Album Reviews

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Willie Luncheonette  |  Jan 08, 2022  |  26 comments
Punk rock is a subgenre of rock and roll with roots in garage rock, but it's generally faster and more aggressive than garage. Punk was a rebellion against the hippie culture's idealism and appearance. The flower children’s righteous idea of making the world a better place was met with the stark reality of the punks' world in disarray. New York, the birthplace of punk, was almost bankrupt in the early 70's and when the Sex Pistols appeared in England, unemployment was severe with well over a million people out of work. Crime and drugs were rampant in NYC; parks were littered with used syringes. England incurred inflation, oil shortages and strikes. So bell bottoms were out, replaced by tight pants and those beautiful long locks were gone, replaced by hair cut short, and even cut off as skinhead culture emerged.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 03, 2022  |  51 comments
The Blakey was cut from 96/24 files according to Chris Bellman at BG Mastering for the surmised reason: the songs were on multiple tapes and the most expeditious way to produce cutting masters was to first digitize. The annotation wasn't clear but I don't think anyone was "trying to pull a fast one"._MF). It was Beatlemania when Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers landed at Haneda Airport, New Year’s Day, 1961. Of course, The Beatles hadn’t yet happened, but neither had Blakey and his group ever been greeted in America with the rousing enthusiasm they encountered both upon landing and during the series of shows in which they performed in Japan that month.

Mark Dawes  |  Dec 31, 2021  |  8 comments
These five excellent vinyl releases from 2021 include a five LP box set and a double LP, so you really get TEN albums for the price of five! If that doesn’t make you want to read on, I give up—come on, I’m killing myself here! You’re driving me out of business! But seriously folks, on the topic of money—I buy all my own records, so please be assured that none of these are promo copies and these recommendations are my personal choices from the crop of 2021.

Michael Fremer  |  Dec 23, 2021  |  9 comments
The term “singer/songwriter” hadn’t yet been coined when the “hotter’n a depot stove” 29 year-old songwriter Willie Nelson stepped into the studio to record his debut album for Liberty Records. Back then, you were either a songwriter or a singer, though of course there were a very few who were both. Here, Nelson proves he was one of them

Malachi Lui  |  Dec 13, 2021  |  16 comments
Uniquely deviating from the overplayed standard holiday music fare, Yen Records’ We Wish You A Merry Christmas is a Christmas LP actually worth your time, energy, and money. With exclusive material from Haruomi Hosono, Yukihiro Takahashi, Miharu Koshi, Taeko Ohnuki, Moonriders, and others, it creatively rounds up the YMO orbit in a cohesive holiday listen.

Michael Fremer  |  Dec 10, 2021  |  2 comments
This Village Vanguard Inside Straight set was recorded December 2014 a week before bassist McBride recorded with his trio another Village Vanguard engagement that became his Mack Avenue debut album.

Malachi Lui  |  Dec 07, 2021  |  18 comments
Primal Scream’s Screamadelica, released in September 1991, captured late 80s/early 90s UK rave culture’s peak. Unlike that era’s other UK “guitar bands” making dance music, Primal Scream was a Rolling Stones-esque rock band that—with the help of producers including Andrew Weatherall, The Orb, Terry Farley, and Hypnotone as well as singer Denise Johnson—drew from acid house in a seamless transition towards the current time. While it now sounds a bit dated, it remains a well-produced, relevant piece of rock history whose energy transcends any stylistic setbacks.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 30, 2021  |  4 comments
The always defiant, sometimes bitter and often angry Charles Mingus had a habit of declaring more than a few of his records as his best, including this one. He might be correct about The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady recorded January, 1963, though Tijuana Moods and several others are definitely in the running.

Malachi Lui  |  Nov 24, 2021  |  2 comments
In June 1968, to record their second album Wow/Grape Jam, San Francisco psych rock band Moby Grape traveled to Columbia Records’ New York studios. Towards these sessions’ end, guitarist Alexander “Skip” Spence vanished with an acid mystic known only as “Johanna.” Her LSD induced a three-day trip, during which a paranoid Spence turned against his bandmates. Two days later, Spence reappeared at the band’s hotel with a fire axe; when he didn’t find them there, he hailed a cab to the studio, ready to attack. “His eyes were like one-arm bandits,” producer David Rubinson recounted in 2009. Police arrested Spence, who then spent five months in Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric ward.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 10, 2021  |  4 comments
If Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas is a melancholic look back at childhood Christmas viewed through the eyes of the Peanuts gang, Duke Pearson's 1969 Blue Note release Merry Ole Soul is the Christmas record you'll want to play at a hip holiday cocktail party.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 03, 2021  |  18 comments
Ella Fitzgerald's Christmas album is a secular holiday delight sure to please every listener, even atheists and agnostics. Originally released in 1960, the sound here is warm and inviting as a Yule log burning in the fireplace—once you get past the opener "Jingle Bells", which is somewhat brighter, brasher and more in your face than the rest, though having Ella in your face is hardly problematic.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 02, 2021  |  12 comments
In the worthy annotation to this historically remarkable release, educator and author of the biography “John Coltrane His Life and Music” Lewis Porter provides a play by play of this unlikely nightclub performance of Coltrane’s worshipful masterpiece recorded October 2nd 1965.

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 28, 2021  |  41 comments
(photo: Jeremy Neech)
The blank white The Beatles double LP gatefold jacket intended to show the world that the group was finished with busy, production heavy studio creations that relied for completion upon production tricks and gimmickry. Instead, the group wanted to emphasize musicianship and “live play”.

Never mind that the songs sometimes ended up being more individual than group efforts and that squabbling and disagreement led to acrimony as well as long time engineer Geoff Emerick exiting, producer George Martin going on holiday and even Ringo Starr walking out for a few weeks.

Malachi Lui  |  Oct 24, 2021  |  4 comments
The cover of Fishmans’ “new” live LP Wakainagaramo Rekishi Ari (“Young, But With History”) might mislead you: after all, the drummer is wearing his own merch, the bassist’s baseball cap is far from stylish, and the eccentrically dressed frontman appears disconnected from reality, completely lost in his own music. And unless you live in Japan, you won’t see Fishmans albums in record stores, nor find them on “greatest albums” lists. So, what’s all the hype about?

Mark Dawes  |  Oct 24, 2021  |  7 comments
DJ Format (aka Matt Ford) is a hiphop DJ and producer from Brighton, England. DJ Shadow (aka Josh Davis) is a hiphop DJ and producer from Sacramento, California. Brighton and Sacramento; not the first urban centers you think of in relation to groundbreaking hiphop production. Format and Shadow, however, are at either end of a 25 year continuum of atmospheric instrumental beats. DJ Shadow’s 1996 debut Endtroducing….. which got a half-speed remastered 25th anniversary edition last month, was composed completely from samples, a methodology shared with DJ Format’s latest LP from 2021 Devil’s Workshop.

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