The Hives Tyrannosaurus Hives (Interscope)
Why Sweden's Hives keep getting compared to The Ramones by critics far and wide is beyond me. For one thing, The Ramones were at least half-serious about what they were doing, whereas The Hives have chosen a path that's 98.6 percent schtick. And that's fine, just as long as they intend their second album to be their last. It takes 30 minutes to get through the dozen songs included here and far less time to forget what you just heard. The collection of tunes isn't bad, but it's sure as hell no Rocket to Russia. Here today, gone tomorrow.
The Isley Brothers The Essential Isley Brothers (Epic Legacy)
Yes, there's more to the Isley Brothers than “Shout” and casino tours. In fact, there's not a soul group on or off the planet that can lay claim to a career as long and diverse. The Isleys began as a gospel vocal trio in the early-'50s, but this collection picks up in 1959, around the time the brothers began venturing into R&B and soul. Gospel-influenced harmonies remained a stylistic cornerstone of the group, who eventually became the pre-eminent soul troupe of all time. This is all the Isleys you'll ever need and then some.
Louis Armstrong The Essential Louis Armstrong (Columbia Legacy)
No single artist has had a more powerful or lasting impact on jazz than trumpeter/band leader Louis Armstrong. The 37 tracks here trace Armstrong's remarkable career from 1925 through 1968 (he died unexpectedly in 1969), documenting his pioneering trumpet work and scat-style vocals. Those not versed in Armstrong's work will find this an incomparable introduction. Longtime fans will regard the collection as indispensable, not just as a career retrospective, but also as perhaps the most important chapter in jazz history.