Sunday, May 31, 2009

Harry Nilsson - "Nilsson Schmilsson" (1971)

The late Harry Nilsson's creative and commercial peak, this album showcases the singer-songwriter's lighthearted worldview to best advantage. It remains one of the best, most consistent, and least dated albums from an early-'70s era not known for underplayed, unpretentious subtlety. Here you get strong interpretive singing, inventive arranging, and distinctive melodicism. In keeping with the domesticated figure on the cover--complete with housecoat, cigarette, and waiting refrigerator--the mood is laidback and homey, and there's a palpable feeling of comfort in both the production and the material. Nilsson's multi-octave voice was never so full of life. Other albums John Lennon produced Pussy Cats and the essential Nilsson Sings Newman) have their moments, but this is where to begin any Nilsson collection. -- Don Harrison

1. "Gotta Get Up" 2:24
2. "Driving Along" 2:02
3. "Early in the Morning" 2:48
4. "The Moonbeam Song" 3:18
5. "Down" 3:24
6. "Without You" 3:17
7. "Coconut" 3:48
8. "Let the Good Times Roll" 2:42
9. "Jump into the Fire" 6:54
10. "I'll Never Leave You" 4:11

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Diplomats of Solid Sound - "Destination Get Down!" (2004)

Steeped in the sizzling, funky gumbo of Booker T & The MG's, The Meters, James Brown, and the backyard barbecue jams of Jimmy Smith, Lou Donaldson, Jimmy McGriff, Lonnie Smith, and Jack McDuff. The Diplomats' third full-length is jam-packed with a dozen original songs guaranteed to lubricate and agitate every bone in your body. An enviable arsenal of dance floor dynamite that intermingles the boogaloo magic of their time-honored influences with the sounds of such contemporaries as Sugarman 3, The Nick Rossi Set, and The James Taylor Quartet. -- Estrus Records

1. "Smash Up" 3:08
2. "Knock a Piece Off" 2:53
3. "Holdin' the Money" 3:54
4. "Wicked P" 2:26
5. "Intercontinental Git" 3:06
6. "Ladies' Choice" 2:49
7. "Dealer Cheater" 2:32
8. "Loaf and Jug" 2:16
9. "Sizzler" 2:22
10. "Mohair Momma" 3:26
11. "Triple Starch" 2:59
12. "Growin' in It" 4:01

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Quincy Jones & Bill Cosby "The Original Jam Sessions 1969" (2004)

I'm pretty sure the Cos just smokes cigars on this album aside from his mumbling scat contribution to one of the "Hikky Burr" takes. These loose jam sessions were put together to create the music for Bill Cosby's first sitcom and were only recently unearthed from Quincy Jones' recording archives. The relaxed yet lively tracks run the range of funky and bluesy hard bop to cocktail lounge soul-jazz. Lounging around on a Sunday? Then pick this one up. --Chris Baginski

1. Hikky-Burr 5:56
2. Groovy Gravy 8:10
3. Oh Happy Day 4:18
4. Jimmy Cookin' On Top 1:42
5. Toe Jam 7:49
6. Jive Den 3:13
7. Eubie Walkin' 7:00
8. Monty, Is That You? 6:42
9. The Drawing Room 0:59
10. Hikky-Burr (Feat. Bill Cosby) 3:35
11. Hikky-Burr (Mix Master Mike Remix) 3:01

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wes Montgomery - "Smokin' At the Half Note" (1965)

Smokin' at the Half Note is essential listening for anyone who wants to hear why Montgomery's dynamic live shows were considered the pinnacle of his brilliant and incredibly influential guitar playing. Pat Metheny calls this "the absolute greatest jazz guitar album ever made," and with performances of this caliber ("Unit 7" boasts one of the greatest guitar solos ever recorded) his statement is easily validated. Montgomery never played with more drive and confidence, and he's supported every step of the way by a genuinely smokin' Wynton Kelly Trio. -- Jim Smith

1. "No Blues" 13:00
2. "If You Could See Me Now" 6:45
3. "Unit 7" 7:30
4. "Four on Six" 6:45
5. "What's New" 6:00

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Leo Kottke & Mike Gordon - "Sixty Six Steps" (2005)

The second collaboration of Leo Kottke with Phish bassist Mike Gordon finds the duo exploring breezy Caribbean sounds, with a few surprise covers. The musicians work wonderfully together, with Gordon's meaty yet malleable bass grounding and darting around Kottke's distinctive and agile fingerpicked lines. Percussion reinforces the island sound (the album was recorded at the famous Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas) and provides a terrific backbone for the album's tropical approach. Neither Gordon nor Kottke have great voices, but they admirably dig into the songs, singing on about half of the tracks with a charming, easygoing quality that suits the material and shows they are enjoying this ride. -- Hal Horowitz

1. "Living In The Country" 3:51
2. "The Grid" 3:17
3. "Oh Well" 3:22
4. "Rings" 4:30
5. "Cherry County" 2:30
6. "Sweet Emotion" 5:32
7. "The Stolen Quiet" 3:06
8. "Balloon" 3:26 *
9. "Over The Dam" 3:40
10. "Can't Hang" 1:54
11. "From Spink to Correctionville" 2:28
12. "Ya Mar" 5:01
13. "Twice" 4:10
14. "Invisible" 6:35

Saturday, May 9, 2009

J.J. Cale - "Naturally" (1971)

When Eric Clapton cites you as a major influence, covers your songs, and finally, records an album with you, you've probably done something right. J.J. Cale has flown under the radar for the better part of 40 years and that just the way he wants it. The epitome of laid-back, J.J.'s music and breezy guitar style comes of so effortlessly it's clear to see why Clapton, and others from the ranks of Neil Young and Mark Knopfler, have sought to emulate his groove. This combination of the blues, rockabilly, country, and jazz came to be know as the Tulsa Sound and is recognized as one of the most chilled of vibes. -- Chris Baginski

1. "Call Me the Breeze" 2:35
2. "Call the Doctor" 2:26
3. "Don't Go to Strangers" 2:22
4. "Woman I Love" 2:36
5. "Magnolia" 3:23
6. "Clyde" 2:29
7. "Crazy Mama" 2:22
8. "Nowhere to Run" 2:26
9. "After Midnight" 2:23
10. "River Runs Deep" 2:42
11. "Bringing It Back" 2:44
12. "Crying Eyes" 3:13

Miles Davis - "Bags' Groove" (1954)

Ok I may be alittle biased towards this album but even the pros admit it's a cornerstone of post bop jazz. Recorded on Christmas Eve in 1954, most of the tracks laid down that winter night went on to become jazz standards. And while Miles Davis receives top billing, most tracks are compositions by the other members of this session. The title track is the creation of Milt 'Bags' Johnson, while tracks 3, 4, and 6 are all originals by the young Sonny Rollins. Never hurts having Thelonious Monk on piano too. -- Chris Baginski

1. "Bags' Groove" (take 1) 11:12
2. "Bags' Groove" (take 2) 9:20
3. "Airegin" 4:57
4. "Oleo" 5:10
5. "But Not for Me" (take 2) 4:34
6. "Doxy" 4:51
7. "But Not for Me" (take 1) 5:42

The Velvet Underground - "Loaded" (1970)

The final Velvet Underground album with Lou Reed is without a doubt their poppiest studio outing and there's oh sweet nothing wrong with that. Pushed by their label to make an album 'loaded with hits' Lou Reed did just that and then left the band. The songs show a cheery side to Lou Reed without losing the jangly grit making these simple tunes instant rocking classics. -- Chris Baginski

1. "Who Loves the Sun" 2:50
2. "Sweet Jane" 3:15
3. "Rock & Roll" 4:47
4. "Cool It Down" 3:05
5. "New Age" 4:39
6. "Head Held High" 2:52
7. "Lonesome Cowboy Bill" 2:48
8. "I Found a Reason" 4:15
9. "Train Round the Bend" 3:20
10."Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" 7:23

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Beck - "Mutations" (1998)

For the follow up to his hit album Odelay, Beck put aside his two turntables and a microphone and picked up an acoustic guitar. This would be the first time teaming with long time Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich and it's easy to hear why Beck returned to work with him on three albums after Mutations. What started with some folky acoustic riffs turned into a laid back psychedelic, bossa nova journey through the blues and country. There's no sampling to be found and no lyrics about beefcake pantyhose (as fun as all that is), just a sweet vibe that will melt you into your pillow. This just may be Beck's true Mellow Gold. -- Chris Baginski

1. "Cold Brains" 3:41
2. "Nobody's Fault but My Own" 5:02
3. "Lazy Flies" 3:44
4. "Canceled Check" 3:14
5. "We Live Again" 3:05
6. "Tropicalia" 3:20
7. "Dead Melodies" 2:36
8. "Bottle of Blues" 4:56
9. "O Maria" 3:59
10. "Sing It Again" 4:19
11. "Static / Diamond Bollocks" 11:20

Beck's Record Club

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Rolling Stones - "Emotional Rescue" (1980)

Most critics of this disco dipped Stones album slight it for not living up to the band's own monstering history that proceeds them. Sure this isn't studio gold like Exile on Main Street or packed with all the hits like Hot Rocks. What it is though is a good times booze fueled party album that will keep you smiling in the summer sun from front to back. OK, except for All About You. Sorry Keith. -- Chris Baginski

1. "Dance (Pt. 1)" 4:23
2. "Summer Romance" 3:16
3. "Send It to Me" 3:43
4. "Let Me Go" 3:50
5. "Indian Girl" 4:23
6. "Where the Boys Go" 3:29
7. "Down in the Hole" 3:58
8. "Emotional Rescue" 5:39
9. "She's So Cold" 4:14
10. "All About You" 4:18

Monday, May 4, 2009

The New Mastersounds - "Live at La Cova" (2006)

This funky dance party was recorded over two nights during the Summer of 2005 in Menorca, Spain inside the intimate La Cova, a club situated inside a cave overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. UK favorites The New Mastersounds serve up a heavy dose of original funk and soul jazz numbers from each of their prior albums as well as some of the band’s favorite cover tunes, including Grant Green's "Jan Jan," the Meter's "Funky Miracle," and other jazz funk classics like "Spooky," "FireEater," and "Duffin' 'Round" with plenty of Hammond B3 grooves. Led by guitar virtuoso Eddie Roberts, this telepathically tight quintet stretches out plenty. Featuring frequent guest Sam Bell on percussion, the album highlights their broad spectrum of pure vintage sounds and the energy they bring to their live shows, no matter what corner of the globe their danceable grooves take them. -- One Note Records

1. "Miracles" 2:30
2. "Duffin Around" 5:55
3. "You Got it All" 5:03
4. "3 on the B" 6:50
5. "Funky Miracle" 3:41
6. "Land of Nod" 8:03
7. "The Tin Drum" 6:03
8. "La Cova" 2:08
9. "The Minx" 5:12
10. "Spooky" 7:07
11. "Fire Eater" 4:45
12. "Jan Jan" 4:30
13. "One Note Brown" 3:42

Lee Dorsey - "Freedom for the Funk" (1994)

New Orleans' Lee Dorsey is one of pop and soul's best-kept secrets, and he never sounded better than when he was teamed with pianist/songwriter/arranger/producer Allen Toussaint. This delightful anthology brings together key tracks from Dorsey and Toussaint's late-'60s and early-'70s albums, including the immortal "Working in the Coal Mine," "Ride Your Pony," "Can You Hear Me," "Occapella", and "Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley." With wonderfully loose but exact arrangements and horn charts, backup vocals by The Meters, dosed with early New Orleans funk rhythms, all topped off by Dorsey's warm, engaging vocals, these are classic tracks that deserve to be better known. -- Steve Leggett

1. "Yes We Can- Part 1" 3:34
2. "Work Work Work" 2:50
3. "Can You Hear Me?" 2:39
4. "Occapella" 2:44
5. "Games People Play" 3:07
6. "When the Bill Gets Paid" 2:22
7. "Ride Your Pony" 2:48
8. "Wonder Woman" 2:39
9. "Love Lots of Lovin" 2:58
10. "Little Ba-by" 2:48
11. "Take Care of Our Love" 3:15
12. "Neighbors Daughter" 2:39
13. "Confusion" 2:37
14. "O Me-O, My-O" 2:45
15. "Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley" 2:52
16. "Freedom For the Stallion" 2:57
17. "If She Won't (Find Someone Who Will)" 2:29
18. "Get Out of My Life, Woman" 2:24
19. "Working In a Coal Mine" 2:44
20. "Yes We Can - Part 2" 3:19

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Bob Dylan - "Live 1966" (1998)

The most famous bootleg in rock history, with the possible exception of Dylan's own Basement Tapes, finally makes its official appearance 32 years after the event. Although often identified as a Royal Albert Hall show, this May 17, 1966 concert, in which Dylan played electric material in front of a British audience, was actually recorded in Manchester (hence the unwieldy title with quotes around "Royal Albert Hall"). It captures the point at which Dylan was at his most controversial and hard rocking as he blazes through mid-'60s classics such as "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Ballad of a Thin Man," radical electric arrangements of songs that had originally been recorded acoustically ("One Too Many Mornings," "I Don't Believe You"), and the hard rocker "Tell Me, Momma," which Dylan never recorded in the studio. It's not just an interesting adjunct to Dylan's '60s discography; it's as worthy of attention as anything else he recorded during that decade. -- Richie Unterberger

Disc 1 - solo acoustic

1. "She Belongs to Me" 3:27
2. "4th Time Around" 4:37
3. "Visions of Johanna" 8:08
4. "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" 5:45
5. "Desolation Row" 11:31
6. "Just Like a Woman" 5:52
7. "Mr. Tambourine Man" 8:52

Disc 2 - electric band

1. "Tell Me, Momma" 5:10
2. "I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)" 6:07
3. "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down" 3:46
4. "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" 6:50
5. "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" 4:50
6. "One Too Many Mornings" 4:22
7. "Ballad of a Thin Man" 7:55
8. "Like a Rolling Stone" 8:01

Buddy Guy & Junior Wells Play The Blues (1972)

By all accounts, the greatest album ever cut by Chicago electric blues legend Buddy Guy and his studio and stage cohort Junior Wells. Features Eric Clapton, Dr. John, and members of The J. Geils Band in a thrilling, first-take studio session from Miami, done without rehearsal and with minimal overdubbing. Buddy Guy & Junior Wells Play the Blues is regarded by some critics as among the finest electric blues recordings of the modern era. -- Various

1. "A Man of Many Words" 4:01
2. "My Baby She Left Me (A Mule To Ride)" 3:11
3. "Come On in the House / Have Mercy Baby" 4:23
4. "T-Bone Shuffle" 4:19
5. "A Poor Man's Plea" 3:13
6. "Messin' With the Kid" 2:15
7. "This Old Fool" 3:11
8. "I Don't Know" 4:30
9. "Bad Bad Whiskey" 4:14
10. "Honeydripper" 3:49

Cannonball Adderley - "Somethin' Else" (1958)

When alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley culled together this quartet, he grabbed three champions from seemingly disparate schools to complement his flinty solos: Miles Davis, the king of cool; Art Blakey, the thundering force of hard bop; Hank Jones, a veteran of swing; and Sam Jones, a versatile bassist adaptable to nearly any setting. The results are one of Blue Note's most beloved albums. The open-ended beauty of "Autumn Leaves," which features Davis beautifully stating the melody on muted trumpet, sounds like it could easily be an outtake from Kind of Blue. The midtempo title track provides the centerpiece of this classic as Adderley echoes Miles's swaggering melody before both unravel wonderful solos. A must-have Blue Note album. -- John Murph

1. "Autumn Leaves" 11:01
2. "Love for Sale" 7:06
3. "Somethin' Else" 8:15
4. "One for Daddy-O" 8:26
5. "Dancing in the Dark" 4:07
6. "Bangoon (Alison's Uncle)" 5:05