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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love free stuff. Who doesn’t? But a recent batch of items that found their way into my mailbox are some of the best yet.

Let’s start off with music, shall we?

Last month, Masterworks Jazz released their final installment of albums celebrating the 40th anniversary of CTI/Kudu Records. The release included four classic reissues of jazz albums that had been previously unavailable on CD.

First up is Esther Phillips’ 1974 album “Performance.” Phillips’ lyrical style is often compared to Nina Simone, and rightfully so. Her blend of classic blues and jazz mixes well with the pop and disco sensibilities of the era in which the album was released. The album features the seven original tracks (including a cover of Isaac Hayes’ “Can’t Trust Your Neighbor With Your Baby”) as well as an eighth bonus track/cover of Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr. Bonjangles.”

Horn player Hank Crawford’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” (named after and featuring a cover of the Stevie Wonder tune of the same name) follows. The disc offers up only five songs, but those handful of tracks showcase a group of emerging jazz artists who years later would become masters of the genre. With a taste of funk and soul thrown in for good measure, “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” gives a new take on the old idea of what jazz was at the time.

If you’re a sucker for the organ (which I admittedly am, mostly because of my old rollerskating days spent at Rollaero in Milwaukee), you’ll love “Wild Horses Rock Steady” by one of the masters of the craft, Johnny Hammond. Named after (and also featuring covers of) The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” and Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady,” Hammond and his band of musicians dish up organ-driven versions of tracks like Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train” and “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” from “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Hammond’s band is equally as impressive, with the likes of Grover Washington, Jr. on saxophone and Ron Carter on bass.

And wrapping up the releases is Lonnie Smith’s “Mama Wailer,” an album that features two original compositions (the title track and “Hola Muneca”) and two covers (Carole King’s “I Feel The Earth Move” and Sly and the Family Stone’s “Stand”). While Smith is known for his work on the Hammond B-3 organ, the album’s title track finds him on clavinet. Grover Washington, Jr. also appears in Smith’s backing band, as does Billy Cobham and Airto Moreira.

If you’re a fan of early seventies jazz, especially if you’ve been waiting all this time for these albums to be released on CD, pick them up now. If you have no idea what early seventies jazz (as influenced by the funk and soul of the era) sounds like, try and remember back to the music you heard on “Sesame Street” growing up. That’s a pretty good description of what most of the tracks on these albums sound like.

Learn more about the releases here.

I was also fortunate enough to have the BBC send over DVDs of two of their best television shows. I have to admit that I’ve been bored lately with a lot of American television and, as such, have been more interested by what the BBC has to offer.

First up is the first season (or “series” as they say in the United Kingdom) of the crime thriller “Whitechapel.” What’s great about most BBC shows is their brevity. Seasons are usually limited to a handful of episodes rather than stretching them out for sixteen, twenty-two or twenty-four episodes. Because of this, they’re forced to trim all the fat and tell a precise story. “Whitechapel” is a perfect example of that. In just three hour-long episodes, the season tells the story of a gang of cops working in the East End of London who are on the trail of a Jack the Ripper copycat killer. It manages to squeeze in thrills, action and character development in just three hours. When you’re dealing with such a short amount of time to tell your story there is very little room for excess. I’m not really sure how they’ll be able to stretch this out into a second season (you’ll have to see how it ends to understand), but I loved the first season’s story arc and am looking forward to seeing what’s next.

And finally, the Neil Cross-created cop drama “Luther” which, if you know me at all you know I absolutely love. (And I’m not just saying that because “The Roberts” popped up in the season finale.) Idris Elba, Alice Morgan and the rest of the show’s cast reprise their roles from the first season here, titled “Luther 2,” a new four-episode story arc that follows detective John Luther as he hunts down a masked serial killer and psychopathic twins. I’ve said time and again that the first season of “Luther” is one of my favorite pieces of television ever, and this second season doesn’t miss a beat from where the first one left off. Elba is one of the best in the business, and creator/writer Neil Cross knows how to turn the old “serial killer-hunting cop” standard into something that exists far beyond that of “Criminal Minds.” Again, this is some of the best television out there, folks, so if you haven’t checked out “Luther” yet, do yourself a favor and seek out the first season immediately. And then buy this DVD set of the second season. You’ll thank me.

Learn more about the BBC DVD releases here.

Since we’re on the topic of “Luther,” here’s a bit of a “Blarg” spoiler for you: Stay tuned for details about an interview I recently conducted with Neil Cross. A link to it will be appearing here shortly.

Ever since the days of “Tastes Like Chicken” I’ve always loved getting free stuff, but nine times out of ten the stuff we got for review didn’t excite me one bit.

This is not one of those times.

Old Poop!