Charles Earland

Charlie's Greatest Hits

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Greatest Hits is not such a hot, or accurate, title for an album that has seven songs recorded between 1969-1974. Even if Earland's stint at Prestige during this time is reckoned to be his peak on record (as it usually is), that's not such a thorough overview of a period that saw him do about ten albums. That's particularly so as five of the seven songs here are covers of contemporary pop hits, including two versions of his renowned take on "More Today Than Yesterday" (the 1969 studio recording and a 1970 live one). "More Today Than Yesterday" is his most famous track, yet at several decades' remove it still seems as though his pop covers -- also including the Supremes' "Someday We'll Be Together" and "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" on this anthology -- do not challenge Earland's imagination as much as other material would. It's easy listening jazz, in the better sense, but not great jazz (or great pop-jazz), although a boatload of fine players help him out at various points, including guitarist Melvin Sparks, drummer Idris Muhammad, tenor saxophonist Houston Person, drummer Bernard Purdie, and (making his recording debut, according to the liner notes) Grover Washington, Jr. on the live "More Today Than Yesterday." In contrast, Earland's two originals, the cooking ten-minute "Morgan" (with Lee Morgan on trumpet, Hubert Laws on piccolo, and Billy Cobham on drums) and "Leaving This Planet" (with Joe Henderson on tenor sax), are more ear-stretching and satisfying. "Morgan"'s good straight-ahead jazz, while "Leaving This Planet" is a quirky yet interesting detour into Stevie Wonder-influenced fusion, complete with cosmic vocal philosophizing and moogs aplenty. The disc concludes with a good previously unreleased live 11-minute cover of "Don't Let Me Lose This Dream" (mainly known as an Aretha Franklin track) from 1970, again with Grover Washington, Jr. on sax.

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