Streamnotes: October 26, 2021


Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on September 26. Past reviews and more information are available here (18011 records).


Recent Releases

JD Allen: Queen City (2020 [2021], Savant): Tenor saxophonist, a major figure for over two decades, coped with lockdown by recording this solo album. B+(*)

Thomas Anderson: Ladies and Germs (2021, Out There): Singer-songwriter, debut 1988, ten albums since, nice unfancy melodies, clever words that mature into stories. Christgau considers this his best since that debut. I'm not so sure, but this is another good one, getting better as I try to write. A-

Atmosphere: Word? (2021, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Long-running Minneapolis hip-hop duo, debut 1997, Ant and Slug. B+(*)

Nathan Bell: Red, White and American Blues (It Couldn't Happen Here) (2021, Need to Know): Singer-songwriter, from Iowa, looks like he has ten or so albums going back to 2007 (In Tune, On Time, Not Dead). Sings about prison and guns and money and Jesus and his father, and most of all about an America that's making it rougher and tougher than anyone deserves. Patty Griffin helps out. Need to hear more. A [cd]

Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra: Tinctures in Time (Community Music, Vol. 1) (2021, Royal Potato Family): Trumpet player, played with Lounge Lizards, founded Sex Mob, did some arranging for Robert Altman and came up with his Millennial Territory Orchestra in 2006. Returns here after a ten-year break, referencing Ellington, Fela, and Hal Willner. B+(***) [bc]

Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Angels Over Oakanda (2018-21 [2021], Avantgroidd): Ace critic Greg Tate's jazz project, co-led by bassist Jared Michael Nickerson, 20 years and about that many records into their own long, strange trip. Conducted improv, but rarely strays far from its seductive groove. B+(***) [bc]

Whit Dickey/William Parker/Matthew Shipp: Village Mothership (2020 [2021], Tao Forms): Drums-bass-piano trio, joint song credits so auteurs listed alphabetically, though it may help that the drummer has raised his profile significantly over the last couple years (also that this is his label). Shipp honors him with some of his most percussive playing. A- [cd]

DMX Krew: Loose Gears (2021, Hypercolour): One of several alias used by British electronica producer Edward Upton, many records since 1996. Nice beats, not supercharged, but don't fade away. B+(***)

Erin Enderlin: Barroom Mirrors EP (2021, Black Crow Productions, EP): Country singer-songwriter from Arkansas, quite some voice, three albums, best-known single "I Can Be Your Whiskey," offers two more "whiskey" titles here, several more set in bars. Six songs, 21:24. B+(**)

Hernâni Faustino: Twelve Bass Tunes (2020 [2021], Phonogram Unit): Portuguese double bass player, probably best known for RED Trio, but has a fair number of side credits, including work with Rodrigo Amado and José Lencastre. Solo bass, as advertised, the format limited as usual, but his execution thoughtful as ever. B+(***) [cd]

Thomas Fehlmann: Böser Herbst (2021, Kompakt): Swiss electronica producer, based in Berlin, been doing it since the 1980s, not a huge number of albums (Discogs lists 13). Title translates as: bad (or evil) autumn. Written as soundtrack for a documentary, related to Babylon Berlin (previous alsum was 1929: Das Jahr Babylon). Ambient in tone, but never fades into background. A-

Joe Fiedler's "Open Sesame": Fuzzy and Blue (2021, Multiphonics): Trombonist, debut album 1998 but more recent, with one called Open Sesame in 2019. Quintet with trumpet (Steven Bernstein), soprano/tenor sax (Jeff Lederer), bass, and drums, plus a couple vocals by Miles Griffith (hated them at first, still not a fan but they do sorta fit in). Not far removed from Bernstein's postmodern take on swing (although he could have backed into it). B+(***) [cd] [11-12]

Adam Forkelid: 1st Movement (2021, Prophone): Swedish pianist, third album, I was very impressed by his previous Reminiscence (2018). Originals, backed by guitar, bass, and drums. B+(***) [cd]

Kazemde George: I Insist (2019 [2021], Greenleaf Music): Tenor saxophonist, from California, studied in Boston, wound up in New York. Debut album. Bio talks about African diaspora music, including hip-hop. My guess is that he's aiming at the kind of crossover that's popular in London recently, but has rarely worked in the US. Backed by piano/keyboard, bass, and drums, his groove is engaging and solo flights majestic. Also features vocalist Sami Stevens, who I am less taken with. B+(***) [cd]

Julia Govor: Winter Mute (2021, Jujuka, EP): Russian techno producer, based in New York, has more than a dozen singles/EPs since 2014. This one has 4 tracks, 20:14. Nice beats. B+(**)

Mickey Guyton: Remember Her Name (2021, Capitol Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, first album after four EPs and a Grammy nomination for "Black Like Me." More than a bit overproduced, sometimes over the top, although she has her points, and make some so convincingly, I wish I could leave it there. B+(***)

Jazz Daddies: Moontower Nights (2021, self-released): Austin, TX group: regulars are Randy Larkin (guitar), Kenny Felton (drums), and Andrew Malay (sax), with Shane Pitsch (trumpet) on 5/10 tracks, and either Marty Mitchell or Gary Feist on bass (8-2). First album. Pleasant enough. B [cd]

Eunhye Jeong: Nolda (2021, ESP-Disk): Korean pianist, fourth album, solo, impressive strength and daring. B+(**) [cd]

Rochelle Jordan: Play With the Changes (2021, Young Art): R&B singer-songwriter, born in UK, grew up in Toronto, based in Los Angeles, fourth album since 2011, atmospheric electronica with some gravitas, not sure how danceable (if that's the point). B+(***)

Jü: III (2021, RareNoise): Avant-rock trio from Budapest, guitar-bass-drums with some vocals, sound like they might be onto something but tend to wear out their welcome. B+(*) [cdr]

Kuzu: All Your Ghosts in One Corner (2020 [2021], Aerophonic): Free jazz trio -- Dave Rempis (saxophones), Tashi Dorji (guitar), Tyler Damon (drums) -- played for noise, at the limits of what I can stand, but sounded pretty great when I got to it. Hedged because I didn't feel like repeating the experience right away. B+(***) [cd]

José Lencastre Nau Quartet + Pedro Carneiro: Thoughts Are Things (2021, Phonogram Unit): Portuguese saxophonist (tenor and alto), fourth album with this group -- two-thirds of RED Trio (Rodrigo Pinheiro on piano and Hernâni Faustino on bass) plus his brother João (drums). Guest Carneiro plays marimba, neither here nor there, but the saxophone is superb, even when he slows it down. A- [cd]

David Leon: Aire De Agua (2020 [2021], Out of Your Head): Cuban-American alto saxophonist, born in Miami, based in Brooklyn, first album, quartet with piano (Sonya Belaya), bass, and drums. Free jazz, intriguing stuff. B+(***) [cd]

Lil Nas X: Montero (2021, Columbia): Montero Hill, more-singer-than-rapper, from Georgia, 22, broke a number one single off his debut EP, has a couple more hits off this debut album. Which makes him an icon as well as a hit machine, though I'm not clear on any of it. B+(*)

Karen Marguth: Until (2014-21 [2021], OA2): Jazz singer, born in Minneapolis, raised in Bay Area, based in Fresno? Four previous albums, this one adding four recent recordings to material from 2014-15. Most songs are from rock singer-songwriters (Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell through Sting to Andrew Bird), which may be one reason "Comes Love" stands out. B+(*) [cd]

John Moulder: Metamorphosis (2019 [2021], Origin): Guitarist, out of Chicago, handful of albums since 2003, backed here by piano trio (Richie Beirach, Steve Rodby, Paul Wertico). Centerpiece is "Metamorphosis Suite." B [cd]

Bryan Murray & Jon Lundbom: Beats by Balto! Vol. 2 (2021, Chant): Saxophonist Murray (aka Balto Exclamationpoint) provides the beats. Lundbom plays guitar, was credited first on Vol. 1, and claims all of the compositions here. Joined by Jon Irabagon (more saxophones), Matt Kanelos (keyboards), Moppa Elliott (bass), and others. A little more erratic than their previous effort, but the concept of free jazz over fractured beats is sound. B+(***) [cd] [11-07]

Jo Berger Myhre: Unheimlich Manoeuvre (2021, RareNoise): Norwegian bassist, also does electronics, third album since 2017 (or fourth if you count the one headlined by Nils Petter Molvaer). Three solo tracks, the others have 1-3 guests -- acoustic guitar, keyboards, percussion, narration (Vivian Wang). B+(**) [cdr]

Randy Napoleon: Rust Belt Roots: Randy Napoleon Plays Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and Kenny Burrell (2018 [2021], OA2): Guitarist, originally from Michigan, half-dozen albums since 2002. Wrote 5 pieces here, the rest from the aforementioned guitarists (and Buddy Montgomery). Backed by piano trio. For a long time every American jazz guitarist sounded like Wes Montgomery. Some still do. B+(**) [cd]

Q'd Up: Going Places (2021, Tantara): Long-running group of faculty at Brigham Young University School of Music, founded in 1983 by Ray Smith (as Faculty Jazz Quintet), adopting its current name in 1998. Discogs lists two albums, one from 2009, another from 2018. Percussionist Jay Lawrence composed 6 (of 11) tracks. Pleasant, easy-listening jazz. B [cd]

RaeLynn: Baytown (2021, Round Here): Country singer Rachel Lynn Woodward, from Baytown, Texas, second album, same title and same cover pose (different background colors) as her 2020 EP. Big sound, deep drawl, feisty and brassy. B+(***)

Rebellum: The Darknuss (2021, Avantgroidd): "Burnt Sugar Arkestra's Avant Funk & Roll Splinter Cell": down to five musician credits, but with guests and four vocalists, they make for a postmodern Funkadelic. B+(***) [bc]

Matthew Stevens: Pittsburgh (2021, Whirlwind): Guitarist, originally from Toronto, based in New York, third album, solo, on a 1956 Mahogany Martin 00-17 with "warm, brilliant steel-string tone." B [cd]

Trondheim Jazz Orchestra & The MaXx: Live (2018 [2021], MNJ): Norwegian big band, more than two dozen albums since 2005, each co-credited with a guest, in this case a "power pop/indie/fusion trio" -- Petter Kraft (guitar/tenor sax/vocals), Oscar Grönberg (keybs), Tomas Järmyr (drums) -- with one EP on their resume, and credit for these pieces. Finds a compelling groove when the vocalist (Mia Marlen Berg?) enters on the second track ("Orgelbla"). Next cut rocks harder, which brings out the noise in the free jazz contingent, but that's not all they do. B+(**)

Trondheim Jazz Orchestra & Ole Morten Vågan: Plastic Wave (2020 [2021], Odin, 2CD): Bassist-composer Vågan was previously featured guest on 2018's Happy Endings. Lots of interesting looks here, starting with Ola Kvernberg's violin, but the piece that really takes off is "Pickaboogaloo" on disc 2, so much so everything else gets sharper. A- [bc]

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Albert Ayler: New York Eye and Ear Control Revisited (1964 [2021], Ezz-Thetics): Straight reissue of the 1966 ESP-Disk album (3 tracks, 43:27), previously jointly credited with Don Cherry (cornet/trumpet), John Tchicai (alto sax), Roswell Rudd (trombone), Gary Peacock (double bass), and Sunny Murray (drums). B+(*) [bc]

Albert Ayler Quintet: 1966: Berlin, Lörrach, Paris & Stockholm. Revisited (1966 [2021], Ezz-Thetics): Scattered live tracks from a November, 1966 tour of Europe, tenor saxophone backed by trumpet (Don Ayler), violin (Michel Samson), bass, and drums. This repackages material previously on two Hatology CDs, returning to the same pieces each concert: "Truth Is Marching In," "Omega (Is the Alpha)," "Our Prayer," "Ghosts," and variations on same. Ayler was "far out," but rooted in a spiritual primitivism. B+(***) [bc]

Marion Brown: Capricorn Moon to Juba Lee Revisited (1965-66 [2019], Ezz-Thetics): Alto saxophonist (1931-2010), born in Atlanta, wound up in New York with the avant-garde. This recycles some of his ESP-Disk records, with two tracks from Marion Brown Quartet sessions (with Alan Shorter and Rashied Ali), plus two (of 4) tracks from his Septet Juba Lee. A- [bc]

John Coltrane Quartet: Newport, New York, Alabama, 1963 Revisited (1963 [2021], Ezz-Thetics): Live recordings from a year when Coltrane and his Quartet (even with Roy Haynes sitting in, as he did at Newport) could do nothing wrong. First three tracks were previously on Newport '63 (released 1993 with a fourth piece). The other five tracks (including two actually recorded at Van Gelder Studios) were released in 1964 as Live at Birdland, one of Coltrane's masterpieces. "Alabama," by the way, is just a song title, although you probably knew that. Total 79:56. My big question is how and why they wound up on this legendary Swiss label offshoot (Hat Records by another name). Docked a bit for the confusion. B+(***) [bc]

John Coltrane: Chasin' the Trane Revisited (1961 [2021], Ezz-Thetics): Another retitling of a Coltrane live classic, the master takes from Live at the Village Vanguard, plus an alternate take of "Spiritual" to bring the time up to 79:29. Eric Dolphy (bass clarinet) joins for 3/6 tracks. Grade docked, but this is some of his greatest music ever. A- [bc]

John Coltrane: A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle (1965 [2021], Impulse): Stunningly brilliant quartet album, was followed by a slightly extended live performance in Paris which was eventually included in A Love Supreme [Deluxe Edition], but otherwise the piece was rarely referenced in later live dates (which have been mined extensively in the US and even more in Europe, where they seem to be regarded as fair game. So this find was instantly touted as a big deal. It certainly is big: group adds two saxophonists -- Carlos Ward on alto and Pharoah Sanders on tenor) -- and a second bassist (Donald Garrett), and the movements have extended interludes, stretching the whole thing to 76:09. Everywhere I look, I see accolades, but what I hear, even allowing for the muddled sound, is tentative and messy. Three months before this concert, Coltrane added 7 avant-oriented musicians to his quartet and recorded Ascension, a free-for-all I long resisted and only recently made my peace with. This sounds like he's trying to force the original themes, so clear and precise and moving, through his free jazz sausage-making machinery. Perhaps if I give it enough chance this too will grow on me. Last play I did find a passage that moved me, but it was just a long Elvin Jones drum solo. The following McCoy Tyner piano solo was also pretty good. B+(**)

Kid Creole and the Coconuts: Nothin' Left but the Rest (1996 [2021], 2C2C): Reissue of The Kid and I, originally released in France under August Darnell's own name, presented here as a long-lost Kid Creole album. Adds three tracks, two described as "A KCC Treasure Chest Demo." B+(**)

Lionel Loueke: Close Your Eyes (2018 [2021], Sounderscore): Jazz guitarist from Benin, moved to Ivory Coast to study, then Paris, then Berklee. Records from 2005, this a basic trio with bass (Reuben Rogers) and drums (Eric Harland), doing standards, a nice way to showcase his tone and style. Originally on vinyl-only subscription label Newville, so this is first CD release. B+(***) [cd]

Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets: Walkabout (2013-19 [2020], Yep Roc): Originally a promo for an Australian tour of Lowe backed by the Nashville-based band: first half credited to Lowe (from two recent EPs), second credited to the band (Latin-tinged instrumentals of Lowe songs from 2017's What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets plus an earlier "Friday on My Mind"), plus "Heart of the City" from both. B

Nadje Noordhuis: Gullfoss (2019 [2021], Little Mystery): Trumpet player, from Australia, based in New York, Newville released this on vinyl in 2019, which makes this a reissue. Also credited with electronics, band with guitar, marp, synthesizer, and bass, risking ambient. B+(*) [bc]

Send I a Lion: A Nighthawk Reggae Joint (1979-84 [2019], Omnivore): Nighthawk Records was originally a blues label founded by Robert Schoenfeld and Leroy Pierson, who moved it into reggae, with an emphasis on roots/rastafaris, like the Itals. This 20-track comp repeats 5 titles from 1982's Calling Rastafari (but none from 1981's Wiser Dread or 1983's Knotty Vision), and offers no Itals (but 5 Gladiators). Selected and annotated by Pierson, with some "non-LP stray tracks." B+(***)

Billy Joe Shaver & Kinky Friedman: Live Down Under (2002 [2021], Omnivore): Two Texas legends, long way from home playing three nights in Sydney, sharing the same band but alternating songs. Seems like an odd way to do it: Shaver has the deeper songbook, and Friedman tends to break him up. Then, of course, they get to religion. [PS: There is also a 2-CD from this tour, Live From Down Under, released 2002 on Sphincter Records.] B+(**)

Mike Taylor: Trio, Quartet & Composer (1965-68 [2021], Ezz-Thetics): British pianist, drowned in 1969 at 30, released a trio album in 1967 (Jon Hiseman on drums, bass split between Ron Rubin and Jack Bruce, all here), and a quartet in 1966 (with Dave Tomlin on soprano sax, one cut here, "A Night in Tunisia"). Last three tracks here were pieces he composed for Cream's Wheels on Fire (with Ginger Baker lyrics), which is an odd way to stretch a rare and historic jazz CD to 71:17. B+(*)

Old Music

Keola Beamer: Wooden Boat (1994, Dancing Cat): Hawaiian slack key guitarist, first record was called Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar in the Real Old Style (1972), has a couple dozen more up to 2012-13, this the only one I bothered to pick up. Sings some here. Very slack. B+(*)

Nathan Bell: In Tune, On Time, Not Dead (2007, Zensuit): First album, as far as I can tell, same voice and eye for detail, rocks a bit harder to start, and features two standout political songs that these days remind you that the Bush/terror years were pretty bad too: "What Did You Do Today" and "It's Not the Heat" ("it's the stupidity"). A-

Nathan Bell: Traitorland (2008, Zensuit): Fundamentals: country voice, folk guitar and blues harmonica. Father was a poet, and he puts a lot of effort into his words, even when a title gets the better of him ("The Legendary Legend of the Legendary Hoyet Henry's Legendary Guitar"). Well, some electric guitar, too. Title strikes me as prescient: I can't recall lefties talking about traitors before Trump turned the world upside down and made us realize we love this land and people much more than the flag-waving bigots do. "We shall be free." A-

Nathan Bell: Black Crow Blue (An American Album) (2011, Stone Barn): Slow ones, like reading a book . . . mostly about crows. B+(**)

Nathan Bell: Blood Like a River (2013, Stone Barn): Another slow one, just guitar and words. B+(*)

Nathan Bell: I Don't Do This for Love, I Do This for Love (Working and Hanging On in America) (2015, Stone Barn): More finely wrought songs -- lyrics booklet is up to 20 pages -- some with band and/or backup singers, some served up plain. B+(***)

Nathan Bell: Love > Fear (48 Hours in Traitorland) (2017, Stone Barn): Sounds live and minimalist, just guitar and voice, and some recycled songs. First up is "The Big Old American Dream," as in: "he was just slipping off the edge of the big old American dream." He coined the term "traitorland" six years earlier, but it was never more a propos than when Trump made "America Great Again." B+(***)

Nathan Bell: Er Gwaetha Pawb a Phopeth (In Spite of Everyone & Everything) (2017 [2018], Angry Stick): Live from Cwitch Coffee, Pembroke Dock, Wales, with four new songs as well as "11 favorites." B+(**)

Nathan Bell: Loves Bones and Stars, Love's Bones and Stars (2018, Angry Stick): Another thoughtful, carefully wrought low-key album. B+(***)

Chris Berry and the Bayaka of Yandoumbe: Listen . . . OKA! (2011, Oka Productions): Artist credit per Discogs, though I don't see it on the cover scans: just OKA! on the spine, with a much smaller print Listen . . . centered above. Discogs doesn't specify which Chris Berry -- a search offers 16 of them -- but Wikipedia has a page for him, just not any discography. From California, got into African percussion, and wound up recording Bayaka Pygmies in the Central African Republic for a soundtrack. The drums and chants and sounds of nature seem primitivist, redolent of the "darkest Africa" mythos, yet with a vibrancy and complexity civilization like to crush because it cannot be tamed. A-

Bingo: Songs for Children in English With Brazilian and Caribbean Rhythms (2005, Soundbrush): No artist credit, but not a "various artists" compilation: one band, one sound, throughout. Christy Baron is the singer, and pianist Roger Davidson is the critical factor, a master of the Latin groove that conveys these nursery rhymes (and a couple pop songs simplistic enough to pass), and organizes the percussion and the horns. B+(*) [cd]

Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Live From Minnegiggle Falls (2004 [2007], Avant Groidd): A Greg Tate conduction of a nine-piece group (plus vocals) recorded in Minneapolis. B+(**)

Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: All Ya Needs That Negrocity (2008-11 [2011], Avant Groidd): Looks like the group generated a lot of music from 2000-07, slowed down through this 2011 release, then started a comeback in 2017. Conduction with 27 musicians (total, probably not all at once), starts with a riff on "Cold Sweat," moves on to "Libertango," then mixes it up further. A- [bc]

Calling Rastafari (1981 [1982], Nighthawk): Unsure of dates, as I can find versions of songs as far back as 1974, but this seems to have been conceived as a label sampler for their roots artists (label founded 1979): Culture, Gladiators, Mighty Diamonds, Itals, Wailing Souls. B+(***)

Rhys Chatham: A Rhys Chatham Compendium (1971-89 [2002], Table of the Elements): Avant composer, plays guitar, has records like Two Gongs (1971), Guitar Trio (1977), and A Crimson Grail (For 400 Electric Guitars). This slims down a 2-CD box set -- An Angel oves Too Fast to Sea (Selected Works 1971-1989) -- including bits from some of those titles. Choice cut is the 21:46 guitar romp from 1985: Die Donnergötter. A- [cd]

The Contemporary Piano Ensemble: The Key Players (1993, DIW/Columbia): James Williams produced, is one of five pianists here, along with Geoff Keezer, Harold Mabern, Mulgrew Miller, and Donald Brown (on 4 tracks), backed with bass (Christian McBride) and drums (Tony Reedus). They (minus Brown, with different bass/drums) recorded a second album called Four Pianos for Phineas (Newborn, 1996). This is a mix of original and trad pieces, ending with an Ellington medley. B+(**)

Don Dixon: Chi-Town Budget Show (1988, Restless): Singer-songwriter, debut in 1985, did production for R.E.M., Marshall Crenshaw, and others. Wife Marti Jones recorded a good album in 1985 (Unsophisticated Time), and she appears here, introduced at the start. B+(*) [cd]

Double Dee & Steinski: The Payoff Mix/Lesson Two/Lesson 3 (1985, Tommy Boy, EP): DJs Doug DiFranco and Steven Stein, cut and pasted these three "lessons" (14:43), landmarks in dance music history, but rarely precedents rarely followed, probably due to legal complications, but one might think because no one did it better. I searched for this for 20+ years before the three tracks appeared to lead off Steinski's 2-CD What Does It All Mean? [cover right], which gets even better, and is the one to search for. A

Ian Dury & the Blockheads: Live! All the Best, Mate (1990 [2000], Music Club): Past his prime, but his oldies haven't aged, and while he skipped a few great ones, he worked in a couple pleasant surprises. Originally issued in 1991 on Demon as Warts 'N' Audience (Live: 22 December 1990), reissue with two extra tracks and a nicer title came out the year he died. Twenty years later he's even more missed. A- [cd]

The Ebony Hillbillies: Barefoot and Flying (2011, EH Music): All-black bluegrass band, founded in New York in 2004, third album. B+(***)

Shirley Eikhard: The Last Hurrah (2000, Shirley Eikhard Music): Canadian singer-songwriter, debuted as a teen in 1972, I filed her under country -- she won Juno Awards for Best Country Female Artist 1972-73 -- but at this point her phrasing draws more on jazz, as does her band, including horns: Kevin Turcotte (trumpet) and Mike Murley (tenor sax). B+(**) [cd]

Shirley Eikhard: End of the Day (2001, Shirley Eikhard Music): All songs written by Eikhard, all vocals, all instruments too, recorded in her home studio. I'm most impressed by the bit of tenor sax, but the vibes are nice too. Mostly instrumental pieces. B+(*) [cd]

Shirley Eikhard: Stay Open (2002-03 [2003], Shirley Eikhard Music): Definitely a jazz singer, and back with a band she can focus on her vocals. One choice song philosophizes: "Aren't we clever? But not very wise." B+(***) [cd]

Thomas Fehlmann: 1929: Das Jahr Babylon (2018, Kompakt): "Original Filmmusik" for Volker Hesse's documentary meant to provide historical background his series Berlin Babylon. Watching the latter offers the odd sensation of knowing that no matter how things work out at the time (and like most drama they like to cut it close) it would all go to shit in the near future. Listening to this gives you an ambient background of carefree industrial hum, which also could get worse. B+(*)

Fela and Afrika 70: Zombie (1976 [1977], M.I.L. Multimedia): Christgau's first Fela Kuti review, a 1977 release not in Discogs, which lists alternatives on Coconut (Nigeria), Polydor (Ghana), and Creole (UK). Later reissues add two 1978 tracks to the original 2-cut, 25:24 LP -- I own and recommend the MCA from 2001, but Wrasse (2001) and Knitting Factory (2010) follow suit. All have the same cover, depicting the musician standing out against military oppression. The groove pieces are immensely satisfying, and if you get the extra cuts, they don't wear down. A-

Dan Fogelberg: The Essential Dan Fogelberg (1973-90 [2003], Epic/Legacy): Singer-songwriter, first six albums through 1981 went platinum, singles did best on the Adult Contemporary list. Early cuts were fairly upbeat, but aren't very interesting. One early album got help from Don Henley and Graham Nash -- seems about right. C+

Forgetting Sarah Marshall [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] ([2008], Verve Forecast): Nicholas Stoller film, written by Jason Segel and produced by Judd Apatow, starring Kristen Bell. I've never had any interest in soundtracks, especially random (or eclectic) ones, so I certainly didn't buy this one. Still, I can report a few oddities: "Fucking Boyfriend" (The Bird and the Bee), Desmond Dekker, Os Mutantes, and three Coconutz songs in Hawaiian, including "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'." B [cd]

Gimme Indie Rock V. 1 (1984-99 [2000], K-Tel, 2CD): As a genre, "indie rock" always struck me as vague, more a business plan than an aesthetic not that either has held much interest for me. Three pairs of groups I do know stake out the domain: The Fall/The Mekons, The Minutemen/Hüsker Dü, The Feelies/Yo La Tengo. Maybe a fourth: The Meat Puppets/Black Flag. I recognize most of the other groups, although I doubt I could pick them out in a blindfold test. B+(*) [cd]

The Golden Gate Quartet: Travelin' Shoes (1937-39 [1992], RCA/Bluebird): Gospel group, formed in 1934 in Virginia, appeared in John Hammond's famous 1938 Spirituals to Swing Carnegie Hall concert. This is the original group: William Langford left in 1939, replaced by Clyde Riddick, who retired in 1995, as the group carried on with new members. B+(***) [cd]

Grateful Dead: Dozin' at the Knick (1990 [1996], Grateful Dead, 3CD): I liked some of their early stuff, especially their most tuneful Workingman's Dead, but never saw them and never understood the fascination some people have for them. I got the impression they stopped caring about studio albums in the mid-1970s, but they kept touring, and from about 1992, some business type decided to make up their losses by dumping dozens of live tapes onto the market. I bought Two From the Vault, which was of Live/Dead vintage and not bad, but not enough to keep me interested. This is the other one that Christgau -- who saw them early and connected enough he's often rhapsodized about them -- has recommended, and it's much later. First disc is quite good, especially the Dylan cover ("When I Paint My Masterpiece"). Second disc wanes, and third wanders, but I liked the drums bit, and enjoyed much of the rest. B+(**)

Grateful Dead: Crimson White & Indigo (1989 [2010], Grateful Dead/Rhino, 3CD): From Philadelphia, July 7, starts promising, but they do go on and on and on. B

The Guess Who: The Greatest of the Guess Who (1969-75 [1977], RCA Victor): Canadian rock group, founded 1962 as Chad Allan and the Reflections, with Randy Bachman on guitar. Keyboardist Burton Cumming joined in 1966, taking over vocals when Allan left. They broke into the US charts in 1969-70 with "These Eyes," "Laughing," "Undun," "No Time," "American Woman," "Hand Me Down World -- the first side here. Second side picks up after Bachman departed for Bachman-Turner Overdrive, as Cummings held on, through 1975, turning out catchy tunes that didn't quite chart as high, perhaps because they felt a tad light. B+(*)

Hard Times Come Again No More Vol. 1: Early American Rural Songs of Hard Times and Hardships (1924-37 [1998], Yazoo): As a fan of Vol. 2, I had to check this one out. Title comes from an old Stephen Foster song, sung here by the Graham Brothers, up last as the fourth song with "Hard Time" in the title, outnumbered by eight "Blues." About half of the songs pre-date the Depression. More whites than blacks, but that just underscores how poverty cut across the other social fissures. A-

Barry Harris: Live at Maybeck Recital Hall Volume Twelve (1990 [1991], Concord): Pianist, from Detroit, started around 1960, has about 30 albums, more side credits. This is solo, part of a series that just about defined who's who in mainstream jazz piano. Still living at 91, but nothing since 2009. B+(**) [cd]

Wynonie Harris: Rockin' the Blues (1944-50 [2001], Proper, 4CD): Rhythm and blues singer, started in big bands (Lucky Millinder, Illinois Jacquet, Johnnie Alston), had a dozen or so R&B chart hits 1945-52, the latter missing here due to the arbitrary cutoff date -- for a superb one-CD overview, seek out Bloodshot Eyes: The Best of Wynonie Harris (Rhino, long out of print so good luck). This goes for quantity (81 tracks), which given his limits should be monotonous, but isn't. A- [cd]

Jimi Hendrix Experience: Radio One (1967 [1988], Rykodisc): BBC radio shots, scattered from February to December around the May release of Are You Experienced (5 songs repeated here, plus 2 from Axis: Bold as Love, 10 others, 6 of them covers. The covers shade this a bit toward blues, although they also have fun with "Day Tripper," and write a "jingle" for "Radio One" that's miles above what you're used to. B+(***)

Jimi Hendrix: Woodstock (1969 [1994], MCA): The rare rock musician who's live performances transcended the redundant (and whose innovation, fame and early death left hope of finding more gems among his detritus), Hendrix's posthumous discography soon dwarfed the three studio albums released during his lifetime -- the only comparable figure was John Coltrane, whose heirs still struggle to compete. The early phase was spent scouring live tapes and studio outtakes for said gems. A second phase started more/less here, as the focus shifted to whole concerts. This CD was edited down to 63:46, only to be replaced in 1999 with the 2-CD (96:38) Live at Woodstock -- the latter adds five songs, plus patter that stretches most of the rest of the recording times. I couldn't find the former, so constructed a playlist from the latter, getting all the songs in the edited order (but missing the 1:54 "Farewell"), but with the introductions still wasting time. I'm not enough of an aficionado to compare versions, but the "Jam Back at the House"-"Voodoo Child"-"Star-Spangled Banner" sequence is pretty amazing. I'm not a big fan of the latter, but will note that he neither shreds the anthem nor flinches from its ugliness. Rather, he makes something not beautiful but powerful out of it. I could see MAGA enthusiasts embracing it, but I doubt they will. "Purple Haze" comes next, continuing the high level streak. A-

Jimi Hendrix: Hendrix in the West (1968-70 [2011], Experience Hendrix/Legacy): Live album, originally stitched together with performances from Royal Albert Hall, Isle of Wight, San Diego Sports Arena, and Berkeley Community Theatre and released relatively early (1971) in the posthumous sweepstakes. I can't find/reconstruct the original album, as legal disputes forced the reissue to replace the Royal Albert Hall tracks ("Little Wing" and "Voodoo Child") with other versions, while adding extra tracks to expand the album from 40:21 to 65:16. I've never been a huge fan, but this "Voodoo Child" is pretty amazing. B+(***)

Jimi Hendrix: Valleys of Neptune (1969-70 [2010], Experience Hendrix/Legacy): Studio tracks, post-Electric Ladyland, may or may not have been intended for a fourth album (but no dupes from First Rays of the New Rising Sun, which appeared in that niche in 1997). This one needs work (even after it got some posthumous help), but if you can listen to Hendrix for background music -- and I'm finding I can -- this fills the bill, without too many distractions. B+(**)

Jimi Hendrix: Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix Live at the Isle of Wight (1970 [2002], Experience Hendrix/MCA, 2CD): Expanded edition of a concert previously released in 1971 (Isle of Wight) and 1991 (Live Isle of Wight '70), opening with the "God Save the Queen"/"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" sequence that led off Hendrix in the West. Recorded three weeks before his death, runs long, sounds typical enough. B+(**)

Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child: The Jimi Hendrix Collection (1967-70 [2001], Experience Hendrix/Universal, 2CD): Useful, I suspect, for young 'uns -- and 50 years after his death that's 'most everyone -- who are looking for a starting point or an expertly balanced overview. First disc draws on three good-to-great studio albums, with some extras or alternates mixed in. Second draws on his now-numerous live albums, repeating three songs ("Fire," "Hey Joe," and "Purple Haze"), with a couple legendary pieces ("Star Spangled Banner" from Woodstock, "Wild Thing" from Monterey). Of course, you might find yourself wanting more. But if this doesn't do it for you, he's really not for you. A

Jimi Hendrix: Fire: The Jimi Hendrix Collection (1967-70 [2010], Experience Hendrix/Legacy): Generous single-disc compilation, 14 songs from his three studio albums, 6 more from posthumous sources, including 2 from the simultaneously released Valleys of Neptune. First half could hardly be better. After that, just go with the flow. A

Tish Hinojosa: Dreaming of the Labyrinth/Soñar del Laberinto (1996, Warner Brothers): Folk singer-songwriter from San Antonio, sings in Spanish as well as English. B+(***) [cd]

His Name Is Alive: Stars on E.S.P. (1996, 4AD): Fringe rock band from Michigan, principally Warren Defever, first release 1988 (I Had Sex With God), still active (at least through 2020). Not clear who else is doing what. Karin Oliver sang on earlier albums, but Lovetta Pippen appears here. Not that it matters much. B+(*)

Robin Holcomb: Robin Holcomb (1990, Elektra): Singer-songwriter, plays piano, interests include Civil War songs and Charles Ives, married jazz pianist Wayne Horvitz, and they've recorded piano music together. Second album (not counting one where Horvitz, Butch Morris, Bill Frisell, and Doug Wieselman Play Robin Holcomb). Those (save Morris) also appear here. B+(*) [cd]

The Hollies: In the Hollies Style (1964, Parlophone): Manchester's answer to the Beatles, second album, released in UK and Canada but not US. Three songwriters (Allan Clarke, Tony Hicks, Graham Nash, jointly credited as L. Ransford), but nearly half covers (e.g., "Something's Got a Hold on Me," "It's in Her Kiss," and "Too Much Monkey Business"). Not the Beatles, of course, but no other band distilled the sound more completely. B+(*)

The Hollies: The Hollies' Greatest Hits (1965-72 [1973], Epic): But they did come up with some hits that established their own sound (perhaps more Byrds than Beatles). The breakthrough came from non-member songwriter Graham Gouldman (later the cleverer half of 10cc), with "Look Through Any Window" and "Bus Stop," but most of the rest came from their core (but dwindling) trio, with Graham Nash leaving in 1968 and Allan Clarke in 1971 (returned in 1973). Only one of the three post-1967 songs earns its keep ("Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress," where they started listening to CCR). B+(***)

Howlin' Wolf: His Best (1951-64 [1997], MCA/Chess): Part of The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection, a series you can pretty safely buy on sight (but now mostly out-of-print). Somehow I missed this one. Still, nothing here I didn't already have in The Chess Box (3-CD), or later in The Definitive Collection, a 2007 compilation that recycles these 20 classic songs in order, which I previously graded: A+

Hüsker Dü: Everything Falls Apart (1982 [1983], Reflex, EP): Minnesota hardcore group, a big deal while they lasted (1982-87), with guitarist Bob Mould going on to a long solo career along the same lines, drummer Grant Hart occasionally writing a song with a surprising hook (his solo career was much less substantial, 4 albums before he died in 2017, and bassist Greg Norton (co-wrote 2 songs here). First album (aside from the live Land Speed Record, a 19:22 EP (despite 12 songs, including 1:51 of "Sunshine Superman"). [1993 Rhino reissue expanded to 42:07.] B+(**)

Irakere: Irakere (1978 [1979], Columbia): Stellar Afro-Cuban jazz band, founded and led by pianist Chucho Valdès in 1973, at this time including Arturo Sandoval (trumpet) and Paquito D'Rivera (sax), who later left Cuba for fame and fortune in the US. Third album, first of two picked up by Columbia. Recorded live, intense, possibly brilliant. [4/5 cuts also on The Best of Irakere, along with 6/8 from Irakere 2.] B+(***)

Ronald Shannon Jackson: Pulse (1984, Celluloid): Drummer, from Texas, joined Ornette Coleman in 1975's electric free funk Prime Time, led his own group (Ronald Shannon Jackson & the Decoding Society) from 1979. This is one of the few albums from the 1980s solely under his own name, as it's almost all drums and spoken word. B+(*)

Ronald Shannon Jackson and the Decoding Society: Decode Yourself (1984, Island): Sixth group album since 1980, septet follows in Ornette Coleman's Prime Time footsteps, with added violin and trombone, saxophonist Eric Person doesn't come close to Coleman's magic. Bill Laswell produced. B+(*)

Ronald Shannon Jackson: Red Warrior (1990, Axiom): Post-Decoding Society, straight fusion with three guitarists here and there spinning up to tornado force, two bassists, impressive drumming. Laswell co-produced. B+(**)

The Jacksons: The Jacksons (1976, Epic): First album after leaving Motown (for which the Jackson 5 recorded 10), the name change partly reflecting a lineup change, with Jermaine leaving and younger brother Randy joining, and Gamble and Huff producing, with MFSB the Philadelphia house band. Seems pretty generic, with Michael nearly undetectable. B

The Jacksons: Destiny (1978, Epic): Opens with a template for Michael's solo career, identifiable even if it's not particularly deep ("Blame It on the Boogie"; better still: "Shake Your Body"). B+(***)

The Jacksons: Triumph (1980, Epic): First group album after Michael's blockbuster Epic debut (Off the Wall -- he had four previous and inconsequential solo albums on Motown), doesn't seem very satisfying to merge him back into the group, even if it's a family thang. B+(**)

The Jacksons: Victory (1984, Epic): With Jermaine back, the only album with all six Jackson brothers -- although Michael and Marlon left afterwards, only appearing on the title track of the 1989 album that would mark the group's terminus. Easily their best group album, at least for the second side -- "We Can Change the World" convinced me, as did "The Hurt." B+(***)

Jaojoby: Aza Arianao (2001, Label Bleu): First name Eusèbe, from northwestern Malagasy, plies a local style called salegy, not unlike many other local African styles. B+(**)

Ella Jenkins: Little Johnny Brown (1971 [2001], Smithsonian/Folkways): Folksinger, born in St. Louis in 1924, her specialty was songs for children, her first collection recorded by Moses Asch in 1957 as Call-and-Response: Rhythmic Group Singing. This album was originally co-credited to Girls and Boys From "Uptown" (Chicago). Some message songs that would upset the Trumpist thought police: "Freedom Train," "Be Ready When Your Freedom Comes." Most likely, "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" too (not to mention "Mexican Hand Clapping Song"). B+(***) [cd]

Jethro Tull: Live: Bursting Out (1978 [2004], Chrysalis, 2CD): British prog rock band with some folk-rock airs, debut 1968, led by Ian Anderson, who sung and played flute. Big deal through the 1970s, less reliably in the 1980s. I never was much of a fan, but heard a few albums and liked the occasional track, so parts of this have a pleasant familiarity later albums lack. Patter helps too, but nothing helps much. B- [cd]

Jethro Tull: Stormwatch (1979, Chrysalis): Twelfth album. Losing interest. C+ [cd]

Jethro Tull: A (1980, Chrysalis): Thirteenth album, chart peak 25 in UK, 30 in US. Nothing much here. [I have 2004 reissue called A + Slipstream, which adds a DVD I have from Slipstream tour.] C+ [cd]

George Jones: The Definitive Collection 1955-1962 (1955-62 [2004], Mercury): One of the all-time great country voices, his early records for Mercury contain many honky tonk classics -- Cup of Loneliness: The Classic Mercury Years fills two CDs and only gets to 1959. This condensation hits many of those, then adds a few United Artists hits that remained signatures ("The Window Up Above," "Tender Years," "Achin' Breakin' Heart," "She Thinks I Still Care"). So great not even Billy Sherrill could ruin him. A

Maria Kalaniemi: Maria Kalaniemi (1992 [1994], Xenophile): Finnish accordion player. B+(**) [cd]

Kartet: The Bay Window (2006 [2007], Songlines): French quartet -- Benoît Delbecq (piano), Guilaume Orti (alto sax), Hubert Dupont (bass), Chandler Sardjoe (drums) -- recorded five albums 1991-2001, this their sixth, one more in 2014. Tricky postbop, the pianist most impressive. B+(***) [cd]

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan/Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri: Passing on the Tradition (1995 [1996], AMMP): Bengali sarod player (1922-2009), as was his famous father Allauddin Khan. He recorded at least 90 albums, including quite a few with Ravi Shankar. He was both a traditionalist and a popularizer, founding music colleges in Calcutta, Switzerland, and California (where he lived much of his life). Chaudhuri (b. 1945) plays tabla, with a long and distinguished career that started as one of Khan's students in Calcutta. Here they play two long pieces (28:31 + 44:54), backed by tanpuras. B+(*) [cd]

B.B. King: The Best of B.B. King (1969-71 [1973], ABC): Bluesman, first singles date from 1949, so this offers a narrow slice, even at the time -- he recorded for another 35 years, before dying in 2015. I can recommend his 1952-62 Flair compilations (Do the Boogie: Early 50s Classics to 1956, or The Best of B.B. King, Volume One, or Blues Kingpins). He moved on to ABC in 1963 (Mr. Blues, their catalog later picked up by MCA), but this skips their early albums, starting out shortly before his Live at Cook County Jail. B+(***) [yt]

B.B. King: The Best of B.B. King [20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection] (1967-85 [1999], MCA): Guessing at some of the dates as many of these songs appear multiple times, but safe to say they all come from ABC/MCA masters. The key period there is 1967-74, with an outlier from 1985 ("Into the Night"). Searching for dates suggests it shouldn't be hard to construct a better best-of, with more songs like "I Got Some Help I Don't Need." B+(***)

B.B. King: Blues Summit (1993, MCA): Eleven duets, each with one from the cover menu: Ruth Brown, Robert Cray, Albert Collins, Lowell Fulson, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Etta James, Koko Taylor, Irma Thomas, Joe Louis Walker, Katie Webster. The twelfth song is a 8:57 mash of two King originals. "And more" includes Ben Cauley (trumpet) and Lee Allen (sax), and some featured names hang around to play elsewhere (especially Robert Cray). B+(***)

B.B. King: His Definitive Greatest Hits (1963-93 [1999], Polygram, 2CD): With so much ABC/MCA material to choose from, it shouldn't be hard to pick out a first-rate compilation. This hits about 80% of the time. A-

B.B. King: Deuces Wild (1997, MCA): Another album of duets, but instead of pairing off with his blues peers, he entertains a wide swath of the pop universe, from Van Morrison to Willie Nelson. I particularly like the Dr. John piece. B+(***)

B.B. King: Let the Good Times Roll: The Music of Louis Jordan (1999, Geffen): He's game to sing this songbook, but the original's voice is funnier, and I find myself noticing that on 16/18 songs. King does take command on blues fare (or non-hits?) like "I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town." The band is also game to swing, with Dr. John (piano), Russell Malone (guitar), and an all-star horn section (Marcus Belgrave, Hank Crawford, Fathead Newman). B+(**)

Kodo: Ibuki (1997, Tristar): Japanese taiko drum group, many records since 1982, this just happened to be the one I picked up. B+(*) [cd]

Ali Hassan Kuban: From Nubia to Cairo (1980 [1989], Piranha): Born 1929 in a Nubian village near Aswan, moved to Cairo but continued to identify as Nubian. Several records up to his death in 2001, followed by a fine Rough Guide summary. B+(***)

Fela Ransome Kuti and His Koola Lobitos: Highlife Jazz and Afro-Soul (1963-1969) (1963-69 [2016], Knitting Factory, 3CD): First disc collects the singles, second their 1968 Parlophone (Nigeria) album, third some live tracks. The only Fela this early I had heard before was the six Koola Lobitos tracks included in the 2001 reissue of The '69 L.A. Sessions. The highlife connection is clear from the early tracks -- being a saxophonist, he styled his take as "highlife jazz" -- with the James Brown impact still in his future. While much of this is unformed, there are patches of wonder and brilliance, including an exuberant "Highlife Time" and some real jazz. [Knitting Factory originally released this in 2005, with a different cover. VampiSoul reissued this on 2-CD in 2008 as Lagos Baby 1963-1969.] B+(***)

Lady Saw: Passion (1997, VP): Jamaican "Queen of Dancehall" Marion Hall, fourth album. B+(*)

Ladysmith Black Mambazo: The Best of Ladysmith Black Mambazo (1975-85 [1992], Shanachie): South African male choral group -- a style known as iscathimiya or mbube -- led by Joseph Shabalala, many records since 1973, with a US breakthrough in 1984 (Induku Zethu) on Shanachie, which followed up with several other albums (both earlier and later) and 1990's Classic Tracks. I was quite taken by the latter, but my interest in the others soon flagged. Surprised to see a second compilation just two years later, especially one with three repeats. B+(***)

Ladysmith Black Mambazo: The Gift of the Tortoise (1994, Music for Little People): After Paul Simon featured them on Graceland (1986), the world opened up a bit to them, leading to projects like this one: narrated in English and pitched as music for children. The animal-themed songs are mostly in Zulu, which passes as the language of the animals. B+(*) [cd]

Tony Lakatos/Al Foster/Kirk Lightsey/George Mraz: News (1994 [1995], Jazzline): Hungarian saxophonist (tenor/soprano), albums since 1982, this quartet was recorded in Brooklyn, about 8 albums in. Four Lakatos originals, one each from Lightsey and Foster, one from Dave Brubeck, the last one a Jerome Kern song ("The Way You Look Tonight"). Nice mainstream tone, rhythm section makes it look easy. B+(**) [cd]

Jim Lauderdale: Pretty Close to the Truth (1994, Atlantic): Alt-country singer-songwriter, second album, has stuck with it with a new album every year or two since. Songs and voice are somewhere between not bad and pretty respectable. B+(*) [cd]

Let the Good Times Roll: 20 of New Orleans' Finest R&B Classics 1949-1966 (1949-66 [2002], Capitol): Part of their Crescent City Soul series. I was surprised I didn't have it listed, as two other albums in the series are among my favorites (The Fats Domino Jukebox and Finger Poppin' and Stompin' Feet -- a Minit Records compilation). This draws on (mostly) earlier Aladdin and Specialty releases, most recorded by Cosimo Matassa. Easy enough to construct a playlist, but may not have all the right versions. Two Shirley & Lee hits, the others more obscure than not, but they live up to the party cover. A-

Linx: Intuition (1981, Chrysalis): British soul/funk duo, first of two albums before splitting in 1983. B+(**)

Living Things: Ahead of the Lions (2004 [2005], Jive/Zomba): St. Louis band, Discogs tags them as "Glam" -- probably reminds someone of Iggy Pop, or maybe because the Rothman brothers renamed themselves Lillian, Eve, and Bosh Berlin. US label had qualms about their Black Skies in Broad Daylight debut, so held it up, reshuffled, and finally released this title, keeping 7 songs, replacing the other 6 with 5 new ones. I replayed the new ones, and two are worthy additions ("Bom Bom Bom" and "Monsters of Man"). So I give the edge to the original, but "Bombs Away" is on both. B+(***)

Look Directly Into the Sun: China Pop 2007 ([2007], Invisible China/Bloodshot): Alt-rock bands from Shanghai, mostly singing in English not that lyrics matter much. With one of every six people in the world, seems like just a matter of time before China bursts its dam and floods the world with all kinds of music. The title suggests they could do this any year, but as far as I know, this is unprecedented and unfollowed, making it all the more impressive, or freakish. B+(***)

Love: Da Capo (1967, Elektra): Famous rock band from Los Angeles, second album, led by Arthur Lee with Johnny Echols on lead guitar. Six first-side songs offer scattered looks that impress without convincing. Second side perks up with the 18:57 "Revelation," with highly charged guitar, harmonica, and sax against a commanding beat. B+(***)

Love: Four Sail (1969, Elektra): Fourth album, only Arthur Lee remaining from the original group, or for that matter from their third (and possibly best) album, Forever Changes. Still sounds like a band. Just less like a great one. B+(**)

Love: Out Here (1969, Blue Thumb): Two LPs (69:23) of what were basically outtakes from Four Sail. A couple good things here, like "Stand Out" and the 11:20 guitar bash "Love Is More Than Words or Better Than Never." But some things are truly awful ("Discharged"). B-

Love: False Start (1970, Blue Thumb): Jimi Hendrix, whose career intersected with Arthur Lee's before, leads off, which you kinda forget by an end that's more confusing than not. B+(**)

The Lovin' Spoonful: Greatest Hits (1965-68 [2000], Buddha): Pioneering folk-rock band, principally John B. Sebastian, had a two-year stretch with 7 top-ten singles, two more years where they charted lower and lower, then they were done (although Sebastian had a mediocre solo career to 1978, and has occasionally resurfaced). This covers them generously, as did 1990's Anthology -- both run 26 tracks, 23 in common. A-

Nick Lowe and His Cowboy Outfit: The Rose of England (1985, Columbia): Missed this one after a couple disappointments from the middle of his Nashville period -- he was married to Carlene Carter 1979-90 -- so I felt I should rectify the omission and was pleasantly surprised. Granted, it's only half new originals, and that's counting the instrumental featuring Duck Deluxe Martin Belmont, and it tails off a bit toward the end. B+(***)

Nick Lowe: Untouched Takeaway (1995-2001 [2004], Yep Roc): Live album, billed as his first ever, divided into two parts: from his 2001 European tour after The Convincer, and a 1995 set at Gino's Stockholm after The Impossible Birds. Mostly songs (I've heard but don't know) from those recent albums, but a few old ones (usually slowed down) and a couple country covers ("Tombstone Every Mile," "I'll Be There"). B

Luna: Slide (1993, Elektra, EP): Dream pop band, led by singer-songwriter Dean Wareham, first album the excellent Lunapark (1992), followed by this 6-track, 27:00 EP. Repeats two songs from the debut (including the title, one of their best), adds three covers and one original. Seems like the very definition of redundant, but sounds pretty impressive. B+(***)

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Nuthin' Fancy (1975, MCA): Jacksonville natives, the most legendary of the Southern rock bands that followed the Allmans, also marked by tragedy when leader Ronnie Van Zant perished in a 1977 plane crash. I thought their first album was pretty great -- I particularly related to the cowardice (or prudence) of "Gimme Three Steps" -- but their Second Helping filled me up, and I didn't bother with their following albums (especially the post-1977 revival, which continues to this day). Christgau was even more attached, going so far as to follow them on tour for a feature -- a personal connection he rarely indulged in, and one I've never touched -- so their albums loom large on my unheard-but-Christgau-rated list. This was their third, pretty much as advertised. B+(**)

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Gimme Back My Bullets (1976, MCA): Perhaps a bit funkier, also meaner. "You won't hear me crying, because I do not sing the blues." B+(*)

Lynyrd Skynyrd: One More From the Road (1976, MCA): Double-LP live set from Fox Theatre in Atlanta, 14 songs, 81:30, including an 11:30 wind up of "Freebird" and most of their obvious hits. [Initial reissue in 1986 dropped two tracks to fit onto a single CD. In 2001, reissued on 2-CD as Deluxe Edition, with restored cuts and edits -- e.g., "Freebird" grows to 14:48 -- and other extras.] B+(**)

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Street Survivors (1977, MCA): Released three days before the plane crash that killed Ronnie Van Zant and others -- the emergency landing killed 7, while 7 more survived, enough to keep the band going despite the immeasurable loss. Leads off with one of their best songs ("What's Your Name"). B+(***)

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Gold & Platinum (1972-77 [1979], MCA, 2CD): Serviceable best-of the Ronnie Van Zant period, pulls two tracks from their first album (1972, unreleased until parts appeared in 1978's Skynyrd's First and . . . Last), slips in three cuts from their live double (including a 14:10 "Freebird"), because that's the kind of band they were. Probably should grade it higher, but I'm running out of patience with them. B+(***)

Yo-Yo Ma: Classic Yo-Yo (1992-2001 [2001], Sony Classical): Classical cellist, parents Chinese, born in Paris, studied at Juilliard and Harvard, "has recorded more than 90 albums and received 18 Grammy Awards" (14 through 2001, so the pace has slackened). Side interests include tango (Astor Piazzolla) and bluegrass (Mark O'Connor). Despite my deep-seated aversion, he's often pretty tolerable. [I previously reviewed a 2-CD 2005 compilation: The Essential Yo-Yo Ma: B+] B+(*)

Ewan MacColl: Black and White: The Definitive Collection (1972-86 [1990], Green Linnet): Folksinger, born 1915 in Lancashire of Scottish parents, died 1989. A "lifetime communist," political themes abound: "I may be a wage slave on Monday, but I'm a free man on Sunday." Not a style I'm fond of, but remarkable in its way -- not least when he sings unaccompanied. A- [cd]

Mardi Gras Party (1971-90 [1991], Rounder): Mardi Gras Indians, Professor Longhair on "Big Chief," James Booker on Professor Longhair (and yet another "Tipitina"), "Mardi Gras Mambo" and "Mardi Gras Zydeco," "Hey Pocky Way" twice (by Art Neville and as part of Irma Thomas' "Second Line Medley"). I was on the fence until midway, when Rebirth Brass Band blasted out "Do Whatcha Wanna, Pt. 3," followed by the Thomas medley. Ends with Tuts Washington playing "Saints" as a brief coda. A niche record, but earns it. A- [cd]

The Master Musicians of Jajouka Featuring Bachir Attar: Apocalypse Across the Sky (1992, Axiom): Jbala sufi trance musicians from the Rif Mountains of northern Morocco. Group (loosely speaking) dates back to the 1950s, with a bit of international fame coming with Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Jajouka, recorded in 1968, but various splits and permutations followed. This is one, led by Attar (born in 1964; his father was on the 1968 album), and produced by Bill Laswell, again providing a conduit to the west. B+(***)

Masters of the Boogie Piano [Delmark 50th Anniversary Collection] (1939-2001 [2003], Delmark): Pretty definitive for a label comp, with the big names -- Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis, Pete Johnson, plus a track with all three at once -- second tier players like Speckled Red and Roosevelt Sykes, and some others I may or may not recognize. B+(***)

Johnny Mathis: The Ultimate Hits Collection (1956-86 [1998], Columbia): Possibly the squarest crooner of the 1950s, doesn't even have the excuse of having started before rock and roll exploded in 1956. Perhaps we can blame Mitch Miller and Ray Coniff (producer and orchestrator, respectively, of his early hits), but his clear and supple voice practically begged for their lush adoration. He recorded over 70 albums with more than 110 singles (up through 2017, when he was 82), and has been compiled dozens of times. I've sampled several of those, always impressed early on -- "Chances Are" was his biggest early hit, and deservedly so -- before my patience wore thin, even if I refrained from gagging. Christgau recommended this one, but even so concluded: "Give him his due -- and then use your programming buttons." B+(**)

Moby Grape: Moby Grape (1967, Columbia): Debut album from one of those San Francisco bands that demonstrated the promise and perils of psychedelia -- per Jeff Tamarkin: "The Grape's saga is one of squandered potential, absurdly misguided decisions, bad luck, blunders and excruciating heartbreak." He went on about "great music," something that previously escaped me. (I've heard two comps: Vintage: The Very Best of Moby Grape, which starts with this album complete, and Listen My Friends: The Best of Moby Grape, and left both at B.) I can note a slight country streak, a loose sense of time, and a bit of thrash that could be extended live. Also one song that's kinda catchy. B+(*) [yt]

Moby Grape: Wow (1968, Columbia): Second album. Easier to accept that this is godawful -- Christgau: "one of the worst cases of Pepper-itis on record" -- than that the debut was brilliant. [Looks like this was originally released with a 2nd LP called Grape Jam. The initial CD reissue combined the two LPs into one CD, but later reissues treat the two as separate albums.] C+ [yt]

Moby Grape: Moby Grape '69 (1969, Columbia): Third (or fourth) album, intended as a return to "normal" after the over-produced Wow and the departure of resident genius/psycho Skip Spence. Some regard this as early country-rock ("predating the more popular first country rock releases by Poco and The Eagles"), but country is rarely this plain or uninteresting. B- [yt]

M.O.P.: Handle Ur Bizness (1998, Relativity, EP): Hip-hop duo, Billy Danze and Lil' Fame, acronym for Mash Out Posse, gangsta shit, best known for their 2000 album Warriorz. Raw and hard. Nominally an EP: eight tracks, 31:12. Reminds me why I soured on so much 1990s hip-hop, though from today's vantage point, I'm more embittered by the era's attention-grabbing critics Bill Clinton and Tipper Gore, with their censorious overreach. In such times, "You think your bullshit bothers me?" is reasoned defiance. B+(*) [cd]

Bill Morrissey: North (1986, Philo): Singer-songwriter from Connecticut, folkie division, died 2011 at 59, debut in 1984. This was his second album, just voice and guitar. Rather low-key. B+(*)

Bill Morrissey: Bill Morrissey (1991, Philo): New recordings of the songs from his 1984 debut album, plus three more. Basic guitar and vocals, songs have some weight. Probably no reason to prefer one version or the other. B+(*)

Bill Morrissey & Greg Brown: Friend of Mine (1993, Philo): Similar folk singers, Brown a couple years older, still alive, and somewhat more prolific. Only one original, the rest scattered blues and country and rock, with "You Can't Always Get What You Want" especially true. B+(**) [cd]

Alan Morse: Four O'Clock and Hysteria (2007, Inside Out Music): Guitarist, only album under his own name but he recorded quite a few in Spock's Beard ("American symphonic progressive rock band" active from 1995 at least to 2018). Brother Neal Morse plays keyboards, co-wrote and co-produced. B [cdr]

Pablo Moses: I Love I Bring (1975 [1978], United Artists): Reggae singer-songwriter Pablo Henry, first album, produced by Geoffrey Chung, originally released as Revolutionary Dream. Simple, well-meaning songs, the appeal is obvious. Sound seems a bit off, especially the rattle of percussion. B+(**) [yt]

Motörhead: No Remorse (1979-84 [1984], Bronze): English heavy metal band, nonsensical umlaut, led by Lemmy Kilmister (1945-2015), debut 1979, this initial 2-LP compilation celebrates 5 years and adds 4 new songs, a closer for each side. I have no use, let alone desire, for metal, but this is one of the few such groups I can listen to, and took this 83:34 in one sitting (as background for writing about the decline and fall of Western Civilization, but that's not why I selected it). One saving grace is that it's squarely rooted in classic rock. Another is that Lemmy himself isn't full of shit. I won't try to figure out just how good this particular set is, but I'll note that Christgau gave the group's next four albums all A- grades, and I concurred on the latter two, demurring only slightly on the others. [Initial CD reissue omitted 2 songs to fit on 1 CD; later (1996, 2005) reissues restored the cuts and added 5 bonus tracks, 3 from the 1982 EP Stand by Your Man.] B+(***)

The Walter Norris Quartet: Sunburst (1991, Concord): Pianist (1931-2011), originally from Arkansas, played on Ornette Coleman's first album, moved to New York in 1960, recorded a dozen or more postbop albums, mostly trios although this one adds tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson -- a definite plus. B+(***) [cd]

Roy Orbison: 16 Biggest Hits (1960-64 [1999], Monument/Legacy): Remarkable voice, so extraordinary he's often compared to opera -- but while divas may compare for range and phrasing, I've never heard one with his sense of rhythm. His songs soar and swell and dance in your head. He started earlier with Sun, and he held on a long time, but his signature output was concentrated in five years with Monument. I have two other compilations -- Rhino's For the Lonely: 18 Greatest Hits (1988), and The Monument Singles: A Sides (1960-1964) -- which are slightly longer but effectively equivalent to this budget item. No real reason to favor one over the others. A

Annette Peacock: I Have No Feelings (1986, Ironic): Original name Coleman, wrote songs from an early age, married bassist Gary Peacock in 1960, developed a Synthesizer Show with second husband Paul Bley, recorded vocal albums in 1972 and 1978 (X-Dreams, a personal favorite). Her compositions were later featured in tributes by Bley and Peacock (with Marilyn Crispell and Paul Motian). But this vocal album is rather plodding, arch, scattered. B- [yt]

Annette Peacock: An Acrobat's Heart (2000, ECM): Piano and vocal, all original pieces, backed by the Cikada String Quartet. Another slow one. B

Ken Peplowski: The Other Portrait (1996, Concord): Clarinet player, mainstream, goes semi-classical here, with his quartet backed by the Bulgarian National Symphony. They do short bits of jazz standards, from "Anthropology" to "Lonely Woman," but the features here are classical: Witold Lutoslawski ("Dance Preludes"), Darius Milhaud ("Concerto for Clarinet & Orchestra"), Plamen Djurov ("Cadenza"). B [cd]

Ralph Peterson Quintet: Art (1992 [1994], Blue Note): Drummer (1962-2021), apprenticed to Art Blakey in 1983, led his own bands from 1988 on (most often his Fo'tet), did more than anyone to keep Blakey's memory alive, including this tribute two years after the master's death. Quintet with Graham Haynes (cornet), Steve Wilson (soprano/alto sax), Michele Rosewoman (piano), and Phil Bowler (bass), plus trombone and tenor sax on the opener ("Free for All"). B+(*) [cd]

Pointer Sisters: Pointer Sisters' Greatest Hits (1978-81 [1982], Planet): Soul group, sisters, initially June and Bonnie, later Anita and Ruth (though usually just three of them), recorded 1973-77 for ABC/Blue Thumb, moved to Planet/RCA 1978-88. This slices out four source albums produced by Richard Perry before RCA bought up Planet, yielding three pretty big hits ("Fire," "He's So Shy," "Slow Hand"). Best of the rest is "Should I Do It," with its retro girl group sound. Tails off with nondescript filler. B+(*)

Pointer Sisters: Greatest Hits (1973-85 [1989], RCA): Keeps the three big hits from 1978-81, adds four singles from 1983's Break Out, where they found their dance beat -- 6 (of 13) songs appear here in extended dance versions. Still having trouble filling the album out. B+(**)

Genesis P-Orridge & Astrid Monroe: When I Was Young (2001 [2004], Important): Former was born 1950 in Manchester, UK as Neil Andrew Megson, died 2020. Best known as lead singer in Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, but also has 24 solo projects/joint credits (Discogs). In 1993 met Jacqueline Breyer (aka Lady Jaye) in a BDSM dungeon in New York, and underwent multiple surgeries to make both look alike, merging into one pandrogenous being. All I know about Monroe is that's her real name, and she's "a real artist." Music is much less weird than the artists, with nice beats and spoken word (evidently male). CD has no booklet or print. B+(**)

Prodigy Present: The Dirtchamber Sessions: Volume One (1998 [1999], XL): DJ mix by Liam Howlett of the British techno group The Prodigy. Wikipedia has a long list of samples, mostly from hip-hop records -- first track hits up Run D.M.C., Mantronix, Sugarhill Gang, Double Dee & Steinski, Chemical Brothers, Ultramagnetic MCs, Afrika Bambaataa, among others -- with a little Sex Pistols, James Brown, Barry White, and Wild Magnolias. This sort of mash up that briefly looked like the future of music, before the copyright tyrants quashed it. [Volume Two never appeared, but they must have cleared the samples, as this is still in print.] A- [cd]

Dr. Krishna Raghavendra: RARE Pulse (2001, GEMA): Founding member of USA-based Ragha School of Music and a senior member of the Karnataka College of Percussion (KCP), acronym for Raga and Rhythm Ensemble. First of at least 14 albums, plays veena, a plucked string instrument from South India, not far removed from sitar. May have some spiritual/healing claims. B+(*) [cd]

The Ramones: Pleasant Dreams (1981, Sire): Sixth album. I can't say as I was ever a huge fan, but got off a bit in the reflected excitement of friends who were. That's probably why my interest flagged after their Phil Spector-produced fifth album (End of the Century). This starts strong with "We Want the Airwaves" and "The KKK Took My Baby Away," and nothing much sucks. So count this as a return to form, with better albums to come before their inevitable slide. B+(***)

The Rave-Ups: Town and Country (1985, Fun Stuff): Indie rock band from Pittsburgh, Jimmer Podrasky singer-songwriter, first album (of 3 through 1990; preceded by a 6-track EP in 1983 called Class Tramp). Gets more countryish as they pick up steam. B+(***)

R.E.M.: New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996, Warner Bros.): I never liked Michael Stipe's voice, but with Out of Time that didn't matter, and with Monster (as here) it became a non-issue. Still, I was paying very little attention to Amerindie bands at the time, especially ones I thought I knew. Even now, it takes me a while to warm up to them, although I concede this long album sounds pretty solid. B+(***)

Remember Shakti [John McLaughlin/Zakir Hussain/U. Shrinivas/V. Selvaganesh]: The Believer (1999 [2000], Verve): Shakti was guitarist McLaughlin's Indian fusion group, formed in 1975 with Hussain (tabla) and three others, recording three albums, and revived for three more albums from their millennial tour. B+(**) [cd]

Remember Shakti: Saturday Night in Bombay (2000 [2001], Verve): The quartet is expanded for this big show, including vocals by Shankar Mahadevan. B+(**) [cd]

The Replacements: Stink ("Kids Don't Follow" Plus Seven) (1982, Twin/Tone, EP): Post-punk band from Minneapolis, one sloppy album before this 8 track, 14:25 mini, several brilliant ones to come. Tempting to listen for signs of maturity as they emerge, but that was inconceivable at the time, when "Fuck School," "God Damn Job," and "Dope Smokin' Moron" were as sophisticated as their concept went. B+(**)

Mike Rizzo: Webster Hall's New York Dance CD v.6 (2003, Webster Hall NYC): Dance mix, high-powered techno, a dozen artists I've never heard of, but they keep it going. Commes with a DVD I haven't seen. B+(**)

Jimmy Rogers: The Complete Chess Recordings (1950-59 [1997], MCA, 2CD): Bluesman (1924-97), born in Mississippi, raised in Atlanta and Memphis, moved to Chicago in the mid-1940s, played with Little Walter early on, had a minor hit with "That's All Right" in 1950. Journeyman blues player with some soul moves, intriguing here but not very developed. B+(**) [cd]

Nate Ruth: Whatever It Meant (2002, Soundless): Shoegaze, lots of fuzzy noise, throws in one off-speed track that's clearer but still marked by fuzz. Seems to be a one-shot. B [cd]

Shirley and Lee: Let the Good Times Roll (1952-59 [2000], Ace): New Orleans duo, Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee. The title song was their big hit, of five they charted through 1957. They split up in 1963, he died at 40 in 1976, she had a freak hit in 1975 as Shirley & Company ("Shame, Shame, Shame"), retired, and passed in 2005. Goes through a dull stretch, then picks up with "Feels So Good," and finishes strong (e.g., "Marry Me"). B+(***)

Jack Smith: Les Evening Gowns Damnées: 56 Ludlow Street 1962-1964 Volume I (1962-64 [1997], Table of the Elements): Underground cinema pioneer (1932-89), "generally acclaimed as a founding father of American performance art," his work, with its focus on camp, kitsch, and drag culture, anticipating better known films by Andy Warhol and John Waters. Tony Conrad produced two CDs from Smith's recordings at 56 Ludlow Street. Conrad plays much of the music here, and John Cale has a small bit. The unlistenable opener sounds like it was snipped from a horror film, but the later stories get more perversely interesting, especially the piece that finally references the title. B+(*) [cd]

Jack Smith: Silent Shadows of Cinemaroc Island: 56 Ludlow Street 1962-1964 Volume II (1962-64 [1997], Table of the Elements): Not so funny this time, especially when the narrator keeps sickly laughing through tragic stories ("The Horrors of Agony"). The music helps, but not a lot. John Cale has another minor side credit. B [cd]

The Sound of Kinshasa: Guitar Classics From Zaire (1950s-70s [1982], Original Music): Compiler John Storm Roberts was the one who introduced many of us to African music, starting with his 1972 Africa Dances album. Roberts released about 40 albums up through 1995, most expertly selected compilations like this one, drawn from Cuban-influenced dance bands of the once-and-future Congo. Big names here include Franco and Rochereau, and Orchestras OK Jazz and African Fiesta appear with various leaders. Good sampler for its time, but you could probably do better now. A- [yt]

Jeremy Steig/Eddie Gomez: Outlaws (1976 [1977], Enja): Flute and bass duo. Steig (1942-2016) was one of the few jazz flute players of the 1970s not established on other instruments (Frank Wess and Yusef Lateef were poll-winners, and primarily saxophonists; James Newton debuted in 1977; Sam Most and Herbie Mann preceded Steig). He plays alto flute here, lower-pitched and airier. Gomez is best known for his Bill Evans Trio work -- Steig joined the trio for a 1969 album, What's New. B+(***) [cd]

Streets of Dakar: Generation Boul Falé ([1999], Sterns): From Senegal, obviously, home of the continent's most complex rhythms, no idea when these were recorded, but the influence of Youssou N'Dour (not credited) is everywhere, so probably not too vintage. Raam Daan is the biggest name here (3/14 tracks), but everyone impresses. A-

Daryl Stuermer: Go (2007, Inside Out Music): Guitarist, played with Jean-Luc Ponty in 1975, also a fairly long term with Genesis, so figure fusion and/or prog rock with emphasis on rave ups. B- [cdr]

Swans: Soundtracks for the Blind (1996, Young God/Atavistic, 2CD): Experimental/noise rock band led by Michael Gira, had a run to 1997 as a prolific fringe band, broke up, then restarted with other musicians in 2010 (some early members returned in the 2019 lineup), finally gaining a critical following. This is long (72:06 + 69:31), sometimes loud, mostly plodding, with occasional words and/or groans. B [cd]

Swayzak: Himawari (2000, Medicine): British tech house duo, James S. Taylor and David Brown, name adapted from a Polish word for union. Third album, good beats, bits of spoken word -- I like the one in German. B+(***) [cd]

Swayzak: Dirty Dancing (2002, !K7): Beats broken up in interesting ways, but could be more danceable, or for that matter dirtier. B+(**) [cd]

The Tanzania Sound (1960s [1987], Original Music): Large country in East Africa, claimed by Germany in the late 19th century, ceded to Britain as war booty in 1919, and independent in 1962, merged with the island of Zanzibar (an old Arab trading post, also newly independent from British colonial rule) a year later. Music seems to be a nice fusion of divers African influences, most often from Congo. A- [yt]

A Taste of the Indestructible Beat of Soweto ([1993], Earthworks): Sampler, skips the original 1985 Indestructible Beat of Soweto, which introduced many Americans to the wonders of black South African music as the struggle against Apartheid was approaching its climax, in favor of selections from subsequent volumes. Every one of them is worth owning, which seemed to make this superfluous, but if you don't, this is a nicely programmed short cut. Includes three pieces with "goat-voiced" superstar Mahlathini (two with the Mahotella Queens), and ends with rising (albeit ill-fated) star Mzwakhe Mbuli (whose Resistance Is Defence is worth seeking out). A

Train Don't Leave Me: Recorded Live at the 1st Annual Sacred Steel Convention (2000 [2001], Arhoolie): Fourteen songs from ten artists, each led by pedal or lap steel guitar, not all with vocals, a mix of originals and gospel standards. Gets increasingly heated. B+(**) [cd]

Merle Travis: Sweet Temptation: The Best of Merle Travis 1946-1953 (1946-53 [2000], Razor & Tie): Country singer from Kentucky, especially renown as a guitarist, had a string of big hits in the late 1940s, leading off with "Cincinnati Lou," "No Vacancy," and "Divorce Me C.O.D." (all from 1946). I know him most from Rhino's The Best of Merle Travis, but can also recommend Hot Pickin' (2-CD on Proper), and individual albums like Songs of the Coalmines -- his original "Sixteen Tons" is much different from the Tennessee Ernie Ford cover I first loved. A-

James Blood Ulmer: Black Rock (1982, Columbia): Guitarist, from South Carolina, played in soul jazz groups in the 1960s, but gained some fame with Ornette Coleman and Arthur Blythe -- the latter leading to a three album run with Columbia, the third his masterpiece Odyssey. This was the second, veering wildly with funk beats, gutbucket blues, and Hendrix-like pyrotechnics. A- [yt]

UTD [Urban Thermo Dynamics: DCQ/Ces/Mos Def]: Manifest Destiny (2004, Illson Media): Hip-hop trio, front cover stresses UTD under the artist names, back cover spells out the acronym. B+(***) [yt]

Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson: Clean Head's Back in Town (1957, Bethlehem): Debut album, cover proclaims "Eddie Vinson Sings" but the smaller-print seems to be the title. From Texas, came up playing alto sax in swing bands -- with Milton Larkin (along with Arnett Cobb and Illinois Jacquet) and Cootie Williams -- but only sings here, a dozen songs, including a couple he later built whole albums around ("Kidney Stew," "Cherry Red"). Lots of horns here, but not his: Joe Newman (trumpet), Henry Coker (trombone), various saxophonists -- Bill Graham on alto with Charlie Rouse on tenor (4 tracks), or Frank Foster or Paul Quinchette. A-

Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson: The Original Cleanhead (1970, BluesTime): Sings blues and plays alto sax, backed by a swing band with Plas Johnson (tenor sax), Joe Pass (guitar), and Earl Palmer (drums). [Ace's 2014 reissue adds three live tracks, including an "I Had a Dream" where he meets "President Nixon."] A-

Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson: Kidney Stew [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1969-78 [1996], Black & Blue): From France, the first 10 cuts were recorded and released as Wee Baby Blues (by Black & Blue) and as Kidney Stew Is Fine (by Delmark) in 1969, with Hal Singer on tenor sax, Jay McShann on piano, and T-Bone Walker on guitar (plus bass and drums). CD adds 2 cuts each from 1972 and 1978 -- both sets are backed by organ (Wild Bill Davis and Bill Doggett) with Lockjaw Davis (tenor sax) on the latter. A-

Bert Williams: "It's Getting So You Can't Trust Nobody": The Songs of Bert Williams Volume One (1901-22 [199X], Vaudeville Archive Records): Comedian and singer (1874-1922), born in Antigua, moved to New York, easily the most famous black entertainer of the period. Archeophone reissued all of his recordings on 3-CD in 2002-04, and that's probably the way to go, but this 1-CD selection (total time 71:55) is the one I found. What I haven't found is a release date, or any evidence on the Internet of the label's existence, but the cover sheet has the dates for all 25 songs, and a brief but informative bio. W.C. Fields described Williams as "the funniest man I ever saw -- and the saddest man I ever knew." A- [cd]

Don Williams: The Best of Don Williams, Volume II (1975-78 [1979], MCA): Mild-mannered country singer (1939-2017), started with Pozo Seco Singers (but forget that), started cranking out solo hits in 1973. The implied Volume I was actually titled Greatest Hits, although there are many more comps muddying the waters. Not sure how good his early singles were, but he hits his stride here: 11 songs, 6 topped the country chart, most of the rest came close. No complaints here, but later compilations offer more worthy songs over a slightly longer period -- e.g., 20 Greatest Hits (1987) and The Definitive Collection (2004; both start in 1973 and end in 1986), or for that matter the short 20th Century Masters best-of (2000). B+(***)

Bobby Womack: Greatest Hits (1972-89 [1999], Capitol): Soul singer, name stuck in my mind as the author of "It's All Over Now" (the Rolling Stones hit in 1964, originally released by Womack's group, The Valentinos), but his solo records didn't start until 1969, when he caught the tail end of Minit. While he had some hits in the 1970s, they were pretty minor (biggest was a re-recording of another Valentinos song, "Lookin' for a Love"). B+(*)

Stevie Wonder: Original Musiquarium I (1971-82 [1982], Motown, 2CD): Singles from his 1972-80 era, centered on 4 albums worth owning whole -- albums which everyone who cared at the time actually did own -- providing cover for 4 new ("previously unreleased") songs, of which "Do I Do" -- 10:30 upbeat funk with Dizzy Gillespie guesting -- is the most interesting. B+(***)

Stevie Wonder: In Square Circle (1985, Tamla): "Part-Time Lover" strikes first. The other songs take longer to sink in. B+(***)

Stevie Wonder: Jungle Fever (1991, Motown): Billed as "Music from the movie," the movie "a Spike Lee joint," the marketing angle boosting a relatively unspectacular album. B+(**)

Betty Wright: Danger High Voltage (1974, Alston): Debut album (My First Time Around) when she was 14, big hit ("Clean Up Woman") at 17, died last year at 66. This was her fourth, produced by T.K. in Miami. A-

Betty Wright: Live (1978, Alston): Extends her hit into a medley, closing with some burners. B+(***)

Yo Yo: You Better Ask Somebody (1993, EastWest): Rapper Yolanda Whitaker, four albums 1991-1996, a fifth album (1998) unreleased (although some promo copies were sent out). After first two (both, like this, Christgau A-) disappointed me, I skipped this third album. Not sure that was a mistake, as there's little chance this twist on old school/gangsta would have sounded as good then as it does now. Especially waking up in a bad mood. A- [yt]

Dwight Yoakam: Just Lookin' for a Hit (1986-89 [1989], Reprise): Country singer, best-of after three albums that could use a bit of trimming, plus two new songs -- covers, actually, "Sin City" and "Long Black Cadillac," which raids country-rock canon for depth. B+(***)

Neil Young & the Bluenotes: This Note's for You (1988, Reprise): He seemed to come unmoored in the 1980s, although I loved his hardcore Reactor (1981) and enjoyed his Krautrock experiment (Trans, 1982), his subsequent stabs at rockabilly, country, and whatever the hell Landing on Water was meant to be fizzled, his skid winding up with this horn-backed jump blues charade. Holds up better than expected for 2-3 cuts, then doesn't. B-

Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Weld (1991, Reprise, 2CD): Live double, first since Live Rust 12 years back, both albums preceded by harder rock turns (Rust Never Sleeps in 1979, with precursors back to 1975's Tonight's the Night); Freedom and Ragged Glory in 1989-90), forming some kind of suspension bridge over the mixed up morass of the 1980s. Songs split 7-7 between 1975-79 and 1989-90, with "Cinnamon Girl" from the end of an earlier decade and a cover of "Blowin' in the Wind" I see no point to. A-

Neil Young: Unplugged (1993, Reprise): Leans folkie with acoustic guitars -- no Crazy Horse but Nils Lofgren is on hand, plus dobro, piano/pump organ, bass, drums, backing singers. B+(***)

Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Broken Arrow (1996, Reprise): Missed this one. Interest waxes and wanes, and was at a low ebb following Mirror Ball (1995), although I did check out Year of the Horse (1997), and didn't care for it either. This starts out strong enough, settles down to merely solid, ends with a fading bootleg take of Jimmy Reed's "Baby What You Want Me to Do." B+(**)

Yuri Yunakov Ensemble: New Colors in Bulgarian Wedding Music (1997, Traditional Crossroads): "Turkish-Bulgarian Roma" saxophonist, based in US since 1994. Several albums 1995-2001. Engagingly intense, don't have much other framework to work from. B+(***)

Z-Man: Dope or Dogfood (2003, Refill): Bay Area rapper Zamon Christian, works with Gurp City collective, fourth album since 1998, does his own cover art, parties hard, which is harder than you think. B+(***)

Tapper Zukie: Man Ah Warrior (1973 [1977], MER): David Sinclair, from Jamaica, spent some time in UK, where Clement Bushay recorded this dub-influenced debut album. Feels jumbled, but could be version discrepancies. B+(***) [yt]

Further Sampling

Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.

Henry Threadgill Zooid: Poof (2021, Pi): Also sax and flute player, has had a brilliant run on this label (which used to be the best in the world at servicing critics, but no longer is). Quintet with Liberty Ellman (guitar), Jose Davila (tuba/trombone), bass and drums. [2/5]: +


Music Weeks

Music: Current count 36534 [36323] rated (+211), 149 [207] unrated (-58).

Excerpts from this month's Music Week posts:

October 4, 2021

Music: Current count 36370 [36323] rated (+47), 203 [207] unrated (-4).

Spent much of the week whittling down the unheard Christgau list, this week starting at Grateful Dead and working my way to Jaojoby (B.B. King next, playing now). Took a couple side trips along the way. I was excited to hear that Hat Hut's Ezz-Thetics reissue label has a Bandcamp page, then chagrined to find that many of their "Revisited" sets were purloined from other labels (probably aided by Europe's 50-year copyright limit). Hat was an important label for new jazz from the early 1970s on, so they have a lot of important music in their vaults, but they've always had certain business quirks. Another diversion was Michaelangelo Matos publishing a 2021 top-ten ballot on Facebook, so I checked out the half I hadn't heard (or for that matter heard of). The Matos list also led me to find a couple Burnt Sugar albums I had missed.

My other big diversion (a/k/a waste of time) this week was to play around with singles lists. What I have so far is tucked away in the notebook, but I'll probably move it into a standalone file if I ever get it close to presentable. (Temporary link here, but this is very short of ready, and also the numbers are for counting, not rank -- each list is alphabetical by artist.) My methodology was to start by looking at the Rolling Stone list (via Rock NYC and the ballots by Robert Christgau and Carola Dibbell and Chuck Eddy, and pick out what seemed most indubitable. Then I started looking through my database to find various artists compilations I liked. I would then pull them up on Discogs or Wikipedia for song lists, and pick a few more titles from them. Once I decided I wanted something from an artists, I would go on to Wikipedia to look at artist discographies (especially singles, which are usually presented with chart numbers).

Two insights occurred after I got started: (1) I decided to break up the list by decades, otherwise comparisons became difficult (too many apples-to-oranges) and would ultimately just prove my period prejudice: as someone born in 1950, the 1960s and 1970s were my peak exploration period, where everything was new and much of it exciting. I've continued to follow (and enjoy) new music since then, but after I stopped writing rockcrit in 1980 (and listening to radio a few years earlier, and stopped buying singles) I thought about it differently. If I tried to balance out a life-spanning singles list, it would wind up being about 80% pre-1980 (and 60% pre-1970), which says something about singles vs. albums -- the latter really came into their own around 1967-70 -- but mostly that I'm just an old fart. (2) is that after starting to pick one song per artist (per decade), I decided it would be worthwhile to add a few alternatives -- in case I wanted to refine my choices later on, or simply because some songs were too good to omit, and I started to get greedy.

I initially decided to leave jazz out completely -- no disrespect, but they became different things, with different aims, about the time LPs split off from singles in the 1950s. I may revise this to make vocals the dividing line. That would leave some rock instrumentals out, but not many were ever likely to be considered ("Rebel Rouser"? "Pipeline"? "Honky Tonk"?) And post-1970 I've picked the occasional album-only track (I think the first one I jotted down was Mott the Hoople's "I Wish I Was Your Mother"). I'm doing this almost exclusively from a memory that since the late 1970s has almost exclusively been formed from listening to albums, so it's no surprise that many of the songs that stuck in my cerebellum like singles used to were never marketed as such. (Note that not every critic has experienced this the way I have: in the late 1970s 12-inch singles became favored by DJs; in the 1980s MTV started the flood of video singles; and from the late 1990s the Internet has done much more to break singles than radio, which for all I know is nothing but senseless blather these days. Younger critics started with these media, much as I started with AM radio.)

So far I mostly have records from 1955-70, not just because that's my prime period, but also because that's where I've looked most intensively. I'm starting to think the 1960s and 1970s need to be broken into two halves, both due to quantity but also due to the rapid rate of change in those two decades, with 1964 and 1976 especially pivotal dates. As I recall, the first halves of both decades were much disparaged, although looking back I find them to be especially fertile (albeit as extensions of the previous half-decade).

One side effect was noticing one of Capitol's 2002 "Crescent City Soul" compilations that I had missed. I had to construct a playlist to review it, but it was worth it. (Still, not as good as the Minit-based Finger Poppin' and Stompin' Feet.) Tried to do the same with David Toop's Sugar and Poison, but couldn't find all the songs.

I also depleted enough of my promo queue that I inadvertently reviewed records as far out as November 12. (I've been sitting on the Fiedler and Balto albums for longer than I could stand.) Haven't done anything yet with the latest Phil Overeem list, but nice to see William Parker's Painter's Winter high on the list (higher than Mayan Space Station, which got first notice).

October 11, 2021

Music: Current count 36433 [36370] rated (+63), 188 [203] unrated (-15).

Almost no new jazz (or new anything else) this week. I continued with the Christgau unheard list, moving from B.B. King to Merle Travis, although I couldn't find most of the A-list records in the bottom half of that list. (This is my second pass, and while I skipped a lot of A-N albums in the first pass, I had made a more diligent effort further down.) Note that 4 of this week's A-list items are albums I didn't buy because I had previously heard/rated most of the music from other editions (Fela, Lovin' Spoonful, Roy Orbison, Merle Travis). I've noted some of those other editions below.

The other thing I did last week was to rifle through a shelf unit which (at least originally) had old CDs from my unheard list, and played what looks like a random selection. I had bought a ton of CDs early in the 2000s, especially in "going out of business" sales, and many of them languished. I've been keeping track of "unheard albums" since 2003, when the total was over 900. Eventually I got it down to the low 200s, but as I've streamed more, I've scrounged less, and I was getting frustrated at my inability to drop the unrated number below 200. Well, I made a dent in that list this week. To my surprise, three of those albums made this week's A-list, in very different ways (folksinger Ewan MacColl, Mardi Gras Party, and a hip-hop mix). The remaining unrated albums are listed here. Where they are in the house is anyone's guess, but I figure this is at least in part a housekeeping task.

One excuse I have is that the new promo queue has shrunk to the point where I only have one album past its release date (and that was one I received last week, by a group I had never heard of). That doesn't count downloads, which I don't keep very good track of. Actually got a fair amount of unpacking last week, mostly into November. I'll do them when I get around to it. Things are pretty messy right now.

October 18, 2021

Music: Current count 36480 [36433] rated (+47), 159 [188] unrated (-29).

Picked up a couple new (and one old) music tips from Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide: October 2021. I can note that I previously reviewed both Dave albums, Homeboy Sandman's Anjelitu, and Kalie Shorr's I got Here by Accident, all four at A-. Also Baloji at B+(***). While I had missed this particular Howlin' Wolf edition, the same 20 songs are also available in the same order on The Definitive Collection (released 2007), previously graded A+. It's depressing to compare the pitiful one below to the one I wrote back then:

Howlin' Wolf: The Definitive Collection (1951-64 [2007], Geffen/Chess): "Hidden Charms" was just a song, one about his girl. Chester Burnett had nothing to hide except his name. He was a big man, "three hundred pounds of heavenly joy," "built for comfort, not for speed." And he was bold. His voice sounded like gravel, but he could sing with it as well as bark, growl, and howl. He may not have been a great guitarist, but Hubert Sumlin was -- when Buddy Guy joined the band he played bass. Despite his mass, he had a light touch, an uncanny rhythmic cadence that dropped the words gracefully into place. Chess helped, too. Coming up from Memphis he was howlin' at midnight; soon he was sittin' on top of the world. A+

Otherwise, last week was like the week before, except even more depressing. Going through a sad, miserable patch, but at least I do take a little pleasure in crossing previously unplayed CDs off my "unrated" list -- at least as I cross them off my list, especially ones I didn't much enjoy listening to. Still, two of those records made the A-list this time (Ian Dury, Bert Williams). The other "old music" records -- most of the ones not marked [cd] -- continued my scan through the unheard Christgau-graded albums list, starting with Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, up to Dwight Yoakam this week. Deep down in the alphabet there, but still only 73% through (lot of various artist compilations to follow). Also, I'm aware of a few records I skipped that I can find on Napster or YouTube (shit I've really been avoiding -- Robert Cray is the name I'm most conscious of, probably because there's like three albums by him).

By the way, I don't seriously believe that anyone needs all three Cleanhead A- albums this week. I think he's terrific, but damn little difference between them, and any one will give you a good sample. (I probably prefer Clean Head's Back in Town.) By the way, he's also on two somewhat more varied records I'm also a fan of: Cleanhead and Cannonball, as in Adderley, and Blues in the Night Volume 2: The Late Show, filed under Etta James, and marginally better than Volume 1: The Early Show.

I wound up showing covers of two albums not reviewed below. The alternate Howlin' Wolf is really the same record, and when I looked up the review (above), I found I already had the cover scan handy. The Double Dee & Steinski EP didn't actually have a cover: it was just a sleeve with the label showing through, not that you'd ever find a copy anyway. The pictured Steinski comp starts off with those three pieces, then adds two more hours of brilliance. It's a desert island disc (well, two).

Reviewing old compilations always presents maddening, perhaps even impossible, trade-off questions between multiple editions. When I pointed out the Howlin' Wolf equivalence, Robert Christgau left his review unchanged, but tweeted:

To spare myself an insane amount of discographical nitpicking, I chose to base this week's Howlin' Wolf pick solely on what was in my shelves. But note that indefatigably punctilious Tom Hull has determined that Chess's 2007 Wolf Definitive Collection is identical to His Best.

Punctilious as I am, I also work mostly from my own shelves, plus a few things that are readily streamable. So sometimes I pull obsolete (out-of-print) compilations off my shelf. Since I've been checking up on old Christgau grades, I look for the releases he reviewed, even if they are long out-of-print, superseded by more recent editions -- even if that requires assembling an approximate playlist. That doesn't seem like ideal consumer guidance, but some kind of compromise is necessary. One odd artifact this week is that I've ignored the 2004 release dates on my Jethro Tull reissues in favor of their original dates, since that seems like a better baseline. I own a copy of A + Slipstream, but since the latter is just a live DVD, I limited the review to A. On the other hand, it's possible that on occasion I devalue an old LP compilation in favor of later CDs. That's likely with Don Williams below, as I at least partly explain in the review.

The Ezz-Thetics reissues continue to bug me. After I reviewed four a couple weeks ago, a reader pointed out that the series is curated with great care, with detailed liner notes from reputable critics. I review two more below, and find them slightly more useful than the original releases. I will get to more later.

I had to make my own scan of the Bert Williams, a release that seems to have escaped notice on the Internet. Archeophone's three volumes are probably the preferred source, not least for sound quality, but my single disc fills the bill nicely. I didn't write it as such, but that final trio of A-list albums (Williams, Betty Wright, Yo Yo) says much about the trajectory of race in America (and you can fill in a few gaps with Wynonie Harris, Howlin' Wolf, Cleanhead Vinson, and Marion Brown. Bought a new HP all-in-one printer in hopes of doing some scanning with it, but hadn't tried it, and it turned out xsane couldn't work with it. Very unhappy about that, and I blame HP -- for business tactics I hitherto mostly associated with Apple.

October 26, 2021

Music: Current count 36534 [36480] rated (+54), 149 [159] unrated (-10).

I expected a drop in the number of records reviewed this week, but the numbers held up pretty well. I knocked off 7 new jazz promos, another dozen-plus old unheard CDs, and a bunch of unheard Christgau picks. I also picked up a copy of the new Nathan Bell album Christgau reviewed, and was impressed enough to go back to all his other albums on Napster (where the new one isn't). First two were real impressive, but I cooled a bit when he trimmed down to solo albums -- lots of good things in the songs, but not as much fun to listen to.

I've been hearing rhapsodic reports on the new Coltrane vault tape, and I'm a huge fan of A Love Supreme, but I was disappointed when I finally got a chance to hear it. Not inconceivable my opinion could improve, but strikes me as a case of hope getting ahead of reality.

Thanks to the reader who tipped me to the "new" Kid Creole album. Unfortunately, it's not really new, nor really good. Thanks to another reader for catching some typos (one crippling), and for pointing out the recent death of Dutch classical conductor/violinist Bernard Haitink (also see Bernard Haitink, Perhaps the Wisest Conductor of Them All). I grew up despising classical music -- one prejudice I've never felt the slightest desire of working on -- so I don't see myself following up here, but seems like a public service announcement to note that someone who likes most of what I like also holds this guy in highest esteem.

I will note that Mort Sahl died today, age 94 (also see: Mort Sahl, Whose Biting Commentary Redefind Stand-Up, Dies at 94.) I remember him as one of the first comics I heard who was really outspoken on political issues. My favorite line of his goes something like: "Charlton Hesston says he hopes his children will one day live under Fascism. If he were more perceptive, he'd be a happy man today."

This is the last Music Week of October. I've opened a Streamnotes file for November, and started to add new things to it (although I liked A Rhys Chatham Compendium enough to sneak it in this week). As you can see from the link up top, it's been a big month for sampling old music. Easy to keep doing that. A good deal easier than figuring out what's new and interesting. Not sure whether I'll do an EOY compilation this year. Early on I would have said no, but not sure I'll be able to hold myself back.

Notes

Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:

  • [cd] based on physical cd
  • [cdr] based on an advance or promo cd or cdr
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com
  • [yt] available at youtube.com