Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

On the spindle this week are two new box sets. For starters we have Forecast: Tomorrow -- the first (and only) comprehensive career assessment of jazz fusion all-stars Weather Report. Then, we'll sample Volume 5: 1965, which is the most recent addition to the listener lauded and critically-acclaimed Complete Motown Singles series.

Weather Report -- Forecast: Tomorrow (Legacy/Columbia)

When dealing with such a powerfully influential and multi-faceted combo such as Weather Report, it seems like a practically interminable task to distill their essence in one place. However these four discs -- three audio CDs and one video DVD -- do an admirable job of gathering the brightest moments from the band's considerable back catalogue. Plus, added to the festivities are the formerly unissued 'long version' of "Directions," a never-before-available live reading of "Nubian Sundance," and best of all a full-length concert video (circa September 1978) that has remained unreleased until now.

The 37 audio tracks are presented chronologically, commencing with Zawinul's own "In A Silent Way" and Shorter's "Super Nova," -- both of which actually pre-date the formation of Weather Report, yet provide crucial insight into the roots of their jazz/rock fusion. Even as the personnel changed, at the core remained former Miles Davis' sidemen Joe Zawinul (keyboards) and Wayne Shorter (sax).

Featured titles from the earliest incarnations on Disc One are staples "Milky Way," "Tears," the full version of "Eurydice," "Unknown Soldier," and the aforementioned unedited first take of "Directions" -- a tune Zawinul had originally done with Miles several years earlier.

The mid-to-late '70s material on Disc Two isn't as widely characterized as some aficionados might like. Specifically, Mysterious Traveller­ (1974) and Tale Spinnin´(1975) are only denoted by one song apiece. However, Black Market (1976) and Heavy Weather (1976) are well represented with the seminal entries "Cannon Ball," "Three Clowns," "Havona," "Palladium," and Zawinul's signature "Birdland."

The third and final CD in Forecast: Tomorrow aptly covers the '80s. Unfortunately, time didn't permit the first part of the two-movement "Dara Factor" suite, however "Dream Clock," "Port Of Entry," "Procession," "The Well," "D-Flat Waltz," "Face On The Barroom Floor," and a special remix by DJ Logic of "125th Street Congress" -- now called "125th Street Progress" -- are all worthy inclusions.

The nearly two hour long concert DVD captures the quartet with Shorter and Zawinul supported by Peter Erskine (drums) and the infamous Jaco Pastorius (bass). The  September 28, 1978 performance -- which first aired on the show Rockpalast --   is nothing short of revelationary. This is especially true for those who never got to see this mighty union in action. The live set covers the entire Weather Report catalogue with the medley of Shorter's "Delores," Pastorius' "Portrait Of Tracy," and Jimi Hendrix' "Third Stone From The Sun," being one highlight worthy of frequent revisitation.

The accompanying booklet is 103 pages of insightful text by the set's co-producer Bob Belden and track-by-track analysis from noted music journalist Hal Miller. Plus, each page is packed with photos -- many of which are being published for the first time. Whether you're a longtime enthusiast or a Weather Report neophyte, the Forecast: Tomorrow is nothing but clear, cool and definitely collected.

Various Artists -- The Complete Motown Singles, Volume 5: 1965 (Hip-O Select)

Once again the audio archivists over at Hip-O Select strike solid gold with their latest installment in the encyclopedic Complete Motown Singles compendium. Contained within are all 166 songs released on 7-inch 45 rpm platters under the Motown Records umbrella during 1965 -- their most successful year to date. Producers and engineers have scoured the vaults to find the original mixes for every title. In doing so, they've turned up a bunch of promotion-only versions of well-known songs -- many of which have not been available in any format for over 40 years.

There are key contributions to the unmistakable 'Motown Sound' with a handful of  chart-toppers and a slew of equally significant sides that became instant classics. Just a sampling would include timeless classics from The Four Tops (“I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)," "Ask The Lonely," and "It's The Same Old Song"), Marvin Gaye (“I’ll Be Doggone” and "Ain't That Peculiar"), The Supremes ("Back In My Arms Again," "Stop! In The Name Of Love," "Nothing But Heartaches," and "My World Is Empty Without You"), The Miracles (“Going To A Go-Go,” “Ooo Baby, Baby” and "Tracks Of My Tears"),  Jr. Walker & The All Stars (“Shotgun”) Martha & The Vandellas ("Nowhere To Run") and the not-so-little Stevie Wonder (“Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”).

The packaging continues in the stylish motif of a vintage hard-bound photo-album. Housed inside are not only six CDs, but also 148 pages of annotations for every tune, along with photos and plenty of Motown-related memorabilia. One piece worthy of special mention is the playable reproduction of Stevie Wonder's "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" backed with "Purple Rain Drops" 45 rpm single.

Parties interested in capturing this or any of the other Complete Motown Singles treasuries -- while they are still in print -- should point their web browser to <www.hip-oselect.com> before the limited editions are sold out.

Lindsay Planer is a freelance journalist and technical producer at WBT AM/FM in Charlotte, NC. He is a regular contributor to All Music Guide, CrutchfieldAdvisor.com and Gaston Gazette. Comments and questions can be sent to <asthediscspins@earthlink.net>.


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