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Not exactly definitive, but it's all we have!
on April 9, 2002
At the time, this was a curious release from Universal. When this CD hit the streets, it coincided with Universal putting his entire back catalog out of print. We (at A&M Corner) later found out that he had secured the rights to all of his master tapes, and every release of his recordings except for Definitive Hits was now under his control. We would later see an entire series of album reissues, the Signature Series, covering nearly all of the Tijuana Brass catalog along with a couple of his solo recordings as well. These were released on the Shout! Factory label, distributed by Sony.
From a sound quality standpoint, this release is spotty at best. First, a mono version of "The Lonely Bull." Why? Apparently the original masters were lost, and we presume a fold-down from stereo was used as the source. (My mono cut of the LP has far more clarity.) But some of the earlier TJB tracks really don't sound all that good. "A Taste of Honey" is still noisy and lacks a clean bass or treble, but a lot of it is due to the studio having to "bounce" tracks in order to complete the recording (as they only had three-track capabilities back then). "Tijuana Taxi" is full of tape dropouts. (You'd have to have cotton in your head NOT to hear this!) We'd heard the dropouts on earlier releases (even on vinyl, such as, on the "Greatest Hits" LP) but they are more pronounced now, likely due to deteriorating tape.
For the record, I question whether some of these are indeed the original master tapes. Given the studio equipment available back then, courtesy of the three-track Gold Star Studios, they very well could be.
The song selection is hardly "Definitive" by any means: we once compiled a list of Tijuana Brass' charting singles, and came up with enough music to completely fill an 80-minute CD. Many are left out. That's only a minor nitpick. What bothers me more is that it's jarring to go from a classic TJB track into some Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis funk. This is indicative of a set that by any measure should have been *two* CDs: Tijuana Brass on disc 1, and solo works on disc 2. If not, they could have balanced this set better by dumping a few of the non-charting Tijuana Brass tracks and added some more solo hits. "Beyond," for example, charted on the Hot 100 but there is no sign of it here.
For casual listeners (the obvious target of this release), this CD will give you most of the popular hits in one package. But other than the Alpert-penned notes in the CD booklet, there isn't anything here that collectors will miss. And as of this writing, it is the only compilation in print. For more/better variety, copies of his earlier CD compilations are not all that hard to find, although his solo works have only been anthologized one time (on the A&M Classics Vol. 20 CD release).