My Favorite Rekkids of 2016, 75% of the Way Through Their (not really totally) Loathsome Year (BECAUSE of these rekkids, in part)

These are the recent records (most minted in this calendar year, some not quite) that I most whole-heartedly recommend to the musical adventurer. I’m starting to hate lists, but it’s a habit, and when one is dealing with annual ones, one must stay on top of them. If you peer back at my last list-post, you’ll probably see little change, so as a bonus, I am throwing in some additional offerings that I don’t quite so strongly recommend, but that may delight you and eventually grow on me. As for purchasing them, I assume you know how to use the Internet, but in a few case where the source (sometimes the artist himself) needs a boost, I may direct you. As much as it’s possible for me to deduce it, they are in order of, um, power.

  1. Beyoncé: Lemonade
  2. Saul Williams: Martyr Loser King
  3. Tyler Keith and The Apostles: Do It for Johnny
  4. The Paranoid Style: Rolling Disclosure
  5. Anderson Paak: Malibu
  6. J. D. Allen: Americana
  7. Anna Hogberg: Anna Hogberg Attack
  8. Meet Your Death: Meet Your Death
  9. Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial
  10. Blood Orange: Freetown Sound
  11. Rihanna: Anti
  12. Chance the Rapper: Coloring Book
  13. Elizabeth Cook: Exodus of Venus
  14. Joe McPhee and Paal Nilssen-Love: Candy
  15. Various Artists: Music of Morocco–Recorded by Paul Bowles, 1959
  16. Bombino: Azel
  17. Pylon: Live
  18. The Drive-By Truckers: American Band
  19. Nots: Cosmetic
  20. M. I. A: Aim
  21. Wussy: Forever Sounds
  22. Parquet Courts: Human Performance
  23. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down: A Man Alive
  24. Pedrito Martinez: Habana Dreams
  25. Jemeel Moondoc and Hilliard Greene: Cosmic Nickolodeon
  26. Various Artists: Desconstrucao–A Portrait of Sao Paulo’s Music Scene
  27. Kel Assouf: Tikonen
  28. Yoni & Geti: Testarossa
  29. Aesop Rock: The Impossible Kid
  30. Mexrissey: No Manchester

THE BEST OF THE REST

[If the record’s bolded, it almost made or was previously in the Top 25; if it’s preceded by an asterisk (*), it barely made this list.]

Aesop Rock and Homeboy Sandman: Lice 2 (EP)

Angry Angles

*Bajakian, Aram: Music Inspired by the Film The Color of Pomegranates

Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl

Booker, James: Bayou Maharajah (DVD)

Bowie, David: Blackstar

*Bradley, Charles: Changes

*Braxton, Anthony: 3 Compositions [EEMHM] 2011

Cavanaugh: Time and Materials (EP)

Childbirth: Women’s Rights

Dalek: Asphalt for Eden

De La Soul: …and the anonymous nobody

DeJohnette, Jack: In Movement

Del McCoury Band: Del and Woody

Dylan, Bob: Fallen Angels

Fulks, Robbie: Upland Stories

*Garbage: Strange Little Birds

Konono N1 Meets Batida

Kool and Kass: Barter 7

Iyer, Vijay, and Wadada Leo Smith: A Cosmic Rhythm in Each Stroke

Lamar, Kendrick: Untitled Unmastered

Lewis, Linda Gail: Heartache Highway

Lynn, Loretta: Full Circle

*Natural Child: Okey-Dokey

Neville, Aaron: Apache

Open Mike Eagle: Hella Personal Film Festival

Perfecto: You Can’t Run from the Rhythm

*Professor Longhair: Live in Chicago

Pusha T: Darkness Before Dawn

Reed, Blind Alfred: Appalachian Visionary

Rollins, Sonny: Holding Down the Stage–Road Shows, Volume Four

Smith, Dr. Lonnie: Evolution

*Stetson, Colin: Sorrow–A Reimagining of Gorecki’s Third Symphony

Threadgill, Henry (conductor): Old Locks and Irregular Verbs

Toussaint, Allen: American Tunes

Various Artists: Soul Sok Sega–Sega Sounds from Mauritius

Veloso, Caetano, and Gilberto Gil: Dois Amigos, Um Seculo de Musica–Multishow Live

White Lung: Paradise

Wills, Bob, and The Texas Playboys: Let’s Play, Boys–Rediscovered Songs from Bob Wills’ Personal Transcriptions

*Young Philadelphians (with Marc Ribot): Live in Tokyo

*Young Thug: Jeffrey

Ze, Tom: Vira Lata na Via Lactea

Good to My Earhole, September 17-24: “Destroy to Rebuilt.”

Highlights of my last several weeks’ listening, rated on a 10-point scale based on how close each rekkid came to making me/whether or not it made me shout. Also, many thanks to the wily music critic Anthony Heilbut and the indefatigable gospel archivist Opal Nations (at the perfectly-named PEWBURNER! website) for educating me and providing me resources!

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO RICHARD PENNIMAN – 8.0 – You might not be aware, but Richard Penniman is better known as Little Richard, and this comp, extracted from scarce vinyl, documents the various years during which he turned himself over to the church. It’s a more consistent and interesting listen than you might fear: he’s always fun when he’s talking (you get some testimony), he invests full feeling into well-traveled vessels like “Old Ship of Zion,” he’s a damn good preacher (“Coming Home”), and there’s a mighty thin line between sec and nonsec on “He Got What He Wanted (But He Lost What He Had)” and “Certainly Lord.” Whoever finally takes on the cross-referencing nightmare necessary to produce the definitive Little Richard comp will need to raid this.

The Violinaires: THE VIOLINAIRES OF DETROIT (1953-1968) (8.3) and GROOVIN’ WITH JESUS (7.5) – I never thought I’d ever buy a record with a title such as the one affixed to the latter release by this underrated gospel quartet, but that was before I heard their great screamer Robert Blair, who’s a hair from on par with Wilson Pickett, who once sang with the group. The former record is exciting as a result, excepting its secular tracks, though the uncategorizable Bizarro-Coasters track “All is Well, All is Well” will definitely keep your attention. You can program around those. Groovin’ (from the late Sixties) will also require your programming attention unless you dig versions of “Put Your Hand in the Hand” and “Let the Sunshine In” that Blair seems to have sat out (at least they’re back to back!), but there the quartet is backed by some very tough and funky Motor City soul players that let the street into the church a few steps.

The Original Blind Boys of Mississippi (featuring Archie Brownlee): THE GREAT LOST BLIND BOYS ALBUM – 10 – It’s great principally due to Brownlee, who with Julius Cheeks of the Sensational Nightingales was the greatest wailer in ’50s quartet gospel, without whom aspects of JB’s and the Wicked Pickett’s vocal attack (and I do mean attack) would have been missing. It’s lost because the recordings were released on Vee-Jay, a huge label at the time that collapsed into a mess and the oft-stunning catalog of which must be tied up in court as I type. But be patient and some sucker’ll sell it used for $5. Featuring the classics “I’m a Soldier,” “I’m Willing to Run,” “Where There’s a Will, There’s A Way,” and “I Never Heard a Man.” Woahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, indeed.

Nots: COSMETIC – 8.8 – After several perusals of Natalie Hoffman’s lyrics and album art, I can assure you she ain’t happy, she looks out of windows and into mirrors frequently and stands firmly unimpressed, and the nights are seldom what she is hoping for (I know Memphis–not to mention other cities–can be that way). So I gave up on those and just rocked along to her no-wave guitar (often in tandem, conversation, and competition with Alexandra Eastburn’s synth figures), got off on her magnificently snotty vocals, and let myself get carried along by their sonic rush. They’re not ones to tarry. Oh, and the drummer’s real good. Those two facts are related.

Marc Ribot: THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS–LIVE IN TOKYO – 7.0 – The idea’s cute, and the players couldn’t be better chosen to execute it: apply the method of Ornette’s harmolodics, which on several releases were indeed catchier than most would expect, to TSOP: the sound of Philadelphia (with some Dayton, Ohio, thrown in). But somehow it doesn’t catch quite catch fire–at times, and I never thought I’d say this about a Ribot project, it’s boring. The structures of the original songs, maybe, aren’t built to shoot the improvs into the stratosphere, and the three-piece string section doesn’t really add up to anything but a reminder of the ol’ glitter-ball. The “disco” material shows off Jamaaladeen Tacuma as the underrecorded wonder he is on bass, but Calvin Weston sounds bored and his drums are way back in the mix. The show, really, for many who’ve been thinking about buying this, is the prospect of Ribot and Mary Halvorson interacting on guitars, and that ends up being the musical equivalent of a buddy movie sans chemistry.

DESCONTRUCÃO–A PORTRAIT OF THE SÃO PAULO MUSIC SCENE – 9.0 – From the liner notes, album art, and the compilation title, the featured artists’ mission seems to be “destroy to rebuilt” [sic].” Set up to be blown up are samba (of course, but they clearly LOVE it), jazz, rock, Afrobeat (!) and “most of all MPB” (that would be “musica popular brasileira). Sound familiar? It does to me–but it doesn’t sound quite like tropicalia. The energy’s not as zany, but it’s a good bit tougher, more serious in its mission, sounds to me. The vocalists can’t match the litheness and beauty of Veloso, Costa, Ben, and Gil (a tall order, that); on the other hand, the music compensates, if this makes sense, with a euphoniousness that often ranges further outside of Brazil than its famous predecessors’. Case in point: a few of their jazz ideas touch down in, oh, about ’65–not in bossa nova territory, but New Thing’s. A scene to watch. Now if I could just understand Portuguese I might know if they’ve got something to say about their government and economy.

Dead Moon: “Black September”/”Fire in the Western World– 10 – A perfect 45 from the lovable folks at Voodoo Doughnut that captures the garage-punk trio at their peak, at a ’93 Satyricon concert on their home turf. Neither cut’s on the recent Record Store Day release, either.

Good to My Earhole, August 11 – September 6: Through Many Dangers, I Finally Posted Again

Highlights of last few weeks’ listening, rated on a 10-point scale calibrated to how close I was to falling out:

THOSE WERE DIFFERENT TIMES: CLEVELAND 1972-1976 – 8.8 – Cleveland: the secret capitol of punk rock. The Mirrors, Electric Eels (especially–trigger alert!), and Styrenes don’t go down as easily as, say, the Dolls, or EVEN Rocket from The Tombs/Pere Ubu. They care less for tunes than for abrasion and unmediated expression. But I wonder if it that wasn’t the point. And John Morton and Craig Bell still have tricks remaining up their sleeves, or sticking out of their back pockets, lit.

Marion Williams/THROUGH MANY DANGERS–CLASSIC PERFORMANCES 1965-1993 – 10 – As a member of the Clara Ward Singers, her pure power and emotional range pushed the gospel group format to new heights. Little Richard caught her “wooooooo” and put it to, shall we say, a less pure use. And she just got better, as this #AnthonyHeilbut-curated collection demonstrates. The final track, simply a moan, may put every gospel cut you’ve ever heard to shame.

The Greenhornes/SEWED SOLES – 8.8 – To my ear, they’re the Dwight Yoakam/Robert Cray/Tom Petty of the American garage. They have the form and the style mastered. They put feeling and care into their work. They are smart enough to work in changes of pace (here with an assist from Holly Golightly) among the many riffs. And while they seldom set off a fire ripping through the range, their commitment makes for tough, soulful listening. A great compilation that got lost in the shuffle during garage-punk-gunk’s cometic moment.

James Carter/CHASIN’ THE GYPSY – 10 – If you want to check out a relatively recent swinging jazz record that ain’t museum-musty-dusty, and if you want to witness maybe our most contemporary mainstream master at his apex, before he went on cruise control, go no further than this. It’s mostly Django Reinhardt tunes, with originals that tip their hats to his legacy, but rather than try to recapture that fleet guitarist’s breezy flourishes, chunk-a-chunks, and exciting shifts, Carter just sets off multi-reed fireworks–some of them M80s, others spinners, still others with colors and noises you’ve not heard and seen before. Come to think of it, flourishes abound–but they’re more like hurricanes. And while, according to a vaunted expert, all tribute albums suck, they don’t when there’s the right balance of love, deep knowledge, and irreverence. With cousin Regina Carter on furious violin and Jay “Astral Weeks/The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady” Berliner on guitar. Try to resist the zany, headlong, near-impossible momentum of the title cut, and try not to be seduced by exotic “Oriental Shuffle.” Double-effin’ dare ya.

Michael Kiwanuka/LOVE AND HATE – 8.3 – This young man projects a serious Marvin vibe.His pipes aren’t quite THERE, but he can project, he can write, the production is sensitive, moody, if a tad nostalgic, and it’s certainly of the moment, if you get my drift. I put it on for what I thought would just be background to grading, expecting it to merely whelm me–and he kept catching me up short with understated lines and choruses. I don’t want to get fooled like I feel did with Aloe Blacc, but this kid seems to be coming from a deeper place; I am not sure Blacc would risk something as direct as “Black Man in a White World.” What do you think?

Black Flag/WHO’S GOT THE 10 1/2? – 9.5 – The Who of the hardcore world (tough guy up front delivering sly-guy guitarist’s heartfelt, angry, antagonistic, ridiculous, audience-aware words) deliver their LIVE AT LEEDS. Funny how often when I NEED this band I turn to this. Great song selection, unchained six-string, maybe Henry’s last great sustained (recorded) moment on stage.

Apologies to White Lung, Dorothy Love Coates, Delaney & Bonnie, Ruth Davis, and White Lung–I ran out of time and energy. I hope to catch y’all on the rebound.

My Top 25 Favorite Rekkids of This Roiling Year

August 7, Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s birthday (by the way), is not a neat place at which to break off a list, but I have time, inspiration, and beer at my behest, so here it is. Some opening comments:

*I stared at that #1 for a long time. But I couldn’t do anything about it. Nothing is wrong with me or my judgment. And She knocked Anna Hogberg (who, right?) out of the top spot.

*I acknowledge that much of my Top 10 is the result of my political biases, as well as the fact that I am very much aware that I, more than usual, am in the midst of a terrible and/or wonderful history being made, or making us.

*My tastes are all over the place, but as Duke said, and I paraphrase, there is just good and bad music. I can’t in good conscience separate, say, septuagenarian free-jazzer Joe McPhee from yearling rock and roller Joe Toledo–it wouldn’t be worthy of my United States citizenship. Plus, I’m sorry, it’s just boring to listen to the same genre or whatever all day–not to mention all year.

So I humbly submit my favorite 25 rekkids–in order of the amount of mental, physical, and spiritual stimulation they give me, from most to least–of this roiling year that’s just gonna burble and bubble and boil more furiously until New Year’s Eve. Each item has a little surprise (sometimes not so surprising) linked to it for your enjoyment, edification, or consumeristic/aesthetic impulses.

  1. Beyoncé: Lemonade
  2. Saul Williams: Martyr Loser King
  3. The Paranoid Style: Rolling Disclosure
  4. J. D. Allen: Americana
  5. Anna Hogberg: Anna Hogberg Attack
  6. Meet Your Death: Meet Your Death
  7. Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial
  8. Blood Orange: Freetown Sound
  9. Chance the Rapper: Coloring Book
  10. Wussy: Forever Sounds
  11. Joe McPhee and Paal Nilssen-Love: Candy
  12. Various Artists: Music of Morocco–Recorded by Paul Bowles, 1959
  13. Bombino: Azel
  14. Pylon: Live
  15. Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith: A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke
  16. Aesop Rock: The Impossible Kid
  17. Open Mike Eagle: Hella Personal Film Festival
  18. Tacocat: Lost Time
  19. Parquet Courts: Human Performance
  20. Angry Angles: Angry Angles
  21. Allen Toussaint: American Tunes
  22. Jemeel Moondoc and Hilliard Greene: Cosmic Nickolodeon
  23. Loretta Lynn: Full Circle
  24. Kel Assouf: Tikonen
  25. Mexrissey: No Manchester

Good To My Earhole, July 20 – August 7: “Why Do I Suddenly Appear Every Time I Am Near?”

Highlights of my last two weeks’ worth of listening, ranked on a 10-point scale depending on how the landing was stuck:

The Paranoid Style/ROLLING DISCLOSURE – 9.5 – I haven’t read Richard Hofstadter (yet), I don’t need convincing that, in this life, so and so is fucked, and it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. But I am happy to report none of the above impacts my enjoyment of this boisterous, tuneful, sardonic, allusive rock and roll album (yeah–you remember rock and roll?). In fact, one of the main pleasures of this record is how much helpless joy Elizabeth Bracy and her bandmates exude while taking it all apart. Another is listening for how Bracy retools other pop folks’ catchy lines to make her points (my favorite is extracted from a Carpenters sugar cube). Easily one of the best rockin’ records of 2016 (check the band’s track record), and I advise you quickly do the work to find and buy it, as it is an accurate marker of these times. Aren’t you gonna want to recall them?

THE EARL BOSTIC STORY – 8 – Bostic has always been one of my favorite saxophonists. After counseling such future titans as John Coltrane, he crossed over from jazz into r&b and pop, largely on the power of the unruly, RAW way he’d tear into a chorus or riff. Though some folks consider his musical context a little too moldy, I treasure the gash he rips in them (just listen to “Flamingo,” one of his big hits)–and he’s remarkably reliable across a box set. Fans of James Carter who are in the dark might wanna check where some of that cat’s irreverence comes from.

Aaron Neville/APACHE – 7.8 – New Orleans’ toughest-looking pussycat hasn’t had this much musical muscle behind him in years, and he wrote or co-wrote all the songs. No star producers or players in the band, either. Not all the lyrics are winners, and I suppose the sound looks back too sentimentally on ’70s styles. But–there’s that voice, the 75-year-old grain of which cuts some of its youthful sweetness, and several of the tunes are real convincers. Picks to click: “All of the Above,” “Ain’t Gonna Judge You,” and–especially–“Make Your Momma Cry.”

James Moody (with Kenny Barron)/FLY ME TO THE MOON – 8.3 – Moody’d never quite struck deep with me ’til I heard this two-fer-one CD. My problem was listening for flash, excitement, and aggression–whether on tenor, alto, or flute (an instrument I give very little room in jazz), the man just plays with quietly intense smarts, skill, and soul. From ’62 and ’64 sessions for Argo, with excellent runs at “Sonnymoon for Two” and (Dizzy’s) “Ole” and some sharp arrangements.

HONKY TONK AMNESIA–THE HARD COUNTRY SOUND OF MOE BANDY – 8.5 – “You wroooote/’Your Cheeeeeeatin’ Heart’ about/A gal like my/FIRST [my caps] ex-wife,” Moe sang on Paul Craft’s “Hank Williams, You Wrote My Life,” and there were many more such wry laments on his three albums for GRC–which would all probably fit on a single disc. This ain’t it–the folks at Razor & Tie always did a great job, but Bandy’s usually tame or pat later stuff crowds out the likes of “This Time I Won’t Cheat on Her Again” and “It’s Better Than Going Home Alone.” However, honky-tonk cravers will get a buzz on from a mere perusal of the writing credits (Sanger Shafer, Curley Putman, Dallas Frazier, Wayne Carson, and Sonny Throckmorton), and Bandy, droller than he was hard, was just the mind and voice to put their songs across.

Leonard Cohen/LIVE IN LONDON – 10 – Cohen’s mos def recorded too many live albums, but if you have to have one, this be it. Perhaps I am influenced by having been hypnotized and charmed in person by a show from this 2008-2009 tour, but the selections, arrangements, and players are simply unerring, and the main attraction is blissfully at peace with the sands left in his hourglass. Whether he’s telling a story about his then-96-year-old-teacher apologizing for not being dead, thanking us for keeping his songs alive on “Tower of Song” (in which he still hasn’t moved up a floor on ol’ Hank), or intoning knowingly on the eternal “Who By Fire” (in a magnificent new setting), his eyes smile as he awaits his maker. We can all use that model–he’s still waiting, by the way. This review is for my friend Deke, whose eyes smiled, too.

Good to My Earhole, July 9-20: What Might a Freetown Sound Like?

Hogberg

Anna Hogberg and mates attack!

Highlights of my last couple o’ weeks’ listening, ranked on a 10-point scale corresponding to chill bumps each rekkid raised:

MEET YOUR DEATH – 9.7 – Is this album a) the best rock and roll album of the year? b) the best North Mississippi blues album Jim Dickinson never made? c) the wild product of an orgy featuring The Stooges, The Scientists, and Jerry McCain? d) an r&b blowout so drunk on cheap wine it forgot its tenor sax and just blew harder through a handy harp? e) All of the above. If you know the answer–or need the answer–order the record right here from 12XU.

ANNA HOGBERG ATTACK – 10 – Probably reviewed this already (too lazy to check), but it is easily one of my favorite records of the year. Free jazz with form, variation, dynamics, humor, respect for the verities (I hear Ayler in there)–and ENERGY, played by a roving band of Swedish women. Consult Discogs for your best chance at buying.

Blood Orange/FREETOWN SOUND – 8.6 – Maybe it was just what was going on on our turf when I first heard it, but I consider Devonte Hynes’ newest creation an honest, intelligent, hopeful soul-salve delivered from what I hope is our future. It is OK to apply a salve in moderation, folks.

Barbara Lynn/HOT NIGHT TONIGHT 8.7 – 37 years after knocking us dead (well, I’d just been born, to tell you the truth) with “You’ll Lose a Good Thing,” the husky-voiced lefty guitar-slinger from Beaumont, Texas, delivered this terrific album that few bought–their loss. Producer Don Smith created a Hi-like atmosphere for Ms. Lynn, keeping her vocals and axe up in the mix and lining up Charley Drayton and apparently unofficial Rolling Stone Daryl Jones as musical bedrock. The songs are very strong as well, Barbara’s own cautionary “Hear from My Daddy,” Eddie Floyd’s “Never Found a Man,” and (especially) former Cowboy Charles Scott Boyer’s “Don’t Hit Me No More” creating a powerful motif. I snapped it up in Louisville for $5; you can get it for less.

Horace Tapscott with the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra/LIVE AT IMMANUEL UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST (Los Angeles) – 9 – The great community organizer, educator, composer, pianist, and bandleader left precious few recordings behind (he had higher priorities). All I’ve heard are mighty fine, including this two-disc set from ’79. Though he only composed one of the songs here, his arrangements carefully anchor liberated wailing (Sabir Mateen in particular distinguishing himself on tenor) with dark, roiling rhythms that will sound familiar to fans of Sonny Criss’ Sonny’s Dream, which was arranged and written by Tapscott. The venue was most appropriate for the performance, and if the closing “Lift Every Voice” doesn’t moisten your eye, you might check yourself for calcification.

Dobie Gray/FROM WHERE I STAND – 8 – The “In Crowd”/“Drift Away” guy quietly and humbly covered a lot of ground in his career. This ’86 release found him making very mainstream country noises that often take on deeper resonances once you realize he’s black, which some don’t. Examples: the title tune (also the title tune of Warner Brothers’ criminally out-of-print three-disc set covering “The Black Experience in Country Music”), “The Dark Side of Town,” and “A Night in the Life of a Country Boy,” which but for a corny chorus could be Springsteen.

Good To My Earhole, June 17-July 3: “Masque of the Red Def”

Highlights of my last weeks’ listening, scored on a 10-point scale based on how hard it was for me to read while each record was playing (the harder the higher).

I’VE ALWAYS KEPT A UNICORN–THE ACOUSTIC SANDY DENNY – 8.5 – That title, plus the prospect of a folkie (albiet a rowdy one) knocking out mostly demos unadulterated by musical support that often enhanced, rather than limited, her performance, would seem a red flag. Not so. Across two discs, the too-soon-departed Ms. Denny demonstrates that her just-impure-enough timbre (gentle whiskey smoke), her way of thinking through phrasing based on a line’s meaning, and her attraction to the theme of mortality are enough to keep one’s attention rapt. A great complement to her performances with Fairport Convention and an insightful look into her development as a singer and writer–I eagerly await the book this accompanies.

Diamanda Galas/MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH TRILOGY – 8.4 – Based on one observation of her live performance (on NBC’s much-missed Night Music) and a few listens to a comp prepared by a friend, I, at 25 or so, judged Ms. Galas hilariously and unbearably pretentious–but I was so much older then. My ear has since become less guarded; my musical desires more extreme in this time of relative artistic timidity. A Kyle Gann review piqued my curiosity about this haunted, spell-casting, spirit-calling item, and damned if it didn’t kick my ass this morning (as they say). The frightening intensity I was prepared for; the dynamics and wit and conceptual skill, not so much. I even laughed when (I think) she was wanting me to. If you’re familiar with the wicked Poe story and love it madly (as you should, students), you’re going to want to hear it. I am saving my second exploration of it for ballast against an appropriate time I’d prefer does not come. A voice for the ages, if not all ages.

JD Allen/AMERICANA–MUSINGS ON JAZZ AND BLUES – 9.3 – Imagine a classic Rollins trio crossed with the dark, earthy intensity of a deep pre-Meditations Coltrane session, and you’ve got this. Yep, it’s that good. Detroit native Allen has honed this group (Gregg August on bass, Rudy Royston on drums) across several excellent albums, resulting in one I’d definitely recommend to anyone missing the days when those two forebears ruled the tenor world. That’s not to say it’s a throwback. Hard to believe, but, as Allen argues, there’s a need for those musings in 2016. A nice musical way to, say, treat that reeling feeling you may have had after watching the Roots remake or the O. J. 30 for 30.

**JOHNNY BURNETTE’S ROCK AND ROLL TRIO AND THEIR ROCKIN’ FRIENDS FROM MEMPHIS – 8.8 – Well, since both Burnettes had gone to meet Elvis by the time of this 1980 release on Rock-A-Billy Records, the billing’s confusing: the rhythm section is the one which backed the original slashing unit on its best recordings, the guitarist is indeed fellow original Paul Burlison, who still strikes lightning, but the vocalists are the deceased brothers’ pals, most notably the unflappable Charlie Feathers. Against the odds (have you heard of Robert Geisley, Glenn Honeycutt, or Marcus Van Story, three of the other lead vocalists?), the project works. There’s something about Memphis, about rockabilly, and about locals who don’t stop believing. Secret weapon: Jim Dickinson on piano and vocals.

EARL HINES PLAYS DUKE ELLINGTON – 9.5 – Hines recorded these between his 68th and 72nd birthday, and that fact plus a peek at the man’s toup and glasses on the cover might warn you away. But one of jazz’s first pianistic avant-gardists–maybe the first instrumental match for Armstrong, as he proved in their recordings together–still had plenty tricks up his sleeve. My favorites are sly runs where he takes off with the rhythm and/or melody like a cat burglar clambering up a roof or rappelling down a wall; even recording in the wake of Cecil Taylor, Art Tatum, and Bud Powell (who’d all have been lesser without his influence), he’s flat-out exciting. The Ellington selections mix time-honored classics with forgotten gems. Note: look for Hines’ equally dazzling tributes to Louis and W. C. Handy, from the same period.

**JOHNNY GIMBLE’S TEXAS DANCE PARTY – 9.0 – “PRODUCED IN TEXAS BY TEXANS,” the credits boast; master fiddler Gimble’s bandmates–The Bosque Bandits!– are listed by their Texas homes (Waco, Dallas, Austin–and Gimble’s been everywhere, man). And the music, recorded live on August 29, 1975 at Austin’s Chaparral Club, is indeed pure, lively Texas dance hall swing–but don’t think you’ll be treated by old warhorse tunes. When’s the last time you heard “La Zinda Waltz,” “Under the ‘X’ in Texas,” “Bosque Bandit,” or “Blues for Joe Tee”? An irresistibly warm and surprising half-hour, and like I said but don’t trust me, Gimble is a flat-out master.

**I recently scored both of these from European sellers, and, as a result, I have no more musical grails to seek. I guess that means I can sit back and just wait for new stuff….

I Strongly Recommend You Listen to These Records, 50% of the Way Through 2016

 

RECOMMENDED LISTENING EXPERIENCES, 50% of the Way Through 2016

*Heavy leaning on ya.

BOLDED: What are you waitin’ for? This is the shit.

#Not really 2016, but late-breaking, maybe.

 *Aesop Rock: The Impossible Kid

*Allen, J.D.: Americana

*Angry Angles: Angry Angles

*Bajakian, Aram: Music Inspired by the film “The Color of Pomegranates”

*Beyonce: Lemonade

*Bombino: Azel

*Booker, James: Bayou Maharajah (film)

Bowie, David: Blackstar

Bradley, Charles: Changes

Braxton, Anthony: 3 Compositions [EEMHM] 2011

*Chance the Rapper: Coloring Book

Childbirth: Women’s Rights

Coathangers: Nosebleed Weekend

Cook, Elizabeth: Exodus of Venus

Dalek: Asphalt for Eden

DeJohnette, Jack: In Movement

Del McCoury Band: Del and Woody

Denny, Sandy: I’ve Always Had a Unicorn–The Acoustic Sandy Denny

*Dylan, Bob: Fallen Angels

Fulks, Robbie: Upland Stories

Garbage: Strange Little Birds

*Hogberg, Anna: Anna Hogberg Attack

Konono N°1 and Batida: Konono N°1 meets Batida

*Kool and Kass: Barter 7

*Iyer, Vijay, and Wadada Leo Smith: A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke

Lamar, Kendrick: Untitled Unmastered

Lewis, Linda Gail: Heartache Highway

Lynn, Loretta: Full Circle

*#McPhee, Joe, and Paal Nilssen-Love: Candy

*Mexrissey: No Manchester

*Moondoc, Jemeel, and Hilliard Greene: Cosmic Nickolodeon

*Morrison, Van: It’s Too Late to Stop Now…Volumes II, III, IV

Oddissee: Alwasta

*Open Mike Eagle: Hella Personal Film Festival

*Parquet Courts: Human Performance

The Pedrito Martinez Group: Habana Dreams

Professor Longhair: Live in Chicago

Pusha T: Darkness Before Dawn

Reed, Blind Alfred: Blind Alfred Reed–Appalachian Visionary

Rihanna: Anti

Rollins, Sonny: Holding Down the Stage—Road Shows, Volume Four

Stetson, Colin: Sorrow—A Reimagining of Gorecki’s Third Symphony

Tacocat: Lost Time

Threadgill, Henry: Old Locks and Irregular Verbs

*Toussaint, Allen: American Tunes

*Various Artists: Music of Morocco–Recorded by Paul Bowles, 1959

*#Various Artists: Original Cast Recording of Hamilton

*Various Artists: Soul Sok Sega–Sega Sounds from Mauritius

*Veloso, Caetano, and Gilberto Gil: Dois Amigos, Um SĂ©culo de MĂșsica–Multishow Live

White Lung: Paradise

*Williams, Saul: Martyr Loser King

Wills, Bob, and the Texas Playboys: Let’s Play, Boys–Rediscovered Songs from Bob Wills’Personal Transcriptions

Wussy: Forever Sounds

Yoni & Geti: Testarossa

#Ze, Tom: Vira Lata na Via Lactea

 

 

Good to My Earhole, June 1-16: Headfirst into the (Summer) Flames

Highlights of my June listening so far, ranked on a 10-point scale determined by a drunken game of darts:

Van Morrison/IT’S TOO LATE TO START NOW, VOLS. II, II, IV and DVD – 9.0 – Volume 1 was so good I spoiled a great date during my wayward youth just to concentrate on it. This ain’t quite that, but if you want to hear how an orchestra can be fitted effectively to a rock/r&b/folk/you-name-it singer’s attack, dig in. And The Man himself is in great form saving Hard Nose the Highway from its studio wreckage, taking Kermit the Frog to Belfast (thanks, Ken!), and proving he’s no sobersides by doing Louis Prima justice. Plus: many early ’70s classics from his own pen, and a too-short video that burns. Docked 0.5 for too many versions.

Morton Feldman/ROTHKO CHAPEL + WHY PATTERNS? – 9 – A classical-expert friend told me,” Debussy did all this years ago and he only needed six minutes to make his point.” Well, he also hadn’t been to the meditative sanctuary of the title, which is decorated only with Rothko paintings, and not only did Feldman capture Rothko’s simple but resonant approach, but he also got the peace and beauty you can experience therein.

Chance the Rapper/COLORING BOOK – 10 – I often have former students who are now old rap heads asking me rhetorically, “What new can compare to the old?” I also have friends who ask the same question about music in general. After giving this mixtape (wait, is it?) four progressively more enjoyable plays, I’d offer it as an answer to both parties. How’s this for a review: it makes me happy. And it ain’t sappy. Dude’s smart, funny, and versatile, with a bouquet-like imagination. He’s also bemused, but determined. And does he have help, from Jay Electronica to, um, The Biebs.

Elizabeth Cook/EXODUS OF VENUS – 8 – On first contact, I reported that she had one foot in the mountains and one foot in Florida, which, by the latter, I meant (metaphorically) in a dark, dangerous, crazy swamp–her home swamp, hiding the demons of excess, heartbreak, and, well, the habits of Venus. For those who love her spunk, unfortunately, she’s also a bit ankle-deep in swampy production. I implore you to be patient with this unregenerate honky tonk wonder as she looses her inner Stevie Nicks (who of a certain age doesn’t have one of those within?), and you’ll get paid with some perky-catchy from the likes of “Straight Jacket Love,” “Broke Down in London on the M25,” and the pick-to-click “Methadone Blues.” She goes out on a meditation which remembers Tabitha Tuders (could have been me, I can hear her thinking), and reaches out to Tuders’ grieving mama.

Allen Toussaint/AMERICAN TUNES – 8.8 – He didn’t know he’d be shuffling off this mortal coil after playing a European show shortly after he recorded these–but it’s a valediction nonetheless. Professor Longhair‘s all over the record–including hidden within Toussaint’s last original, the opening “Delores’ Boyfriend”–but he’s woven into the quiet, seductive eloquence that’s AT’s trademark. He also pays lovely tribute to his fellow groundbreaking Creole Louis Gottschalk and his fellow bon vivant Fats Waller, makes two stops at Ellington’s station (with controlled aid from Rhiannen Giddens), and applies his own vocals only to Paul Simon’s appropriate title closer. He didn’t assemble it–but he might as well have.

Last Exit/HEADFIRST INTO THE FLAMES – 9 – The record isn’t called that for nuthin’, folks! When drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson, (electric) bassist Bill Laswell, saxophonist Peter Brotzmann, and (electric!!!) guitarist Sonny Sharrock collectively improvised, there was no foreground or background. As such, under the live conditions in which they always recorded, you might expect a dialogue of the deaf. Fact is, through the caterwaul, you can hear them listening to each other, and creating structures. This is their best album; I have ’em all. Decider: it features some of Sharrock’s greatest chainsaw jazz creations. Try it if you can stand the wailing heat, or if you need to clear the room.

 

Good to My Earhole, May 20-31: “The Style You Haven’t Done Yet?”

Highlights of my last week’s worth of listening, scored on a whole-numbers-only scale I stole from a Freemason:

Paul Rutherford/THE GENTLE HARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE – 10 – Not just one of the best free jazz records I’ve ever heard, but an all-out fireworks display, all on the ‘bone. With some chuckles and sobs for modulation’s sake.

The Fall/FALL IN A HOLE – 9 – I am still searching for a Fall album I don’t like. I’ll just say it–the best live British punk record I’ve ever heard, if you wanna call ’em punks. They (he) were (is)–and more.

Boogie Down Productions/GHETTO MUSIC: THE BLUEPRINT OF HIP HOP – 9 – Objectively, I know there are better BDP rekkids; heck, The Return of the Boom-Bap is “better.” Scott LaRock is absent. Some of the wisdom isn’t all that wise. But I can’t help it–this is the one I get out when I need KRS-1. I love how he bobs and weaves around the uncharacteristically quirky beat of “The Style You Haven’t Done Yet.” I love in spite of my lack of belief his bars of Biblical genealogy. I love his philosophical interrogations of authority, whether in the classroom, the courtroom, or the squad room. I love his reggae-rap fusion. From the cover art to the oddly murky production to the blunt beauty of Kris’ attack to the beats beats beats, it’s one unified MF. And I’m a gestalt guy.

Johnnie Allan/PROMISED LAND – 8 – Swamp pop just gets me like Western swing: I am moved by the often-homely-but-always-sincere striving of the regular guys who do the singing. As if to match, the music’s just as often warmly soulful–never hot. Multi-artist compilations are generally the way to go, even for the enthusiast, but, loving Allan’s absolutely terrific, accordian-juiced title cover version already, I thought I’d gamble on an overview. Won that bet–nothing as scintillating as “Promised Land,” but nothing duff, either. Even the graduation song brings a smile, as does his Johnny Horton rewrite and his runs at “Sweet Dreams” and “Tonight I Started Loving You Again”–two songs that could have been tailor-written for the genre. Thought: hot’s good, but is warm more durable?

Novos Baianos/ACABOU CHORARE – 10 – Damn, I thought I had Brazilian pop-rock circa ’68-’72 covered! Wrong again! I stumbled on this item (or, um, it was PUT in my path) while buying something else on the Innertubes, and it knocked my hat in the creek. I believe the title translates to “No more crying,” and it’s so effervescent in its rhythms, alternating vocals, and electric-acoustic attack, I’d wager it could pull a guy back from the edge. Player to bend an ear to, though he’ll grab you by that appendage willy-nilly: Pepeu Gomes, on guitar and more. This ain’t tropicalia; it’s too breezy. But you’ll be surprised by the directions the breeze shifts–give the whole record a test-drive above.

Kel Assouf/TIKOUNEN – 9 – Taureg stylings straight from the sand dunes …of Brussels. But don’t you fear. The impurities delightfully mixed in here are the reasons to check it out: big beats, guitar that’s more riff-friendly than your average desert bluesman’s, garage-rock keyboards that add texture, and a movie star (in my mind, anyway) sharing vocals. That would be Ms.Toulou Kiki, of Timbuktu fame; if you haven’t checked that film out yet, you have your homework. A nice counter to the fallacious complaint that all, uh, Northern nomadic music sounds the same. You’re not leaning forward far enough, pal!