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Holiday Highlights 2001 

Holiday Event Lisitngs

Wednesday, Nov 21 2001

Page 8 of 11

Documentaries are great for getting backstage looks at the making of some fantastic music, and they can be lent to friends when done. Billy Bragg and Wilco's Man in the Sand is a documentary of the process of writing and recording Vols. 1 and 2 of the Mermaid Avenue albums, wherein unearthed Woody Guthrie lyrics are put to music. But before you watch that, try the double DVD overview of American Roots Music for reference. The footage is culled from the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Good stuff for fans of folk, bluegrass, and blues.

*Jim Jarmusch takes on La Honda resident Neil Young and his band Crazy Horse in Year of the Horse, but he doesn't get in the way. Instead, he lets the band do what they do best--jam. The bonus interviews have Neil expounding on his formula for "long-term preservation," something any young musician could benefit from.

Until collections of Peter Gabriel and Talking Heads are released to challenge them, the Beastie Boys' Sabotage and 2-CD Video Anthology fortify them as the champions of the music video.


The holidays offer the opportunity to purchase pleasurable things for people you don't really know, including secret Santa draws, clients, new family members, and sometimes, old family members. Music seems like a good idea, until you try to match your current tastes across an age gap. Giving your in-laws a home-burned CD of your latest Icelandic-Celt-hop-trancepop playlist will not endear you to them, and you can forget about being the cool uncle if you offer commercial cheese to your teenage nephew. The selections below maximize the chance of success in your giving endeavors.

Say it Loud -- A Celebration of Black Music in America

This 6-disc, 108-cut set is the collaboration of VH1, Quincy Jones, and the compilation wizards at Rhino Records. A companion to the thematic television documentary, this collection goes strictly chronologically, from Scott Joplin to Coolio, creating the ultimate rebuttal to white supremacy. The breadth is staggering, the selections seminal, the music uplifting and inspiring. It should be required listening for every human being and beamed into space on a continual loop. We like it.

Harry Connick Jr.

Your grandparents might appreciate this young'un's song selection, and some virtuoso rag piano and smooth crooning might be a refreshing respite to you from the mandate of continual Christmas carols. Harry Connick Jr. so wishes he had been in the Rat Pack, that he's chosen songs even Frank and Dean were nostalgic about. This is his 30th birthday present to himself, and he clearly thinks enough of his truly to do a swell job on "Don't Fence Me In", "Chattanooga Choo Choo," and other standards.

Days of Wine and Roses
Henry Mancini

Henry Mancini has been called the greatest composer of music for film. From the late 50's throughout the 80's, Mancini scored over 80 films and released more than 50 albums. The Mancini formula fused the sensibility and light-heartedness of cool, West Coast jazz with orchestral emotional symbolism. This three-CD set covers his entire career, of which the instrumental pieces like "Theme from The Pink Panther" hold up best. Some tunes have an overdone chorus, the likes of which blight many a Ray Charles tune, but the cumulative effect of this 80-tune retrospective is impressive. After breaking through with the score to Orson Welles' noir Touch of Evil, Mancini wrote and reluctantly recorded the theme to a young Blake Edwards' TV show called Peter Gunn. It was the first jazz score for television and brought Mancini his first #1 LP, unheard-of for a TV score. Edwards' debut feature, Breakfast at Tiffanys, became the first of 28 films he and Mancini would do together. They collectively contain some of the best-known film songs, such as, "Days of Wine and Roses" and "Moon River." Don't recognize those tunes? Your family elders probably do, and that's why this would make a good gift. Let your grandparents know he used to play with the Glen Miller Band, tell your parents that Audrey Hepburn called him "the hippest of cats," and remind your bachelor uncle that he wrote the score to Mommie Dearest. Everybody's happy.

*The Jam: Graham Central Station Anthology

The pluck and thump baseline that drove 60's funk higher came out of Oakland via Larry Graham while onstage with Sly and the Family Stone. By the time he left the band in 1972, his influence could be heard all over the funkadelic landscape. The Jam is a 33-song retrospective of his post-Sly work with Graham Central Station and some solo stuff. The band was a kind of gospel/ soul/ funk concoction that seemed to want nothing to do with the sexual revolution, judging by the common theme of commitment, but that wanted to get down on the dance floor nonetheless. Can a band be wholesome and badass? They come close.

Can You Dig It? The 70s Soul Experience

The best packaging of the year award goes to this six-disc, 136-song collection of soul classics disguised as a case of 8-track tapes. A full 65 of the selections were #1 on the R&B and/or pop charts, making this a dazzling display of licensing. It reminds us that the soundtrack for the blaxploitation 70's was soul, not disco. Also reflected in the music are black power, women's lib, and castrati-falsetto-chic. Survivors like Isaac Hayes and Tower of Power are sandwiched between other masters and a slew of one-hit wonders. These discs are great for drivin,' dancin', or makin' sweet love.

*Blind Pig Records 25th Anniversary Collection

For a quarter of a century, Blind Pig has been releasing some of the most authentic, honest, contemporary blues music in the country out of their Bernal Heights HQ. But don't think down-and-out blues; think barroom blues, hot-lick blues, and hip-hop blues. Two CDs chronicle an impressive array of performers, from big-time bluesmen like Muddy Waters and Albert Collins, to local luminaries like Tommy Castro and Norton Buffalo, who have shared stages with the best. Disc 3 is a CD-ROM of videos and interviews of Blind Pig alumni such as B.B.King and Popa Chubby. For the complete roster, visit


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