The Essentials is the possibly too-lofty name I'm giving to my latest project at TOE, which will finally bring back my reviews of catalog releases. Only thing is, this series will be dedicated exclusively to recordings that are beloved to me. With very few exceptions (namely, reviews I wrote long ago before my current system that I still want to revise here), these will all be "highly recommended" or "A+" releases. Might sound like an anti-critical exercise when you put it that way, but the model here is in fact the writing I've done on the likes of Archie Bell and the "5" Royales, as well as the Beatles and Talking Heads and such at my old grounds; in other words these aren't meant as simple consumer reviews so much as serious, heartfelt delves into the heart and soul of some of my favorite music of the past century. They will tend to be longer, more detailed and involved than the usual reviews and essays in this space. Hard to say for sure but I would imagine they'd read better if you already are fond of the music they describe. It's that kind of material. I've wanted a chance to write about a lot of this for years and this gives me an ideal format to do so without any sort of time constraint.
Going into the future, the Essentials essays will eventually be accompanied in many cases by dedicated "artist pages" for major acts like the Beach Boys and Bjork, and the discographies of those bands will later be filled out by capsule or essay-length pieces on releases by those performers that are, well, not so essential. Others, like the one that will begin the series in just a moment, will tackle careers wholecloth in the context of a single release (though nothing says a given band won't eventually receive a more thorough investigation, especially if I become attached to more material). Some Essentials essays will be even be expansions of my capsule reviews, more thoughtful than my long reviews of new albums used to be since they'll always have the benefit of hindsight. This series is broadly designed to get away from the fast-paced drive-by opinioneering of the music chatter that tends to ring out online. Which isn't to say I don't love some things about the grind -- I choose to participate in my small way, after all -- and I can promise that the regular monthly new albums post will be unaffected by this project.
You'll be seeing Essentials pieces pop up usually about a week after the monthly music diary. This month I only have one for you, but there will be more some months, less in others, occasionally none at all (which will generally mean I'm hard at work on an especially involved one, not that I've neglected the cause). The posts will blend in with the regular stuff in the index and such but will be marked with an "essentials" tag below the cover. I hope you enjoy all this; I'm very psyched to have finally prepared an outlet for this sort of thing again.
To add an extra touch of perversion, the Essentials releases will be posted in alphabetical order (which means, as you've probably guessed, that I've pretty much said my piece about "A" bands). No band that matters will be left behind, though.