Welcome to the December 2020 Holiday Issue

Welcome to the December 2020 Holiday Edition of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

In keeping with the season, we’re starting off with our list of the Best New Holiday Albums, featuring releases from Warren Wolf, Lynda Randle, Amber Weekes, Leslie Odom Jr., Pentatonix, and the Hadestown cast, plus honorable mentions.

Special editions and box sets include Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920’s, vol. 18 ( 2021 calendar + CD); Bob Marley 75th Anniversary releases (books and box sets); Jimi Hendrix Experience Live In Maui from 1970 (2-CD + DVD); Prince’s Sign O’ The Times Super Deluxe Edition (8CD+DVD or 13LP+DVD); the new documentary Chuck Berry: The Original King Of Rock; Little Richard’s 1970s Reprise albums in expanded editions; new releases celebrating Chubby Checker and the 60th anniversary of “The Twist”; the compilation from Stax’s 1970s-era gospel subsidiary Gospel Truth: The Complete Singles Collection; the CD release of the Staple Singers’ box set Come Go With Me: The Stax Collection (7-CDs); Evelyn “Champagne” King: RCA Albums 1977-1985 (8-CD box set); the funk group Con Funk Shun compilation Confunkshunizeya: The Mercury Anthology (2 CDs); the Sade box set This Far (6-LP vinyl); Beyonce’s groundbreaking 2018 Coachella festival performance packaged as Homecoming: The Live Album (4-LP set); and London’s young Kanneh-Mason family performing a new version of Carnival of the Animals (deluxe ed. book + CD).

Other new releases include Ella Fitzgerald: The Lost Berlin Tapes; George Benson’s Weekend in London; and the book Heart Full of Rhythm: Big Band Years of Louis Armstrong.

Wrapping up this issue is our list of November 2020 Black Music Releases of Note.

New Holiday Albums: The Best of 2020

One of the most essential parts of the holiday season is the music we listen to with our family and friends. This year, we especially need to come together to celebrate (virtually or in person), so we’re offering our list of the most comforting and inspiring holiday albums that have been released over the past few months. Included are brief reviews of our top six holiday albums of 2020, including releases from Leslie Odom Jr., Warren Wolf, the original cast of Hadestown, Amber Weekes, Lynda Randle, and Pentatonix. Also included is a list of honorable mentions, since there were too many amazing albums released this holiday season to cover in depth. Although this Christmas and holiday season may be a bit different from what most of us are used to, we hope these new music selections will help make this Christmas feel just as special as the last.

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Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920’s, Vol. 18

 

Title: Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920’s, vol. 18
Artist: Various
Label: Blues Images
Format: CD + Calendar
Release date: September 8, 2020

 

The Blues Images team strike a resonant chord again this year with their annual blues calendar and CD package. The wall calendar, featuring a historic advertisement for Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Pneumonia Blues” on the cover, displays additional photographs and graphical artwork that help bring to life the classic Pre-War blues classics included on this year’s audio selections. Beautiful photographs of Peg Leg Howell, Bertha Henderson, Ramblin’ Thomas, Victoria Spivey, and Blind Boy Fuller will help pass the months of 2021 as the calendar’s pages are turned, including a stand-out photo of Lead Belly and Martha Promise on their wedding day in the month of July.

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New Box Set and Books Commemorate Bob Marley’s 75th Anniversary

 

Title: The Complete Island Recordings
Artist: Bob Marley
Label: UMC/Island
Format: 11CD box set, vinyl reissues
Release Date: December 4, 2020

 

Fans of Bob Marley will have no shortage of Marley-related releases to choose from this holiday season. In December, UMC/Island will release The Complete Island Recordings, a new 11CD box set featuring all nine Bob Marley & The Wailers studio albums recorded for Island Records as well as two live albums (Live! and Babylon By Bus). The set spans a decade, beginning with 1973’s Catch A Fire and concluding with 1983’s Confrontation, a posthumous album released two years after Marley’s death. Additionally, on November 20, Universal is reissuing the same 11 albums and the compilation album Legend on vinyl as half-speed mastered editions. A third set of these albums, which are being pressed at the legendary Tuff Gong International headquarters in Kingston, will also be released on vinyl on December 11. The Tuff Gong set features the original Jamaica-recorded version of Catch A Fire, which is without overdubs, longer fades, and two extra tracks from the sessions.

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Jimi Hendrix Experience – Live In Maui

 

Title: Live In Maui
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Label: Experience Hendrix L.L.C./Sony Legacy
Formats: 2-CD or 3-LP + Blu-Ray set
Release date: November 20, 2020

 

Rarely a year goes by without a new release from the Hendrix archives and 2020 is no exception. This year’s offering, Live In Maui, features both the audio and video documentation of the “Rainbow Bridge Vibratory Color/Sound Experiment” concerts performed by the Jimi Hendrix Experience in Hawaii on July 30, 1970, plus a new documentary and liner notes that chronicle the story behind the making of the film Rainbow Bridge. As is the case with the majority of these posthumous releases, the results are a mixed bag. For most Hendrix fans, however, there is likely enough new, high quality content to warrant the purchase of this three disc set. First and foremost, there’s the music, a remarkable live performance previously available only on bootlegs, offered here in superb sound, newly restored and mixed by Eddie Kramer and mastered by Bernie Grundman.

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Prince – Sign O’ The Times Super Deluxe Ed.

 

Title: Sign O’ The Times Super Deluxe Ed.
Artist: Prince
Label: Warner
Formats: 8-CD or 13-LP + DVD Box Set
Release date: September 25, 2020

 

Any Prince fan on your holiday gift list would likely be thrilled to receive the new edition of Sign O’ The Times, one of the Prince’s most memorable albums now offered as a super deluxe box set. Featuring 92 tracks across eight CDs plus a DVD and a 120-page illustrated hardcover book with essays by Dave Chappelle, Lenny Kravitz, and various Prince scholars, this set can be considered a bargain. In addition to the original 1987 double album remastered by Bernie Grundman, the other CDs include 63 previously unreleased tracks ranging from single remixes and B-sides to live songs plus a complete concert performance recorded in Utrecht, Netherlands, on June 20, 1987 during the Sign O’ The Times Tour.

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Chuck Berry – The Original King of Rock ‘N’ Roll

 

Title: The Original King of Rock ‘N’ Roll
Artist: Chuck Berry
Label: MVD Visual
Formats: DVD, Blu-Ray
Release date: November 6, 2020

 

Back in 1987, while the legendary rock and roll icon Chuck Berry was still alive and performing, the documentary Chuck Berry – Hail! Hail! Rock N’ Roll was released in celebration of the musician’s 60th birthday, but the primarily focus was on two 1986 concerts. Director Jon Brewer (also responsible for great documentaries on B.B. King and Nat King Cole) uses some of that footage for this wonderful new 97-minute film, The Original King of Rock ‘N’ Roll, including clips with Berry’s contemporaries, Little Richard and Bo Diddley. This if the first feature-length documentary on the life and music of Berry, taking us on a journey from his early years right up to the present day.

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Little Richard – Expanded Editions of Reprise Albums

In a year that has brought many heartbreaking losses, one of the greatest was Little Richard, the undisputed architect of rock and roll who died on May 9, 2020 at the age of 87. Along with his peers, pianist Fats Domino and guitarists Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, Richard secured a place in the rock n’ roll pantheon for Black musicians in the 1950s and managed to hold onto that success for the next 60 years through recordings and live performances. Though a number of compilations have been released in the past that cover his early years with Specialty, OKeh, and Vee-Jay Records, his recordings for Reprise Records in the 1970s have been somewhat neglected. Thanks to the reissue label Omnivore Recordings and producer Cheryl Pawelski, fans can now enjoy expanded CD editions of three of Little Richards’ Reprise releases as well as his 1986 Warner Bros. release, all with new liner notes by Bill Dahl.

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Chubby Checker and the 60th Anniversary of The Twist

 

Title: The Twist
Artist: Chubby Checker
Label: ABKCO
Format: 7” vinyl
Release date: September 25, 2020

 

Sixty years ago, Philadelphia teenager Chubby Checker released his iconic version of “The Twist.” Dropping in the summer of 1960, the single hit the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 on September 24, 1960. Originally a twelve-bar blues song written and released a year earlier by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, it was Checker’s rendition that caught the attention of Dick Clark, who invited him to perform on American Bandstand. The rest, as they say, is history. Checker’s song spurred a worldwide dance craze, eventually earning him a spot in the Grammy Hall of Fame as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. In recognition of the 60th anniversary of “The Twist,” ABKCO Records is offering several commemorative releases of Checker’s recordings.

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