Various artists – Landslide Records, 40th Anniversary
Landslide Records – 2021
33 tracks; 2:15:02
If you were wondering what to get the Atlanta-based Landslide Records for its birthday, you might want to think about something ruby since the label is celebrating 40 years of diverse releases with the appropriately-named Landslide Records, 40th Anniversary, a two-CD set jam packed with a variety of styles.
If you’re not familiar with Landslide’s roster of artists, although there are some big names here, or are looking for a good introduction to the a vibrant, Southern-influenced scene, this collection is a great place to start. There’s plenty of blues for blues lovers, but also some other types of music.
In terms of blues, you can’t go wrong with Tinsley Ellis, who has two tracks here. “Drivin’ Woman” features a powerful horn section and “Walkin’ Thru the Park” is old-school Chicago blues featuring Chicago Bob Nelson on harmonica. Piano Red also pops in with “Rockin’ with Red,” from his Lost Atlanta Tapes album, which he recorded during a live show in the 1980s, but didn’t release until 2010.
And that’s the joy of compilations like this. They send you scurrying back to research the artists and albums. In a different time, this collection probably would have come with a thick booklet, but in today’s times, when releasing any music is a high-risk business venture, you’re directed to a link for the full credits. And unfortunately that link doesn’t work, although the one in the press release does.
There are also some fun tracks that are less bluesy. The Derek Trucks Band checks in with “Mr. PC,” a track that’s more jazz-oriented, but which features blues soulfulness in Trucks’ playing. Widespread Panic shows up with “Travelin’ Light,” an example of their country/rock/jam/Grateful Dead-influenced fusion.
Interestingly, Col. Bruce Hampton gets only two tracks, which feels like a bit of a disservice, given Hampton encouraged Michael Rothschild to found the label back in 1981. Hampton’s music is hard to describe, in the way that Captain Beefheart, perhaps a member of the same branch of service, touches on so many styles, but his “King Greed” and “Walking with Zambi (Try Hoodah),” both recorded with The Late Bronze Age, are odd and smile-inducing.
The variety of styles is the strength of this collection. There’s plenty of straight-forward accessible music, like Sean Costello’s “Motor Head Baby,” a 2009 tune tune that sounds like Costello recorded it in the 1960s, but there are also tracks like Curlew’s “Panther Burn,” which includes George Cartwright on saxophone and Bill Laswell on bass, creating some pretty out-there jazz. Taken all together, Landslide Records, 40th Anniversary feels like you’re listening to a really solid college radio station on a long drive with good reception.
The quality of the music is a given here. Even if you don’t appreciate the various genres in the mix, you can’t argue with how good the musicianship is. However, I wish the packaging had been a bit stronger. Better liner notes and a more organized track list, perhaps chronological, would have made this amazing collection of music feel a bit more cohesive. But if you’re a fan of any or some of the artists here, it’s a compilation worth checking out.