At the very beginning, jazz was called "a combination of nervousness, lawlessness, primitive and wild animalism and debauchery." This definition was given by a more conservative generation who considered jazz a decadent phenomenon. However, despite such estimates, jazz came to its heyday in the 20s, and in the 30s and 40s determined not only the musical fashion, but also the lifestyle of that time in general. The 4CD compilation presented here is a great example of popular music from the 40s of the last century. The time when Glenn Miller and his orchestra, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Woody Herman and other orchestras shone on the stage.
All the Best certainly lives up to its title, offering 17 of Leo Sayer's most popular pop efforts, including each of his Top 40 singles. Beginning with "The Show Must Go On," a frolicking vaudeville-type number with Russ Ballard playing banjo and a number four hit for Three Dog Night, the set entertainingly works its way through the years to reveal Sayer's adeptness at singing ballads and his overly effective pop melodramatics. The disco-flavored "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing" was a number one hit for him in 1976, followed by the syrupy "When I Need You," which accomplished the same feat only four months later. Both singles came from Endless Flight, a platinum seller that also yielded a minor hit with "How Much Love," and would prove to be Sayer's strongest album.
As the piano came into its own in the mid-19th century, the Vienna-born/French-based Henri Herz (1803-1888) all but dominated the scene as a brilliant virtuoso, popular teacher, and best-selling composer. Listening to this first CD entirely devoted to his solo piano works, you can understand Herz’s one-time appeal, as well as why his music predeceased him. As the Op. 81 variations, the nocturnes, and the ballades demonstrate, Herz was a charming yet unmemorable melodist, whose intricate yet harmonically bland keyboard textures go in one ear and out the other. Flashy devices such as tremolos and repeated notes (Herz adored repeated notes) tend to wear out their welcome long after they’ve made their virtuosic point. You sense this in long stretches of the Fantasie dramatique (based upon “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”) and in Op. 158’s “Yankee Doodle” section. And Le mouvement perpetual owes its existence to Weber’s earlier and far more concise rondo finale from the Piano Sonata No. 1. Herz may not be a great composer, yet his stuff certainly is fun to digest in small doses, especially when you consider Philip Martin’s appropriately light and colorful touch, supple finger work, and marvelous sense of dramatic timing.