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Welcome to this week's batch of musical goodies

Welcome to this week's batch of musical goodies.

We have two fine slices of musical Kiwiana - 'Nature's Best 2' and 'Radio Active's 25 Silver Selections'. Both double CD sets, 'Nature's Best 2' carries on from where the first 'Nature's Best' left off - volume 1 was the top 30 pop songs of all time (as voted at the APRA 75th Anniversary Celebrations), while volume 2 follows with the next "voted" 35 songs. Featuring a number of quintessential local tracks, quelling to a degree a number of omissions from the first set, this is an essential look at the pop music history of Aotearoa (and it's commercial radio waves). Wellington radio station Radio Active 89FM are celebrating 25 years of particularly fine broadcasting in 2002 and have capped off their 25th Anniversary celebrations with the release of this excellent double CD compilation, 'Radio Active 25 Silver Selections', featuring 25 of the choicest local tracks the cutting edge station could lay their hands on. If you wanna know what's going on in Wellington, this is a pretty fair snapshop - and a very worthy cause. Long live the stations, and their genuine support for local music.

Also on the NZ side of things, we have the second installment of the Deep Needs Audio compilations 'In 2 Deep' care of Christchurch drum'n'bass label Fabel Music, and a nice little career retrospective (plus a new track) from Greg Johnson and Bluespeak. Called 'The Lounge Collection', this suave set of songs are custom made for late night lounging, slow dancing or soothing those drinking blues.

In the "it's only rock'n'roll but we like it" category we have The Rolling Stones 'Forty Licks' - this two disc set is the first full career retrospective of the Rolling Stones (previous attempts have been split by label wrangling between Decca and EMI) and covers 38 years (40 tracks) of legendary rock'n'roll behaviour, plus a fair selection of downright genuine classics (along with four new tracks). And if you're a fan of the Stones, you could do worse than check out the latest brilliant album from country-rock outlaw Steve Earle called 'Jerusalem'. His sixth album in six years, and loaded with belligerent, yet thoughtful dissent, this craftsman is at the top of his game. For those who like their belligerence with a little English attitude, we also have the latest effort from one-time Jam and Style Council member Paul Weller 'Illumination'. Initial copies come with a bonus four track DVD, so if you're a fan grab it quick. This is another fine album from Weller.

On the downbeat side of things we've got the new album from Thievery Corporation 'The Richest Man In Babylon' - at the dub'n'jazzed end of the downbeat spectrum, the dapper DC duo this time add numerous global nuances to their usual appealingly lush soundscapes. Ideal summer listening. If you want things a little more uptempo there is the new album from the "spiritual house" duo of Kevin Hedge and Josh Milan Blaze. >From stripped back gospel to fully fledged jazz-funk, samba, disco and soulful house, 'Spiritually Speaking' seems to somehow embody the entire history of dance music with grace and style. If you want things a little grittier and more beat orientated, check out the fine collection from producer J.Saul Kane (a.k.a. Depth Charge). 'Spill' is a wicked collection of twisted trip-hop, movie-samples, and booming breakbeat tracks (kind of like DJ Shadow scoring a Bruce Lee movie), recorded from 1993 to 1998, and largely unavailable until now.

Lastly, for the soul-funk fans out there, we've got the new album from original funkateer Bootsy Collins called 'Play With Bootsy'. With the aid of a slew of mainly vocal guests (Snoop Dogg, Fat Joe, Rosie Gaines, Bobby Womack, One, Lady Miss Kier, Fatboy Slim), Bootsy delivers this delicious funk driven work, with his distinctive "helium" vocal-style and bruising bass playing well to the fore. It's not gonna change the world, but when it's this damn funky who gives a sh*t. And in the "essential soul classic that everybody should have" category we've got this delicious wee compilation from Al Green 'The Very Best Of Al Green'. One of the greatest soul singers of an era that includes Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Barry White, etc, this set covers Green's creative pinnacle on Hi Records where he teamed up with producer Willie Mitchell and legendary soul drummer Al Jackson. His voice is simply beautiful, while the songs combine southern soul and gospel flourishes, producing a number of bonafide soul classics.\

As always, enjoy.

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