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Mr Lucky
Music Reviews


MrLucky's Lucky Seven (and a half) Gift List

Stacks of Stax
Taking a break from romance and cocktails, we've recently been embracing the legend known as Stax Records. What a powerhouse of talent this label was! If you need to buy gifts for someone who is particularly funky, or is over 35, any one of these Stax-related items are sure to please. And remember, to quote Rufus Thomas, "Boogie ain't nuttin but gettin' down!"

Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records (Book)
First and foremost, Soulsville U.S.A. is the story of the "little label that could", Stax Records. Fate, talent and timing all met in Memphis and the sounds of Soul music were born. It's also the story of a racially mixed work environment, greed, the insides of the music business and the running of an independent label. Author Rob Bowman writes in a delightfully straightforward style and neither glorifies nor vilifies any of the lead characters, despite what must be an overwhelming temptation to do so. The story of the demise of this label is heart-wrenching stuff. Well-meaning people do stupid things and each story has several sides. Amid the inspiration and insanity were 15 years of wonderful music. Teeny tiny print makes this a slower and more painful read than it should be, but the information is so essential to popular culture, we'll overlook this.

The Complete Stax/Volt Soul Singles, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 (CD)
If the recipient of your gift has been very good this year, you may want to treat him or her to one or all of these swell box sets featuring the singles from the Stax/Volt library. Anyone would love the nine discs on the first volume. Despite this being virtually every single on the label until 1968, there are very few clunkers, at least on the first two volumes. By Volume Three, the first real signs of stress set in and there was a lot of bland music made at Stax, as there was elsewhere. Still, we wouldn't want to be without it.

The Stax Story (CD)
If your budget is limited, this fine four-CD set, reviewed last month in MrLucky would be nice. Read the review.

Billie Holiday (CD)
This 10-CD box from Germany is not a lavish package but it gets the job done. It's everything she recorded between 1933 and 1948, with the exception of her seminal Commodore recordings. This would make a great present for any jazz buff. Shamefully, Sony/Columbia have let the Billie Holiday catalogue languish and have postponed a long-promised box like this. Well, tough luck Sony. This is the box to beat. With all the essential tracks and gorgeous sound, who could ask for more? How about a reasonable price? Done! This set can be found for less than $70. If we didn't already have it, we'd ask you to get it for us.

Hullabaloo DVD (DVD)
Hullabaloo was a short-lived youth-oriented variety show. It is really terrible and terribly funny. The dancing is bad, the guests range from Joanie Sommers to the Byrds to Frankie Avalon and the highlight of each show was the last number, "Hullabaloo a Go Go", a fake discothèque. If your gift-recipient has a sense of humor and is easily amused (as we are), this would make a great gift. Over 4 hours of fun!

Ella Fitzgerald: Something to Live For (DVD)
Who doesn't like Ella? Everyone does and anyone would appreciate this fine DVD documentary on the great singer's life. Who really cares that Johnny Mathis thinks Ella is the best? No one! Luckily, Johnny and the other talking heads take a backseat to lots of vintage footage of Ella performing from all stages of her career.

Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Book)
We think any music fan would love this big, fat book with short bios and lots of fun facts. Obviously we couldn't care less about Arrowsmith and John Cougar Mellancamp's entries but we were surprised by some of the more obscure but seminal artists that popped up in the book. Handy as a reference piece, but fun to browse through as well.

Night Moves: Pop Music in the Late '70s (Book)
Not long ago, little ones, there was a time when music was actually fun. No, not Eminem-style fun, but actually silly, stupid fun. You could sing along to the songs, even the ones you hated. Love songs were about love. It was a very strange and exciting time.
Like their previous book on the early 1970s, Precious and Few, Don and Jeff Breithaupt's Night Moves is a fast, fun romp through a slice of pop music history. Anyone who was a teen in the 1970s will have a gas. Pop music was leaving us colder and colder at this time and we were increasingly turning to our parents' Jackie Gleason records. But we still kept an ear open. And if we had any idea where pop music was headed, we would have realized we were living through some kind of Golden Age.

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