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BILL MONROE '1970 - 1979' (4CDs) BCD-15606-CD

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This is the 3rd Bear Family boxed set devoted to the Decca/MCA recordings of Monroe, and while it is not as strong as the first two, there is still a lot of wonderful music here, nicely presented & documented by the label's trademark booklet --this one another lovely 32-page effort with photos, discography and session by session notes from Charles Wolfe. The music is not as powerful as Monroe's 1950s' classics (BCD-15423) or even his 60s' work (BCD-15529), especially in the vocal work --his later lead vocalists, including son James (who is heard on much of this box) could not match the power of Jimmy Martin, Edd Mayfield, and others of the early Decca days. The other drawback to this set is the fact that over 35 of the 100-odd tracks are live recordings of Monroe & others cut at Bean Blossom in 1973 and 1979 --there is nothing wrong with this material except that it pretty much duplicates earlier studio recordings without improving on them (and the 1973 Festival is already available on an MCA CD (MCAD-8002). But now to the positive: there are a generous number of great instrumentals here, many with fine twin & triple fiddle work by Kenny Baker, Gordon Terry, Buddy Spicher & others; these include the lovely LONESOME MOONLIGHT WALTZ, WATSON BLUES, MONROE'S BLUES, TALLAHASSEE, JERUSALEM RIDGE, LUCKY LADY, and all the superb cuts from the classic UNCLE PEN FIDDLE TUNES LP. Another important documentation of the genius of one of the key musical figures of this or any age. 4 CDs & booklet