Brian Setzer released Boogie Woogie Christmas in 2002 and the live DVD Christmas Extravaganza in 2005, the same year as his second Christmas LP, Dig That Crazy Christmas – that's a lot of holiday music in a short span of time and it's all condensed on two 2008 compilations, Christmas Rocks! The Best Of Collection and The Ultimate Christmas Collection. Christmas Rocks! is a single-disc collection of 20 highlights from the 2002 and 2005 albums with a couple of unreleased cuts…
The second collection covering hit singles from the '70s top funk and soul band, Earth, Wind & Fire. This anthology has recently been supplanted by a box set covering virtually all of their big Columbia singles and some early Warners material. If you enjoyed their disco and late '70s cuts more than the early tracks, this anthology is worth getting.
There are already so many "best-of" collections of Gerry & the Pacemakers – including previous releases from EMI, Capitol, and Collectables – that this double-CD set from EMI's U.K. division probably won't seem very impressive or important. Actually, very little of the band's history is left out, at least in terms of the various facets of their music – the hits are all present, along with a brace of engaging B-sides and LP and EP tracks that greatly broaden the range of music at hand. The quartet's best-known songs are well-crafted pop/rock in a Merseybeat mode, but they had a harder side as well, and even traded in some R&B and country sounds, and those aspects are represented here in between the hits. Some listeners who like their more rocking sides, such as "Jambalaya," "Maybellene" or "Pretend," may not appreciate the presence of such string-laden pop as "Walk Hand in Hand" or "Girl on a Swing," but this is a valid representation of their sound. And the sound is optimal, to put it mildly, with lots of presence on all of the instruments.
Frank Sinatra turned 80 in 1995, and Capitol released this two-disc "best of" in celebration. Sinatra's initial tenure at Capitol, which lasted from 1953 to 1962, is generally considered to be his artistic watermark. His voice and technique had improved considerably since his initial peak of popularity in the mid-'40s (the "swinging" phrasing most commonly associated with Sinatra's style really came to the fore during the Capitol years); he also had the good fortune to work with Nelson Riddle and Billy May, whose inventive arrangements certainly brought out the best in Sinatra's singing. This set's song selection is tough to argue with, but you'll really need to get all of Sinatra's Capitol albums to gauge the true measure of the man's artistry. ~ Dan Epstein