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The Sweet Primeroses
The universal emotions at their core are why the songs on this 1967 recording are called “folk” songs. Her voice and the way that she used it are why Shirley Collins is called a “folk” singer: Unafflicted by vibrato or exemplary breath control, she sounds as common as a miller’s daughter, albeit one whose sister has mastered the rudiments of the pipe organ. The tacked-on four-song EP that brings this reissue’s track total to 20 proves that Collins used her voice the same way in 1963.
A Song for All Seasons (Remastered & Expanded)
Renaissance was unique among progressive-rock acts in that a woman, Betty Thatcher, wrote many of its lyrics and another woman, Annie Haslam, sang them. And while Thatcher’s lyrics haven’t aged well, Haslam’s multioctave voice still commands attention, especially when the tempi and the melodies of what she’s singing command attention too. The children’s TV show theme “Back Home Once Again” is a case in point, as is the magnificent “Northern Lights,” which topped the charts 40 years ago but, inexplicably, only in the band’s native England.
Talk is Cheap (Deluxe)
When this album first appeared, the Jagger-Richards relationship had bottomed out, a situation that fueled the nastier lyrics and that, in bringing the Rolling Stones closer than they’d ever been to splitsville, prodded Richards to prove that he could make rough, funky, and soulful rock ’n’ roll on his own. Except that he wasn’t on his own. The former David Letterman drummer Steve Jordan had Richard’s back as well as his backbeat. Thirty-one years on, lackluster bonus cuts and all, the results still cut the competition.
Another Place and Time: 30th Anniversary
Three discs’ worth of Donna Summer at her most effervescent is too much to take in at once. Even pop songs as close to perfect as the 10 that Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, and Pete Waterman crafted for the original 38-minute album can only withstand so much remixing. On the other hand, the remixes do make a point: Because these songs take immediate hold and refuse to let go—and because there will never be a follow-up—it’s hard to want to let go of them.
Twenty years ago, the funk band Zapp came to a violent end when its leader, Roger Troutman, was shot to death by his brother and erstwhile bandmate, Larry, who then killed himself. It was a conclusion entirely out of keeping with the irrepressible good-time music that Zapp had made between 1980 and 1989 and that Roger had made on his own from 1981 to 1991, music that, in keeping with the title of Zapp’s first single, consistently delivered “more bounce to the ounce.”
Credited to “Zapp & Roger,” The Complete Warner Brothers & Reprise Albums (Warner/X5) is a streaming-only testament to how far ahead of the game Troutman was no matter how often he covered soul classics. He was particularly fond of a little something called the talk box, a voice-altering device that allowed him to sound (as he put it) both “computerized” and “real funky.” That real funkiness is why none dare call it Auto-Tune. —A.O.