It’s feast or famine when it comes to the availability on compact disc of the music of the seven artists who were recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in New York.
For someone curious about the Byrds, there’s a confusing array of choices. The classic Los Angeles band is represented by more than a dozen albums, from an ambitious and highly recommended four-disc boxed set to a collection of “demo” recordings made before the group launched the folk-rock sound in 1965 on Columbia Records.
With LaVern Baker, however, the problem is just the opposite. There’s only one Baker album available in CD and it doesn’t contain any of her early R&B; hits.
The other inductees fall somewhere in between in terms of the number of albums available on CD. Here is a guide:
LaVern Baker. This Chicago native had almost a dozen Top 10 R&B; hits in the ‘50s for Atlantic Records, including such novelties as “Tweedlee Dee” and “Jim Dandy.” Yet the only Brown album that is available in CD is a 1958 collection titled “LaVern Baker Sings Bessie Smith.” Until Atlantic gets around to issuing a “best of” album on Baker, the only way to sample the music that won Baker a place in the Hall of Fame is on the “Atlantic Rhythm & Blues” retrospective series. Baker is represented on four of the volumes, most prominently with four songs on Volume 2.
The Byrds. The four-disc box set is outstanding, but expensive (about $45). For a more modest overview, there’s the single-disc “Greatest Hits.”
John Lee Hooker. There are more than a dozen of the blues singer-guitarist’s albums in CD, from the 40th anniversary collection on DCC Compact Classics (early recordings, many of them previously unreleased) to “The Healer” on Chameleon (a 1989 package featuring guest appearances by such artists as Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray and Los Lobos). The essential Vee Jay Records hits from the ‘50s and ‘60s--including “Boom Boom” and “No Shoes"--are found on “The Hook” on Vee Jay/Chameleon.
The Impressions. You’ll have to turn to a Jerry Butler album to find the Impressions’ first hit, “For Your Precious Love,” but the 12-song “Greatest Hits” package on MCA features the classic Curtis Mayfield songs from the ‘60s that made the Impressions one of the most valuable of the great soul groups. Includes such anthems as “Keep On Pushing,” “People Get Ready” and “We’re a Winner.”
Wilson Pickett. Choose between a 24-song “greatest hits” or a budget-priced, 12-song “best of” that concentrates on the soul singer’s celebrated early hits, from “In the Midnight Hour” to “I’m in Love.” Both on Atlantic.
Jimmy Reed. “Bright Lights, Big City” (Chameleon) features 16 of the original Vee Jay recordings by this marvelous blues singer and songwriter. Among the tunes: “Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby,” “Baby, What You Want Me to Do,” “Honest I Do” and the title track.
Ike & Tina Turner. Though best known for their sizzling live revue, the Turners also made some invigorating records, most notably producer Phil Spector’s masterfully framed “River Deep, Mountain High.” It is included on an A&M; album of the same name.
An alternative is a 10-song “Greatest Hits” compilation on Curb Records that spotlights the duo’s ‘70s recordings for United Artists.
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