Liz Phair – Liz Phair
Who could ask for more? A pop-friendly record that really pissed people off. This former Indie goddess sounds AM mainstream and her former constituency claims she sold out. Well, Ms. Phair’s new producers and writing team do pull out all of the stops, but it’s hardly a sell-out with titles like “Hot, White Cum”, and intelligent, witty lyrics about her winter-spring romance. The songs are also catchy, lighter-than-air, and sound great on a car radio on that hot summer day.
Fire – Electric Six
6Twenty – D-4
Bazooka – Star Spangles
Little Killers – Little Killers
Hey kids, who is your favorite retro garage/punk band? These are three of my favorites this year. The Electric Six can mix punk with disco and even occasionally lapse into an arena rock anthem. I recommend “Dance Commander” sung with a pseudo English accent. The Star Spangles and the Little Killers specialize in 70s New York punk. If you really want to be derivative, try the Detroit Cobras or the Ravonettes. Maybe we could put the bands on trading cards or start a new Tiger Beat magazine. They are guaranteed to become collector items, because next year’s retreads will be completely different.
Diamond Jublilation – Dixie Hummingbirds
Woman Like Me – Betty LaVette
The music from these veterans has gained an earthy wisdom even if their vocal gifts have faded. Did someone say Johnny Cash? Dr. John, Garth Hudson and Levon Helm add some swampy Americana to the Hummingbirds; while Robert Cray keeps Betty in the blues.
Seacacus – Wrens
Here I Am – Ronald Isley, Burt Bacharach
World Reveries – Paulo Conte
I admire his style more than his music. An earthy European sophisticate who mixes Tom Waits, Duke Ellington and Sartre. Of course, I have no idea what he is saying except when he goes “Dancin, Da, Da, Da…..”
Congo Life – Kekele
It’s pre-soukous rumba – so it’s not exactly smoking. But like Orchestra Baobab, it’s melodic with a slow sweet burn.
Vodou Dance, Vol. 4 – Los Hombres Calientes – Maybe they have gone too far. Bringing their jazz and New Orleans roots, Bill Summers, Irwin Mayfield now jam with the locals from Trinidad, Jamaica, Haiti and other festive islands. Oh, I guess they pull it off, but only because of the numerous “Babalu” references.
Equilibrium – Matthew Shipp
A mix of jazz and electronic/ambient forms. Just don’t take it too seriously.
All Kooked Out – Stanton Moore
This reminds me of the Crusaders before they dropped Jazz from their name. Moore is a New Orleans drummer who is truly funky and unique.
Nightlife in Tokyo – Eric Alexander
Straight ahead jazz with a saxophonist who has a melodic and maturing tone.
Now is Another Time – David Murray
The most interesting jazzman in the past twenty years goes big band with some Havana heavyweights. An update of Dizzy Gillespie’s Cuban encounter of a half century ago.
Passing Ships – Andrew Hill
Along with David Murray and Bill Holland, yet another big band release, but this one was recorded in 1969 before being lost in the Blue Note vaults. The session hardly sounds dated especially with backing by some of my favorite sidemen including Woody Shaw, Julian Priester and Joe Farrell.
Vivaldi: La Stravaganza – Rachel Podger,
Italian Violin Sonatas – Europa Galante, Fabio Biondi
Who are the grungy guitar gods of the classical music scene? They are violinists like these who play period instruments and really go for Baroque. The sound is much warmer and less precise than modern instruments. Critics contend liberties are taken, and that these versions sound more like Jean Luc Ponti and Mark O’Connor than Heifetz. Regardless, Ms. Podger and Mr. Biondi along with Andrew Manze give a great introduction to this higher musical realm.
No Thanks: 70s Punk Rebellion – V.A. Why did Rhino wait so long?
Original Soul Sister – Sister Rosetta Thorpe
In Person Friday & Saturday – Blackhawk, Miles Davis
Hank Mobley always got a bad rap for being the saxophonist sandwiched in between John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter. On this weekend live date he breaks no new ground, but plays straight ahead jazz with swing. Meanwhile, Miles actually sounds like an extrovert and takes a surprising amount of solo space. But the real stars of this show are the unheralded rhythm sections. They can play anything.
How the West Was Won – Led Zeppelin
Their best live album. Jimmy Page proves his legendary status, but it’s Robert Plant lead-guitar voice that steals the show with its crisp control and power. Although everybody’s raving, I still opt for the clarity and sonic wallop of their early studio recordings.
Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey Various Artists
Far better than Ken Burns’ Jazz., but critics will always come out of the woodwork, and I’m included.. Scorsese goes beyond 1930 backwoods bluesmen and gives us Dinah Washington, Ali Farka Toure and even some early Fleetwood Mac. No argument here, but I draw the line at “Tuff Enuff” – the famous blues classic from the Fabulous Thunderbirds.
Query: Is the album dead? Except for jazz and classical, I am buying fewer CDs. I have gone legitimate, dumping Kazaa to pay the monthly fee for Rhapsody. Who needs to shell out for an entire CD of the Shins or Fountains of Wayne when you can make a personal playlist and burn a CD of your favorite singles for 79 cents a song. After all, how many of today’s bands are good for more than a third of a CD. If someone releases the new Sergeant Peppers, let me know.