Ramsey Lewis

Complete Recordings: 1960-1962

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The eight albums collected on this four-disc box represent the original Ramsey Lewis Trio's (the pianist, drummer Redd Holt, and bassist Eldee Young) emergence as a popular entity on the mainstream jazz and pop scenes not only in their hometown of Chicago, but in America at large. All of these dates were originally issued by Argo. Disc one contains both Stretching Out and the grooving Ramsey Lewis Trio in Chicago (that closes with the killer reading of "C.C. Rider," foreshadowing the more driving soul-jazz-oriented sounds they'd record in the mid- to late-'60s). Disc two contains More Music from the Soil and Never On Sunday. The theme albums, Sound of Christmas, and the far more interesting Sound of Spring -- with its fine readings of "Soft Winds" and "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" -- make up disc three. The final offering here contains the criminally underrated Country Meets Blues and the popular Bossa Nova, both from 1962. The good news is that this set is almost unbelievably inexpensive. The bad news is two-fold. Enlightenment is a U.K. label and therefore isn't required to pay copyright fees on material at least 50 years old. It also means that they didn't have to use master tapes as their source material: it's highly debatable as to whether these recordings were actually taken from tapes rather than vinyl LPs. You get what you pay for. The stars are for the music, not the package.

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