Various Artists

Atlantic Records 50 Years: The Gold Anniversary

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Adequately covering the rich legacy of Atlantic Records' first 50 years over only two CDs is an impossible task, even concentrating only on rock and R&B, so it would be difficult to expect Atlantic Records 50 Years: Gold Anniversary to offer anything more than a cursory overview. The compilation does illustrate the incredible depth and diversity of talent that the label has maintained over the years, even if it doesn't come anywhere near a coherent presentation of that talent. Instead, 50 Years skims a sampling of some of the best and best-known songs from throughout the company's history. The first disc concentrates primarily on Atlantic's rich catalog of R&B and soul music from the '50s and '60s (a greater portion of which easily filled a hugely entertaining nine-CD box set) and moves into seminal rock legends like Cream, CSNY, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones -- all represented by only one song apiece. The second disc is wildly varied, featuring prog-rock from Yes, a couple of disco hits, and mainstream pop/rock from the '80s, as well as a few selections from Atlantic's most popular '90s artists (Tori Amos, Hootie and the Blowfish, Brandy, Jewel). So the problem certainly isn't with the quality of the music; it's just that there are so many different musical styles represented here that the set can't present them in any sort of context. Nearly all of these artists have a great deal more quality material out there, certainly enough that having one cut from each is hardly a satisfying proposition; moreover, there are various-artists compilations covering most of these styles in more coherent fashion. However, even if it isn't at all unified, Atlantic Records 50 Years undeniably possesses a wealth of great music.

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