Album Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Jan 03, 2018  |  23 comments
Before getting to the audiofool controversy surrounding the release of a 3M digital recording on expensive vinyl, there's the music. You're smacked in the face on the side openers "I.G.Y." and "New Frontier" (on the original single LP) by the exuberance and sunlit optimism of the "certain fantasies" entertained by "a young man growing up in the remote suburbs" back when science was venerated and not denigrated as it is today in certain circles as a "liberal plot".

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 01, 2018  |  3 comments
During the great folk music revival of the 1960s how many buyers of Peter, Paul & Mary's stunning debut album knew who was the Reverend Gary Davis, writer of the apocalyptic side 2 opener "If I Had My Way"? Probably very few. In those days you'd have to visit the local library to find out who he was, assuming you paid attention to label credits in the first place.

Michael Fremer  |  Dec 28, 2017  |  10 comments
What always felt like it would be a nasty bump in the Dylan Bootleg Series road turns out to be a smooth walk on the water thanks to a concept the Dylan boot team perfectly executes by covering the mutable artist's evangelical period with highly charged live performances, outtakes and rehearsals that will turn you into a believer, if not in Christ, then in Dylan's absolute commitment to what he then preached and in the power of the songs and especially the supercharged performances he delivered.

Michael Fremer  |  Dec 15, 2017  |  8 comments
You don’t have to be a Blue Note fetishist to know that pianist Sonny Clark made at least one great and enduring album, the 1958 hard bop classic “Cool Struttin’, though the cult of Cool Struttin’ has driven up the price of original pressings to the $4000 range and higher.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 26, 2017  |  10 comments
Don Was, community organizer. Who would have thought? There's long been a Blue Note "community" but it's a loose knit, worldwide group of like-minded label enthusiasts that have kept the Blue Note flame glowing. The fans remained true even as the company changed hands, lost artistic focus, engaged in self-exploitation and occasionally tried to re-invent itself into something it was not.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 26, 2017  |  7 comments
After the messy "supergroup" hype surrounding Blind Faith—more a one-off money maker than a group formed to last—Eric Clapton decided to downplay his fame and so was born in 1970 Derek and the Dominoes and the Layla... double LP that initially flopped. Many people today forget that, but flop it did. It didn't help that it was a costly double LP by an "unknown" group.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 22, 2017  |  0 comments
BS&T fans fall into 4 camps: the 1st which prefers the Al Kooper led original group and the album Child is Father to the Man, the 2nd that prefers only the second eponymously titled album, which was the group's most popular, the 3rd camp that loves the first two albums and the 4th camp that loves all of the group's albums. This box is definitely for them.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 04, 2017  |  5 comments
Pianist Jamie Saft's trio recorded a well-received, sonically superb 2014 album called New Standard. If you need a group or individual backgrounder, please hit that hyperlink.

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 15, 2017  |  11 comments
Musical cults in the rock world can't compare to what goes on in classical music—as anyone who's perused some of the used record prices on popsike.com surely knows. That's certainly true of the late, legendary cellist Jacqueline Du Pré.

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 09, 2017  |  8 comments
The turbulent and tragic Judee Sill story provides the ingredients from which musical cult followings are made: two critically acclaimed Asylum albums (she was the first artist David Geffen signed to the label) that despite great expectations sold poorly, a fight with Geffen over lack of support after which the label dropped her, a return to heroin addiction, and a drug overdose death in 1979 at age 35.

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 27, 2017  |  6 comments
The young jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant’s arrival on the jazz scene began when she entered and won the 2010 Thelonious Monk competition, which annually spotlights a different instrument. That year was a vocal contest. Singing was not the 21 year old’s intended career choice.

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 21, 2017  |  8 comments
Originally released on CD in 2011 this recorded-to-tape Gillian Welch gem finally has an AAA vinyl release. Welch explains the motivation for the vinyl version in a Washington Post profile .

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 09, 2017  |  23 comments
21st Century Procol Harum neglect is one of our time's most serious musical scandals if you axe me. That it took until now to get a high quality reissue of this most excellent album, while other less stellar records are one their 3rd or 4th reissue is a leading indicator of the neglect and lack of appreciation for this super group.

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 09, 2017  |  4 comments
Bassist, group leader and composer Stephan Crump assembled Rhombal, a two-horn, bass and drums quartet to explore a series of compositions he’d written for his late brother. “…it’s a commemoration of a death well-confronted, of a spiritual evolution I witnessed in my brother during out last days together, and of how close we left each other after what had been, for many years, a very troubled relationship.”

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 03, 2017  |  11 comments
"Mood music" is how the annotation characterizes this album of medium-sized ensembles imaginatively arranged by the then still in his 20s French jazz enthusiast Michel Legrand. Previous to these 1958 sessions Legrand had released three "mood music" concept albums: I Love Paris (CL555), Columbia Album of Cole Porter (C2L4), Legrand in Rio (CL 1139) and I Love Movies (CL 1178). This was his first stab at a real jazz album andgiven the assembled cast of greats what a heady experience it must have been for him to both arrange and conduct in New York City those three days in early summer, 1958 .

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