A Consumer Guide to the Trailing Edge: January, 2008

Recycled Goods (#51)

by Tom Hull

As announced last month, this is the end of Recycled Goods. I've written this column since February 2003, and have kept a monthly pace since January 2005. I've accumulated 51 columns, with more or less brief reviews of 2207 records. I've done a little bit of just about everything. The column below is a little scragglier than usual. To some extent it's just the leftovers of trying to close out last time, but there are plenty of good records here, not least in the small print. It's been fun.

Laurie Anderson: Big Science (1982 [2007], Nonesuch): In 1979 Iranian students occupied the US embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostage. In April the US sent a force into Iran to rescue the Americans. The force crashed and died. In 1982, the US sent a "peacekeeping" force into Lebanon, which mostly shelled Lebanese resisting Israel's invasion. In 1983, a suicide bomber killed 241 US Marines in Beirut. The US, the world's great imperial superpower, soon left for easier prey, invading Grenada. As the cover proclaims, "this is the time, and this is the record of the time." Anderson factored the former incident into her record, but the latter existed only in the aether of future possibilities, like 9/11, which makes an eery backdrop for her references to American warplanes cruising and crashing. Her minimal violin and electronic voice set up her wry humor. A-

Authenticité: The Syliphone Years (1965-80 [2007], Stern's Africa, 2CD): A marvelous selection from Guinea's national label during the early independence years, when President Sekou Touré bankrolled dozens of regional and national orchestras -- Orchestres Nationaux and Federaux -- each tasked with producing music which draws on folk authenticity but doesn't neglect pop appeal. They share many traits from better publicized points in their neighborhod -- Senegal, Mali, Ghana, Nigeria -- but also pick up a fair amount of Congo guitar. Socialist realism never had it so good. A

David Byrne: The Knee Plays (1985 [2007], Nonesuch): Like Laurie Anderson's Big Science, a piece of music and sprechgesang to go with a minimalist avant-garde stage piece -- this one by Robert Wilson, who previously showed his smarts by recruiting Philip Glass to orchestrate Einstein on the Beach. Byrne's previous excursions from his dayjob as the chief Talking Head came off as lighter and more idiosyncratic variations of same. Here his horns evoke deep Americana, and the words are worth pondering over, even "In the Future" with all its dismaying contradictions. Comes with a slow and bleak DVD built from still b&w photos synched to the music. A-

Lou Donaldson: Gravy Train (1961 [2007], Blue Note): An alto saxophonist, Donaldson got a reputation early in the 1950s as a Charlie Parker imitator, but it's hard to hear the influence, especially by the early 1960s when his easy-flowing blues style fit snugly into the soul jazz milieu. The temptation to put him down as derivative may be because he never showed any big ambitions. He was content to knock off dozens of clean toned, easy grooving albums, popular enough that Blue Note kept him employed from 1952 to 1974. This one makes the most of his limits. Two originals are small ideas worked out comfortably. The covers carry stronger melodies, which he renders with little elaboration but uncommon elegance. Herman Foster's piano is crisper than the usual organs, while Alec Dorsey's congas lighten and loosen the beat. A-

Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: Setting Standards: New York Sessions (1983 [2008], ECM, 3CD): Born 1945, Jarrett started recording in 1966, minor bits with Art Blakey and Miles Davis, a major role in Charles Lloyd's quartet at their popular peak. His own records start in 1967 with Life Between the Exit Signs, and picked up the pace in the 1970s when he juggled two distinctive quartets -- one US-based with Dewey Redman on Impulse, the other Europe-based with Jan Garbarek on ECM -- and great bunches of solo piano records, most famously The Köln Concert, at five million copies probably the best-selling jazz album ever. He had rarely played in piano trios, but put one together for a set of standards in January 1983 -- actually, he revived the trio that recorded Gary Peacock's Tales of Another in 1977, with Jack DeJohnette on drums. He dubbed them the Standards Trio, but more than two decades and two dozen later they're just The Trio. The sessions produced two volumes of Standards and a set of original improvs released as Changes -- now all conveniently boxed for their 25th anniversary. The songbook is neither obvious nor numerous -- 11 songs, averaging 8 minutes, with "God Bless the Child" spread out to 15:32, mostly because they found so much to work out. A turning point in an illustrious career, but more beginning than peak. B+

Alison Krauss: A Hundred Miles or More: A Collection (1996-2007 [2007], Rounder): Originally a bluegrass fiddler who sang a bit and camouflaged her nascent stardom by crediting the band Union Station, since her consolidating 1995 collection, Now That I've Found You, she's moved beyond category. Her new collection no longer suggests the limits of genre: her violin and band have mostly vanished, her pristine soprano cuts clear through songs of any or no tradition. This is no best-of: five songs were previously unreleased, the others coming from soundtracks ranging from O Brother, Where Art Thou? to The Prince of Egypt, tributes and guest shots. Collaborations with such dubious partners as Brad Paisley and the Chieftains shouldn't work, but do. In fact, the scattershot variety suits her. Maybe she really is a star. A-

Van Morrison: The Best of Van Morrison: Volume 3 (1992-2005 [2007], Exile/Manhattan, 2CD): The first volume suffered from an embarrassment of riches (if you call that suffering), and the second one worked too hard to redeem the weaker albums at the end of Morrison's Polydor string, or perhaps didn't mind throwing some cold water on an artist who had taken his business elsewhere. This sums up a decade-plus of self-proclaimed exile. He turned out solid-plus albums -- only Down the Road stands with his greatest work, but few if any disappointed -- and he worked hard, networking with old Brit stars (Lonnie Donegan, Georgie Fame, Tom Jones), blues legends (John Lee Hooker, Junior Wells, BB King), and other voices almost as singular as his own (Carl Perkins, Ray Charles, Bobby Bland). It's hard to imagine anyone else fitting in yet standing out so effortlessly. Picking obscure tracks from tributes and soundtracks, unveiling two previously unreleaseds that make you wonder how'd they been missed, and documenting each detail faithfully, this proves his undiminished genius. A

The Police (1977-1983 [2007], A&M, 2CD): Trio founded by drummer Stewart Copeland, who set out the basic ska groove that floated most of Sting's songs on the first two or three of five albums. They started out aiming at CBGB's and wound up with the eightfold platinum Synchronicity, with a couple of near-perfect singles like "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" and "Every Breath You Take." I've never made any sense of the group name, but Copeland's father is a pretty shady character who has owned two record labels: IRS and CIA. They split up when they peaked, with uneventful solo careers -- unless you count Sting recently topping Blender's list of rock's 40 all-time worst lyricists -- so a 30th anniversary reunion makes good business sense. This preps novices, providing more than half of their studio output -- a useful survey, but they haven't held up all that well, and now seem more peripheral than ever, as if their mass success proved their meaninglessness. Still, the more concentrated Every Breath You Take: The Classics (1978-86 [2005], A&M) holds up pretty nicely. B+

Elvis Presley: The Country Side of Elvis (1954-76 [2001], RCA, 2CD): In the end, Presley was Middle America, more Las Vegas than Nashville, but hallowed on country radio, remembered less for singing black than for being a white boy. This themed collection -- slicing up and repackaging Elvis is a neverending cottage industry -- offers two surprises. The first is how spotty the early years were, where country songs were picked to rock out, just like everything else. The second is how sublime his 1970s cuts were, even with dross arrangements of crappy strings. He had turned into an interpretive singer, and Nashville gave him just the depth of substance he needed to work with. But that he could hold his own on songs as definitively owned by others as "Funny How Time Slips Away" and "She Thinks I Still Care" only proves how great a crooner he became. The repackagers would be well advised to refine the second disc into a single. B+

Briefly Noted

Luther Allison: Underground (1958 [2007], Ruf): Blues is usually an old man's game, but this Arkansas-bred guitar slinger would have made a respectable Chicago bluesman had these first recordings, cut when he was 18, came out at the time; as happened, he cut his first record a decade later, struggled for small labels, made a comeback on Alligator, then died at 58; 8 cuts, rather short. B+

Alex Alvear: Equatorial (2006 [2007], Colorado Music): A political exile from Ecuador with 20 years in the US, Alvear looks back to the indigenous flutes of the Andes, recalled through cosmopolitan filters shaded by Cuba and Brazil, by funk and jazz; as a groove record this has an understated resilience, its occasional vocals quaint and heartfelt. B+

Aphrodesia: Lagos by Bus (2007, Cyberset): Like Kitka (see below) and pseudo-Brazilian groups I've already forgotten the names of, another slice of world music viewed through the narrow prism of a San Francisco Bay Area collective; it helps when the horns crank up and vocalist Lara Maykovich picks a language you don't know -- on "Ochun Mi," you can imagine Celia Cruz fronting a salsa band more Afro than Cuban. B

Sathima Bea Benjamin: A Morning in Paris (1963 [2007], Ekapa): A lucky break for the South African jazz singer, paramour of the future Abdullah Ibrahim, to be in Paris next to Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, playing piano on two cuts each; she is a patient standards singer, drawing out fine shades of meaning, taking the two Ellington cuts especially slow. B+

Andy Bey: Ain't Necessarily So (1997 [2007], 12th Street): Sly standards from a subtle and graceful jazz singer-pianist, recorded live at Birdland on the upswing of his comeback, with a pair of Washingtons filling out his trio; he turns even "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" into seduction. B+

Bokoor Beats: Vintage Afro-Beat, Afro-Rock & Electric Highlife From Ghana (1971-79 [2007], Otrabanda): Bokoor translates as coolness, the name first for a band then for the studio John Collins ran in the 1980s -- the source of at least two other excellent anthologies: Electric Highlife (1979-89 [2002], Naxos World) and The Guitar and the Gun (1981-84 [2003], Earthworks); this starts earlier, focusing on the Bokoor Band with a few tracks by three other groups, more in English than later on, hence clearer what Afro-Rock means. A-

Jimmy Blythe: Messin' Around Blues: Enhanced Pianola Rolls (1920s [2007], Delmark): A Chicago pianist who died young in 1931, leaving a handful of classic jazz records, notably with clarinetist Johnny Dodds; his piano rolls give us new insight into his style, pre-stride but elegant and robustly rhythmic, with the clean sound of new recordings. B+

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown: Bogalusa Boogie Man (1975 [2007], Sunnyside): Texas bluesman goes native in Louisiana, creating a mess of swamp pop that is campy gumbo at best and slimy okra at worst, with "Dixie Chicken" a repast of both; five bonus cuts show off some respectable blues guitar, out of place here. B-

Vashti Bunyan: Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind (Singles and Demos 1964 to 1967) (1964-67 [2007], Fat Cat): English "psych folk" singer, inspired less by her native folk music than by the New York folkie scene; the singles are spare instrumentally, her voice barely holding them together; the demos all the more so. B-

Cachao: Descargas: The Havana Sessions (1957-61 [2007], Yemaya, 2CD): The best known, or at least the best nicknamed, of a family of legendary Cuban bassists, Israel Lopez had a hand in the invention of the mambo and fifty years later picked up a Grammy for reprising his career in two marvelous volumes of Master Sessions; he made his name, however, with these state of the art jam sessions. A-

Paul Chambers: Bass on Top (1957 [2007], Blue Note): An awkward attempt at a bass-centric album, although by the end Chambers seems happier slipping into the background behind guitarist Kenny Burrell and pianist Hank Jones, showing off the fat resonance and assured swing that made him the go-to bassist for everyone who was anyone in the late 1950s. B

Choro Ensemble: Nosso Tempo (2007, Anzic): The Brazilian strings and percussion sound authentic even recording in New Jersey, but they're only four-fifths of the group; the fifth is Israeli clarinetist Anat Cohen, who despite her study and deep interest in Brazilian music brings an uncharacteristic exuberance to the mix, the basic worldview of klezmer. B+

Ciccone Youth: The Whitey Album (1987-88 [2006], Geffen): Recorded before but released after their breakthrough Daydream Nation, this one-shot shows that Sonic Youth's heart would remain on the fringe no matter how successful they got; not the Beatles "white album" cover they threatened, its Madonna namecheck limited to "Into the Groove(y)," concepts as lame as 1:03 of "(Silence)" and "Two Cool Rock Chicks Listening to Neu." B

Gil Coggins: Better Late Than Never (2001-02 [2007], Smalls): Old bebop pianist, hooked up with Miles Davis when the latter was still a teen, and recorded with other young players of the early-'50s -- names like Rollins, Coltrane, and McLean -- but never got his shot as a leader; two trios taped a couple of years before he died make for an eloquent little memoir. B+

Vidal Colmenares: . . . Otro Llano (2006 [2007], Cacao Musica): Venezuelan cowpoke, plays cuatro and sings the local equivalent of Gene Autry in an accent that would do Speedy Gonzales proud; check out the booklet for pictures and chuckle over the translations -- e.g. "analists and experts in marketing processes." B+

Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True (Deluxe Edition) (1976-77 [2007], Hip-O, 2CD): A more striking name than Declan MacManus, which might have marked him as a dancehall crooner like his father; his first album was chock full of memorable tunes, delivered with pub rock grit and Ramones-like brevity -- leaving room for a dozen outtakes and demos on the first disc, plus a second disc of live versions; aside from the Nashville-ready "Stranger in the House" the extras repeat much and add little. B+

The Best of Elvis Costello: The First 10 Years (1977-86 [2007], Hip-O): I count 6-8 recommendable albums from Costello's decade, with Armed Forces and Trust my top-rateds and the gone-Nashville Almost Blue a personal fave, but he has never produced a compilation that improved on his best individual efforts; this one at least skips the trivia, but the ballads bog down the homestretch before he miraculously makes some like "Indoor Fireworks" bloom. A-

Elvis Costello: Rock and Roll Music (1976-86 [2007], Hip-O): Should be more consistent, but maybe he never was that much of a rock and roller? Three songs repeat from Best Of, only the extra cuts off his best albums compete, and trivia abounds -- spare live cuts, Dave Edmunds vehicles, nothing from the 1950s which provided his namesake and initial look. B

Walter Davis Jr.: Davis Cup (1959 [2007], Blue Note): A minor hard bop pianist's one and only shot on Blue Note, Davis wrote all the pieces and called his chits in, getting Donald Byrd and Jackie McLean to fill out his quintet; McLean's alto sax lays back, letting Byrd's trumpet dominate to such an extent that you barely notice the fine piano. B

Ella Fitzgerald: Love Letters From Ella (1973-83 [2007], Concord/Starbucks): Ten previously unreleased tracks from her late, still great Pablo years, some of which have been recently overdubbed, especially by the London Symphony Orchestra -- their strings would be yucky behind anyone else, but they just slide under her strong vocals; still, the idea that this is new stretches into deceit; presumably this is meant to give coffee-addled youngsters their first taste, but wouldn't they be better off starting with something old but historically secure? B

Foo Fighters: The Colour and the Shape (1997 [2007], Roswell/RCA/Legacy): Dave Grohl's post-Nirvana vehicle lacks, well, charisma, but has solid hard rock fundamentals, starting with a firm drummer (ironically, not Grohl), and can push a line dramatically, or ride out a decent groove; six bonus cuts, including a title track not on the original album. B+

Fripp & Eno: Beyond Even (1992-2006 [2007], DGM, 2CD): Scattered unreleased works from a collaboration that produced two pre- or proto-ambient records in 1973-75 and another pair 30 years later; minor electronica, mostly tight little beats with fillips of guitar, some more ambient, one noisy track per disc; could have used some documentation. B+

Funky Pieces of Silver: The Horace Silver Songbook (The Composer Collection Volume 1) (1997-2005 [2007], High Note): An unnecessary label sampler, but it's hard to go wrong with Silver songs; six of nine feature the Hammond B-3, including four by Charles Earland, three from the same album; the only surprise is that I like Joey DeFrancesco's trumpet more than his organ; everything is tight, and funk is its own reward. B+

Grant Green: The Latin Bit (1961 [2007], Blue Note): The latin percussion is professional enough, including Willie Bobo's drums and Patato's congas, but they can't inspire Green to break out of his usual groove; two later cuts with Ike Quebec and Sonny Clark work better, with the chekere gone and the congas reduced to atmosphere. B

Norman Howard & Joe Phillips: Burn Baby Burn (1968 [2007], ESP-Disk): Vault music from the 1960s avant-garde, a session led by two minor associates of Albert Ayler, an austere affair where Howard's trumpet and Phillips' alto sax part the waters for a revelation that never quite comes; an enigmatic record, all the more so because the lengthy booklet raises more questions than it answers. B+

An Introduction to Texas Blues (1948-92 [2007], Fuel 2000): No early touchstones like Blind Lemon Jefferson or Henry Thomas, this starts with the postwar juke joints, including some interesting boogie before settling down into T-Bone Walker's electric guitar groove; booklet isn't bad, but any introduction should include discographic details. B+

Kitka: The Rusalka Cycle: Songs Between the Worlds (2007, Diaphonica): A women's vocal ensemble, nine strong, based in California but dedicated to Eastern Europe, performing a "futuristic folk opera" based on the Rusalki ("powerful, enticing female entities who . . . are ritually feared, appeased, and celebrated"), a dystopian prospect chillingly conveyed by Mariana Sadovska's music. B-

Ladysmith Black Mambazo: Ilembe: Honoring Shaka Zulu (2007 [2008], Heads Up): None of the networking or conceptualizing that was meant to diversify their recent releases but wound up stretching them too thin; on the other hand, after several dozen albums, their soft, friendly acappella mbube has lost its novelty and settled into a comfort zone they can sustain indefinitely; everyone should hear them at least once, and this isn't a bad place to start. B+

Nils Lofgren (1975 [2007], Hip-0 Select): From 1971, when he took Neil Young's backup band and recorded Crazy Horse through three albums with Grin to this solo debut in 1975, Lofgren was the most promising singer-songwriter in what decades later would be called "alt" or "indie" or something like that, but as far as I know he never again did anything notable, stretching his career out cashing sideman checks, mostly due to Bruce Springsteen's largesse; this still catches and resonates, and it's nice to know Keith didn't go. A-

Sarah McLachlan: Mirrorball: The Complete Concert (1999 [2006], Arista/Legacy, 2CD): A Canadian singer-songwriter with a bunch of albums I was never tempted by; after five albums, she turned in a live one, and evidently it sold enough to inspire the label to repackage it as an historic event; I find it innocuous enough, but then I'm good at tuning out banality. C+

Memphis Slim & Roosevelt Sykes: Double-Barreled Boogie (1970 [2007], Sunnyside): Two old blues pianists with boogie in their veins swap war stories and play and sing some old blues songs along the way; neither sing worth a damn, but both can boogie, and the history is good for something. B+

Memphis Slim: Boogie Woogie (1971 [2007], Sunnyside): Born Peter Chatman, a minor blues star since signing with Bluebird in 1940, sings very little here, concentrating on a broad survey of ye olde boogie woogie, which he plays with surpassing grace; secret ingredient is drummer Michel Denis, who you scarcely notice without listening for him. A-

Eddy Mitchell: Jambalaya (2006 [2007], Sunnyside): French singer and actor, born Claude Moine, brackets what looks like a cajun exercise with "Ma Nouvelle-Orleans" and "Jambalaya," but sounds like a French Link Wray -- twang in the guitar and frog in the throat; curious that "Something Else" translates as "Elle Est Terrible." C+

Thurston Moore: Psychic Hearts (1994-95 [2006], Geffen): Sonic Youth frontman solo album, meaning he has to make do without Sonic Youth frontwoman Kim Gordon, which may be why the album is a bit lacking; or it may be that he's pulling his punches given that the band is his real mealticket; or it may be that he just has too many leftovers; in any case, this sounds close enough for working purposes. B+

Van Morrison: At the Movies: Soundtrack Hits (1964-95 [2007], Exile): Staggeringly brilliant, of course, but still a useless compilation, with signs of the common best-ofs like the two canonical Them songs, but with four live shots -- the only one not available better packaged elsewhere is a Roger Waters duet on "Comfortably Numb"; lacks even the filmographies that supposedly justify the inclusions. B

Van Morrison: Still on Top: The Greatest Hits (1964-2005 [2007], Hip-O): Staggeringly brilliant, of course; if you really want him reduced to a single disc -- say, to start an argument over who's the greatest singer in all of rock history -- this is as good as Polydor's 1990 The Best of Van Morrison and sustained through another 15 years; nothing less than awesome until 14 tracks in, and nothing to complain about after that. A+

Movement Soul: Volume 2 (1939-62 [2007], ESP-Disk): Aural documents -- a poem, congressional testimony, radio reports, interviews, a couple of songs -- from the civil rights movement, stories of lynching, desegregation, voter rights, poverty, the struggle for freedom; short on rhetoric and backbeats, valuable history, good booklet. B

Youssou N'Dour: Rokku Mi Rokka (2007, Nonesuch): This is Dakar calling -- the refrain of the sole English lyric, possibly done that way to keep duet partner Neneh Cherry in the flow. The rest are in Wolof, which are pure ear candy with him singing -- I didn't get the booklet, which reportedly has the translations. A

Ricky Nelson: Greatest Hits (1957-72 [2005], Capitol): Like most teen stars, he had help -- his only writing credit was "Garden Party," ten years after the next latest song, the already nostalgic "Teenage Idol"; I'd nitpick about leading off with "Travelin' Man" instead of the omitted "A Teenager's Romance" -- you lose the arc of his career that way; no one has ever sounded so naturally in control yet so innocent of the artifice. A

Putumayo Presents: Latin Reggae (1995-2007 [2008], Putumayo World Music): Mostly mestizo bands from Spain, with outriders from Argentina and DJ Ticklah from Brooklyn, playing reggae light with little in the way of Afro-Latin conventions, rhythmic or otherwise -- Latin seems mostly limited to Spanish language here; conspicuous omission: reggaeton. B

Putumayo Presents: New Orleans Brass (1989-2006 [2007], Putumayo World Music): Jazz may have originated in the Crescent City, but by 1930 virtually every great jazz musician who grew up there had moved on to Chicago, New York, California -- hell, Sidney Bechet went all the way to Paris; 70 years later you can hear the same songs the town couldn't support back when it had musicians who could play them and make them sound fresh. B

Putumayo Presents: Tango Around the World (2001-07 [2007], Putumayo World Music): Not as wide-ranging as the title suggests, with 4 of 11 cuts from tango homeland Argentina, and not much educational value either -- the cuts are recent except maybe the Finnish entry, picked up from a Trikont anthology; but at least this does what the label does best, stringing anonymous artists into a listenable program, but even so the music is sharp enough you can't help noticing. B+

Ike Quebec: Bossa Nova Soul Samba (1962 [2007], Blue Note): Or something sorta like that, although Soul is the only part of that title Quebec's all that conversant with; the rhythm team leans Hispanic rather than Brazilian, and may have meant the lazy riddims as satire, but the tenor saxophonist took them as an excuse for a shmoozy ballads album, which is his forté. B+

Judee Sill: Live in London: The BBC Recordings 1972-1973 ([2007], Water): American singer-songwriter, plays folkie guitar and gospelish piano, the latter reportedly learned in prison; she was into drugs and Jesus, and had two albums to pick through, repeating several songs over three sets, which aren't improved by the patter; died at 35, drugs again. B-

Reflections: Carly Simon's Greatest Hits (1971-99 [2004], Arista/Elektra/Rhino): I recall a review of her fifth album, Playing Possum, concluding that she had produce two great singles and three great album covers; three decades later she hasn't added much to either count, especially since she moved to Arista in 1987, setting up this career-spanning cross-label deal. B

Sonic Youth (1981-82 [2006], Geffen): Their first record, a 5-track EP, expanded to hour-length with 1981 live shots; no songs to speak of, few vocals, mostly guitar, their notorious noise tunings drilled home through repetition; in retrospect this is transitional from Glenn Branca's avant no wave to the sound they wound up with, and if anything gains from its conceptual bareness. B+

Sonic Youth: Daydream Nation (Deluxe Edition) (1988-89 [2007], Geffen, 2CD): First disc adds a demo to the album that lifted their indie guitar grunge to a higher level, more consistently tuneful while still insistently noisy; the extra disc matches live cuts from the following year -- hard to say what the variations add but the looser, rougher takes hold up as well as the studio disc and if anything come off fresher; ends with four cover songs, also worth having. A

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes: The Jukes (1979 [2007], Hip-O Select): Johnny was John Lyon, the answer to the are-there-any-more-like-you-back-home question inevitably raised when Bruce Springsteen broke out; he waters Springsteen melodrama down with a bit of white soul, holding up about as well as the Merseybeats did to the Beatles; fourth album, sale point is that nobody bothered to released it on CD before. C+

Spirits in the Material World: A Reggae Tribute to the Police (2007 [2008], Shanachie): It should be easy for veterans like Toots Hibbert, Gregory Isaacs, Junior Reid, and Scratch Perry to add some soul and/or dub to the Police's already reggae-based pop songs, but they make little difference; Joan Osborne fares better with "Every Breath You Take." B

Pablo Ziegler/Quique Sinesi: Buenos Aires Report (2006 [2007], Zoho): New tango studies by Astor Piazzolla's pianist, with guitarist Sinesi slip-sliding around the curves, and Walter Castro filling in the bandoneon; still, nothing new quite equals the master's "Libertango" -- the vibrant closer here. B+

Additional Consumer News

The last two years I took a January break from the oldies business to do a year-end round up. I didn't find time to do that again this year, but I figured the least I could do would be to share my 2007 A-list. Actually, I'm splitting it into two lists: one for jazz, one for everything else. The reason is that I'm able to listen to a lot more jazz than anything else, by virtue of writing the Village Voice Jazz Consumer Guide. I've heard more than 600 new jazz records this year, compared to about 200 of everything else. On the other hand, the latter are mostly recommended first by other critics, whereas I do most of my own jazz triage. Split this way, the lists are about the same length. Presumably there's more good non-jazz out there that I don't know about, simply because there's about 10-20 times as much non-jazz as jazz. (Not that all non-jazz is created equal.) A couple of late-arriving 2006 albums are included [06]; also one I have as [08] because I was the only critic working who waited until the hard copy was released.

First, the non-jazz list, in rough order of preference:

  1. Manu Chao: La Radiolina (Nacional/Because)
  2. John Fogerty: Revival (Fantasy)
  3. Gogol Bordello: Super Taranta! (Side One Dummy)
  4. Youssou N'Dour: Rokku Mi Rokka (Nonesuch)
  5. Mavis Staples: We'll Never Turn Back (Anti-)
  6. Papa Noel: Café Noir (Tumi)
  7. M.I.A.: Kala (Interscope)
  8. Public Enemy: How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul??? (Slamjamz)
  9. Balkan Beat Box: Nu-Med (JDub)
  10. Les Savy Fav: Let's Stay Friends (Frenchkiss)
  11. The Apples in Stereo: New Magnetic Wonder (Yep Roc)
  12. Arcade Fire: Neon Bible (Merge)
  13. Holy Fuck: LP (Young Turks)
  14. Bruce Springsteen: Magic (Columbia)
  15. Konono No. 1: Live at Couleur Café (Crammed Discs)
  16. Girl Talk: Night Ripper (Illegal Art [06])
  17. Nine Inch Nails: Year Zero (Interscope)
  18. Lucinda Williams: West (Lost Highway)
  19. Buck 65: Situation (Strange Famous)
  20. 7L & Esoteric: A New Dope (Babygrande [06])
  21. Miranda Lambert: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Sony/BMG Nashville)
  22. Wu-Tang Clan: 8 Diagrams (SRC/Universal/Motown)
  23. Tinariwen: Aman Iman: Water Is Life (World Village)
  24. Mac Lethal: 11:11 (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
  25. Pink Martini: Hey Eugene! (Heinz)
  26. Chris Knight: The Trailer Tapes (1996, Drifter's Church)
  27. Gretchen Wilson: One of the Boys (Sony/BMG)
  28. Imperial Teen: The Hair the TV the Baby & the Band (Merge)
  29. Fanfare Ciocarlia: Queens and Kings (Asphalt Tango)
  30. Modest Mouse: We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (Epic)
  31. Amy LaVere: Anchors & Anvils (Archer)
  32. Lily Allen: Alright, Still . . . (Capitol)
  33. LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver (DFA/Capitol)
  34. So Called: Ghettoblaster (JDub)
  35. Slavic Soul Party: Teknochek Collision (Barbčs)
  36. Henri Salvador: Révérence (Circular Moves)
  37. Spoon: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge)
  38. Koko Taylor: Old School (Alligator)
  39. Radiohead: In Rainbows (TBD [08])
  40. Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard/Ray Price: Last of the Breed (Lost Highway, 2CD)
  41. The Fall: Reformation: Post TLC (Narnack)
  42. Colombiafrica -- The Mythic Orchestra: Voodoo Love Inna Champeta-Land (Riverboat)
  43. Puerto Plata: Mujer de Cabaret (IASO)
  44. Elizabeth Cook: Balls (Thirty Tigers)
  45. Lupe Fiasco: The Cool (Atlantic)
  46. Northern State: Can I Keep This Pen? (Ipecac)
  47. Teddy Thompson: Upfront & Down Low (Verve Forecast)
  48. Daft Punk: Alive 2007 (Virgin)
  49. Todd Snider: Peace, Love and Anarchy (Rarities, B-Sides and Demos, Vol. 1) (2000-04, Oh Boy)

Those break down to about a dozen more/less world music releases, and about a half dozen each of rock bands, rock/pop singer-songwriters, (mostly underground) rappers, and (mostly alt-) country singers, with occasional dance grooves and a token blues album.

Then the jazz list, also more/less sorted by preference:

  1. Powerhouse Sound: Oslo/Chicago Breaks (Atavistic, 2CD)
  2. Jewels and Binoculars: Ships With Tattooed Sails (Upshot)
  3. David Murray Black Saint Quartet: Sacred Ground (Justin Time)
  4. Albert van Veenendaal/Meinrad Kneer/Yonga Sun: Predictable Point of Impact (Evil Rabbit)
  5. Chris Byars: Photos in Black, White and Gray (Smalls)
  6. Billy Bang Quintet Featuring Frank Lowe: Above & Beyond: An Evening in Grand Rapids (Justin Time)
  7. Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Shamokin!!! (Hot Cup)
  8. Kahil El'Zabar's Infinity Orchestra: Transmigration (Delmark)
  9. Assif Tsahar/Cooper-Moore/Chad Taylor: Digital Primitives (Hopscotch)
  10. Matt Lavelle Trio: Spiritual Power (Silkheart)
  11. Happy Apple: Happy Apple Back on Top (Sunnyside)
  12. David Torn: Prezens (ECM)
  13. Joe Lovano & Hank Jones: Kids: Duets Live at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola (Blue Note)
  14. Ted Des Plantes' Washboard Wizards: Thumpin' and Bumpin' (Stomp Off)
  15. Wolfgang Muthspiel/Brian Blade: Friendly Travelers (Material)
  16. David S. Ware Quartet: Renunciation (AUM Fidelity)
  17. Logan Richardson: Cerebral Flow (Fresh Sound New Talent [06])
  18. Pablo Aslan: Buenos Aires Tango Standards (Zoho)
  19. Louis Sclavis: L'Imparfait des Langues (ECM)
  20. Rafi Malkiel: My Island (Raftone)
  21. Fay Victor Ensemble: Cartwheels Through the Cosmos (ArtistShare)
  22. Bloodcount: Seconds (1996, Screwgun)
  23. Vijay Iyer + Mike Ladd: Still Life With Commentator (Savoy Jazz)
  24. Fred Anderson & Hamid Drake: From the River to the Ocean (Thrill Jockey)
  25. William Parker/Raining on the Moon: Corn Meal Dance (AUM Fidelity)
  26. Joshua Redman: Back East (Nonesuch)
  27. Joan Stiles: Hurly-Burly (Oo-Bla-Dee)
  28. Alex Kontorovich: Deep Minor (Chamsa)
  29. Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: My Foolish Heart: Live at Montreux (ECM, 2CD)
  30. Alvin Queen: I Ain't Looking at You (Enja/Justin Time)
  31. Yerba Buena Stompers: The Yama-Yama Man (Stomp Off)
  32. Tierney Sutton: On the Other Side (Telarc)
  33. The Claudia Quintet: For (Cuneiform)
  34. John Sheridan and His Dream Band: Swing Is Still the King (Arbors)
  35. The Harry Allen-Joe Cohn Quartet: Music From Guys and Dolls (Arbors)
  36. Maria Anadon: A Jazzy Way (Arbors)
  37. Chris Potter Underground: Follow the Red Line: Live at the Village Vanguard (Sunnyside)
  38. McCoy Tyner: Quartet (McCoy Tyner Music/Half Note)
  39. The Neil Cowley Trio: Displaced (Hide Inside)
  40. MI3: Free Advice (Clean Feed)
  41. Brent Jensen: One More Mile (Origin)
  42. Hugh Masekela: Live at the Market Theatre (Times Square/4Q, 2CD)
  43. Nublu Orchestra Conducted by Butch Morris (Nublu)
  44. Steve Lacy-Roswell Rudd Quartet: Early and Late (1962-2002, Cuneiform)
  45. Grupo Los Santos: Lo Que Somos Lo Que Sea (Deep Tone)
  46. Adam Lane/Ken Vandermark/Magnus Broo/Paal Nilssen-Love: 4 Corners (Clean Feed)
  47. Joe Morris/Ken Vandermark/Luther Gray: Rebus (Clean Feed)
  48. Bucky Pizzarelli: 5 for Freddie: Bucky's Tribute to Freddie Green (Arbors)


In an infinite universe, all the music you'll ever need already exists somewhere. We find more each month: Africana (Syliphone Years, Bokoor Beats, Youssou N'Dour), Irish soul (Van Morrison), 1970s new wave (Elvis Costello, Police), 1980s vanguardism (Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Sonic Youth), standard piano jazz (Jimmy Blythe, Keith Jarrett); many more (58 records), plus the best of 2007.


Back when I was still expecting the January column to be a year-end round up, I wrote the following:

Lily Allen: Alright, Still . . . (2007, Capitol): Not much of a voice, but good enough for a girl group, which even as a single is her best fit on the big picture map; but updated, of course -- Cilla Black, or for that matter Marianne Faithfull, could have been her grandmother. A-

Gretchen Wilson: One of the Boys (2007, Sony/BMG): On her third album, her drinking and cussing has moved beyond shtick and grown into character. A-

Copyright © 2008 Tom Hull.