This sanctified set expertly culls from great post-World War II gospel labels that specialized in a small groups with a gritty, echo-laden sound. Based in Tennessee, Nashboro released records from far and wide, with standouts including Michigan’s Flying Clouds, Alabama’s Gospel Harmonizers, and Philadelphia’s Angelic Gospel Singers, who reach hopefully to the heavens with “I’m Getting Nearer, Pt. 1.”
PARAMOUNT RECORDS, “The Rise & Fall of Paramount Records, Volume 1, 1917-1927,” (Third Man, 4 stars; 6 LPs, 800 MP3s, $400)
The prize musical-fetish object of the season is this lavish, 20-plus-pound oak box designed to look like one of the vintage phonographs manufactured by the Wisconsin Chair Co., which went into the music business to supply 78 r.p.m. discs to be played on their machines.
The “Cabinet of Wonder,” jointly released by Jack White’s Third Man label, and Revenant, founded by John Fahey, lovingly documents “race music” blues, jazz, and gospel artists such as Blind Blake, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Ma Rainey and Ethel Waters. It includes six marbleized brown LPs, a clothbound 250-page book reproducing ads in African-American newspapers like the Chicago Defender, bio information on 172 artists, and a USB drive that holds 800 songs and unlocks Web extras. Worth it.
HERBIE HANCOCK, “Herbie Hancock: The Complete Columbia Album Collection 1972-1988,” (Legacy/Sony, 3 1/2 stars; 34 CDs, $213)
In this 16-year capsule of his legendary career, pianist and composer Herbie Hancock shows how deftly he traversed the artistic and the commercial. This epic set begins as the onetime Chicago child prodigy is emerging from the second Miles Davis Quintet (1963-68) and creating the “Mwandishi” Sextet, which used African influences. It includes the famed Headhunters and V.S.O.P. recordings, the Oscar-winning soundtrack for the movie “Round Midnight,” the pop efforts of the Rockit band, and eight CDs released in Japan but never here. About half made Billboard’s top 200 albums charts, attesting to Hancock’s commercial juju. He was also an astute composer: The collection features multiple renditions of classic tunes, such as “Watermelon Man,” “Maiden Voyage” and “Dolphin Dance.”