call alt-country. Standouts include Parsons originals such as "Brass Buttons," "In My Hour of Darkness" and a slow-burning cover (with Harris) of the Everly Brothers' "Love Hurts."
"Dreaming of You," Selena (1995)
At the time of her death in 1994, 23-year-old Selena Quintanilla had achieved superstar status as the premier Tejano singer-songwriter in her native country of Mexico. She'd released over 10 albums and was well on her way to breaking in America, as her most recent record, "Amor Prohibido," had that year been nominated for a Grammy. "Dreaming of You," a mix of R&B, pop and more traditional Latin sounds, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts and showed off Selena's prodigious and versatile musical talents.
"Crash Landing," Jimi Hendrix (1975)
"Creative" is a good word for "Crash Landing." But so is "cannibalized" and "exploitative." Producer Alan Douglas took a bunch of half-finished Hendrix tracks and brought in a bunch of session musicians to overdub bass, drums and guitar. Then he put backup singers in there, gave himself co-songwriting credit on half the songs and called this Frankenstein's monster a Jimi Hendrix album. The most notable moment of shamelessness comes with something called "Captain Coconut," which is three different songs smashed together. 'Scuze me while I don't buy this record.
"The Buddy Holly Story," Buddy Holly (1959)
There are few greater "what ifs" in the entertainment world than that of Buddy Holly, who, along with Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, constitutes the essential quartet of first-generation rock 'n' roll icons. Dead in a plane crash in 1959 at the age of 22, he left us "The Buddy Holly Story," a remarkable collection that shows off essential, groundbreaking tracks -- "Peggy Sue" and "That'll Be the Day" -- alongside lesser-known gems such as "Think It Over" and a cover of Paul Anka's "It Doesn't Matter Anymore."
"Mystery Girl," Roy Orbison (1989)
Mixing melancholy and hope, sorrow and sweetness, Roy Orbison played a key role in the bridge between R&B, country and rock on songs like "Pretty Woman," "Crying" and "In Dreams." Though he'd achieved most of his success in the 1960s, Orbison was returning to the public spotlight at the time of his death as a member of George Harrison's exuberant A-list band the Traveling Wilburys. Produced by fellow Wilbury Jeff Lynne, "Mystery Girl" shows Orbison's ethereal voice in full effect, and features collaborations with another Wilbury, Tom Petty, as well as Bono and The Edge.
"Michael," Michael Jackson (2010)
Though any Michael Jackson album has moments of undisputed brilliance, "Michael" has been greeted with, at best, a troubled reception. For one thing, several members of Michael's family think that in some cases, someone else is singing. In addition, high-profile collaborators such as have implied that Jackson would have never wanted much of the album to be released, and Dave Grohl, credited with drums on "(I Can't Make It) Another Day," says he never played on the record. His word for the mishap was, "Not cool." That seems to encapsulate the vibe of this record.
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