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The Good, the Bad, and the Bizarre
on 18 October 2014
It has to be said that the endless references in the other reviews to the "great songs" on this 3CD set seems very odd - as does the fact that no-one mentions that Chet Baker appears on less than half of the recordings on this set, and that a substantial amount of tracks are not jazz. This seems rather odd for a set entitled "Jazz on Film...Chet Baker".
While the first disc is very enjoyable indeed, the second disc is, in the main, a collection of weird oddities that includes a long series of strange, atonal tracks that have nothing to do with jazz and much more to do with something one might expect to hear on Star Trek, or Arnold Schoenberg let loose on a synthesiser. The Moochin About website refers to this as a "great jazz score" which, in itself, is bemusing. The third disc ranges from bland European easy listening music through to some nice cuts with Helen Merrill on vocals.
Much of the problem here is that this is marketed as a Chet Baker release and yet, on discs two and three, he hardly appears at all. Unless my ears are deceiving me he doesn't appear on disc 3 until track 9 (of 12)! However, the only disc that is even remotely essential to the Baker discography is the first one.
The range of music here might make more sense if the set came accompanied by liner notes but, inexplicably, it doesn't, and so the listener is thrown unexpected curveballs that have nothing to do with jazz and yet also isn't given the opportunity to put them in context either. And by saying there are no liner notes, I mean just that. No booklet, nothing. Just a list of tracks and musicians. The set directs us to the Moochin About website for more details, but don't bother as there is nothing extra there which isn't already written on the digipak.
This is, overall, a disappointing release. Yes, it's great to have these soundtracks with which Baker was involved in wonderful sound, but an unsuspecting buyer thinking they are going to get three discs full of Chet Baker is going to be very disappointed indeed. In fact, the three discs aren't full of anything - they are rather UNfull in that the first two barely last forty minutes each, and the third disc is 47 minutes. So, the three discs of music could easily have fitted on to two without any problems at all.
Moochin' About can't be blamed for the lack of Baker on the disc or the substandard quality of many of the tracks, but they can be blamed for the lack of liner notes and the fact that this is billed as a Chet Baker (and a jazz) release and yet nothing warns the buyer of the real contents of the set when one looks at the box. Yes, the first disc is worth picking this up for - it contains some lovely music from Baker in his near-prime - but the other two discs don't bear repeated listens, and don't expect to understand what's going on when a cat walks along the keyboard of an organ for a succession of tracks on disc two.