Phil Woods is right at home during these 2002 sessions at Red Rock Recording Studio near his home in Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania. With his regular group (Bill Charlap, Steve Gilmore, and Bill Goodwin) minus trumpeter Brian Lynch, Woods adds strings conducted by his old friend Eric Doney on this collection of ballads. "And When We're Young" is the alto saxophonist's tribute to the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated around the time it was written. The leader's lush alto gives way to a brisk Latin-flavored passage featuring powerful solos by violinist Andy Stein and Charlap on piano, while Woods humorously detours into "Nature Boy" upon his return. The strings introduce a lively arrangement of "It Never Entered My Mind," and another favorite of the alto saxophonist, "If I Should Lose You." Unlike many jazz recordings with strings, they complement rather than overwhelm the musicians. But it is almost impossible for a Phil Woods-led date to turn out less than excellent.
Complete Collection is a six-disc, U.K.-only set celebrating the breadth and depth of Lisa Stansfield's extensive and impressive career. It includes her five studio albums – Affection; Real Love; So Natural; Lisa Stansfield; and Face Up – as well as an exclusive sixth disc, with recordings from a 1992 Wembley date, club mixes (including a great Massive Attack version of "Live Together"), B-sides, and three songs from Stansfield's Blue Zone days. Not enough? Each studio album is augmented with at least two bonus tracks. Complete Collection is definitely the most comprehensive Lisa Stansfield retrospective; it borders on overkill. But since it's only available in the U.K. – and is also quite pricey – the single-disc Biography is perfectly acceptable for the casual Stansfield fan.
Aside from his tremendous powers of performance, Stevie Wonder stands as one of the greatest songwriters of the late 20th century, probing the joyous peaks and depressing valleys of love and relationships. The Motown tribute album Conception: An Interpretation of Stevie Wonder's Songs has its highs and lows as well; with Stevie himself in the producer's chair (along with new-era Motown exec Kedar Massenburg), the album certainly has a lot of promise. It boasts plenty of neo-soul balladeers – India.Arie, Mary J. Blige, Brian McKnight, Joe, Musiq – as well as mainstream stars like Eric Clapton and John Mellencamp, who took musical cues from classic Stevie Wonder LPs like Talking Book or Songs in the Key of Life.