Audiophile: Digital, February 2021

hfnalbum.pngJoni Mitchell
Archives Volume 1
Rhino R2 604555 (five discs)

While sound quality is the primary concern in this section, some releases beg indulgence. Subtitled 'The Early Years (1963-1967)', this material comprises pre-fame home tapes, demo recordings, early TV and radio broadcasts and a live set from 1967 filling two of the five CDs. This would have earned our old 'H' rating, but the sound is so unexpectedly fine for such raw archival material, and the content… Let's put it this way: along with the box's 40-page booklet, whole volumes will be written about the previously unreleased material, including 29 original compositions heard for the first time. If you acknowledge Mitchell as an exceptional, important songwriter, you'll agree: this had better win a Grammy. KK


The Everly Brothers
Down In The Bottom
RPM/Cherry Red QRPMT550 (three discs)

Containing – with a generous 21 bonus tracks – three entire albums, this sublime set is subtitled 'The Country Rock Sessions 1966-1968' and is a must-hear if you're one of those who worships at the grave of Gram Parsons and needs a reality check. The trio of masterpieces includes The Hit Sound Of, Sing and Roots, all filled with self-penned treasures and superlative covers like a lush 'Trains And Boats And Plains', 'Mama Tried', and more from Goffin-King, Dolly Parton, Randy Newman, Ron Elliott and others, a show of impeccable taste. Acknowledged as setting the standard for rock harmonies, the irony, of course, is that the Everlys always were country rock. KK


Nilsson Schmilsson
Mobile Fidelity UDSACD2219

In Late 1971, Nilsson – a composer beloved of The Beatles, but also adept at covering others' works – released his seventh album, and it would turn out to be (arguably) his masterpiece, his best-selling LP and a crash course in his versatility. As was the norm for this mischievous, virtually unclassifiable singer-songwriter, the album's most famous track was not one of his own, but his No 1 hit and Grammy-winning version of 'Without You' written by Badfinger's Pete Ham and Tom Evans – later butchered by Maria Carey. But it is atypical, as the album ranges from novelty tunes to hard rock to vintage rock 'n' roll. Reissued regularly, it wholly deserves to be. KK


The O'Jays
Survival & Family Reunion
Vocalion CDSML8566 (multi-channel SACD)

When a disc opens with the anthem, 'Give The People What They Want', a milestone of Philly Sound and a No 1 hit on the US R&B charts, a song so powerful it's still being licensed 46 years after it was released, you can expect an exemplar of the genre: the two albums contained here live up to the promise. Both charted in 1975, and have stood the test of time as the smooth sound perfectly suited the 'quiet storm' radio programming which reintroduced romantic R&B to African-American radio listeners in the 1990s. The two sets feature enough of the easy stuff to lull you into near repose, but then you get hit with some funk. The surround element ain't bad, either. KK