I've been aware of the Kronos Quartet since WHITE MAN SLEEPS, but never took the plunge until now. What to do, when they've "released" so many records in the meantime? This sampler is the (near) perfect answer. It contains selections from 10 different albums. This serves both to give a sense of the breadth of the group's work (as well as the breadth of 20th century composition!), and also the flavor of some of their records if you decide to hear more.
It is astounding music --RELEASED works as a unified whole, with two exceptions in my opinion, and those are the excerpts from the Reich and Glass albums. I don't like Glass at all, and the Reich piece is underwhelming, so I simply edit those selections out. Most of the other tracks are nothing less than stellar: Johnston, Gorecki, Riley, Crumb, Part, Tahmizyan, and Barber.
The second disc ("Unreleased") is where my more serious dissatisfaction lies, and hence only 4 stars. You pay a 2-disc price, but this is not a full disc of music, and only 2 of the 4 selections really bear repeated listening. The Johnson track with sampled vocals by the great critic of U.S. imperialism I.F. Stone is fantastic (in a very '80s style), but the last two pieces are more novelty numbers. With all the material available, the second disc could easily contain many more cuts from the voluminous Kronos catalog. But with that caveat, I recommend this record. It sounds great in its own right, and it works quite well as a sampler.
On the strength of RELEASED I added BLACK ANGELS, NIGHT PRAYERS, and SHORT STORIES to my collection, and all are superb.