If you ask me it is a shame that the great Al Jarreau has, despite constant recording and touring, receded from the public consciousness. As versatile a singer as there has ever been, Al Jarreau is the only singer ever to win Grammy Awards in the pop, jazz and soul categories. Never mind that he was one of three seminal role models for black male singers in the 70s and 80s (along with lover man Luther Vandross and soul shouter/burner Teddy Pendergrass). Never mind that he can sing rings around everyone currently on the charts (not that that is particularly difficult). In the fractured landscape of 21st Century radio there is hardly anywhere left that will play an artist who can't be pigeon-holed. So the current generation is not getting the opportunity to discover this brilliant singer/writer/performer.
Generations change every 13 years and it has been 13 years since we've had a new official "Best Of Al Jarreau" CD. Maybe somehow this CD will find its way to the iPod Generation.
Back in 1996 the CD contained 16 songs and the new "The Very Best Of: An Excellent Adventure" does as well. Gone are the Eddie Harris/Al Jarreau collaboration "Compared To What," "Goodhands Tonight," "Agua de Beber," "Since I Fell for You," "Heaven and Earth" and "Like A Lover." In their place we now have Leon Russell's pop-tinged "Rainbow In Your Eyes," the soulful "Just To Be Loved," a different Eddie Harris/Al Jarreau collaboration "Cold Duck," the self-penned, uplifting tale of love's survival "We Got By," his bravura vocalese on Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo A La Turk" and the downright funky new recording that gives this collection its title "Excellent Adventure." In addition, this time we get a live version of the theme from the TV series Moonlighting.
Thanks to the folks at Rhino Records, the usual suspects are thankfully here as well. On the pop side (in addition to the previously mentioned "Moonlighting (Theme)") there are "We're In This Love Together," "Mornin'" and "Boogie Down" (not the Eddie Kendricks song of the same name). From his soul side there are "Never Givin' Up," "After All," and "So Good." And from his jazzy side we get the consecutive "Roof Garden," "Spain (I Can Recall)" [which can currently be also be heard on the new Manhattan Transfer CD of Chick Corea songs] and an edited version of "Take Five."
Admittedly it is difficult to boil down an artist's 30+ years of recording into 16 songs without missing some people's favorites or editing down certain songs. This is where the CD loses a star. Nevertheless it is an excellent sampler of the breadth of Al Jarreau's talent and a wonderful introduction to an artist that needs to be back in our consciousness and back on the radio. Pair this with last year's "Love Songs" Rhino collection and you'll have all the Al Jarreau you'll ever need but not as much as you'll want. Luckily for us all most of his catalogue is in the process of being reissued.