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Review follow-up: Herb's Definitive Hits

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Mike Blakesley

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I think the dumbest thing about the album is that title. It's NOT definitive hits, because (a) not all of the hits are here; and (b) some of the songs here were NOT hits, especially in the solo material.

I can just see the sales dept. vs the A&R department at war on this one, with one side saying it should be a 2-disk set, and the other side saying yes, but that would be too expensive.

It just seems like this set is a "test the waters" vehicle for a future box set or other reissue program. Since it's been on the Billboard contemporary jazz chart continuously since release, I would say the possibilities of something being done are good.

I give it three stars for content (would be 5, but I deduct one for not being two disks, and another for including "Keep Your Eye On Me," which I hate) and four for packaging (would be 5, but I deducted one for the goofy front cover...how about a PICTURE of the artist, guys?) and three for sound quality...would be four, but they could have used an old CD of GREATEST HITS and gotten a better copy of "Tijuana Taxi." Net verdict: 3.33 stars, rounded down to three.
 

Rudy

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Mike Blakesley said:
I think the dumbest thing about the album is that title. It's NOT definitive hits, because (a) not all of the hits are here; and (b) some of the songs here were NOT hits, especially in the solo material.

That and the cheezy looking cover. :confused:

Mike Blakesley said:
I can just see the sales dept. vs the A&R department at war on this one, with one side saying it should be a 2-disk set, and the other side saying yes, but that would be too expensive..

Or the marketing department saying, "Herb who and the Tijuana what????"

Your rating was generous...I gave it five stars just because it was Herb & TJB. But I dock it a few stars for the rather strange song selection. I give it a 3 for sound quality...I'd almost go to a "2" only for the "tube remastering" marketing gimmick. (Newer tracks don't sound better, and neither do the older ones.) Packaging a 3...5 stars for the liner notes but only one star for the generic-looking cover and deceptive title. Overall I gave it "3"...but as I mentioned, had this not been the TJB or Herb, I would have been, at most, 2 stars. A good basis I use for ratings is that a "3" isn't a bad rating--it just means "average."

-= N =-
 

Harry

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I was a bit more generous in giving it 4 stars. It's Herb and the TJB. I can't help but give it high marks for that alone. As one of the early detractors of the album for the dropouts, I had to lower it for that.

I don't have any problem with the cover at all. I think the trumpet on the fiery background looks classy. And the liner notes are tops.

The track selection is not quite as bad as others have made it out to be. In fact, I think parts of it are rather inspired. It's a difficult transition to make from the bouncy-happy TJB to the rhythm-driven solo tracks, but it's handled masterfully. "Casino Royale" is saved for after "This Guy's". Then come the two most TJB-like sounding songs from the solo era, "Route 101" and "Fandango." "Rise" then ushers in the beat-driven songs of the solo era.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Harry
...really wishing it had sounded better, online...
 

martin

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A lot has been said about this CD, most of it reflecting the disappointment of us "big time fans" that it is not a 2 CD-box, that the sound is bad, that the song selection is wrong, that it does not have any B-sides...blah,blah . To me the best about Definitive Hits is Herb's personal involvement in both the production and the liner notes. And even though the result of the re-mastering certainly can be discussed, fact remains that Definitive Hits appears to be a commercial success. Close to a year after it's release it is still on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz chart. It has been marketed, in some territories anyway, much more agressively than any Alpert release since the late eighties, thus paving the way for a more "special interest collection" like a CD-box set. I'm not into the "stars" thing, but I think some slight enthusiasm for the above mentioned qualities is called for.

- greetings from the north -
Martin
 

Rudy

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The big disappointment (which is the opposite of what you've seen in Europe) is the fact that Definitive Hits has received no promotion here in the U.S.! I have yet to see any print ads, internet ads, or even any new airplay from the release of this CD. I do know that in tallying sales of Definitive Hits from my CDNow link, I've sold 37 copies of it! Which in the big scheme of things, is good for a release that the U.S. market virtually ignored (other than using it to push all the remaining TJB CDs out of print).

-= N =-
 

martin

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Yes, it is surprising to hear that it has not been promoted well in the US. Still, the Billboard charts only count for US sales, so at some level, I suppose that a marketing effort has been taking place. From my experience in the business I know that some of the marketing can not really be noticed by the general public. For instance, the sales teams can be told to make a priority of a certain release, sometimes buying display space in stores and so on, or just being told to "push" a release giving discounts etc.
But it is strange that we had the TV commercial running here, and I guess in some other European countries and not over in the States, where Herb and the TJB actually were much bigger than here in Europe. Also, there was some airplay at the time, end Definitive Hits was rewiewed in the press. However, other strange things have happened. It's also hard to understand why the video collection from 91, edited by Lani, was never out in the US.

- greetings from the north -
Martin
 

Rudy

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I haven't checked the shopping mall stores like Sam Goody, but at other stores, Definitive Hits is tossed in the bins like an afterthought...just one or two copies, if it's even in stock. A lot of these stores don't want to take precious display space away from the Britneys and N-Syncs. :wink: I have yet to see one featured in any of our music stores. It's just mind boggling that with these odds, it's still selling.

-= N =-
 

martin

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I have yet to see one featured in any of our music stores. It's just mind boggling that with these odds, it's still selling.

I guess it proves that there is still a strong interest for the music. If it sells without really having been pushed at all, it ought to show the company that there is a real interest out there for Herb's music, and the possibilties for a box set would seem bigger.

- greetings from the north - (optimistic as always)
Martin
 

Rudy

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Just the appearance in Billboard for so long should wake someone up that yes, there still is interest in this music. Granted the original albums will never sell big on CD (few buyers, other than us, would have use for a Summertime or Ninth, for example), but as we've been discussing all along, an ideal box set with just the right mix of tunes would probably generate plenty of sales. Look at how we had no Baja Marimba CDs all those years, and now we have three different packages to choose from. If Timeless Music and Collector's Choice can take a band like the BMB that the public has largely forgotten about, I'm sure better things would be in store for TJB/Alpert if packaged and, more importantly, marketed properly.

-= N =-
...chanting "box set, box set, box set"...[/i]
 

jimac51

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A note about store displays-in lots of cases, much of what you see featured in windows,on end caps,listening posts,even signage in the racks,is arranged between the label and corporate management. "Co-op" displays are an agreement for placement,price,# of copies,etc. in exchange for $$$,merchandise or ad space. Without any agreement,there is nothing done for a particular album. Even independent "mom & pop" outlets can participate in these deals and they obviously take precedent over any original display. In "Def Hits" case,there seems to have been virtually no $$$ made available. Also,making the Billboard jazz chart is no big deal. I don't have charts in front of me,but I suspect that Diana Krall's "Look of Love" is probably the only jazz album on the Top 200 right now and that is probably the top Contemporary Jazz album right now. To place in the middle in sales in the smallest genre for an individual week might only need a few hundred copies,(and that may be an exaggeration-this is an informed guess-I do not have access to Soundscan numbers) Oddly enough,the April 20th issue of Billboard has a front page story lamenting the lack of instumental jazz sales but it pretty much amounts to hand wringing-"it's a pity but we don't know what to do". The Cap'n may be trying to keep the world free of Kenny G but the music industry seems to be trying to eliminate the rest of them and doing a very good job at it. Shameful-Mac
 

Rudy

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Some great points there, Mac. Aside from the fact that the TJB and solo Herb (at least as presented on Def Hits) does not qualify as Contemporary Jazz, it is apparent that this particular Billboard chart is an underdog to begin with. I get no co-op dollars, and don't even prominently feature the Def Hits compilation on the Corner (although I do have it on the TJB page)...and it's outsold the next best seller by about five times.

Something is making it ship out the door.

One question that hopefully you or Mike can answer: years ago, when I subscribed to Billboard (IOW, when I had money :) ), they were discussing tallying chart positions based on a tally at the cash register, vs. units shipped from the distributor to the store. (Is that Sound Scan I'm thinking of?) Does this still factor into the sales equation today?

They wonder why instrumental jazz sales are bad. As I see it:

1. There aren't any jazz instrumental "superstars". Metheny can't carry it on his own--in the 70's, Mangione's Feels So Good was a big seller. Jean-Luc Ponty had his share of jazz/fusion that sold well. Spyro Gyra's another one. Groups like that. Where are they now? Mangione's on the jazz nostalgia circuit (albeit a very enjoyable nostalgia--his music has held up well), by other bands like Spyro Gyra haven't really had the same spark as their older recordings. Other artists like Ponty end up having to produce their own recordings, having been shortchanged by a record label or two in the past. Even Al Jarreau can't pull in the sales numbers like he used to, even though he still makes some great music.

2. One can only take so much $mooth Jazz. When I turn on V98.7, it all sounds the same. I almost sigh in relief when something "classic" comes on. The public will get tired of this also. In fact, my buddy, who grew up listening to oldies, country and rock, and even owns some Adam Ant and Ozzy Osbourne, has gotten into $mooth Jazz. Good thing is, I've introduced him to some of the better "contemporary" jazz out there, and even tossed some Jean-Luc Ponty his way; the JLP concert last November was one of the best he'd been to, and thoroughly enjoyed it! He even surprised me when he asked if I owned any Coltrane--he borrowed one from the library and loved it!

3. The other side of jazz, the mainstream, post-bop, Wynton type of jazz just isn't palateable to many folks. I've even grown weary of it...I can still take the classics, but any recent stuff just leaves me cold. Even big band doesn't quite do it for me anymore. Maynard may have been commercial as hell on Columbia, but at least it was exciting at times. (No "Rocky II Disco", please.) Current bands like Bob Mintzer's do some great music, but they can't afford to get out on the road, hence they're mainly a NYC band. Seems that many of the good big band arrangers aren't...well...arranging anymore!

As far as the "general public" of listeners, I find less of today's jazz to recommend they listen to, in comparison to what was being recorded in the 80's, 70's, and the "classics" of the 50's and 60's. I may be old fashioned, but I like to hear a melody. That's why I can listen to "First Circle" somewhat safely in the car (albeit at rather loud levels :wink: ), vs. the one time I listened to the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X. Good soloing is also melodic. Can I whistle it? It's melodic. Kind of Blue...aaaaah, yes! My dad used to complain that some jazz "sounds like they're just practicing and not playing music." Maybe we need something fresh that's not a constant retread of the current trend, something with a good melody to it, and a player with the charisma to pull it off.

-= N =-
...getting ready for a 10:30pm dinner...
 
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