It’s Robert Finley New Vinyl Thursday at The Vinyl Underground at 7th Heaven. Check out this week’s list of new vinyl arrivals:
Aaron Frazer- Introducing…
Annette Peacock- X- Dreams
Annette Peacock- The Perfect Release
Singer, pianist and composer Annette Peacock has yet to receive her due as a pioneer of both psychedelic culture and electronic music. Her work has been covered, sampled or referenced by no less than David Bowie, Busta Rhymes and Wilco guitarist Nels Cline. Reissues of a pair of her seminal late ‘70s albums will hopefully elevate her standing.
Released in 1978, X-Dreams finds Peacock working with former Spiders from Mars guitarist Mick Ronson and King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford (among a host of other musicians). The X in the title could mean explicit – Peacock isn’t afraid to tread sexual waters on opening track “Mama Never Taught Me How To Cook” and “Real and Defined Androgens” – but it likely also refers to her XX chromosomes. If you can peer through the free-range saxophones, rock guitars and pounding pianos, Peacock examines male-female romance through a variety of prisms. A cover of the Elvis Presley song “Don’t Be Cruel” is as transformative as it is revelatory.
The Perfect Release followed one year later. Here, Peacock works with the same set of musicians on each track and emerges with a sound a little closer to the jazz-fusion of Steely Dan. The subject matter is expansive as the seven lengthy tracks, range from ecology, on “Solar Systems,” to sex, on “The Succubus,” and the existential, on “Survival.”
Peacock doesn’t attempt to be accessible and as such, it may take a few listens to warm up to her approach – particularly on X-Dreams – but those who can embrace her will be rewarded.- Joel Francis
Arrested Development- 3 Years 5 Months & 2 Days in the life of…
Aurora- All My Demons Greeting Me As a Friend
Amy Winehouse – At the BBC
Perhaps no single artist is more responsible for the popularity of the contemporary neo-soul movement as Amy Winehouse. Her sultry contralto voice was both mysterious and comforting, a mix of classic soul and modern pop.
Sadly the arc of her career also mirrored some of the great classic soulful jazz artists like Billy Holiday when she died of alcoholism in 2011 at the age of just 27.
Due to her addictions, for a time, her live performances became infamous train wrecks of forgotten words and prematurely ended sets. But when she was on, there was no other performer quite like her.
To quote music critic Dan Cairns, “She was shy, warm, funny, cheeky, complicated, a mass and a mess of contradictions, affectionate, loyal, a tricky customer when she chose to be, occasionally too hot to handle.
UMC and Island have just reissued this lovely, comprehensive, three record set: Amy Winehouse At the BBC compiling some her best live performances including: Later With Jules Holland and BBC Sessions Live at Porchester Hall in 2007. This is a fitting tribute to a truly singular talent. -Major Matt
Billie Eilish- When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Bruce Springsteen- Greatest Hits
Busta Rhymes – Extinction Level Event 2
Busta Rhymes most recent album, Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath Of God is a dark, sweeping, apocalyptic nightmare predicting the end of the world and inevitable self destruction of the human race… or is it?
It is clear that even though Mr. Rhymes might be approaching the sunset of his highly impactful, over 30 year career in hip hop, he’s still got some important things to get off his chest.
The dark cover art and biblical intro to this album sets the stage for a tone that sadly we are all too familiar with in these days of pandemics, racial tensions, and global warming. But the album is not void of irony. Like all true masters, Rhymes knows how to flip a script and reveal these doomsday scenarios for the bandwagon schemes that they sometimes are.
“Fuck your plague and disease and sickness brought on by colonization.” Claims Rhymes on the end of the opening track.
The features on this record read like a list of hip-hop and r&b royalty of past and present including: Kendrick Lamar, Rick Ross, Anderson .Paak, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Q-Tip, Bell Biv DeVoe and more.
Rhymes has always been a difficult MC to pin down, weaving in and out of Top 40 and more cutting edge East coast factions. This record is no different. Depending on your point of view not every thing on ELE 2 will be easy to digest.
To quote the man himself, he’s here to provide, “A good balance of science, and a good balance of heat, Classic shit, as I continue to give you that food. Feast on this full course meal, as I welcome you all”. -Major Matt
Charlie Quintet Parker- Bluebird
Colter Wall- Imaginary Appalachia
Death Cab for Cutie- Codes and Keys
Death Cab for Cutie- Transatlanticism (Anniversary Edition)
Denzel Curry- Unlocked
Dr. Dre- Chronic
Dropkick Murphys- Turn Up That Dial (Coke Bottle Green) [INDIE EX]
Indie folk artist Elliott Smith has long been held in hushed, exalted reverence, but in many ways his third album, 1997’s Either/Or established that legacy.
Either/Or is Smith’s final album before he jumped to a major label. It is also the album filmmaker Gus Van Sant heard, which inspired him to place three of its songs in the movie Good Will Hunting and to ask Smith to record a new song specifically for the soundtrack.
The first side of Either/Or functions as a mini greatest-hits set, starting with “Speed Trials,” a subtle yet catchy single. “Pictures of Me” and “Angeles” are two of the best songs Smith ever wrote. There’s also “Between the Bars,” Smith’s best-known (and oft-covered) song.
Side B isn’t as celebrated, but is nearly as sturdy, containing “Cupid’s Trick,” the most electric performance on the album, preceded by the lovely “Angeles,” one of Either/Or’s most delicate performances. Spend as much time as you need sifting through the dozen songs looking for a weak track, but it can’t be found.
This reissue of Either/Or retains the 20th anniversary mixes while shedding the edition’s bonus material. It remains the best entry point to Smith’s catalog, but be warned: Once you’ve absorbed Either/Or, you will insatiably track down every other morsel from this gifted artist. – Joel Francis
Jon Batiste- Soul (Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture)
In several ways, Juliana Hatfield’s latest album, Blood, serves as a continuation of Pussycat, the 2017 album that kicked off a prolific streak of five albums in as many years. Pussycat was a laceration of America’s recently elected president. While a different white male occupies the Oval Office today, Hatfield still bears grievances.
On “Nightmary,” a song buoyed by a pop hook that could have been taken from Hatfield’s recent Police tribute, she sings “The whole world is controlled by fascist bloodsucking thugs.” The next song, “Had a Dream,” is gory analogy of America’s gun violence problem. Lead single “Mouthful of Blood” is what Hatfield winds up with after biting her tongue for so long. “If I say what I want to say,” she sings, “it might just get me killed.”
Musically, Blood remains as peppy and accessible as its subject matter is gruesome and unflinching. Fuzzy guitars, bubbly melodies and spritely keyboards (all played by Hatfield) make the album pleasing to both the ear and intellect.
After 19 albums, Hatfield isn’t out to prove anything to anyone, but her truth and passion make Blood an album that will not only appeal to longtime fans, but will hopefully win Hatfield some new ones as well.- Joel Francis
There is something both classic and essential contemporary about Gray’s music. Her raspy, wise voice rang overtones of Billy Holiday, while her larger than life persona and relaxed boho-style were reminiscent of the early sixties with a dash of club- kid.
Stripped is her ninth studio album and it’s her first foray into a more pure jazz vibe. It was recorded live on April 7 and April 8, 2016, in a decommissioned Brooklyn church. As the name suggests, the record has a stripped down feel featuring Russell Malone on guitar and Wallace Roney on Trumpet.
Stand out tracks are the late night lounge version of I Try and a soulful rendition of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. -Major Matt
Vancouver-based quintet Mother Mother is another band in a long line of acts that are huge in their native Canada but can’t get arrested in the United States. Which is a shame, because Mother Mother is a lot of fun. Lead vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Ryan Guldemond and his sister Molly Guldemond have a male-female, tag-team vocal pairing that recalls the New Pornographers or Grouplove.
Musically, Mother Mother is effortlessly effervescent without becoming annoying. Plenty of power pop guitar chords and soaring synthesizers keep the proceedings bubbly, but Ryan Guldermond isn’t above sneaking a banjo or other musical surprise into the arrangement.
Eureka doesn’t have such lofty expectations lyrically, but the words always serve the spirit of the song – to keep the good times going and elevate the spirit.
This first-ever vinyl release drops in commemoration of Eurkea’s 10th anniversary, but this isn’t a bygone time capsule. Mother Mother is still going strong with a new album on the way in June, making Eureka a great way to get up to speed.- Joel Francis
In hindsight, it is easy to understand why Beatles fans may have felt underwhelmed by Sir Paul’s post-Fab offerings. The homespun sounds of McCartney and Ram don’t have any of the ambition or grandeur of “Hey Jude” or “Let It Be.” But the low-key charm of these two albums are exactly why they continue to resonate today.
“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” may be goofy and whimsical, but is also a lot of fun and continues the tradition of mini-medley songs that started on Abbey Road’s second side and carried through to Red Rose Speedway and, most recently, Egypt Station. With the exception of the widescreen album closer “The Back Seat of My Car,” the rest of Ram is the perfect marriage of whimsy and substance. Whenever McCartney attempted to work in this style again, the results were either lazy or too cute (sometimes both: see, “Wonderful Christmastime”).
The legacy of Ram can be heard in lo-fi indie projects such as Death Cab for Cutie, the Elephant Six collective, the Decemberists, Of Montreal, Fiery Furnaces. In observance of the album’s 50th anniversary it is being reissued in a half-speed-mastered edition with better sound quality. Regardless of how you get it, Ram should be in any music collection.- Joel Francis
After melding blues, jump, gospel and rhythm and blues into soul music in the 1950s, Ray Charles opened the ‘60s by combining soul with other genres. His 1961 release (only the second album issued on Impulse Records) places Charles’ organ (and vocals, sometimes) in a big band setting.
Charles receives immaculate support from members of the Count Basie Orchestra for half the tracks and New York’s finest jazz session players for the other. Quincy Jones, the man who would give us Thriller a little more than 20 years later, arranged many of the songs. Brother Ray tears through a fevered version of “One Mint Julep” and sings the blues on “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town.”
While the organ and orchestra motif was well-established by Jimmy Smith by this point, Charles provides a unique take. For one thing, Charles’ playing has more of a gospel inflection. And despite the undeniable pedigree of the supporting players, it’s not hard to imagine these songs swinging nearly as hard with a standard R&B combo as they do with the big band. In other words, the momentum from these performances comes from Charles, not the charts or the ensemble.
Shortly after releasing this album, Charles melded his sound with country and western for two wildly successful (and celebrated) albums. Part of Charles’ genius was the ability to convince the public to accompany him into these ventures. When the results are as fun and enthusiastic as they are here, it’s hard not flock to the party.- Joel Francis
On the heels of one of 2020’s best albums, We Are Sent Here by History, jazz man Shabaka Hutchings returns with another strong offering.
With Hutchings on reeds, Theon Cross on tuba and drummers Tom Skinner and Eddie Hick, Sons of Kemet sound different from other jazz ensembles by design. On their fourth album, the quartet ride Afro-Caribbean rhythms and Cross’ mighty tuba for a sound that is danceable yet anxious.
The spoken-word pieces that open and close the album make Hutchings’ thesis clear. From the introduction: “One knee on my back/one knee on my lung/telling me to run sprint times in a marathon.” The heavy gets even heavier on “Let the Circle Be Unbroken.” The track opens with an almost Calypso rhythm with the tuba carrying the melody. Hutchings’ sax enters doubling the tuba line before dancing in its own direction. As the tuba grows more insistent, the sax becomes even more discordant, until it dissolves into a sputtered staccato.
Kemet gets some help along the way from several guest vocalists, but the group’s thesis is so tight the song titles read like a poem on the back cover. The year is far from over, but Black to the Future is an early contender for 2021’s best jazz release. – Joel Francis
It’s no secret the guys in Weezer grew up as 80s arena-rock fans. There’s a song on their 1994 self-titled debut album (the blue album) “In The Garage” that contains lyrics “I’ve got posters on the wall, my favorite rock band KISS.” Twenty-seven years later (almost to the day) Weezer releases a 10 track ode to their hair band heroes titled Van Weezer.
Albums released by Impulse Records are instantly recognizable for their iconic orange and black spines. From its first release in 1961, the label was a safe haven for free jazz and avant-garde experimentation. While John Coltrane’s increasingly experimental work for Impulse has become so synonymous with the label it is often called The House that Trane Built, the Impulse story goes well beyond the iconic saxophonist.
This new four-album set curated in recognition of Impulse’s 60th anniversary includes plenty of Coltrane (claiming all of the first side), but goes out of its way to document the label’s role in the political and social realm of the Black experience in the 1960s and ‘70s.
Bop pioneers Max Roach, Charles Mingus and Ahmad Jamal are sequenced alongside free jazz explorers Yusef Lateef, Archie Shepp and Pharoah Sanders. Then there are those that aren’t easily categorized, like Michael White’s neo-classical piece “Lament (Mankind)” and Marion Brown’s contemplative “Bismillahi ‘Rrahmani ‘Rrahim.”
While the 60th anniversary is a bit a misnomer since the label went dark after 1980 save for a few dozen releases (and has only recently become active again), this 25-track collection is a great overview of Impulse’s restless and adventurous spirit over its first two decades. The accompanying essays, song notes and photographs enhance the journey.- Joel Francis
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