Various Artists

The Beat Generation [Rhino]

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A three-CD box set featuring recordings from titans including William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Kenneth Rexroth, The Beat Generation works in tandem with Rhino's earlier compilation The Jack Kerouac Collection to paint a definitive audio portrait of one of the seminal literary uprisings of the 20th century. Because the Beats were so heavily influenced by jazz, their work ranks among the most rhythmic and lyrical in all of literature and lends itself perfectly to spoken word recordings; Kerouac's insistence that "Beat" stood for "beatific" aside, the name's musical implications are undeniable, with the writers' free-flowing, improvisational wordplay -- what Ginsberg dubbed "spontaneous bop prosody" -- echoing the radical innovations of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. The set also charts the Beats' own influence on musicians spanning from Lambert, Hendricks & Ross to Perry Como to Tom Waits, at the same time embracing kindred spirits including Ken Nordine, Lord Buckley, and Lenny Bruce. The inclusion of some of the material is questionable at best -- the box would probably work as effectively at two discs instead of three -- but in recapturing the singular spirit of its time, The Beat Generation is an essential document of cool.

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