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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 8 January 2008
Bob James is one of the greatest and most under-appreciated musicians of the 20th Century. Though he reputedly hates the term "smooth jazz", it is possibly the best way to sum him up to somebody who does not know who he is (sorry Bob).

James' music takes its cue from jazz and early funk, as well as showcasing his incredibly erudite abilities to take influence from all kinds of music. As a composer he is notable (some of his melodies have become signature '70s and '80s tunes), but what constantly overwhelms are his arrangements. The interplay between Bob's electric piano and his wind sections, his beautifully rich string arrangements, his funky rhythm sections... Put simply, the man made beautiful music. He also had a great team of musicians playing for him.

Unfortunately for Bob, much of his output appeared in the 80's and early 90's, so it has dated somewhat unflatteringly. Worry not though, because here you can buy the first four albums he recorded for CTI (between '74 & '76) together in one go.

Despite the misleading titles, these were not, in fact, Bob James' first albums. He debuted in 1962 with a straight jazz trio album called "Bold Conceptions" followed in 1965 by an avant-garde electronica set called "Explosions". Neither of these albums bear any resemblence to the music here, but are certainly worth checking out.

Besides anything else, this collection is fantastic value (given that these albums go for about £10 each on their own). Value or not, it is also an astonishing collection of music. As the title of this review points out, these were the finest albums Bob James ever put out. Sure, there are some fillers on here, and the somewhat dated use of certain synths will put some people off, but this is great stuff.

At best, Bob James is a musician's musician, and there is something new to be discovered every time you listen to each of these songs. At worst, this is catchy and driven music that is also capable of serving as gentle background music. I can't think of many musicians capable of that sort of versatility.

On another level, as someone who grew up largely on Hip Hop, I came to this music knowing only the classic breaks producers have been using for the past 25 years as the backbone to hip hop beats. The most famous of these is the rhythm section from James' take on Paul Simon's "Take Me To The Mardi Gras" which was spun by Run DMC back in 1986. In addition, his music has been sampled by Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, EPDM, Ice T, NWA, Common Sense, Pete Rock, Main Source, Naughty by Nature, LL Cool J, Onyx, Group Home, DJ Shadow, People Under the Stairs and so many more.

If this collection impresses you, check out Bob's album "Heads", and his first collaberation with Earl Klugh, "One on One". If it doesn't impress you... go see a doctor, you have a serious problem.
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on 23 June 2010
This edition of a 2 cd four album compilation is not properly described on Amazon. Bob James' early outings in the vein of Quincy Jones' seventies music, is beautifully REMASTERED with detailed comments on each song in a slim booklet. There is also a nice slip cover over the case. These performances are priceless and the variety of funk & fusion in the performances, arrangements and choices of pieces is inspired! I was never a huge fan of Bob James as I am of Quincy, Miles or Ellington but when I hear an album that deserves praise, I don't have to look any further than these four album gems which are also offered in a fantastic low price and a completely remastered, wonderfully presented edition!!
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on 21 April 2008
I'd only heard 'Westchester Lady' on a Sampled compilation before buying this, but I wasn't disappointed - the quality of the music is consistently high throughout this set of 4 albums on 2 CDs.
The style of music really follows on from Herbie Hancock's 'Headhunters' album - bringing together the finest LA jazz and session musos with funk beats and some superb imaginative arrangements and original compositions. There are times when it ventures into the realms of cheese (or "smooth jazz" as it's known) but there's always a superb solo, cool breakbeat or some deliciously atonal wierdness to redeem it before too long. These albums were clearly a big influence on Massive Attack's early style - the drums and percussion at the start of 'Take Me To The Mardis Gras' (a great version of the Paul Simon song) are remarkably similar to those on Unfinished Sympathy, and there are many other echoes of the sounds and orchestrations here.
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on 4 February 2004
This is four albums in one. Bob James is a Jazz pianist with a penchant for writing superb tunes. In the seventies he was signed to CTI records and these are his first four outings under that label entitled one, two, three and four. Stand out tracks: Westchester Lady, Farandole, Dream Journey, Pure Imagination and Tappan Zee to name just a few. Most stores and indeed good old Amazon carry this title for only £price. At this price it's an essential purchase.
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on 13 January 2014
I first came across Bob James back in the eighties when I bought his new LP.
I Never tired of it. Always a favourite of my Girlfreinds at that time. Bob James had a unique sound which I forgot about until recently when I heard Winchester Lady on the radio. Which it took me back to that special time. I guess once CDs came on the scene most of us overnight forgot about vinyl. I recently bought this Double CD and was very pleased. Still a great sound.
With many tracks I have not heard before. This is great music and very atmospheric. Great value as it covers most of his work equal to four albums.
Highly recommended. Good quality recordings. Great to enjoy his music again. very pleased I bought this great CD
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on 23 October 2007
Any survivor of the 70s and anyone interested in music should own these 4 milestones of pop-jazz. Don't hesitate, the price is hot!
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on 2 August 2012
What can be said that hasn't already been said? Bob James is a superb instrumentalist from the smooth jazz lounge that included the likes of Benson, Klugh, Watanabe, Sanborn et al.

Wonderful stuff here and a complete steal under £10.

For those who want a bit of "left field" interpretation of James by James himself, should check out his live LP 'All Around The Town' which is on CD but seems to be rare.
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on 25 March 2011
From his early catalogue here is a cracking bargain of Bob's first 4 albums so you can hear his formative material.There is good and bad but the last 2 albums show the potential with some excellent stuff.Anyone into Bob will appreciate how he has changed over the years and the way he blended in with fourplay when they formed.Well worth the asking price to discover early gems.
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on 9 February 2015
At this price everyone should buy it! Brilliant work by an absolute master of his craft.
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on 25 August 2016
Great collection of all four albums, can now sell my vinyl versions :p
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