Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: The Complete Columbia Albums 1971-1975
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on October 24, 2012
We tend to think of the '60's as the decade during which pop music exploded miles beyond past boundaries, beginning with The Beatles and (for some of us) ending with Hendrix's almost unfathomable stretch of the sound of an electric guitar in Machine Gun with the Band of Gypsies at the Fillmore East on New Year's Eve, 1969/70.

This almost incredible burst of expansive creativity was also boiling up in the jazz world, to a large extent incubated in the studios and live with Miles Davis's seemingly almost traitorous (to traditionalists) embrace of electrified instruments in all their glory during the Bitches Brew period. Weather Report was one of the most significant bands that came out of this early '70's experimentation, and this box brings together their first 6 albums in one well-remastered package with an excellent essay by Bill Milkowski, and including some additional tracks not on the original albums.

First, let's talk about the sound. I spent some close time with the first CD in the box, Weather Report's first release, called simply "Weather Report." It was first released on CD in the dark ages of digital, and it was not hard to tell the difference between the CD version and the LP (especially on more revealing gear such as is available now); by comparison, the CD sounded compressed or rolled off at both ends of the frequency range (much as was the early CD issue of Bitches Brew, which came out about the same time), and the result was an unsatisfactory listening situation except perhaps in the car. The remastering in this box represents a major improvement. (Strangely, vitually nothing is said on the box or in the booklet about this or any other remastering in this box; however, the Sony Legacy website mentions that the albums in the box have been remastered.)

I thought back in the '70's, and still believe today, that this first album represents one of the great treasures of the jazz discography. Joe Zawinul figured out early on how to draw the most affecting sounds from a Fender Rhodes electric piano -- he did not treat it in any way as an "electrified" piano, but as a wholly new instrument from which he could paint with a broad palette, from simple and delicate ostinatos to dense washes of expansive harmonies. Wayne Shorter was in the process of moving from a virtuoso technician to a musician who could say a great deal with a few notes. But one of the real treats of this record is the bass playing of Miroslav Vitous. Later, Zawinul became somewhat critical of Vitous because Vitous could not (or would not) "play the grooves we wanted." Fair enough. But what Vitous did play was stunning -- his technical facility was daunting, his pitch dead on, and his note choice was often uniquely melodic -- and rather un-bass-like. The group improvisitory interplay -- which included first-rate fleet and light interaction from drummer Alphonse Mouzon and an assortment of colorful South American and African percussion instruments from Airto and others -- made this album an amazing crossover that included elements of fusion, free jazz, Brazilian jazz/pop, world music, and European influence (from Vitous and Zawinul).

I Sing the Body Electric represents a broadening of the approach of the first album and, on its studio tracks, is somewhat less improvisational and includes additional wind players, vocalists, and a phenomenal (but brief) appearance of 12-string jazz guitarist Ralph Towner. Half of the album is live, and the next record (a 2-CD set called Live in Tokyo, originally released, as I recall, only in Japan) is more like the first album. (The live material on I Sing the Body Electric comes from Live in Tokyo.) Milkowski describes how the band during this period (except Vitous) was beginning to reach out to find a new approach, a funkier approach with broader appeal. (Given Zawinul's long apprenticeship with Cannonball Adderly, this seems hardly surprising.) In the fourth album, Sweetnighter, the somewhat conflicting direction is at times palpable. I Sing the Body Electric and Sweetnighter have their moments and are certainly worth the listener's time, but are transitional and, for me, don't hold together with consistency.

However, Mysterious Traveler is a masterpiece, fully on par with the first album, but with a new feel. As I listen now, 37 (!?!) years later, I hear the first album as being almost dominated by Miroslav Vitous's magnificent but rarely settled bass-playing. Mysterious Traveler represented Zawinul's moment -- he finally got his funk feel, but then applied an extraordinary atmosphere over the rhythm: multicolored hues of synthesizer (Zawinul became an early master), motifs repeated, altered, reappearing, manipulated crowd noise (in Nubian Sundance), the world-music feel, voices singing wordless harmonies. I've mentioned in other reviews that I was in music school in the '70's, pursuing a never-fully-realized passion for electric jazz; Mysterious Traveler was a lightening jolt that reverbrated through our stereos and practice rooms in a way that left many of us forever changed. To hear it again now and find it so reinvigorating is such a pleasure.

After Mysterious Traveler, the last album in this box, Tale Spinnin', almost couldn't be anything other than a bit of a let down. It's actually quite nice to listen to...sort of a Mysterious Traveler lite.

If any of this sounds remotely interesting, I can only say, race out and pick up this box. For fans, it's worth it to replace the older CD remasters (though Mysterious Traveler was reissued in much better sound a few years back). For others, I'd be quite surprised if these 7 CDs (one album being a 2-CD set, remember!) didn't provide quite a bit of rewarding listening.
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on December 16, 2012
Here's all you need to know:
1. MUCH improved remastering over the original CD releases
2. Finally, the COMPLETE Live in Tokyo recordings
3. Seven discs, averaging less than $5 a disc?!?

If you're a fan of Weather Report, get this set. If you're a casual fan, you'll be won over if by nothing else, the two live Tokyo discs.
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on January 3, 2013
I'm not going to review the music here, I'll do that album by album. Suffice it to say that this is very good stuff, at or near the forefront of its era. The CDs here have very good sound quality.

I like the packaging here, a lot. The whole thing's compact - and not expensive. Each disc has its own cover, a mini representation of the old LP cover. It's nice, it's attractive, it's functional. I'll admit that "Live in Tokyo" 2-CD sleeve presents a challenge to get the CDs out without tearing, but if you're careful it can be done. If like me you are interested in this music but don't own much of it yet, this is a sweet little package full of great music.
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on November 25, 2014
Re-mastered, excellent sounding, inexpensive Sony European Union box set of Weather Report’s 1st five studio albums, each w/bonus tracks, plus the Live in Tokyo double 3rd release. Each disc is in a cardboard sleeve replica of the original album, all housed in a side-flip-open 5” W x 5 ¼ H x 1 ¼ thick box. Comes w/a 23 page highly informative booklet chock full of band & individual song info (such as personnel on each song, recording date), album chart info, etc. As a bonus for me, the volume playback level between discs is quite even, so I was able to make a consistent sounding playlist w/only the songs I like… and even better, the next box set, “The Columbia Albums 1976-1982”, are also of the same volume level, so buy that one up too.
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on July 22, 2015
You can not go wrong with this box set! As far as I know it is every recording from 1971 to 1975. I bought both box sets so I am pretty well up to date on my Weather Report. Now I can just close my eyes and remember a night in 1979 back in Norfolk, VA where I saw them live.
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on January 9, 2015
Great collection of the early Weather Report Albums, which I had in college, while earning my BS Degree in Music. The Columbia years were in my opinion the "stellar" years of this top Jazz Fusion Band. Weather Report were the front runners of Fusion Pioneers and still set the benchmark for this Music Genre from my viewpoint. Great buy at a fantastic price!
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on August 25, 2014
the surprise with this set is an "unreleased live version" of each CD's title cut. Nubian Sundance never sounded so good, although the recording was a little fuzzy. Great to listen to from the first CD to the last as you get to see how WR developed their sound....too bad that Wayne Shorter's talents got further and further reduced as they progessed in their sound...but I always loved how the keyboards and sax would hit the same note to conclude some of their songs.
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on October 3, 2013
As with so many other jazz fans, I've dedicated a good part of this year to (re)discovering the works of Wayne Shorter. If you're doing the same, I highly recommend the first three titles in this box: Weather Report, I Sing the Body Electric, and Live in Tokyo. Lots of great Shorter compositions and performances. And frankly, I'm finding the energy of the straight-from-the-starting gate releases far more engaging and energizing than the rest of the set. All this said, this is a great way to build the Weather Report portion of your Shorter collection. A very good value. Play on, Wayne...
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on December 4, 2013
Same as my other review for the 1976-82 boxset: Money well spent. All those albums for the price paid for, and the sound quality. Hard to pass this up.
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on March 10, 2013
It was great to hear these albums again. They have been remastered and extra tracks have been included at an amazing price!
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