The Borders Books and Music private label Penny CDs (I suspect that Barnes and Nobles has something similar) are a clever marketing ploy to get people to spend more money in the store's music department. To give Borders a credit here, in general, the Music/DVD/Multimedia department tends to have a very, very, very deep selection of genres and artists (it's usually better than the neighboring Barnes and Nobles when comparing local stores head-to-head...sorry B&B fans), and these Penny CDs are just one way to capitalize on the inventory.
The Penny CDs are of the cheap "blink and you'll miss the cellophane-wrapped cardboard envelope" variety. We'd probably get them a couple of times a year and would have to put them out on just about every available customer service surface, complete with the sticker that marked it as one penny. To be honest, the penny and the sticker were strictly for inventory tracking purposes. Usually, if you bought something, you didn't even pay the penny (it was taken off at the register). The only time I'd seen anyone charged for these compilations was if the Penny CD was the only thing they were getting.
The Penny CDs are designed to introduce customers to new artists or a new musical genre. Then (Borders hopes), you'll come flying back to the store ready and eager to spend money in the music department, where we would lovingly Hoover more money out of your wallet.
Which isn't a bad thing, by the way. I just want to be clear that this isn't a criticism.
The problem with the Penny CDs, however, is that they're uneven almost by design. The general idea was to get people to listen to the CDs at least once before either tossing it out or giving the CD away to a friend (as I have already given this CD away to a friend). So, the approach to developing these Penny CDs seems to be: 1) develop a pretty generic theme; and 2) take the scatter-shot approach when choosing the tracks that just might, maybe, perhaps, fit the theme.
Then you have to consider that you need to get a wide variety of different artists on that CD. You need at least one or two headlines to get someone to pick up the Penny CD, while shoving a bunch of lesser-known artists on most of the tracks. If the Penny CD is around a "theme," you're going to get a mix of genres. If the Penny CD is around a music genre, you're going to get artists from across the spectrum of that genre.
The mixes on the Penny CDs are not generally the most inspiring on the planet. In fact, I'd even say that 50% to 75% of the tracks on most of them is a complete waste. But then again, my "waste" is probably someone else's goldmine.
So, without further ado, my first salute to my Bordersverse days via one of my Penny CDs.
I should say that I'm taking a slightly different tact. I'm going to simply offer this CDs in its entirety via the magic of Zip files. I figure why not. The Penny CDs were designed to be passed around or thrown away (after you make note of the artists you like).
Without further ado, here's the first of two, Blue2002, a Borders Penny CD created in conjunction with Blue Note Records
Borders, Blue2002 Rating=$$
[Support the Artists]
This particular CD was actually designed to push the latest releases from artists recording under the Blue Note Records label. I find some of the tunes on this collection downright annoying, and others kind of relaxing. Either way, this Penny CD (or at least some of the tracks) are good ones to have if you need to hide under headphones at work and concentrate on the task in front of you. The best of the bunch is Cassandra Wilson, Bobby McFerrin, and Medeski, Martin & Wood (Note: Medeski, Martin & Wood are an awesome live band, so if you get a chance to see this jazz trio, don't turn it down.)
Here's the track listing for the Zip file:
Shelter From The Storm — Cassandra Wilson
Fertile Field — Bobby McFerrin
Turn Me On — Norah Jones
Silver Moonlight — Henri Salvador
Blue Orchids — Bill Charlap (Featuring Frank Wes)
Santa Lucia — Joe Lovano
Empress Afternoon — Renee Rosnes
Saisir — Erik Truffaz
Pappy Check — Medeski, Martin & Wood
Flurries — Soulive
To download Tracks 1–5 from Blue2002, go here.
To download Tracks 6–10 from Blue2002, go here.
The page to download both zip files CD can be found here.
To find previous thumbnail reviews, go to the Review Index.
After the download links expire, you can listen to streaming MP3 files linked with reviews at my Vox shadow blog for media.
None = Avoid at all cost. Worth cutting your ears off to avoid if someone threatens to play it for you. When faced with even the threat of its cellophane-wrapped presence, your best option is to RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!
$= If you stumble across it for cheap in a used bin, it might, maybe, perhaps could be worth the buy, but only if you need a cheap coaster for your cold drinks or a cool-looking Frisbee.
$$= You might want to give this CD/artist a try, but only if the sample track tickles your fancy. Don't bother buying this one new because the good tunes you'd get out of this one ain't worth that kind of money.
$$$ = Worth looking for on a casual basis and maybe even buying new, but no big rush.
$$$$ = Definitely worth having in the ol' CD collection and definitely worth buying new, but don't re-arrange your personal "must have" list to get your hands on it.
$$$$$ = Why haven't you bought this CD yet? Go. This is a "Want. Take. Have." situation because you so want this.