Rhapsody Streamnotes: January 29, 2013

No 2013 releases below: I'm still mopping up from 2012, and indeed still have a lot more to go -- at least if I had access to the records I've heard about and would like to have heard. I've been scouring year-end lists for prospects, and while I've mostly wound up kissing frogs, one always suspects that there are still gems out there in the hills somewhere, especially among the year's "missing from Rhapsody" list. The following names jump out at me, but they're only a sample:

  • Actress: RIP (Honest Jon's)
  • Allo Darlin': Europe (Slumberland)
  • Khaira Arby: Tchini Tchini (Clermont Music)
  • Cooly G: Playin' Me (Hyperdub)
  • Don't Talk to the Cops: Let's Quit (Greedhead)
  • Brian Eno: Lux (Warp)
  • Four Tet: Pink (Text)
  • M. Geddes Gengras/Sun Araw/The Congos: FRKWYS, Vol. 9: Icon Give Thank/Icon Eye (RVNG Intl.)
  • Mats Gustafsson/Thurston Moore: Play Some Fucking Stooges (Quasi Pop/Dumpster Diving Lab)
  • Mary Halvorson Quintet: Bending Bridges (Firehouse 12)
  • The Human Hearts: Another (Shrimper)
  • Darius Jones Quartet: Book of Mae'bul (Another Kind of Surprise) (AUM Fidelity)
  • Peter Karp/Sue Foley: Beyond the Crossroads (Blind Pig)
  • LV: Sebenza (Hyperdub)
  • Getatchew Merkuria & the Ex & Friends: Y'Anbessaw Tezeta (Terp)
  • Moreno and L'Orch First Moja-One: Sister Pili+2 (Sterns)
  • Joe Morris/William Parker/Gerald Cleaver: Altitude (AUM Fidelity)
  • William Parker Orchestra: Essence of Ellington (AUM Fidelity)
  • Public Enemy: The Evil Empire of Everything (Enemy)
  • Public Enemy: Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear on No Stamp (Enemy)
  • Rihanna: Unapologetic (Def Jam)
  • Royal Band de Thiés: Kadior Demb (Teranga Beat)
  • Shackleton: Music for the Quiet Hour/The Drawbar Organ EPs (Woe to the Septic Heart)
  • Andy Stott: Luxury Problems (Modern Love)
  • Taylor Swift: Red (Big Machine)
  • Trio M: The Guest House (Enja/Yellow Bird)
  • Voices From the Lake: Voices From the Lake (Prologue)
  • David S Ware/Planetary Unknown: Live at Jazzfestival Saalfelden 2011 (AUM Fidelity)
  • Wreckless Eric/Amy Rigby: A Working Museum (Southern Domestic)

They mostly come from the finally finished -- or should I say belatedly abandoned? -- metacritic file. I have no idea how many records were released last year -- a few years back 35,000 was a commonly cited number, but as self-releases get ever easier (and cheaper) and downloadables even more so, 50,000 seems not only more likely the case but if anything on the low side. The metacritic file found 6,278 of them on at least one year-end list or prominent review (not counting the 927 reissues/compilations here).

I suppose one reason why I'm clinging to 2012 is the suspicion that I have no future as a critic. I've been pretty wiped out by the events of the last few weeks, but the writing's long been on the wall. I do still want to collect what I have written and stuff it into a database somewhere. I want to write some software, and I want to write a thing or two about politics. That may not be evident given that every blog post in the last month has been about music, but much of that is on a self-fulfilling schedule -- just enough motivation to keep it happening even when I'm running on empty. One indication may be that there are only 5 new A-list records this month, out of 60 new records, most cherrypicked for their potential, and one of those is effectively a regrade -- the two Burial EPs finally added up to something.

I wanted to revisit a bunch of records I had previously dismissed -- mostly things that Tatum and Christgau endorsed, although my conceptual grudge against Americana was unmovable, and others like Beach House, Death Grips, Azealia Banks, and Skrillex seemed hardly worth the effort. One I replayed and liked even less was Miguel's smash, Kaleidoscope Dream. It wound up 22nd in the metacritic file, but finished 5th in Pazz & Jop. After Obama's re-election may have been the perfect time for a Latino soul man, or at least the idea of one, but like the election it was more form over substance.

Of course, that is in so many ways what music in 2012 added up to. The top two critical acclaims were good records but not that good, and were largely pre-sold on the tails of the previous year's free downloads -- if Time wants a "man of the year," maybe they should seek out Chris Anderson. Go down the list and you'll find much more -- too late for me to try to spell it out, but down c. 40 are two prime examples of form propping up no content whatsoever: Swedish folkie outfit First Aid Kit, the lamest overrated band of the year, and Pogues-never-will-be the Walkmen, easily the worst bar band of the decade. Makes me sad that anyone bothers to listen to them -- one more measure, no doubt, of my failure as a critic.

On the other hand, could it be possible that I'm running out of newly discovered gems because I've already found them all? At some point I'll dig up what I wrote about each and fill in the blanks, but for now let me note that I've been playing Morrison and Knight a lot lately, and finding a lot more pleasure there than in anything here. This one's for the insatiable.

These are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Rhapsody. They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on December 28. Past reviews and more information are available here (3105 records).

Oren Ambarchi: Sagittarian Domain (2012, Editions Mego): One cut, 33:35, built on a 4-note guitar-drums figure repeated ad infinitum, with some amplifier noise zooming in and out; could have gone on longer, but with a few minutes left dissolved into some synth ambiance, nice too, especially after the volume peaked. B+(***)

Oren Ambarchi/Robin Fox: Connected (2012, Kranky): Another of at least eight 2012 albums for the Australian guitarist. Fox is another Australian, playing keybs (or electronics), fleshing out the drones and whirls that envelop the guitar and here overwhelm anything that might pass for a beat. B+(*)

Bobby Bare: Darker Than Light (2012, E1/Plowboy): Country singer, past 75 now, had some minor hits after "Detroit City" in 1963 through "Marie Laveau" in 1974 and was pretty much done by 1983, not that he hasn't floated a few comebacks. Covers here, some as trad as "Banks of the Ohio" and "Shenandoah," some as rehacked as Dennis Linde and Alejandro Escovedo, but finds a calling with "Dark as a Dungeon" and pledges allegiance to Woody Guthrie. B+(*)

Han Bennink Trio: Bennink & Co. (2012, ILK): Legendary Dutch percussionist, age 70, credited with drums here but has been known to hit almost anything, here with Simon Toldam on piano and Joachim Badenhorst on various saxes and clarinet. Free jazz which somehow manages to swing and evoke a carnival air, an effect that the clarinet especially brings out. A-

Black Prairie: A Tear in the Eye Is a Wound in the Heart (2012, Sugar Hill): Portland folkie group, started when Decemberists wanted to play dobro and accordion, with Jenny Conlee singing. Pretty lush for folk, especially when they go off on gypsy-ish instrumental larks, although Conlee's voice is always welcome. B+(**)

Burial: Street Halo/Kindred (2011-12 [2012], Hyperdub): Two EPs, previously noted. I tend to give EPs short shrift, so maybe they just ended before I could take them in, or maybe I needed extra plays. The music is sometimes underwater, sometimes just submerged, lots of scratchy noise, the vocals fragmented samples but for once I find them piecing together to form something coherent. Combined they add up to 51:32, substantial enough to settle in with. A-

John Butcher: Bell Trove Spools (2010-11 [2012], Northern Spy): British avant saxophonist, prolific but obscure since 1984, goes solo, with five tracks on tenor and five on soprano. B

Carter Tutti Void: Transverse (2012, Mute): Joint venture by Chris Carter (Throbbing Gristle, Cosey Fanni Tutti) and Nik Void (Factory Flood), 10-minute groove pieces with industrial klang. Rhapsody only has three (of four or five, sources vary), so a hedge is in order, but this is my idea of ear candy. B+(***)

Converge: All We Love We Leave Behind (2012, Epitaph): Boston metalcore group, eighth studio album since 1994, metacritic file shows it edging out Baroness as the top-rated metal album of the year -- although for all such genre items that could just mean that it's the most palatable to the unfaithful. Still, this feels like it's earned its cult status: reckless fast, rarely enough time to build a riff much less a melody, vocals menacingly growled but garbled. Title cut, unusually long at 4:07, almost convinced me, but in the end this, like virtually everything in its universe, is something I never want to hear again. B

Marilyn Crispell/Gerry Hemingway: Affinities (2009-10 [2011], Intakt): Piano-drums duets, half of Anthony Braxton's legendary 1980s quartet, spent a decade together there and never moved far apart. Intense piano runs, then a more delicate stretch with Hemingway on vibes. B+(***)

The dB's: Falling Off the Sky (2012, Bar/None): New wave group from the 1980s, cut two good albums (1981's Stands for Decibels and 1984's Like This and a couple not-so-good ones; now back after twenty years off, sounding off -- not so much that they can't write catchy pap any more as that they can't convince you it matters. B+(*)

Lana Del Rey: Paradise (2012, Interscope): Eight songs, 33:03, one cover (a creepy "Blue Velvet"), somewhere in the gap between EPs and LPs these days, what they called a "mini-album"; never got her shtick, assuming she had one, but there's not a shred of eccentricity in the layered electronica, even though "Body Electric" is more listenable than Weather Report. B

Mac DeMarco: 2 (2012, Captured Tracks): Singer-songwriter from Canada, 22, debuted with two albums this year following a 2009-11 group, Makeout Videotape. Plays a cheap guitar with effects pedals "no serious musician would ever use" -- gives him a guitar sound no serious musician has. Cover pics went glam/goth on his first, folkie here -- I've read that he's more "mature" here, but that's just another of his jokes. B+(*)

Die Enttäuschung: Vier Halbe (2012, Intakt): German pianoless quartet, fronted by Rudi Mahall (bass clarinet, baritone sax) and Axel Dörner (trumpet), backed by Jan Roder (bass) and Uli Jennessen (drums), cut their first album together in 1996 but their most notable one came in 2005 when they picked up pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach and recorded everything Monk ever wrote, spread out on the 3-CD Monk's Casino. No Monk tunes here, but the spirit is very much present, with slippery moves and accents popping up in the oddest places. B+(***)

DIIV: Oshin (2012, Captured Tracks): Brooklyn band, formerly known and still pronounced as Dive, related to Beach Fossils with a drummer from Smith Westerns; guitar rings nicely, undulating for a bit of surf feel. B+(**)

Flying Lotus: Until the Quiet Comes (2012, 4AD): Steven Ellison, laptop producer from Los Angeles, has a hip-hop reputation I can't confirm in this dreamy series of blips and voices, mostly pleasant enough but a couple trigger my classical gag reflex. B+(**) [cd]

Alexander Hawkins Ensemble: All There, Ever Out (2012, Babel): English pianist, plays some organ, group includes cello, marimba, guitar, bass, drums. Disjointed in various interesting ways, especially when it's just piano, but less clear where it's going when the group joins in. B+(**) [bc]

Angel Haze: Reservation (2012, self-released): Raykeea Wilson, from Detroit, barely 21 with four EPs including this alleged one -- at 14 cuts, 55:59, this is substantial enough for me B+(***) [dl]

Holly Herndon: Movement (2012, RVNG Intl.): Discogs calls her a "sound artist currently based in San Francisco." Record has an experimental air, slowing down, stretching out, shrouding the beats with voices. B

Caroline Herring: Camilla (2012, Signature Sounds): Singer-songwriter, girl-with-guitar folkie division, from Mississippi, based in Atlanta, plain-spoken, wryly observant, works lines from "This Land Is Your Land" and "Auld Lang Syne" into songs. B+(*)

Holy Other: Held (2012, Tri Angle): Manchester, UK, DJ, builds a thick atmosphere with slow beats and gloomy backdrops, using choral voices for uplift that doesn't really work. B

How to Dress Well: Total Loss (2012, Acéphale): Second album for Tom Krell under his alias. The synths get this classified as electropop, and his vocals have a bit of soul appeal, but it's all pretty dense and murky -- a Pitchfork reviewer called it "a work of poignant and devastating art," as if that's praise. B

Ben Howard: Every Kingdom (2012, Universal Republic): Brit singer-songwriter, folkie division so he sings and strums, low key in every way, although he develops this luminescent aura around his music -- one analog is under water, like the cover pic shows. Says he learned his craft in the Mecca of English surfer culture. B

Jam City: Classical Curves (2012, Night Slugs): Jack Latham, British producer, likes hard beats with a lot of splash, or at least splatter, more mock horror comix than dance. Similar to Skrillex, which amused me at first, then proved too irritating. B+(**)

Kin: Songs by Mary Karr & Rodney Crowell (2012, Vanguard): Karr has published four volumes of poetry and three memoirs -- the first, at least, a huge bestseller, so presumably she does the words and Crowell the strumming. Crowell also sings four of ten (one feat. Kristofferson), with Vince Gill and the ladies (Norah Jones, Lucinda Williams, Lee Ann Womack, Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris) picking up the rest. B+(**)

Lindstrřm: Six Cups of Rebel (2012, Smalltown Supersound): Norwegian techno producer Hans-Peter Lindstrřm, has collaborated with Prins Thomas and more recently with singer Christabelle, here goes on his own, lots of upbeat synths with cartoon voices and other annoyances. B-

Lindstrřm: Smalhans (2012, Smalltown Supersound): This is more like it, chirpy synth dance beats and not much else, a little shift here and there, some bass beats, like that. B+(**)

Lowe Country: The Songs of Nick Lowe (2012, Fiesta Red): Started off in the British country-rock band Brinsley Schwarz, cut a couple extraordinarily amusing albums under his own name, married into the Carter Family with at least one of his songs picked up by paterfamilias Johnny Cash, got divorced, eventually became a dull caricature of himself; Lowe has plenty of songs, but maybe not enough for a country tribute, and in any case these aren't necessarily them, nor are the artists ideal -- exception proving the rule is Hayes Carll, who does hook one ("Living Again If It Kills Me"), while Griffin House rises to the song ("Cracking Up"). B

Lupe Fiasco: Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1 (2012, Atlantic): Fourth album, the title looking back to his initial success, more tacit evidence that not even the artist thought much of the two intervening albums -- which, by the way, I thought were just fine. I don't have a problem here either, just hedging because everyone else has -- and because the singing is a bit over the top. B+(**)

Mika: The Origin of Love (2012, Casablanca): Second greatest pop music icon to discard the given name of Penniman on his way to stardom, not that he's recognized as such in the US -- only major market his three albums have topped the charts in is France, and even there this hasn't gone platinum like Life in Cartoon Motion and The Boy Who Knew Too Much -- the latter soared onto my top ten list. This won't: his occasional hints of maturity inhibit him from reaching for the falsetto (exception: "Stardust"), but despite some philosophizing he still claims, "all I wanna do is make you happy" -- and he succeeds more often than not. A-

Buddy Miller/Jim Lauderdale: Buddy and Jim (2012, New West): I saw Lauderdale open unaccompanied for Lucinda Williams once and the notion that he is hopelessly minor league has stuck. Miller is capable of much more, even (at least in one case) without his better half steering him right, but he is out of ideas here -- a rockabilly song, sure, but "Vampire Girl"? B-

Father John Misty: Fear Fun (2012, Sub Pop): Josh Tillman, drummer in Fleet Foxes, makes his solo move, at least a more oblique one than anything released under J. Tillman. Not much here, the Beach Boys as much a feint as anything else. B

Hudson Mohawke x Lunice: Tnght (2012, Warp, EP): AMG, Discogs, etc., attribute this 5-cut EP to "TNGHT" even though the principals (or at least their usual aliases) are the only other words on the front cover. Even more mysterious is why both (all?) sources transcribe the title "TNGHT" even though the fourth letter is a reversed but unmistakable "N" -- something graphic designers are tempted to do, especially with a palindrome title. B+(*)

Maria Muldaur, et al.: . . . First Came Memphis Minnie (2012, Stony Plain): Originally announced as her 40th album, this got refiled as "various artists" when Bonnie Raitt, Rory Block, and Ruthie Foster butted in, and they picked up tracks from Koko Taylor and Phoebe Snow (hard to say no to "In My Girlish Days"), and besides, Muldaur had already done an album of Memphis Minnie songs -- Richland Woman Blues, her best ever, so why not spread the opportunity around? Still, Muldaur leads off most of these songs, even if she has to share some. But she owns them all. B+(***)

Mungolian Jet Set: Mungodelics (2012, Smalltown Supersound): Norwegian house group led by Pĺl Nyhus, with roots going back to jazztronica and acid jazz sources like Bugge Wesseltoft; classic-sounding synths on big beats, a delight except when they try to slip in a singer; on the other hand, "The Dark Incal" makes me wonder if I'm selling them short. B+(***)

Meshell Ndegéocello: Pour Une Âme Souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone (2012, Naďve): Simone's daughter, so perhaps this tribute was inevitable. The familiar songs mostly show that she doesn't have her mother's pipes, but comparison is beside the point. Just not sure what the point is. B+(*)

Niyaz: Sumud (2012, Six Degrees): Iranian-exile group, led by Montreal-based singer Azam Ali with trad-oriented Loga Ramin Torkian and Carmen Rizzo slipping in the fashionable electronics. Grooveful up front, relaxed by the end. B+(*)

Ondatrópica: Ondatrópica (2012, Soundway): Colombian supergroup, "conceived" by Mario Galeano of Frente Cumbiero, pulls together cumbia traditionalists and modernists and salsaists and reggaetoners and hip-hoppers pulling every which way but never settling for something merely mundane. Also available in a 2CD Deluxe Edition, although I think the single lets you download the surplus. A-

Lindi Ortega: Cigarettes & Truckstops (2012, Last Gang): Canadian singer-songwriter, aims for a country slice of life, hits it sometimes; oddly enough, rockabilly doesn't help. B+(*)

Charlie Peacock: No Man's Land (2012, Twenty Ten): Singer-songwriter from northern California, Charles Ashworth adopted the last name of a jazz bassist, one of many genres he's skirted without falling into. Sweet voice, easy-going soft rock, a little too much aura, but that's his producer's ear, and no less winning. B+(*)

John Pizzarelli: Double Exposure (2012, Telarc): Guitarist-crooner, a bit surprised to see AMG lists 26 albums under his name, the first titled I'm Hip -- Please Don't Tell My Father (1983, his father the still-active swing guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli). His idea of hip never advanced much beyond Cole and Sinatra, even though the songbook here draws mostly from the 1970s -- Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Dicky Betts, Billy Joel, Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers, Seals & Crofts, Elvis Costello, although he also slips in the Beatles, Leiber-Stoller, and "Lush Life." Large enough band with a few twists -- a bit of Brazil, some vocalese, a duet with Jessica Molaskey. B

Plan B: Ill Manors (2012, Atlantic): British MC, grime beats, third album, second movie -- The Defamation of Strickland Banks was the first -- which means plot matters, which means you have to pay attention as opposed to just letting the beats/rhymes do their work, and means you occasionally have to suffer through bits that presumably make more sense in the video context. Still, the music delivers often enough to offset, if not overwhelm, my usual soundtrack disinterest. B+(*)

P.O.S: We Don't Even Live Here (2012, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Minnesota rapper, Stefon Alexander, Doomtree founder, favors drums over sampled beats, giving this a bit of metal and a bit more punk to go with the anarchist rant. B+(*)

Tom Rainey Trio: Camino Cielo Echo (2011 [2012], Intakt): Drummer, best known for his work with Tim Berne, here leading a trio with, as the cover points out, Mary Halvorson (guitar) and Ingrid Laubrock (saxes), their second together. B+(***)

Redd Kross: Researching the Blues (2012, Merge): Another 1980s band, their big albums 1987-90, regroup for their first since 1997. Somewhere between post-punk and pop-metal, the uninteresting metallic crunch occasionally giving way to sickly sweet pop hooks. C+

Rodrigo y Gabriela & C.U.B.A.: Area 52 (2012, ATO): Nuevo flamenco guitar duo, Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero, from Mexico City, have a handful of albums which I imagine are easier going; here they hook up with a 13-piece Cuban big band and run flat out, layering their guitars on montunos and descargas and blasting them with horns, even a bit of Palestinian oud. B+(***)

Roller Trio: Roller Trio (2012, F-ire): English "jazz-rock" group -- James Mainwaring (sax, electronics), Luke Wynter (guitar), Luke Reddin-Williams (drums) -- or so they say. First album, nominated for a Mercury Prize, appeals to the noise interest in rock while keeping the rhythm tight, a combination that could be the hard bop of our time, recognizably jazz but with a populist appeal. B+(***)

Chelle Rose: Ghost of Browder Holler (2012, Lil' Damsel): First album after moving to Nashville in 1996 where she sought out and lost Townes Van Zandt, aims for deep country, dark shadows even where the Lord's light is alleged to reign supreme. B+(**)

Matthew Ryan: In the Dusk of Everything (2012, self-released): Singer-songwriter, has a dozen albums since 1997; first I've heard, but I assume he rocked harder when he was young. This limps along, mostly just guitar with some harmonica between the verses, haunting enough he may be onto something. B+(**)

Irčne Schweizer: To Whom It May Concern: Piano Solo Tonhalle Zürich (2011 [2012], Intakt): Swiss pianist, has rivalled Cecil Taylor for brazen explosiveness since the mid-1970s, tones it down a bit here in what would be dense and intense for anyone else. B+(**)

Shovels & Rope: O' Be Joyful (2012, Dualtone): Married singer-songwriter duo from South Carolina, Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst. Just when I'm thinking too much keyb for folk, they pull out the banjos and do a blues as a hoedown, full of twang and sass. B+(*)

Gwilym Simcock/Tim Garland/Asaf Sirkis: Lighthouse (2012, ACT): Just last names on cover, the first two -- piano and saxes, respectively, plus a drummer -- much better known in the UK than over here. I've been impressed, technically at least, by all three in the past, but there's a point where speed turns to clutter, and they pass it too often. B

Chris Smither: Hundred Dollar Valentine (2012, Signature Sounds): Folkie singer-songwriter, has a long list of pretty good albums, fine workmanship, none really compelling, and this is another. One exceptional song, "Make Room for Me," which starts out about global warming and grows from there. B+(*)

Sotho Sounds: Junk Funk (2012, Riverboat): From Lesotho, a mountainous enclave completely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa, very poor, overwhelmingly populated by Sotho, speaking Sesotho. The band crafts their instruments from spare junk, their melodies and chants from old towship jive, the rough edges part of their charm. B+(**)

The Soul Rebels: Unlock Your Mind (2012, Rounder): New Orleans band, heavy on the brass, happy to jump a blues or a pop cover, even one out of their league, like "Living for the City" or "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)." The rappers are fresher than the singers, and the brass is all section, no stars. B

Todd Terje: It's the Arps (2012, Smalltown Supersound, EP): Norwegian DJ, Terje Olsen, has a couple mix albums and a bunch of EPs and singles, this one 4 cuts, 20:57 (although Rhapsody repeats the last two cuts as one more); with no info, I assume the secret to the sound is old ARP synths -- bright, clean, bubbly, some bass too, good chance even I could dance to it. A-

This One's for Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark (2011, Icehouse, 2CD): With 30 songs/contributors, they didn't turn many away from the door nor did they leave many gems uncovered, but everyone has country-folk-Americana bona fides, and none are out to show up the songwriter, so easy-going professionalism is the rule. B+(***)

Scott Walker: Bish Bosch (2012, 4AD): Originally from Ohio, b. 1943, became some sort of legend in England in the late-1960s, hooking up with John Maus in the Walker Brothers -- his original name was Noel Scott Engel, but as the singer he kept the brand. Mounted a comeback from 1995 on with infrequent, bizarrely praised albums (1999, 2006, and now in 2012). Creepy operatic vocals over drums and synths. People like to quote the line about reeking gonads and shrunken faces, but he lost me at Persia and Thrace. Rare you hear a record and wonder how anyone could stand it. Makes you wonder what horrors the human psyche contains. C-

Matthew E. White: Big Inner (2012, Hometapes): Solo album from Virginia jazz band Fight the Big Bull leader -- not often you find a pop artist touting collaborations with Ken Vandermark and Steven Bernstein ahead of Megafaun and Sharon Van Etten. Still, this shows scant evidence of jazz: maybe a tendency to overarrange behind a voice that always feels underdressed. B

Dwight Yoakam: 3 Pears (2012, Warner Brothers): Country singer-songwriter out of the Bakersfield orbit, after a break of sorts moves on to a rock label and tunes up the drums accordingly, presumably for his arena breakthrough. B+(*)


Records I looked for but didn't find on Rhapsody:

  • Death Grips: No Love Deep Web (self-released, EP)
  • Fac. Dance 02: Factory Records 12" Mixes and Rarities (1980-87 [2012], Strut, 2CD)
  • Thomas Heberer's Clarino: Cookbook (2012, Red Toucan)
  • Robert Hood: Motor: Nighttime World 3 (2012, Music Man)
  • Peter Karp/Sue Foley: Beyond the Crossroads (2012, Blind Pig)
  • Lace Curtains: The Garden of Joy and the Well of Loneliness (2012, Female Fantasy)
  • Las Malas Amistades: Maleza (2012, Honest Jon's)
  • Janis Martin: The Blanco Sessions (2012, IODA)
  • Moreno and L'Orch First Moja-One: Sister Pili+2 (2012, Sterns)
  • Oh Mercy: Deep Heat (2012, Casa del Disco)
  • Om: Advaitic Songs (2012, Drag City)
  • Public Enemy: The Evil Empire of Everything (2012, Enemy)
  • Public Enemy: Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear on No Stamp (2012, Enemy)
  • Raime: Quarter Turns Over a Living Line (2012, Blackest Ever Black)
  • Rapsody: The Idea of Beautiful (2012, Jamla)
  • Rihanna: Unapologetic (2012, Def Jam)
  • Pharoah Sanders: In the Beginning 1963-1964 (1963-64 [2012], ESP-Disk, 4CD)
  • Andy Stott: Luxury Problems (2012, Modern Love)
  • Ken Vandermark/Paal Nilssen-Love: Letter to a Stranger (2012, Smalltown Superjazz)
  • David S Ware/Planetary Unknown: Live at Jazzfestival Saalfelden 2011 (2012, AUM Fidelity)

Also, from way back:

Revised Grades

Sometimes further listening leads me to change an initial grade, usually either because I move on to a real copy, or because someone else's review or list makes me want to check it again:

Ab-Soul: Control System (2012, !K7): California rapper, came out of Black Hippy as did Schoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar. Probably wearied of all the N* and B* on my first round, and there's still that, but stick with it and the musicality comes through the loose and limber word-slinging. [was: B] B+(**)

Spoek Mathambo: Father Creeper (2012, Sub Pop): South African rapper, kwaito electro or something like that, seemed interesting enough I grabbed it early then didn't make much sense of it. Christgau and Tatum liked it so much it landed on their top-ten lists, and I wound up picking up a copy and playing it at least a dozen times. First cut, "Kites," is big and catchy, but after that it wanders, the more conventional raps more satisfying than the alt-guitars or downbeat creeping. [was: B] B+(***) [cd]

Recycled Goods

The following were written during this period for Recycled Goods:

Louis Armstrong and the All Stars: Satchmo at Symphony Hall [65th Anniversary]: The Complete Performances (1947 [2012], Hip-O Select, 2CD): Complete comes to 119:37, a full 49:36 more than the 1996 Decca CD, which shaved a few seconds off everything, and a lot more by discarding feature spots for the All Stars -- from Jack Teagarden down to Arvell Shaw's bass solo, but mostly Velma Middleton; restoring all that reduces the real star's prominence, but also makes this show less like every other show, and more of a special event. A-

Buster Bailey: All About Memphis (1958, Felsted): This is the only LP under his name, but Bailey was one of the most important clarinetists of early jazz, starting with W.C. Handy, going on to King Oliver, Fletcher Henderson, Mills Blue Rhythm Band, and John Kirby; his core quartet "Beale Street Blues" is a sheer delight, "Memphis Blues" sneaks up on you, and for his originals, they bring in Vic Dickenson for a tailgate party. B+(***)

Can: The Lost Tapes (1968-77 [2012], Mute, 3CD): As one only barely familiar with the Krautrock pioneer's 1972-74 peak, much of this unreleased, literally lost-and-found material defied my expectations -- not just the early blues grunge that sounds like they'd been listening to the Kinks and Them, or the quasi-Gong-meets-Beefheart nonsense, or some of the hardest rhythmic romps in instrumental rock, but even some of the synth sleeze they evolved; these things are usually for-fans-only, and I do wonder what fans think of it, but I find it unsettling -- I doubt you could whittle it down to a masterpiece, because what doesn't work is almost as interesting as what does. A-

Don Cherry: Organic Music Society (1971-72 [2012], Caprice): Searching for world consciousness, or just scratching it, from "North Brazilian Ceremonial Hymn" (Nana Vasconcelos), through "Relativity Suite," "The Creator Has a Master Plan," "Terry's Tune" (as in Riley), and "Bra Joe From Kilimanjaro" (Dollar Brand), with a Turkish drummer and way too much singing. B+(*)

The Complete Stanley Dance Felsted "Mainstream Jazz" Recordings 1958-1959 (1958-59, Fresh Sound, 9CD): An important jazz critic, Dance was born in England in 1910, moved to the US in 1937. In the late 1950s he coined the term "mainstream jazz" to describe swing musicians surviving in the post-bebop world. He dabbled on the production side, and in 1958-59 brought some of his favorites into the studio to record for the British label Felsted. This looks to be a box of nine LP-replicas, no extra takes or related trivia, but remastered sound plus a 44-page booklet including revised liner notes written by Dance in the 1970s. Dance's favorite ploy was to change the bands from one LP side to the next -- how much like a critic of the day to focus on the coherence of sides. Notes on the individual albums follow. B+(***)

Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis & Johnny Griffin Quintet: Live at Minton's Playhouse in New York City: Complete Recordings (1961 [2012], Fresh Sound, 2CD): Christgau credits Griffin for the first sax solo that he ever tuned into, and it's easy to back up from Griffin to Bird: he bought the whole package, especially the speed, an even meaner trick on tenor; Davis was another combative tenor saxophonist, eager to mix it up with anyone any time -- his Very Saxy, with Hawkins, Cobb, and Tate, may be the most exciting pure blowing session on record; Prestige mined these sets for four LPs, starting with The Tenor Scene, but as you see now, they never took a break. A-

Bill Evans: Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of the Gate (1968 [2012], Resonance, 2CD): Previously unreleased, one set on each disc, three songs repeated (out of eight or nine), in what turned out to be a good year for the trio -- Eddie Gomez is fully engaged, Marty Morell stays as far out of the way as Paul Motian did, and the pianist just plays and plays. A-

Bill Evans: Momentum (1972 [2012], Limetree, 2CD): Another previously unreleased live trio set, a concert in Groningen, also with Eddie Gomez and Marty Morell, stretches twelve songs to 92:42; stretches a bit thin in spots, but the piano is expressive, lush even. B+(**)

Coleman Hawkins: The High and Mighty Hawk (1958, Felsted): This one I've heard before, on a 1988 London CD, and it looks like it's later been reissued with extra tracks; with Buck Clayton, Hank Jones, Ray Brown, and Mickey Sheen, starts with one of Hawkins' best upbeat blues, remains superb even on the slowest ballads. A-

Coleman Hawkins: Moodsville (1960 [2003], Fresh Sound): Two 1960 albums on Crown with Thad Jones (trumpet) and Eddie Costa (piano/vibes), in 2010 remastered as The Hawk Swings: The Crown Sessions; the rhythm section swings nicely, but isn't especially engaged let alone commanding, at least by his standards; Jones closes strong, but he's never been a guy who fights for the spotlight, so it takes him a while to step up. B+(**)

Earl Hines/Cozy Cole: Earl's Backroom and Cozy's Caravan (1958, Felsted): One side is a quartet led by the piano great with Curtis Lowe on tenor and baritone sax; the other is a septet led by drummer Cozy Cole with no one I've heard of on tenor sax, trumpet, trombone, piano, guitar, or bass; one way the leaders prove their stature is how your ears move from the piano to the drums on the transition, but Cole loses his edge when he sit back for a blues vocal, and no one picks up the slack. B+(*)

Budd Johnson: Blues a la Mode (1958, Felsted): Tenor saxophonist, the missing link between Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster, and on their level -- once you're aware of him, as few people are, you'll find him everywhere; Charlie Shavers adds some fine trumpet, and Vic Dickenson and Al Sears add to the rousing septet, but on his own Johnson plays some of the most romantic tenor sax you'll ever hear; also available with a later session as The Stanley Dance Sessions (1958-67 [2005], Lone Hill Jazz). A-

Little Richard: Here's Little Richard (1955-57 [2012], Specialty): First LP, rolled up his first six singles from "Tutti Frutti" through "She's Got It," all top-ten r&b, with "Long Tall Sally" his first top-ten chart hit (of only two all-time), padded by filler that sounds like Fats Domino discards -- Dave Bartholomew ran both bands; reissue tacks on two demos and a nine-minute interview with Art Rupe, where he laments not making more money off of Richard. B+(**)

Hank Mobley: Newark 1953 (1953 [2012], Uptown, 2CD): Young tenor saxophonist, two years before he cut the first of his many fine Blue Notes, in a previously unreleased live set with Bennie Green on trombone and Walter Davis, Jr. on piano, working their best bop moves on the songs of the day, stretching out to 16 minutes on "Pennies From Heaven" -- the weakness in the sound just adds to the ambiance. B+(***)

Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie: Diz 'n Bird at Carnegie Hall (1947 [1997], Blue Note): Five quintet tracks closing with "Koko," then Gillespie brings his big band on for ten more tracks, replacing Parker with Howard Johnson and John Brown; sound is fair, enough to convey the excitement of the big band if not full detail. B

Charlie Parker: Charlie Parker With Strings: The Master Takes (1949-50 [1995], Verve): Like Bix Beiderbecke, Parker was an ill-fated hick who aspired to good taste, so he thought playing with a classical string section would be the heights of sophistication; it turned out to be a formula for dreck, but at least his ballad tone had matured, and was rarely better recorded. B-

Charlie Parker: South of the Border (1948-52 [1995], Verve): Early cuts with Machito's big band, small groups with bongos (José Mangual) and congas (Luis Miranda), Chico O'Farrill's overwrought 17-minute "Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite" with Mario Bauza and Chino Pozo next to Sweets Edison and Buddy Rich, Parker plays "catch up" rather than "leap ahead" and it suits him. B+(***)

Charlie Parker: Big Band (1950-53 [1999], Verve): Joe Lipman arranged the first ten tracks, standards with section blare over drippy strings, the sort of thing that makes you wish for a magic button to record only the soloist -- Parker himself seems exceptionally fit; Gil Evans had a hand on the other three songs, but so did Dave Lambert, and the eleven extra takes wear out their welcome real fast. B-

Charlie Parker: At Storyville (1953 [1988], Blue Note): Two live broadcasts, one with Red Garland's trio, the other a quintet with Sir Charles Thompson and Herb Pomeroy on trumpet, Roy Haynes and Kenny Clarke the drummers; came out in 1985 and totals 40:21; half Parker pieces + "Groovin' High," typical runs with little else, nothing stretched past 5:05. B

Charlie Parker: Now's the Time (1952-53 [1990], Verve): Dumped onto CD in 1990, with "the Quartet of Charlie Parker" sketched across the front cover bottom, these two quartet sessions -- one with Hank Jones and Teddy Kotick, the other with Al Haig and Percy Heath, both with Max Roach -- appeared first on LP (MGV 8005) as The Genius of Charlie Parker, #3: Now's the Time, probably c. 1956-57, with the same song order, including back-to-back alternate takes, usually annoying but here considered the tribute such genius demands: true fans will want to examine every precious note. The CD is out of print now, supplanted by Verve's 1998 "Master Edition" -- sometimes called Hi-Fi (the words do appear on the front cover) but more often just Charlie Parker -- expanded with even more alternate takes, shuffled to the end this time, and a couple extra septet tracks.

The cult of Parker started early and has persisted largely through sheer force of iteration. I don't doubt his charisma, which is attested to from many credible sources, but I've never managed to hear him as a revolutionary, perhaps because I came to him late -- well after I had heard Ornette Coleman and Anthony Braxton -- but also because his innovations became so ordinary in such short order. (Parker's title tune was seven years old when he covered it here, already sounding tired and out of place.) I've mellowed on him as a person, no longer blaming him for jazz's abandonment of pop music -- he wasn't that significant -- nor condemning him as a moral reprobate who led others to ruin. (For one thing, he was one of the first black men in America to live his life oblivious to, if not unaffected by, white racism.) Still, his cult annoys me to no end, mostly because they insist on things I cannot hear, and when doubted all they can do is parlent plus forte. I recently referred to this as "shameless idolatry" -- a phrase which Robert Christgau, long a prime example, proudly adopted for his review of this and another dusty Parker tome. We've disagreed on Parker ever since my first sampling -- Bird/The Savoy Recordings (Master Takes) and The Verve Years (1950-51) -- in 1976, and the more I've heard, the less common ground we've enjoyed. Christgau went on to write one of the best Parker lines ever: "No one else has ever articulated so many ear-boggling, mind-exploding, stomach-churning, rib-tickling musical ideas so easily -- so brilliantly -- so insouciantly -- so passionately -- so fast." Were it only true: the clue is "no one else" because Christgau has shown virtually no interest in any of Parker's contemporaries (aside from Thelonious Monk, who easily bests Parker on at least half of those counts -- it's worth recalling that Monk wrote music no one could play, whereas in rapid course everyone was aping Parker).

I thought I'd consider this record because Christgau gave it an A+ and I hadn't heard it. Turns out it's not in print and not on Rhapsody, but it was possible to reconstruct it from tracks on the 1998 edition. One big problem with Parker is that even before you sink into the live shots and bootlegs the sound quality of Parker's studio work was rarely good and often awful, but these relatively late sessions sound fine. The two pianists are superb, the bass is nicely balanced, and Max Roach was one of the few drummers who could make bebop work. Parker himself, his death less than three years ahead and his prime more than three years past, is relaxed and fit -- I wouldn't say passionate or fast, but for once his tone warms up the opening standard ("The Song Is You") and he negotiates the changes on his own pieces impeccably well. This is, in short, the mature Parker, the sort of record he might have kept making into old age. It's just that, at 32, he already was old -- about as old as he was ever going to get. A-

The Quintet: Jazz at Massey Hall [Original Jazz Classics Remasters] (1953 [2012], Debut/OJC): Invariably filed under alto saxophonist Charlie Parker's name, even though he was billed at the Toronto venue as Charlie Chan. For Parker followers, this is the most easily overrated album of all time, partly because the all-star cast -- Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, Bud Powell on piano, Charles Mingus on bass, and Max Roach on drums -- suggests more than can possibly be delivered, and partly because this has long had pride of place as Parker's first live bootleg: an authorized boot, in fact, recorded by Mingus for the Debut label he and Roach founded, the only musician-owned label of the day. And it's been reissued promiscuously ever since, often with "the greatest jazz concert ever" slapped across the cover. It originally appeared on two 10-inch LPs, made it to 12-inch at least by 1962, and CD in 1989, and the sound was so lousy that Mingus re-recorded his bass parts. In 2003 the Spanish label Jazz Factory released Complete Jazz at Massey Hall under Parker's name, expanding the 46:07 album to 72:25. This year's OJC remaster reverts to the canonical 6-song format, with markedly improved sound and a lot of crowd ambiance. Starts with Ellington's "Perdido" vamp, runs through three Gillespie pieces, none of Parker's tunes, and he's not all that prominent. At the time, there was a Vol. 2 with just the rhythm section -- even here, Powell is the most consistent performer, and Mingus made damn well certain that you could hear the bass -- but that's largely fallen by the wayside. It seems history has followed the Dean Benedetti rule: turn the machine off whenever Parker sits out. B+(*)

Charlie Parker: Complete Jazz at Massey Hall (1953 [2003], Jazz Factory): Released in Spain the moment the 50-year-limit copyright clock ran out, a sane law especially considering that all the stars are long dead. The extra minutes (72 vs. 46) mostly come from the Trio, when the horns took a break and let Bud Powell steal the show -- material that Debut had released separately at the time. The sound is more natural and open -- evidently the bass overdubs were scrubbed -- and without the rush I found myself noticing Chan more (and Gillespie less): terrific solo on "All the Things You Are"; pretty good one on "Hot House." Clearly not such a slouch as I sometimes think, and not dead yet, either. B+(***)

Bud Powell: Jazz at Massey Hall: Volume Two (1953 [1991], Debut/OJC): Six piano trio cuts from the famous Quintet show with Mingus and Roach but no horns, padded out with another ten cuts (including outtakes) with George Duvivier and Art Taylor; "Jubilee" offers Bud at his bounciest, but much of this falls flat, such as his attempt to comp behind Mingus' "Bass-ically Speaking" solo. B

Laurie Spiegel: The Expanding Universe (1974-80 [2012], Unseen Worlds, 2CD): Electronic music, invented at Bell Labs when they were riding high on their discoveries of the transistor, the laser, and the big band; first piece sounds like minimalism on a clavinet -- could have extended that alone indefinitely, but new concepts keep coming along, all through the first disc (matches the original 2LP) and well into the second before it settles into engagingly atmospheric. Should very likely be deemed one of the classics of its genre -- described by AMG as "Avant-Garde/Classical/Pop-Rock." A-

Rex Stewart: Rendezvous With Rex (1958, Felsted): Ellington's trumpet star 1931-45, left to tour with JATP and run his own big band but never had much success; mostly octet: lush reeds and tasty guitar to bounce his cornet off of, picking up a bit on the one he sings ("My Kind of Gal") and ending with the lovely "Blue Echo." B+(**)

Billy Strayhorn: Cue for Saxophone (1959, Felsted): The saxophonist here, originally credited as Cue Porter, was Johnny Hodges, in one of the world's easiest blindfold tests; he's surrounded by regulars Shorty Baker, Quentin Jackson, and Russell Procope, with the leader on piano on one of the first of his few albums; Hodges is as sublime as ever. A-

Buddy Tate: Swinging Like . . . Tate (1958, Felsted): One of the famed "Texas Tenors," Tate joined Count Basie's band from 1939-48; he held a long (1953-74) residency at the Celebrity Club in Harlam, and starting with this album recorded dozens of examples of his ability to swing a blues -- my favorite is a 1961 date with Buck Clayton, Buck and Buddy Swing the Blues; a little unsteady on the first side, but then Clayton, Dicky Wells, and Jo Jones reunite for the second, really perking up the saxophonist. B+(**)

Jack Teagarden: Texas Trombone (1958 [2012], Black Lion Vault): Louis Armstrong never went anywhere without a great, or at least a gruff, trombonist at his beck and call, and when he put his All-Stars together, this Texas was his pick, incidentally integrating the band -- a sign of change in 1947; live at the Orpheum in Seattle, usual songbook, with Don Ewell on piano and lesser knowns, with Jerry Fuller's clarinet especially noteworthy. B+(*)

Mal Waldron: Quiet Temple (1964 [2012], Black Lion Vault): Trio, originally released as Les Nuits de la Negritude, helps fill a big gap between the pianist's prolific 1950s emergence -- with Mingus and McLean, accompanying Billie Holiday and other singers, in his own trios and solos -- and his post-1970 avant-garde fruition; most pieces are built from dense rhythmic blocks, but give him a break and he's as thoughtful as ever. A-

Mal Waldron: The Search (1970s [2012], Black Lion Vault): Previously unissued piano trio, two songs (one also on a 1972 Enja album), 33:24, no credits for bass-drums, may have been recorded at Montmartre Jazzhuis in Copenhagen; second piece, "Entracte," is especially strong with its piano-drums dialogue; docked a bit for lack of credits. B+(**)

Ben Webster/Johnny Hodges Sextet: The Complete 1960 Jazz Cellar Session (1960 [2011], Solar): With Lou Levy on piano and Herb Ellis on guitar, aside from five "bonus tracks" where Ray Nance and Lawrence Brown drop in, with Russ Freeman on piano and Emil Richards on vibes; the sort of light blues-based thing they could do by rote, but utterly charming, as always. A-

Dicky Wells: Bones for the King (1958, Felsted): One of the swing era's top trombonists, a star with Fletcher Henderson and Count Basie; first side adds Vic Dickenson, Benny Morton, and George Matthews for a trombone quartet, with an amusing vocal on "Sweet Daddy Spo-Do-O"; second side is more trad, trading lines with Buck Clayton, Rudy Rutherford, and Buddy Tate, with Jo Jones keeping time. B+(**)

Dicky Wells: Trombone Four in Hand (1959, Felsted): More of his trombone quartet, with Skip Hall's organ (or piano) and Kenny Burrell or Everett Barksdale on guitar, sticks close to the blues base, with one vocal, where Wells and Vic Dickenson detail their tastes in women. B+(*)


Everything streamed from Rhapsody, except as noted in brackets following the grade:

  • [cd] based on physical cd (but made most sense to review here)
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com
  • [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely available, or may be a promo deal