For the first time in my life, I approached my end-of-the-year lists with trepidation, as 2012 had seemed disappointing, musically speaking. But when it came time to narrow my choices down, it turned out that there HAD been plenty of good music, and I hadn't even reviewed it all here.
Too tuneful not to be #1. Review here.
Just because I gave you the best dozen first, don't think that Part 2 can be skipped. Albums 13-25 get more interesting, because they're less obvious choices.
Veteran folkie with bluesy leanings makes yet another superb album, for the first time using only his own songs. Review here.
Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal (1947- ) formed his Odyssey band in 1975; the group's debut album was the eponymous two-LP set that's on the first two discs in this box. When ECM first issued Odyssey on CD, it was as a single disc that omitted the album's last and longest track, "Rolling Stone" (the uncut album's around 88 minutes). A few months ago, ECM answered 18 years' worth of prayers with this three-CD set, on which the long-missing "Rolling Stone" is restored to its rightful place. It'll be a great Christmas present for any fans of electric guitar or jazz fusion on your shopping list. Read more »
December is a month that increasingly sees few releases of new albums, so the closer this list gets to the present day, the fewer albums of importance there are to discuss, and most of those are hip-hop albums.
Shortly after Steve Winwood quit the Spencer Davis Group (of which he was the lead singer and organist), he formed Traffic with some guys he'd jammed with at a club in Birmingham: guitarist/vocalist Dave Mason, saxophonist/flutist Chris Wood, and drummer/lyricist Jim Capaldi. After a couple of hit singles, they convened at a country cottage and put together the debut album by Traffic, titled Mr. Fantasy in their native country. By the time it was released, Mason had already quit. Read more »
Dave Brubeck died of heart failure today, one day before his 92nd birthday. He led a long, fruitful, and lauded life; he remained active as a performer until last year. He was iconic even to non-jazz fans, and on news of his passing, Facebook erupted in postings of "Take Five." But that track was actually written by the Dave Brubeck Quartet's longtime alto saxophonist, Paul Desmond. Not that there's anything wrong with that response; it was by far the most famous of the tracks associated with Brubeck, since it was the featured track of his best-selling 1959 album, Time Out (I wrote about at length on its 50th anniversary three years ago). But it made me decide that, rather than write a standard obituary or an album-by-album look at his recording career, I would instead post my favorite songs written by Dave Brubeck. Read more »
Cool, like water, is difficult to grasp, and like truth, is even more awkward to explain. If an example of this conundrum were needed, then it could be located in the guise of Sixto Rodriguez, who by virtue of existing exemplifies the quality in question. At the age of three score and ten, he has become an unusual media darling. with appearances on the Letterman Show in the U.S. and Later with Jools Holland in the U.K., and is selling out venues (three nights in London, to mention but a few) and has gone from being a re-issue oddity to a current artist, -- without, it has to be said, much calculation on his own behalf. He is also the subject of a major documentary, Looking for Sugar Man, which embroiders his delicious myth into a rock 'n' roll fable. He remained steadfast, it was simply the world that moved closer. Read more »
This was the Airplane's second LP of 1967, and on it they took the studio freedom their two huge hit singles had earned them and went wild and unsupervised, making a real psychedelic album rather than the carefully contrived simulation of psychedelia that had been Surrealistic Pillow. The result had more avant-garde weirdness than hit singles (RCA had unrealistic hopes for "Watch Her Ride"), but the album actually coheres far better; for all the stylistic disjunctions and studio effects and Jorma Kaukonen's often-abrasive guitar sounds, and for that matter the nine-minute instrumental trio improvisation "Spare Chaynge," it flows organically, creating its own logic. Read more »
Generally I try to give my genre review roundups a certain breadth, but this time I'm focusing on solo piano recordings, with one exception at the end that's still keyboard-centric.
Looking at the tracklist, one might think this is a jazz album: "Blue Skies," "I Got Rhythm," "Begin the Beguine," "My Favorite Things," etc. The subtitle, though, is "virtuoso show tunes for piano," and all of these are thoroughly notated arrangements, most by classical pianists -- Earl Wild, Alexis Weissenberg, Christopher O'Riley, Stephen Hough, and Marc-Andre Hamelin are among those credited, though from the jazz side Dick Hymen and Cy Walter are also heard from, and Andre Previn goes both ways, musically speaking. Read more »
I'd heard for years what a crapshoot Dylan concerts were, how he may render classic songs "unrecognizable." Given the cost of his shows, I never took the chance before.
But my wife wanted to see him, and made my ticket my early Christmas present. The show was only two blocks from our place, after all, and for as much as I hate the Barclays Center both for what it represents and for the myriad inconveniences it foists on us, I figure we're due a benefit from it. It turned out to be worth the price of admission, though that determination was in doubt for a while. Read more »
A far better album than Young & Crazy Horse's shabby Americana from earlier this year, not so much because it's songs written by Neil (certainly nobody will be impressed by the rather feeble lyrics on display here) as that he stretches out and jams with the Horse. Really stretches out, as in tracks lasting 27:35, 16:48, 8:33, and 16:26 (along with five tracks in the three- to four-minute range). He quit drugs, but he didn't quit reaching for another state of mind; I'd even say that he may be using this music as his drug. The hypnotic trips he takes here make this his best new album in over twenty years, and one of his top five post-'70s albums. Pretty good for a guy who just celebrated his 67th birthday. Read more »
It's been a good year for Beethoven piano sonata recordings (and I'm working on a separate piece focused on 2012 Beethoven piano recordings). Bavouzet's new Beethoven cycle faces much stiffer competition than his also-in-progress Haydn set (see below), of course, but this three-CD box is dazzlingly good. It has the three sonatas of Op. 2; the "Grand Sonata," Op. 7; the three sonatas of Op. 10 plus No. 1's original Prestissimo finale and the Presto WoO 52 that was also jettisoned from No. 1; the Pathetique, Op. 13; and the two Op. 14 sonatas. Read more »
Tonight at 8 PM there will be a concert at Death by Audio that not only features three of Brooklyn's best upcoming bands, but also a donation drive for Sandy relief. Recommended donations are food, water, flashlights, D batteries, cleaning supplies, hand warmers, diapers, baby food, blankets, sleeping bags, hypothermia blankets, carbon monoxide detectors, folding chairs and tables, sternos, and catering equipment. (But no clothing, please.) Read more »
Because of both his religious devotion and how well his "tintinnabuli" style works with massed voices, choral music has long been the most important part of the output of Estonian "mystic minimalist" composer Arvo Pärt (b. 1935). The past few months brought two excellent recordings focusing on his choral works. Read more »
Yes, I have too much time on my hands. Here's a new feature that was fun to put together (though quite time-consuming, which makes me worry about my ability to do this every month). I look back at rock, pop, and R&B albums that came out five years ago, ten years ago, etc.
There was much chaos surrounding the creation of this quintet 's second album. Bassist Bruce Palmer, in some ways the soul of the band, was unavailable due to a drug charge deportation, and a string of session players took his place. Stephen Stills, who saw himself as the leader of the group, was feuding with Neil Young, who considered himself an equal, and Young actually quit -- but returned. And that's without getting into the fiasco that was the band's management team. Read more »