Chuck Berry fanatics, your ship has come in, and it’s the Queen Mary — or maybe we should call it the Queen Maybellene. As you’d expect from the Bear Family label, which specializes in gargantuan reissues, this 16-CD, 396-song box doesn’t simply span Berry’s career, it embraces virtually every musical note the man has ever issued. You’ll find all of his released album tracks and singles, starting with an obscure 1954 recording and including everything from the Chess, Mercury and Atco labels, plus every surviving alternate take. Also here are five CDs’ worth of concert performances from 1956 to 1972.
What would life amongst the Muppets have been without their unofficial leader Kermit the Frog? That's the question posed by this made-for-TV confection, which not only spoofs the Yuletide classic It's a Wonderful Life, but also takes satirical aim at such pop cultural phenomena as Moulin Rouge and Fear Factor. The plot is set in motion when typically evil banker Rachel Bitterman (Joan Cusack) forecloses on the Muppets' famous variety theater, with the intention of building a gaudy nightclub. But Bitterman's machinations take a back seat when apprentice guardian angel, Daniel (David Arquette), shows Kermit (voiced by Steve Whitmire) what conditions would have been had Kermit never existed. Without going into full detail, suffice to say that a Kermit-less world would have found Miss Piggy (voiced by Frank Oz) running a fraudulent psychic hot line, Fozzie Bear as a homeless derelict, and Sam the Eagle as a caged dancer at a rave.
For Now You See It…Now You Don't, Michael Brecker's third recording as a leader, the tenor great used different personnel on most of the selections but played consistently well. Jim Beard's synthesizers were utilized for atmosphere, to set up a funky groove, or to provide a backdrop for the leader. Some of the music sounds like updated John Coltrane (Joey Calderazzo's McCoy Tyner-influenced piano helps), while other pieces could almost pass for Weather Report, if Wayne Shorter rather than Joe Zawinul had been the lead voice. Most of the originals (either by Brecker, Beard, or producer Don Grolnick) project moods rather than feature strong melodies, but Michael Brecker's often-raging tenor makes the most of each opportunity.
Sam Phillips didn't record anybody else the way he recorded Jerry Lee Lewis. With other artists, he pushed and prodded, taking his time to discover the qualities that made them uniquely human, but with Jerry Lee, he just turned the tape on and let the Killer rip. There was no need to sculpt because Lewis arrived at Sun Studios fully formed, ready to lean back and play anything that crossed his mind. Over the course of seven years, that's more or less how things were run at Sun: Lewis would sit at the piano and play, singing songs that were brought to him and songs that crossed his mind, and Sam never stopped rolling the tape.