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Nancy Wilson: The Essence of Nancy Wilson: Four Decades of Music

In the book that accompanies The Essence of Nancy Wilson, Capitol’s sublime new salute to one of its most prolific stars, compilation producer David Nathan credits it as the “first-ever box set on the inimitable lady with a song.” Not quite. Six years ago, Capitol went to considerable trouble to assemble the three-disc Wilson collection Ballads, Blues & Big Bands.

The point’s not to chastise Nathan for a factual hiccup, but rather to illustrate that it is the prior existence of the Ballads box that makes Essence so worthwhile. Wilson’s remarkable Capitol catalog, which spanned more than two decades and included over three-dozen albums, never received the reissue respect it deserved, especially in comparison to the CD deluge accorded such labelmates as Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole and Peggy Lee. Career highlights like Wilson’s teamings with Cannonball Adderley and George Shearing resurfaced, but much of the rest was left to languish in the Capitol vaults. Then along came Ballads, which did a serviceable job of setting the record straight. Serviceable, that is, in that it provided a comprehensive, if conservative, survey of her early Capitol years. It was Nancy Wilson 101. 59 album cuts and one single. No curiosities, no surprises, no unreleased tracks. It’s a delicious assortment, no question, but still just meat and potatoes.

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