This Collectables two-fer pairs an odd selection of Herbie Mann -- which may mean they are getting to the bottom of the barrel in the flutist's WEA catalog. The first set here, by a group assembled as Family of Mann -- named after one of his 1960s album titles, is entitled First Light. The band includes Steve Gadd, Potato Valdez, Tony Levin, and David "Fathead" Newman. It's pure soul-jazz and jazz-funk. Recorded in 1974, it bears all the trappings of that year production-wise with reverb effects strewn all over the thing. That doesn't change the fact that the music is great -- it's tough, deep-grooved and passionate -- much of this is because of Newman's gritty playing. The second album, This Is My Beloved, presented here is a suite composed for the poems of Walter Benton, read by Laurence Harvey. While music, impressionistic as it is, works in a beautiful way, Walter Benton was no Kenneth Patchen when it came to the love poem -- he was more like Rod McKuen. The band, comprised of Joe Puma, Ray Mantilla, Ahmad Aboul-Malik, Haywood Henry, John Rae, and Harry Lookofsky, plays a wonderfully subtle blend of jazz, classical music, pop and folk, as if they were encountering some sketch by Debussy. They ignore the corny vocals that overdramatize every already overwrought line, making this intolerable, even as kitsch.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek