A Consumer Guide to the Trailing Edge: June, 2010
Recycled Goods (#75)
by Tom Hull
Another month of taking what comes my way but not doing much more -- a couple of new world albums, some jazz reissues, some back catalog for an alt-pop groups with a new record I like -- the Apples in Stereo's Travellers in Space and Time. Benton Flippen fell out of a list of old records recommended in Derek Taylor's blog, and there will probably be more of those in the future (if I can find them -- struck out with Orchestra Nova, Bud Isaacs, Patato & Totico). With little coming in other than jazz and a bit of world, and no record stores to fall back on, I'm pretty much at the mercy of Rhapsody, which seems to be especially slow and spotty with reissues. Plus I have trouble digging up the necessary research on the web -- Google has transformed itself from a fast search engine to not much more than a shopping guide -- and it's painful to block out time for digesting marginal multi-artist and/or multi-disc sets -- the majors are all into "deluxe editions" of albums that never were all that significant in the first place.
Note ACN this month. Just list building, but given the shortfall up top, thought you might have some spare change. I actually started compiling the list with Sonny Rollins, which has three essential sets: G-Man is as hot as Rollins ever got, and that's saying something; This Is What I Do is a complete masterpiece; and Silver City pulls one cut from each of Rollins' Milestone albums -- Gary Giddins picked the list for a Village Voice article arguing as much, and Fantasy decided they couldn't improve on his list for a 25th anniversary double.
Tony Allen: Secret Agent (2009 , World Circuit/Nonesuch): Despite a dozen albums under his own name going back to 1975, Allen always has been and always will be known as Fela Kuti's drummer. Making Fela-formula albums just surrenders to the inevitable, which isn't such a bad thing. Thirteen years after the master's death Kuti's advantages in vocals, sax, and the rigor of his political rants has thinned out a bit, and Allen has as much right as Fred Wesley or Maceo Parker. B+(***)
Arild Andersen: Green in Blue: Early Quartets (1975-78 , ECM, 3CD): Norwegian bassist, one of several now-prominent musicians spawned by George Russell and Don Cherry during their late 1960s move to Scandinavia. Has a dozen-plus albums under his own name, the first three returned to print here. These are all sax-piano-bass-drums quartets, with flush flowing rhythms that highlight the leader's bass. Pål Thowsen is on drums on all three. The debut album, Clouds in My Head, features Kurt Riisnaes on tenor sax, soprano sax, and flute, with Jon Balke on piano. Balke would have been close to 20 at the time, but he already has a tough approach, and makes a much stronger impression than Lars Jansson, who replaced him on the other two albums. Riisnaes is superb throughout, but was also replaced on the later albums, Shimri and Green Shading Into Blue, by Juhani Aaltonen, who is riveting on tenor sax but plays a lot more flute, an instrument that he gives a dry, cerebral tone -- fascinating as such things go, but it's still flute, and it shifts the records toward the airy side -- Shimri has a slight edge of joyous discovery, but the two are very closely matched. B+(***)
The Apples in Stereo: #1 Hits Explosion (1995-2007 , Yep Roc): Colorado group led by Robert Schneider, appeared in 1995 with a Beatles-ish multilayered pop sound and cashed in with this best-of after six albums. The sound is pretty much everything with them, suggested as much by such early album titles as Fun Trick Noisemaker, Tone Soul Evolution, and Her Wallpaper Reverie. I don't think any of these songs were actually hits, let alone #1s, and I'm not even sure they're best-ofs, but it's as good an introduction as any of their albums, especially the early ones where the sonic effects predominate. A- [R]
Chick Corea: Solo Piano: Improvisations/Children's Songs (1971-83 , ECM, 3CD): Three solo piano albums find Corea in an exploratory mood. The first two came from a 1971 session, when Corea was working with Miles Davis on the one hand and Anthony Braxton on the other, before he took off on Return to Forever. Aside from pieces by Monk and Shorter on Vol. 2, everything was improvised, with the melodies on Vol. 1 especially charming. Children's Songs came twelve years later, all improvised, nothing childish about it other than that he tries working from elements. Final cut adds violin and cello, a nice little piece of chamber jazz. B+(*)
Art Pepper: Unreleased Art, Vol. V: Stuttgart May 25, 1981 (1981 , Widow's Taste, 2CD): Cut about a year before his death, on a European tour that has already yielded two superb doubles -- Unreleased Art, Vol. III: The Croydon Concert eleven days earlier, and Art Pepper With Duke Jordan in Copenhagen 1981 eight days later. This is the same quartet that played Croydon -- Milcho Leviev on piano, Bob Magnusson on bass, Carl Burnett on bass -- even rougher and rowdier, with Leviev especially hot, and Pepper rising to characteristic heights at least three times: a magnificent "Landscape," an "Over the Rainbow" that he deconstructs so severely he finds new twists after thirty years, and a red hot "Cherokee." You certainly don't need every live tape they can scrape up, but they all seem to add something. He was more alive in the year of his death than you'll ever be. A-
Gabor Szabo: Jazz Raga (1966 , Light in the Attic): Hungarian guitarist, plied every angle he could think of to break in including this Indian nod, with titles like "Krishna," "Ravi" (for Shankar), and "Raga Doll." He gets a lot of twang and a heavy whiff of late-'60s incense from his overdubbed sitar, especially on covers that help date it: "Caravan," "Summertime," and (thanks to Brian Jones) "Paint It Black." Reissued with old artwork and one of the best (and at 36 pages largest) booklets I've seen in recent reissues -- the label thinks this amusing period piece is a gem. B+(**)
The Apples in Stereo: Electronic Projects for Musicians (1995-2007 , Yep Roc): B-sides, bonus cuts, outtakes, promo fluff, a couple of previously unreleaseds including "Stephen Stephen" from The Colbert Report; since their obsession is sonic, not much differs here from their primo product. B+(***) [R]
Larry Coryell: Prime Picks: The Virtuoso Guitar or Larry Coryell (1998-2003 , High Note): Back in the late 1960s the great American hope for jazz-rock fusion guitar, he was always too subtle but aged gracefully; a random sampler from five fin de siècle albums, best when focusing on the guitar, as silvery as his hair. B+(*)
Richard Bona: The Ten Shades of Blues (2009 , Decca): Electric bassist-vocalist from Cameroon branches out, finding blues on nearly every continent, mildly spiced with banjo and sitar, harmonica and fiddle, Fula flute and Afrobeat drums, and a New York horn section. B+(**)
Benton Flippen: Old Time, New Times (1970s-93 , Rounder): Old-time fiddler from North Carolina, born 1920, hung around long enough the archaeologists finally got around to recording him, picking up scattered radio shots and a 1993 studio session; plays some banjo, sings some, makes the impression you'd hope for at each. B+(***) [R]
Mick Goodrick: In Pas(s)ing (1978 , ECM): American jazz guitarist, influenced Pat Metheny and taught John Scofield and Bill Frisell; not many records, but this one develops clean, crystal clear lines, impressive enough but John Surman juggles three reeds -- bass clarinet, baritone sax, soprano sax -- in a tour de force. A- [R]
Kinito Méndez: Exitos de Kinito Méndez (1995-2005 , J&N): Dominican merengue arranger-producer (vocalist?), born 1963, got his start young and worked is way through Cocoband and Rockabanda before going solo in 1995 with "Cachamba," presumably the first cut here -- don't know much more; the hits are pure formula, popping horns, romping basslines, chomping choruses, everything not just upbeat but riotously so. A- [R]
Carmen Souza: Protegid (2010, Galileo Music): Cape Verdean singer stretches out in heterodox directions, with jerky Afro-Cuban rhythms, psychedelic tropicalia, and sometimes spoken dramaturgy where I expect to recognize some German words buried in the Portuguese, or maybe I'm grasping at straws; in any case, different in ways I still find weird. B+(*)
Gabor Szabo: Gypsy '66 (1965 , Impulse): The Hungarian guitarist's debut album, you can imagine the machinations -- why not do a gypsy guitar album, like Django but, you know, more modern, like with today's pop hits (you know, Lennon-McCartney, Bacharach-David), and hey, why not let Gary McFarland arrange and, like, play his marimba, and say, we can work Sadao Watanabe's flute in there somewhere? -- the word you're looking for it kitsch; the album would have been much better had Szabo stretched his original "Gypsy Jam" to 35 minutes and lost the rest. B- [R]
Additional Consumer News
I've been scrounging through the clearance section at oldies.com, mostly looking for deals on the house Collectables label -- they shovel a lot of quick and dirty reissues out, including some hard to find gems -- but I'm also seeing other labels' cutouts, especially jazz that Fantasy assiduously collected and Concord is actively dumping (although they also seem to have a knack for dumping their own releases, especially the rare good ones).
I've collected a more/less recommended list below -- everything rated A- or better, mostly (but not always) same edition. I've included recording dates and label from my database, but check the website for details on what they're selling. I skipped anything that didn't strike me as much of a deal (e.g., anything less than 25% off). I made note of their prices, but check that too -- some titles are available in multiple editions so I usually picked the lower price. This is mostly accurate as of July 6, but I can't guarantee anything.
Also collected a list of a few things that I don't have in my database, although they are similar to records I think highly of, and may (note lack of certainty) be perfectly good substitutes.
That's about the best I can do. Collectables has a few specialty niches where they offer a lot more detail and I've ever bothered with: especially 1950s doo-wop, but also pre-rock pop vocals (Doris Day, Patti Page, Perry Como) and schmaltz (Ray Conniff, Percy Faith), 1960s pop-rock (Sam the Sham, Peter and Gordon). Their jazz selections are scattered (except for access to Atlantic's catalog), and they have a few interesting blues titles (especially a lot of early Lightnin' Hopkins). On the other hand, there's little consistency in their product: they tend to take whatever they find and just slap their logo on it. (For instance, Dion's Runaround Sue: His Greatest Hits on Laurie Records still has just 10 songs, even though he (with or without the Belmonts) charted 28 songs for the label. It would never occur to them to add more, although it they got rights to a better comp they'd happily reissue it.)
Legend: B+ records are divided into three levels, where more * is better. [R] indicates record was reviewed using a stream from Rhapsody. The biggest caveat there is that the packaging and documentation hasn't been inspected or considered.
For this column and the previous 74, see the archive.
Additional Consumer News
Copyright © 2010 Tom Hull.