Music Review

Vinyl of the Week: Les McCann & Eddie Harris - Swiss Movement

Les McCann & Eddie Harris - Swiss Movement (Atlantic, 1969)

I don't profess to have the deepest critical knowledge of jazz, especially with managing editor Steve Holtje being our resident expert, but I definitely have a deep appreciation. Regardless, Swiss Movement by Les McCann and Eddie Harris remains of one of my favorite live jazz albums. I just picked up a super-clean used copy of it at one of my favorite vinyl shops in Akron, Ohio.

Song of the Week: The Cactus Blossoms - "Stoplight Kisses"

Sure, Minneapolis-based brothers Jack Torrey and Page Bunkum's vocals and Americana roots-rock tunes remind one of The Everly Brothers and/or Louvin Brothers, but their band The Cactus Blossoms still swings with a timeless vibe and carries that retro torch forward in a very convincing manner. Moreover, they opened for country legend Dwight Yoakam on Sunday night for Lincoln Center's Out of Doors Americanafest Weekend and the crowd was blown away. This infectious single -- "Stoplight Kisses" -- is from their excellent new album, You’re Dreaming, and was produced by the equally beguiling roots-rocker J.D. McPherson. Buy it on vinyl; support the arts, people.

Vinyl of the Week: Summer Albums, Part 2

My summer has been filled with deep loss. My younger brother David succumbed to major injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident on June 1st. Along with the comfort and love from my family and friends, music was a necessary daily elixir. Many nights I would listen to vinyl in my mother's home, albums I'd left there years ago, or a handful of new/used pieces I picked up at one of my favorite Akron, OH vinyl shops.The ritual of cleaning each piece, placing it on the turntable, dropping the needle, studying the album art, reading the liner notes... it was a much-needed distraction. Here are three new pieces that have aided me in my latest life's journey.

Sandy Pearlman R.I.P.

On Monday, July 26, famed rock producer, manager, and lyricist Sandy Pearlman died at the age of 72. His Wikipedia page says he "was the recipient of 17 gold and platinum records." He managed that despite not actually producing many bands, or even albums -- but he left a big imprint on every one he worked on.

Born in Rockaway (Queens), NY in 1943, he got a college degree at the State University of New York at Stony Brook on Long Island in 1966.

A year later, still in the Stony Brook area, he recruited a band so he could have a series of science-fiction poems he'd written (the Imaginos saga, about a group secretly controlling world history) set to music and performed. He named the band Soft White Underbelly after Winston Churchill's epithet for Italy, but changed its name to Oaxaca after Soft White Underbelly got a negative review at a big concert. After another name change, to the Stalk-Forrest Group, the band recorded two albums for Elektra, but only one single was released, and that only as a promo.

Vinyl of the Week: Three New Pieces of Summer Vinyl!

So this summer I've fallen back in love with vinyl, thanks in part to CC editor Steve Holtje giving me a satchel of essential albums this past winter, thus forcing me to buy a new turntable. It seems like only yesterday when vinyl ruled my world -- when Tower Records was part of my weekly Saturday routine, when vinyl was both King and Queen, and when analog music was so much easier on the ears and a much more enjoyable listening experience. (And one had to actually participate in said experience by flipping the album over after one side was finished playing.) Now I get to replace most of the vinyl I sold or gave away with either 180 gram, remastered versions or pristine used copies found in thrift shops or on the numerous Facebook vinyl user groups I've recently joined. Please indulge me as I "wax" poetic about three new items I recently added to my collection:

Robert Kidney - Jagleg (Exit Stencil)

This record was a long time coming, but well worth the wait; a solo outing by the brilliant band leader Robert Kidney of the equally brilliant NE Ohio juggernaut blues outfit 15-60-75 aka The Numbers Band, now in their 46th year of playing and recording. This glorious effort was recorded live with only two edits by Tony Maimone at Studio G in Brooklyn. It's like you're sitting in the same room with Robert and his acoustic guitar, ingesting his anguished angle on life. Raw and visceral, emotional and deeply satisfying, this is an album only a man who has lived the blues could produce. If you loved the American Recordings by Johnny Cash, then you must purchase this gem as well.

Joe Walsh's Best Serious Songs

I recently posted a Joe Walsh song on my Facebook wall and the reaction was mixed. One commenter wrote, "Walsh always struck me as the real-life Spicoli, and that was about as seriously as I could take him." This is a common misconception about Walsh.

Walsh has had a music career of over five decades.  There are many, many people who know of him mostly as a member of the Eagles (since 1975) who had a hit in 1978 with a funny song, "Life's Been Good." Yet Walsh was a music biz veteran of eleven years’ standing when Hotel California was released in 1976; he would not have been recruited into the Eagles if he had not already established himself as such a distinctive guitarist that he could instantly give them the rock cred they so desired. Already on his resume were the killer riffs of "Rocky Mountain Way," "Turn to Stone," "Walk Away," and "Funk #49." The latter two came with the James Gang, an Ohio band that gathered an international following after so impressing the Who while opening for them in Pittsburgh that they were invited to open for the Who for a whole tour.

May Classical Review Roundup

Hélene Grimaud
Water: Berio: Wasserklavier: Sawhney: Water: Transitions 1-7; Takemitsu: Rain Tree Sketch No. 2; Fauré: Barcarolle No. 5; Ravel: Jeux d'eau; Albéniz: Almeria; Liszt: Les Jeux d'eaux a la Villa d'Este; Janáček: In the Mist: No. 1; Debussy: La Cathedrale engloutie
(Deutsche Grammophon)
 
Classical purists be warned: almost half the tracks here are not the solo piano recital you might expect from the billing. Instead, Grimaud had composer Nitin Sawhney create electronic bridging miniatures (ranging from 0:56 to 1:41) fitted between the solo piano tracks. This works wonderfully well, changing this album from a traditional presentation into a moody soundscape (though the purist crowd was quick to take offense, witness the extremely snarky review on classicstoday.com). Of course, Grimaud is her usual scintillating self on the solo piano pieces.