Review: 'Ultimate Grammy Box' -- this end up
November 29, 1999
By David John Farinella
"The Ultimate Grammy Box"
(CNN) -- While the rest of the music business scrambles to put together the perfect turn-of-the-century box set, the Grammy committee has opened its vaults and unearthed some of the best music ever inspired.
Sure, it's a bit odd to hear Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto's "The Girl From Ipanema" (1964) blend into Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now" (1976) -- or even "End of the Road" (1992) from Boyz II Men follow Domenico Modugno's 1958 rendition of "Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu (Volare)" -- but somehow it all comes together as a brilliant snapshot of the Grammy legacy.
Comprising four discs and 73 songs, "The Ultimate Grammy Box" is devoted to Grammy Award winners or songs voted into the Recording Academy's Hall of Fame. Landmarks like The Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" (1966) stand next to flavor-of-the-day hits including the 1990 "U Can't Touch This" from MC Hammer.
Rather than taking listeners chronologically through the records of the Grammys, executive producer Michael Greene and producers Ron Weisner and Liz Silverman Ring mix and match musical genres and eras. At times, the runs of music are confusing -- there are jumps from Tammy Wynette's classic country croon "Stand by Your Man" (1969) to the 1948 polka number "Just Because" by Frankie Yankovic, then to the soaring 1989 "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You" from Michael Bolton.
On the other hand, the first disc's opening sequence -- "Good Vibrations," "What's Going On" (Marvin Gaye, 1971) and "Respect" (Aretha Franklin, 1967) -- is akin to a 1960s and '70s greatest-hits package.
To the producers' credit, a number of categories are highlighted in this collection. There are classical performances by Yo-Yo Ma (the Gavotte from Suite No. 6, S. 1012, by J.S. Bach, in a 1984 recording); Leontyne Price ("Vissi d'arte" from the second act of "Tosca" by Giacomo Puccini, sung in 1973); and Vladimir Horowitz ("Vers la flamme," Poème, Op. 72 of Alexander Scriabin). Those selections are juxtaposed with the rock act Soundgarden ("Black Hole Sun," 1994); pop diva Celine Dion ("My Heart Will Go On," 1999); and country star George Jones ("He Stopped Loving Her Today," 1980).
But where this box set falls short is in its lack of representation from the world music, gospel, Latin, New Age or rap genres. Reportedly, there were estate issues with some of the artists, but the omissions of Frank Sinatra, The Beatles and other trendsetting musicians are interesting -- as are a selection of LeAnn Rimes ("Blue," 1996) and dated hits from Mariah Carey ("Vision of Love," 1990) and Whitney Houston ("I Wanna Dance With Somebody Who Loves Me," 1987).
Even with those holes, "The Ultimate Grammy Box" offers an unparalleled look into music's history. For some listeners this collection will be an introduction to many artists. For others, it can be a gentle reminder of the emotion and power of their favorite songs.
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