Friday, September 1, 2017

CD Compilation of the Month - "Cool Heat / The Best of CTI Records"

CD Compilation of the Month
"Cool Heat - The Best of CTI Records" (CTI/Robinsongs) 
Release Date: August 11, 2017
**** (musical performance)
***** (sonic quality)
**** (tracks' selection)

Original tracks produced by Creed Taylor and David Matthews

Besides some of the biggest hits -- Deodato's Grammy winning track "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (2001), Bob James' sumptuous "Westchester Lady," and disco hits like Idris Muhammad's "Could Heaven Ever Be Like This" (a track that wasn't produced by Creed Taylor, but by the composer & arranger David Matthews) and Esther Phillips' "What A Diff'rence A Day Makes" (arranged by guitarist Joe Beck) -- this 2-disc compilation focuses on the groovy tracks recorded during the CTI heyday in the 70s.

It means that there's a lot a material borrowed from CTI's main subsidiary label, Kudu, the house for more soul-jazz and jazz-funk-oriented material. Most of them engineered by the legendary Rudy Van Gelder at his studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

There's one good surprise (the inclusion of a vocal track by George Benson originally issued as a single, "Supership," co-written by Ralph MacDonald, William Eaton & Bill Salter) and many obvious choices like the post-bop classic tracks "Sugar" (Stanley Turrentine) and "Red Clay" (Freddie Hubbard).

Kenny Burrell's bluesy "Be Yourself," Joe Farrell's etheral "Follow Your Heart" (a tune written by John McLaughlin, heard on the guitar) and Nina Simone's politically engaged title song from her "Baltimore" album generate an odd contrast to such disco tracks as Hubert Laws' "The Chicago Theme" (written & arranged by Bob James), Lalo Schifrin's frenetic version of John Williams' main theme from the "Jaws" soundtrack, and Ron Carter's reading of Dave Grusin's "Baretta's Theme" (from his only funkyfied disco album, "Anything Goes").

Not to mention a couple of soul-jazz gems like Esther Phillips' brilliant rendition of Gil Scott-Heron's "Home Is Where The Hatred Is" and Johnny Hammond's "Breakout," the pop-jazz of Patti Austin's "Say You Love Me" and Gabor Szabo's take on Carole King's "It's Going To Take Some Time," Hank Crawford's much sampled "Wildflower," David Matthews' "Shoogie Wanna Boogie" (a showcase for bassist Anthony Jackson), Lonnie Smith's latin-soul trip on "Mama Wailer" and Deodato's epic "Super Strut" featuring John Tropea, Stanley Clarke and Billy Cobham.

Oh, big hits like "Mister Magic" and "Feels So Good" by Grover Washington Jr. couldn't be included because the masters now belong to Motown. And the UK label Robinsongs, that produced this compilation, licensed everything from Sony Music, which controls the CTI catalog from the 70s in Europe. Business...

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