Archive for the ‘CD Reviews’ Category

January Albums You May Have Missed

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

By Greg Haymes

No question about it – David Bowie’s Blackstar (Columbia) was the most talked-about album of the year so far. And shockingly it was also Bowie’s first No. 1 album… unfortunately for all the wrong, heartbreaking reasons.

Looking beyond the death-induced headlines and subsequent Bowie catalog revival, there was also a surprisingly rich batch of January releases – all the more unexpected because January is traditionally a down-turn month for new music releases.

Here’s a quick round-up of a few new album releases for the month that you may have overlooked:

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BEST OF 2015: Greg Haymes’ Top Concerts, Albums & More

Friday, January 8th, 2016

By Greg Haymes
Video by Timothy Raab
Photographs by Rudy Lu, T. Charles Erickson

PERSON OF THE YEAR

For me, nothing in 2015 compared to the thrill of (somewhat belatedly) discovering twentysomething Chicago singer-songwriter Ryley Walker. Evoking the American Primitive guitar stylings pioneered by John Fahey and Leo Kottke that were later carried into the 21st century by such fretboard masters as Daniel Bachman and Steve Gunn, Walker’s mind-boggling finger-picking is rooted in traditional folk, but applied to a more avant-garde, neo-classical aesthetic. And his fearless, holy howl of a voice resonates with echoes of Tim Buckley at his most adventurous.

His sophomore album Primrose Green was hands-down my most-listened-to record of the year, and I caught three of his four Greater Nippertown tour-stops – each time with different accompaniment. (Sadly I missed his stop at BSP Lounge in Kingston).

***

TOP 20 CONCERTS OF THE YEAR

Art Neville and George Porter

Art Neville and George Porter of the Funky Meters @ Massry Center for the Arts, 4/16/15

January 3: “Home Bass 2: A Little Help for Our Friends” @ Club Helsinki, Hudson. Replacements/Guns ‘N Roses bassist Tommy Stinson organized his second annual benefit for Habitat for Humanity featuring an impressive line-up of Happiness, Rhett Miller, Elvis Perkins, Jesse Malin, Dust Bowl Faeries, Ruby Stinson and others.
March 7: St. Vincent, Jenny Hval @ Upstate Concert Hall, Clifton Park
April 15: Sufjan Stevens, Cold Specks @ the Palace Theatre, Albany
April 16: The Funky Meters @ the College of St. Rose’s Massry Center, Albany
April 21: Rhiannon Giddens, Bhi Bhiman @ The Egg’s Swyer Theatre, Albany
May 16: Ryley Walker, Pigeons @ the Half Moon, Hudson
June 12: Lonesome Val Haynes at “Sirens of Song” also featuring MotherJudge, Olivia Quillio, Ashley Sofia @ The Hangar, Troy
June 27: Ryley Walker at Solid Sound @ MASS MoCA, North Adams
June 28: The Charles Lloyd Quartet (with Bill Frisell) at Solid Sound @ MASS MoCA, North Adams
July 6: The Lone Bellow @ The Egg’s Swyer Theatre, Albany

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CD: The Last Conspirators’ “Hold That Thought Forever”

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

Holdthat_thought_forever_cov2
Review by Greg Haymes

THE LAST CONSPIRATORS
Hold That Thought Forever
(Driving Rain Music)

When last we heard from the Last Conspirators on their 2013, Terry Plunkett-produced A Celebration of Fury, the veteran punk band seemed headed toward the metalesque edge of the musical spectrum.

But a lot has happened since then. Plunkett and the band parted ways; bassist Nick Bisanz shifted over to fill Plunkett’s vacated guitar chair; and new bassist Mike Grundy was recruited.

Produced by Conehead Buddha’s Chris Fisher at his Easter Island Studios in Coxsackie, Hold That Thought Forever is the new line-up’s debut (the band’s fourth release over-all), and all but one of the album’s 11 songs are co-written by frontman Tim Livingston (a veteran of the Morons and Ghostrunner) with Bisanz. And the personnel shifts seem to be reflected in a new direction…

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BEST OF 2015: Steven Stock’s Top 10 Studio Albums/Live Albums

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

Reviews by Steven Stock

TOP 10 STUDIO ALBUMS OF 2015

stevewilsonSteven Wilson: Hand. Cannot. Erase. (KScope Blu-ray)
When he’s not remixing the prog-rock canon for surround sound, Wilson creates his own ambitious multimedia presentations. His performance at The Egg last year was mesmerizing, and he’ll be back in March. See you there!

The Waterboys: Modern Blues (Puck/Kobalt)
Mike Scott and his ever-changing band of minstrels went to Nashville and recorded not a country album but rather the loudest, most aggressive album of their entire career. “Still a Freak” indeed!

NewOrderMusicCompleteNew Order: Music Complete (New Order Ltd./Mute)
They abandon any effort to stay cutting edge and/or contemporary and are instead content to make a New Order record. Naturally, it ends up being their best effort in 30 years!

Laura Marling: Short Movie (Ribbon Music)
Another beautiful record from Marling, placid on the surface with hidden depths.

Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield: Sing Elliott Smith (Ramseur)
Smith’s heart-rending lyrics (am I allowed to say that given the manner of his death?) are much easier to enjoy here thanks to gorgeous arrangements and Mayfield’s beguiling voice.

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BEST OF 2015: Steven Stock’s Top 10 Box Sets

Monday, January 4th, 2016

Reviews by Steven Stock

gobetweensTHE GO-BETWEENS: G Stands for Go-Betweens, 4LP/4CD (Domino)
Forget R.E.M., consign U2 to history’s dustbin, for the Go-Betweens were the best band of the ’80s, and this box set proves it. Their first three albums and a singles collection on vinyl, and four discs of mostly unreleased rarities on CD. Plus a book and a poster and enough ephemera to almost justify the expense!

velvetsTHE VELVET UNDERGROUND: Loaded Super Deluxe Edition, 5CD/DVD-Audio (Rhino)
Atlantic wanted an album loaded with hits, hence the title. It’s got some of the band’s most accessible material – “Sweet Jane,” “New Age” and “I Found a Reason” – and some of its worst (“Lonesome Cowboy Bill”). Live at Max’s is cleaned up so well you can make out Jim Carroll’s refreshment order clearly (Pernod and Tuinal, of course). New addition Live at the Second Fret is barely listenable. But the 5.1 mix of Loaded proper kicks ass!

kingcrimsonKING CRIMSON: Thrak Deluxe, 12CD/DVD-Audio/DVD/2Blu-ray
Nobody does box sets more lavishly than Robert Fripp, and the band’s 1994 comeback is worthy of his efforts.

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BEST OF 2015: J Hunter’s Top 25 Jazz Recordings, Part II

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

By J Hunter

Okay, the trophies are distributed, and we’ve seen the best of the rest. That means it’s time to let the chips fall where they may. IT’S FOR THE WIN!

Locke PendulumNumber Ten…
JOE LOCKELove is a Pendulum (Motema)
It’s become a cliché to say that a piece of music is “inspired.” However, in the case of vibes master Joe Locke’s latest release, we have a set of beautiful, expansive, thrill-seeking music that was literally inspired by the poetry of Barbara Sfraga. Backed by the killer core group of pianist Robert Rodriguez, bassist Ricky Rodriguez and drummer/co-producer Terreon Gully, Locke weaves brilliant color splashes from Donny McCaslin, Paul Bollenbeck and Theo Bleckmann into this sublime “song cycle,” bringing a range of creativity that is just as deep and wide as all the emotions surrounding the word “love.”

Rodriguez NegroNumber Nine…
PETE RODRIGUEZEl Conde Negro (Destiny)
Imagine if Arturo Sandoval had chosen Miles Davis as his inspirational compass instead of Dizzy Gillespie. That’s what we get on the latest release from this trumpeter, vocalist, percussionist and educator. (It is “Dr. Pete Rodriguez”, if we’re going to get technical about it.) Powered by knock-out musicians like pianist Luis Perdomo, drummer Rudy Royston, percussionist Robert Quintero and the aforementioned Ricky Rodriguez, this second-generation Nuyorican wonder serves up an outstanding set of 21st-century Afro-Cuban jazz that carries a sense of exploration and experimentation you don’t usually get from the Latin sub-genre.

Harrison SpiritNumber Eight…
JOEL HARRISONSpirit House (Whirlwind Recordings)
Every time I think über-guitarist Joel Harrison can’t surprise me any more, there he is again with music that is more exciting, inspirational and off-the-wall than the last time he spun my head like a top. Big love to the risk-taking UK label Whirlwind Recordings for encouraging Harrison to let his freak flag fly one more time. Cuong Vu’s otherworldly trumpet combines with Paul Hanson’s effects-laden bassoon to give Harrison another incendiary front line not found in nature. Drummer Brian Blade and bassist Kermit Driscoll adds just the right amount of foundation to let this unique blend of sounds coalesce into something truly inspiring.

Miles JensenNumber Seven…
JASON MILES & INGRID JENSEN Kind of New (Whaling City Sound)
Much to the chagrin of traditionalists who loathed Miles Davis’ iconic Bitches Brew right from the jump, keyboardist Jason Miles and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen have made one of the best tributes yet to the sound that literally changed it all in jazz. While Miles & Jensen show great respect with their fresh takes on Davis tracks like “Sanctuary” and “Jean-Pierre,” it’s monster originals like the crushing effects fest “The Faction of Cool,” the snarling “Ferrari” (a piece Miles co-wrote with the late Michael Brecker in 2005), and the funked-out “Street Vibe” that show Davis’ electric visions can still thrive – and thrill – in the 21st century.

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BEST OF 2015: Albert Brooks’ Top 5 Vocal Albums

Monday, December 21st, 2015

By Albert Brooks

MaryStallingsWith the passing of Shirley Horn, Etta Jones and other eminent flag bearers of the jazz vocal tradition, Mary Stallings – long an accomplished singer- has allowed her star to rise more brightly above the contemporary music firmament. And, with Feelin’ Good (High Note), Ms. Stallings shows that she is more than capable of carrying the lead torch first illuminated by Louis Armstrong’s brilliance so long ago. Check out among many beautiful standards, the rarely sung (but never better than here) “I Want to Talk About You.”

CarmenLundyI love Carmen Lundy and, for the life of me, can not understand why she is not more heralded for the tremendous artist that she is. A gifted (indeed soulful) singer, composer and instrumentalist, she does it all with a depth of feeling and clarity that is beyond transcendence. With rare exception, her compositions are not catchy or hook-laden, but rather substantive expositions that offer meaningful insights even as her rich delivery offers its own considerable delights. In one of the two non-original compositions on the CD, Lundy sings Mary Lou Williams’ “What’s Your Story Morning Glory” backed only by piano with an intimacy and immediacy that only she could convey. Carmen Lundy must be listened to, and Soul to Soul (Afrasia Productions) will reward those who do so with a profound experience.

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BEST OF 2015: J Hunter’s Top 25 Jazz Recordings, Part I

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

liebman

By J Hunter

Be careful what you wish for. Between my review work and my radio show “Jazz2K @ The Saint” on WVCR-FM, I get more free music than I ever dreamed of. It’s terrific, provided I can make it through the towering piles of CDs and get out of the house to buy food. Truth to tell, not all of the music is great; in fact, some releases I’ve gotten make me wish I’d taken up skeet shooting as a hobby. But in that mass of music there are recordings and performances that can make my heart stop and die with a big ol’ grin on my face. Deciding which of those are the best is definitely like figuring out which of your kids you like the most. Nevertheless, let’s start by handing out a few trophies:

The LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD goes to… DAVE LIEBMAN
This almost-septuagenarian reed wizard continues to not just stretch boundaries, but also ignore them entirely. In the first part of the year, Liebman gave us Ceremony (Chesky), a mesmerizing date that takes the Afro-Cuban sound back to its West and Central African roots. Then in the fall, his latest iteration of the Dave Liebman Group spun heads around and around with The Puzzle (Whaling City Sound), a knockdown, drag-out, Old School fusion record. Keep on truckin’, Dave. You give us fellow gray-hairs no excuse to sit around and do nothing.

Hill SmallsThe ROOKIE OF THE YEAR Award goes to… THEO HILLLive at Smalls (smallsLive)
As usual, there are plenty of young cats sprouting up and putting out their own music, with Kamasi Washington and Troy Roberts getting the biggest love. But for me, this Albany High School alum had the best debut as a leader in 2015. Already a veteran of the NYC scene, Live shows Hill’s exemplary skills as player, composer and arranger. Myron Walden proves (once again) that he is the maddest reed player on the planet, and Hill lets Dayna Stephens display the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument) in the best light it’s seen since the late Michael Brecker put it in his bag. This disc could be the start of something big – at least, that’s the way I’m betting!

Wade OfferingThe BEST VOCAL RELEASE Award goes to… CHARENEE WADEOffering: The Music of Gil-Scott Heron & Brian Jackson (Motema)
This was a tough one, especially considering the stellar work Cecile McLorin Salvant did on her sophomore Mack Avenue release Like Someone to Love. At the end of the day, though Wade’s powerful reboot of the world’s first hip-hop artist just would not be denied. With impeccable production by SiriusXM jazz program director Mark Ruffin and killer performances by vibes master Stefon Harris and altoist Lakecia Benjamin (a name you NEED to know), legendary tracks like “Home Is Where the Hatred Is” and “Ain’t No Such Thing as Superman” are brought into the modern-day jazz canon with a perfect mix of soul, style and love.

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