by Dan Ferguson
Syl Johnson: The Complete Mythology
Numero Group Records
A mother lode of Syl. That's what you get with the visually stunning box set Syl Johnson: The Complete Mythology. It chronicles the works of the should-be-legendary Chicago blues and R&B man and does it in lavish fashion - 6LPs, 4CDs (which dupe the LP tracks), and 52-page book packed with wads of info and photos. The nasally, falsetto-voiced Johnson's success was mostly regional. Complete Mythology spans 1959-71 closing just before he moved to famous Memphis soul imprint Hi Records. The music on this set is gritty blues soul with plenty of juice. Hands down, the reissue of the year. Visit www.numerogroup.com.
The Parting Gifts
In the Red Records ITR201
The Parting Gifts is garage rock king Greg Cartwright (Reigning Sound, Oblivians) and Coco Hames (The Ettes, Coc Motion). It was a split 45 RPM that got the ball rolling for the two and next thing you know we have The Parting Gifts and the full lengther Strychnine Dandelion. And boy do they roll, 15 songs worth including a Stones cover (the obscure "Walkin' Through the Sleepy City") amongst the 14 originals with able-bodied assists from a backing band that includes members of the Black Keys, The Raconteurs, and The Greenhornes. It's messy, it's soulful, and it cranks. For my money, Cartwright is arguably one of the greatest living songwriters. He also has the Midas touch when it comes to rock & roll and producing records. (For roots leaning music lovers, he manages to strike that chord, too, on various Reigning Sound releases.) Strychnine Dandelion is another fine addition to the Cartwright catalogue. Visit www.intheredrecords.com.
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 - 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)