It Takes Two

Cole and Eric's version of populism doesn't always take anthologizing well. Classical Music: The Great Performances—four discs, whose chronology (after one-offs from 1903 and 1912) runs from a 1940 Béla Bartók –Benny Goodman collaboration to last year's gooey John Williams guitar arrangement of an Erik Satie piano piece, via way too many other condescending crossover attempts—flounders badly. Despite its title, the idea is mostly to represent significant performers, rather than their (usually longish) best performances, in about three minutes apiece; the result is illustrative but hard to listen to. At least it beats International Music: Sony Music Around the World, whose plastic pop cutouts with local flag stickers slapped on top validate everything you've ever feared about multinational corporations. It's hard to decide what's worse: when singers are consigned to English and don't seem to understand it ("Love is stronger than leather," Denmark's S.O.A.P. chirp in "Not Like Other Girls," a slow jam that might have been generated by Javascript), or when a song in Indonesian ("Janji," by GIGI) sounds like a Goo Goo Dolls castoff.

When Cole and Eric get it right, though, they get it very right. They have glorious ears for arena rock, for instance: the "Rock" set has a sequence that goes "Born to Run"—"Carry On Wayward Son"—"More Than a Feeling"—"(Don't Fear) the Reaper"—"Walk This Way," which would be the greatest album side of its kind. They're justly proud of Columbia's catalog of Broadway productions by Goddard Lieberson; having heard Glynis Johns's shattered "Send in the Clowns," I now understand what that song was before it was a joke. The Sony two's insistence on craft above all else keeps most of the country set pretty tight-assed, but also means it barely falters for a disc and a half. And the first disc of Jazz: The Definitive Performances, covering 1917–1959, is an oh-my-God revelation. I'm not sure how I'd lived this long without hearing Bessie Smith singing "St. Louis Blues." At least I have the rest of my life to adore it.


Everything Is Nice

Warp 10+1 Influences; Warp 10+2 Classics; Warp 10+3 Remixes

Sony Music 100 Years: Soundtrack for a Century

100 Years is 33 hours of peaks with their mountains cut off, and sometimes the air around them is pretty thin—it's hard to get a sense of how they all connect. The Warp and Matador sets contextualize their grand moments with stuff that explains a way to under stand them, and to like them (the Warp set is arguably all context for their "real" releases). Sony's box, though, doesn't have that luxury. It can't imply something other than economics holding it together, for the same reason Cole and Eric can't exist. It's impossible to imagine two people who could like all of it.

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