Streamnotes: October 29, 2020


Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on September 28. Past reviews and more information are available here (15669 records).


Recent Releases

21 Savage & Metro Boomin: Savage Mode II (2020, Slaughter Gang/Epic): Atlanta rapper Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph and producer Leland Tyler Wayne, sequel to their 2016 EP. B+(**)

Harry Allen: The Bloody Happy Song (2020, GAC): Tenor saxophonist, retro-swing guy, recorded this at home under lockdown, only credit his sax and midi keyboards. He somehow managed to sample a whole big band for the opener, but eventually drops down as far as solo, then overdubs a duet. His playing is exemplary throughout, but the non-existent others aren't so inspired. B+(**)

JD Allen: Toys/Die Dreaming (2020, Savant): Tenor saxophonist, albums since 1999, trio with Ian Kenselaar (bass) and Nic Cacioppo (drums). Five originals, two standards ("You're My Thrill," "I Should Care"). Always a strong performer, this one impresses in the usual ways, then grows on you. A-

Ammar 808: Global Control/Invisible Invasion (2019 [2020], Glitterbeat): Sofyann Ben Youssef, electronica producer from Tunisia based in Brussels, alias comes from South India, and this was recorded in Chennai, with Indian vocalists and percussion. B+(**)

Courtney Marie Andrews: Old Flowers (2020, Fat Possum): Folkie singer-songwriter from Arizona, fifth album since 2010. B+(*)

Angel-Ho: Alla Prima (2020, Hyperdub, EP): South African singer-songwriter, "gypsy of the world," released Death Becomes Her in 2019, returns with a five track, 14:55 EP. Credits are her (vocals) and Bon (production), but most vocals sound male and hip-hop: "you can either be an angel or a ho/ the choice is yours." B [bc]

Florian Arbenz/Greg Osby: Reflections of the Eternal Line (2020, Hammer): Swiss drummer, couple albums c. 2001, two more this year. This is a sax/drums duo, Osby playing soprano and alto. Stephan Spicher also get his name on the cover for "visuals." B+(***) [bc]

Steve Arrington: Down to the Lowest Terms: The Soul Sessions (2019-20 [2020], Stones Throw): Joined the funk group Slave in 1975, left in 1981 to record as Steve Arrington's Hall of Fame, then solo through 1987. Recorded albums in 2009 and 2014, and now this new one, with "a new generation of talented producers." B+(*)

Babe, Terror: Horizogon (2020, Glue Moon): Brazilian electronica producer Claudio Szynkier, at least nine albums since 2009. Ambient snooze with choral vocals. B- [bc]

Victoria Bailey: Jesus, Red Wine & Patsy Cline (2020, Rock Ridge Music): Country singer-songwriter from California -- probably the source of her wine taste (aside from the title, there's another song called "Spent My Dime on White Wine"), but everything else is standard honky tonk, including a lot of pedal steel. B+(***)

Juliana Barwick: Healing Is a Miracle (2020, Ninja Tune): American singer-songwriter, composes music with choir-like vocals and electronic loops. Fourth album since 2011, plus EPs and a couple of collaborations. There is some attraction to this murk, but not much pleasure. B

John Beasley: MONK'estra Plays John Beasley (2020, Mack Avenue): Pianist, put this big band together to play Thelonious Monk arrangements, turns it loose on his own compositions (plus Ellington and Parker). B+(**)

Benny the Butcher: Burden of Proof (2020, Griselda): Buffalo rapper Jeremie Pennick, has two cousins also in the game (Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine), second album. B+(**)

Biffy Clyro: A Celebration of Endings (2020, 14th Floor/Warner): Scottish rock band, eighth album since 2002, a big deal in Scotland since their debut, scaled the UK charts with 2007's Puzzle, sell well in Europe but not US. Mix it up toward the end, ranging from punk to prog, still makes me want to hear more. B

Elvin Bishop & Charlie Musselwhite: 100 Years of Blues (2020, Alligator): Two geezers happy to play "front-porch, down-home music," "12 rootsy, spirited, humorous songs, mixing nine originals with three reimagined classics." Gets topical on "What the Hell?" with its big question, "I want to know how can four years seem so long." Charlie brings plenty of harmonica. B+(**)

Black Thought: Streams of Thought, Vol. 3: Cane and Abel (2020, Republic): Roots MC Tariq Luqmaan Trotter, nothing from his group since 2014, but he released two EPs in 2018, and this follow up edges into album territory, with 13 tracks, 34:19. Conscious and hard, the sample beats not as supple as the live band's, but more to the point. Not sure why it's "Cane" instead of "Cain" -- I'm often eluded by fine lyrical points (assuming there is an explanation, like slavery was built on sugar). A-

Benjamin Boone: The Poets Are Gathering (2017-20 [2020], Origin): Saxophonist (soprano/alto), previously released two good albums with poet Philip Levine, entertains twelve more poets here (two each for Patricia Smith, Patrick Sylvain, T.R. Hummer, and Edward Hirsch). Mixed bag, some impressive, some righteously angry. Especially like the saxophone. B+(***) [cd]

Geof Bradfield/Ben Goldberg/Dana Hall Trio: General Semantics (2020, Delmark): Tenor/soprano sax & bass clarinet, soprano & contralto clarinet, drums. Nice combination, free, loose, never grating. B+(***)

Bright Eyes: Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was (2020, Dead Oceans): Conor Oberst band since 1995, 10th studio album, not that it's kept him from pursuing a solo career and other projects. Still, this feels like a lot of work: 14 songs, 54:45, band members Mike Mogis and Nathaniel Walcott play 20 instruments (from Mellotron to Marxophone), and 50+ additional musicians are credited (most on strings or choir, but he's got half a big band's worth of horns, and two guys on bagpipes). I'm sure it's all very important, but not so sure I want to sort it out further. B+(**)

Alan Broadbent Trio: Trio in Motion (2020, Savant): Pianist, from New Zealand, several dozen records since 1979. Trio with Harvie S (bass) and Billy Mintz (drums). B+(**)

Apollo Brown & Che' Noir: As God Intended (2020, Mello Music Group): Detroit hip-hop producer Erik Stephens, two dozen albums since 2007, mostly collaborations with featured rappers -- this one a young woman from Buffalo. B+(**)

BTS: Map of the Soul: 7 (2020, Big Hit): Korean boy group, the biggest international phenomenon in K-pop with 20+ million albums sold. Seven singers, draw on hip-hop, discography complicated by mix of Korean and Japanese albums, drop in the occasional line in English. Seen live, their dance act can be captivating, but they're harder to follow aurally, and the rewards are less than conspicuous. B+(*)

The Cadillac Three: Tabasco & Sweet Tea (2020, Big Machine): Southern rock/country group, from Nashville, fifth album since 2012, Jaren Johnston the singer-guitarist. Title song is about a girl. Got some funk licks. Remind me a bit of ZZ Top, minus the Texas shtick. B+(*)

Bill Callahan: Gold Record (2020, Drag City): Singer-songwriter, born in Maryland, lived early years in UK, recorded 14 albums as Smog 1990-2005, seventh album under his own name. Mostly guitar and voice, not much to it, maybe a bit of cowboy theme. B

Valentin Ceccaldi: Ossos (2017 [2020], Cipsela): French cellist, younger brother of violinist Théo Ceccaldi, solo album, occasionally harsh and/or abstract. B+(*)

Ceramic Dog: What I Did on My Long Vacation (2020, Northern Spy): Trio led by guitarist Marc Ribot, with Shahzad Ismaily (bass/keyboards) and Ches Smith (drums/electronics), everyone also credited with vocals. These are actually the leftovers from an album due in 2021, recorded over two weeks with the trio working in separate rooms, able to hear but not see each other. Six tracks, 31:04. B+(***) [bc]

Jay Clayton/Jerry Granelli: Alone Together (2020, Sunnyside): Jazz vocalist, very skilled even if sometimes she just seems to be talking, accompanied by a drummer. Pretty spare, but not as limited as you'd expect. B+(*)

Clipping: Visions of Bodies Being Burned (2020, Sub Pop): Los Angeles hip-hop trio, rapper Daveed Diggs the best known -- has a solo career, but also for his roles in Hamilton. Genre listing is "horrocore," and there are references to horror films -- something I generally abhor, but am more simply puzzled by here. B+(***)

Brent Cobb: Keep 'Em on They Toes (2020, Ol' Buddy): Country singer-songwriter from Georgia, released a couple albums on Elektra, self-released here. B+(**)

Bootsy Collins: The Power of the One (2020, Sweetwater Sounds): Bassist, major contributor to James Brown and George Clinton, first solo albums credited to Bootsy's Rubber Band. Not much credit info, but name dropping for George Benson, Christian McBride, Branford Marsalis, and others. One foot in classic funk, the other dancing about. B+(***)

Convergence: Convergence (2020, Hammer): Swiss drummer Florian Arbenz, in an international group with two Cubans -- Jorge Vistel (trumpet) and Maikel Vistel (tenor sax) -- and others from UK, Australia, and Brazil. B+(**) [bc]

Sylvie Courvoisier Trio: Free Hoops (2019 [2020], Intakt): Swiss pianist, trio with Drew Gress (bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums). B+(**)

Creeper: Sex, Death & the Infinite Void (2020, Roadrunner): British "goth-punk" group, second album, currently Metacritic's 4th highest rated album of 2020 (91/8) so seemed like something I should check out. May appeal to Nick Cave fans, but who am I to say that? B

Brian Cullman: Winter Clothes (2020, Sunnyside): Singer-songwriter from New York, third album, recorded this with members of Ollabelle, about a mutual friend named Jimi Zhivago. B+(**)

John Daversa Quintet: Cuarentena: With Family at Home (2020, Tiger Turn): Trumpet player, from California, eighth album since 2009. Quintet with Gonzalo Rubalcaba (piano), Dafnis Prieto (drums), Sammy Figueroa (percussion), and Carlo De Rosa (bass). B+(**)

Marie Davidson & L'OEil Nu: Renegade Breakdown (2020, Ninja Tune): Canadian electronica producer, formed a band (trio) here, and sings (or talks) throughout. Title cut notes: "there are no money makers on this record/ this time I'm exploring the losers' point of view." Most interesting songs, wander a bit. B+(***) [bc]

Josephine Davies: Satori: How Can We Wake? (2020, Whirlwind): British tenor saxophonist, first album 2006, named group for 2017 album, but looks here like group name slid back into title. Trio, with bass (Dave Whitford) and drums (James Madden), and a bit of soprano sax. B+(***)

Sam Decker: Shrove (2020, Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist, second album, postbop quintet with Michael Sachs (clarinet, bass clarinet), Dov Manski (piano), bass, and drums, drawing on "folk-inflected sounds of composers like Igor Stravinsky, Bela Bartok and Dmitri Shostakovich." B+(*)

Doves: The Universal Want (2020, Heavenly): English alt rock band, from Manchester, released four albums 2000-09, split, regrouped for this one. Melodic sense, but strikes me as heavy. B

Drive-By Truckers: The New OK (2020, ATO): Second album this year, after The Unraveling in January -- currently my first-listed A- record in 2020, more because it got there early than anything else, as I don't recall it clear enough to compare it to later A- records. Even more uncertain here. I don't doubt their motives or their craft, but if three plays didn't do it, maybe it's not happening? Only half-impressed with their Ramones cover -- maybe their accent isn't distant enough from "The KKK Took My Baby Away"? B+(***)

Open Mike Eagle: Anime Trauma and Divorce (2020, Auto Reverse): Underground rapper, gets catchier on the second spin before I start to lose track. B+(**) [Later: A-]

Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters: Rise Up (2020, Stony Plain): Guitarist Ronald Horvath, from Queens, played with Roomful of Blues 1980-88, has a couple dozen albums leading this group. Diana Blue sings, band adds keyboards, bass, drums. Includes a "Blues for George Floyd." B+(*)

Kahil El'Zabar: Kahil El'Zabar's America the Beautiful (2018 [2020], Spiritmuse): Chicago percussionist, leads an impressive set of horns (including baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett's last performance before his 2018 death) and strings (violin, cello, bass). I don't really care for either version of the title anthem, but the African-tinged "Jump and Shout" is terrific. B+(**)

Nir Felder: II (2020, Ropeadope): Guitarist, based in New York, debut album 2014, this is his second, with a dozen or more side credits. All originals, also plays banjo, mandolin, electric sitar, and keyboards, backed by Matt Penman (bass) and Jimmy Macbride (drums). B+(*)

The Flaming Lips: American Head (2020, Warner/Bella Union): Long-running (since 1983) psychedelic rock band, from Oklahoma City. A group that I never expected to like, but the few records I've sampled have held a few pleasant surprises. B+(*)

Andy Fusco: Remembrance (2019 [2020], SteepleChase): Alto saxophonist, started in Buddy Rich's big band, continued with Steve Smith's alumni band, Buddy's Buddies; fifth album on this label since 2016, a quintet with trumpet (Joe Magnarelli), piano (Peter Zak), bass, and drums. B+(*)

Joel Futterman: Intervals (2018 [2020], Fundacja Sluchaj): Avant pianist, originally from Chicago, Wikipedia credits him with 80+ albums since 1982. This one is solo, three improv pieces. B+(*) [bc]

Lafayette Gilchrist: Now (Lafayette Gilchrist Music, 2CD): Pianist, leads a trio with Herman Burnie (bass) and Eric Kennedy (drums). First disc impresses with non-stop rhythm (75:41). Second (73:36) has a bit less drive. B+(***) [cd]

Osvaldo Golijov/The Silkroad Ensemble: Falling Out of Time (2020, In a Circle): Argentine composer of classical music, moved to Israel in 1983, wound up in Massachusetts; first album (1997) a collaboration with Kronos Quartet. Has roots in Jewish liturgical music, also Piazzolla tango; won a MacArthur Fellowship. Probably an interesting character, but when he turns toward opera I have a hard time hanging on. Calls this "a tone poem for voices based on the novel by David Grossman." Sounds like opera to me, but if you can set aside the voices, the music has some interesting twists. B [cd]

Benny Green: Benny's Crib (2020, Sunnyside): Pianist, 20+ albums since 1988, 70+ side credits, mostly plays electric piano here: 5 solo, 6 with bass and percussion, 2 of those with flute (Anne Drummond), 1 vocal (Veronica Swift). B

Noah Haidu: Doctone (2019 [2020], Sunnyside): Pianist, born in Virginia, based in New York, fourth album since 2011, tribute to Kenny Kirkland (1955-98), half trio with Todd Coolman and Billy Hart, half with added sax (Steve Wilson, Gary Thomas, and/or Jon Irabagon), one track with extra percussion. B+(**) [cd]

Luke Haines & Peter Buck: Beat Poetry for Survivalists (2020, Cherry Red): Postmodern bohemians: Haines sings and writes, best known for the Auteurs and Black Box Recorder; Buck plays guitar, mainly for R.E.M. but he's also dabbled elsewhere (e.g., Baseball Project, Filthy Friends). Both make their mark here, one might even say complementarily. B+(**)

Mary Halvorson's Code Girl: Artlessly Falling (2019 [2020], Firehouse 12): Guitarist, often brilliant, follows up her widely praised 2018 2-CD album with a sequel, the group slightly rejiggered -- Adam O'Farrill takes over trumpet, and Maria Grand is added on tenor sax; bass, drums and voice return (Michael Formanek, Tomas Fujiwara, Amirtha Kidambi), with Robert Wyatt on three tracks. As with Code Girl, I hate the way the vocals are tortured to wrap around unsingable lines. Without vocals the music is slippery and devious, which works for the trumpet. B [cd]

Clay Harper: Dirt Yard Street (2020, Casino Music): Singer-songwriter, started out in a band called the Coolies, has a few albums since 1997 but doesn't seem intent on making a career out of it. This one's a bit of a downer. B+(*) [bc]

Hazar: Reincarnated (2020, IAN Productions): Acoustic guitarist Ulas Hazar, also plays saz, grew up in Germany, has at least one previous album. Al DiMeola joins here on guitar and cajon, with Piotr Torunski (bass clarinet), piano, and percussion. Package includes a DVD. B+(*) [cd]

Fred Hersch: Songs From Home (2020, Palmetto): Pianist, prolific since 1984, cut this solo at home during pandemic, two originals, lots of standards. Nothing very splashy, just taking it easy. B+(***) [cd] [11-06]

Conrad Herwig: The Latin Side of Horace Silver (2020, Savant): Trombonist, born in Oklahoma, studied at UNT, worked in big bands, moving into Latin jazz in the 1990s. Has several Latin Side albums: John Coltrane (1996), Miles Davis (2004), Wayne Shorter (2008), Herbie Hancock (2010), Joe Henderson (2014). Silver came closer than any of the others at showing his own Latin side, so Herwig doesn't have to add much. B+(*)

Homeboy Sandman: Don't Feed the Monster (2020, Mello Music Group): New York rapper Angel Del Villar II, steady stream of records since 2007, most close to the EP/LP divide, this one of his longest (15 songs, 53:21), produced by Quelle Chris. B+(***)

Idles: Ultra Mono (2020, Partisan): British band, from Bristol, third album, got a lot of early hype as the second coming of the Clash, which (of course) was ridiculous -- they lack both the early punk fury and the later pop knack, but somehow find a middle line, which supports today's fire and fury. B+(***)

I.P.A.: Bashing Mushrooms (2018 [2020], Cuneiform): Norwegian-Swedish free jazz quintet, mostly well-known names -- Atle Nymo (tenor sax/bass clarinet), Magnus Broo (trumpet), Mattias Ståhl (vibes), Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (bass), Håkon Mjåset Johansen (drums) -- fifth album since 2009. B+(**) [dl]

Loraine James: Nothing (2020, Hyperdub): Electronica artist, based in London, 2019 album (For You and I) was a breakthrough, follows that up with 4-track, 18:12 EP. Kind of murky. B

The JCA Orchestra: Live at the BPC (2018 [2020], JCA): I've tended to associate this big band with Darrell Katz, but he is only represented by one (of six) pieces here, along with two each from Mimi Rabson and David Harris, and one by Bob Pilkington. Modernist big band plus strings (Rabson plays violin) and voice (Rebecca Shrimpton). Has some moments, but could do without the latter, or indeed most of it. B [cd] [11-06]

Jealous of the Birds: Peninsula (2020, Atlantic): Naomi Hamilton, from Northern Ireland, second album plus a couple EPs. B+(*)

Keleketla: Keleketla! (2020, Ahead of Our Time): Side project for British rock band Coldplay, with Jon Moore and Matt Black co-writers on all songs, joined by Nigerian drummer Tony Allen on most, with others from UK (Joe Armon-Jones, Shabaka Hutchings), South Africa (Yugen Blakrok, Gally Ngoveni, Thabang Tabane), many more. B+(**) [bc]

Alicia Keys: Alicia (2020, RCA): Soul singer-songwriter, debut was a big hit in 2001; 2016 album Here was one of her best. B+(**)

Adam Kolker: Lost (2019 [2020], Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist (also soprano), sixth album since 1999, quartet with names on the cover: Bruce Barth (piano), Ugonna Okegwo (bass), and Billy Hart (drums). B+(**)

Juliet Kurtzman/Pete Malinverni: Candlelight: Love in the Time of Cholera (2020, Saranac): Violin and piano duets, classical and jazz, two pieces by the pianist, no less than five by Beiderbecke. Pretty enough. B [cd] [11-13]

James Brandon Lewis Quartet: Molecular (2020, Intakt): Tenor saxophonist, perhaps the most impressive of his generation. I rather prefer his recent duo with drummer Chad Taylor (Live in Willisau for sheer power, but he's pretty deft in this larger group, with pianist Aruán Ortiz so clever and Brad Jones on bass, spinning their solos into gold. A-

Fenne Lily: Breach (2020, Dead Oceans): British singer-songwriter, from Dorset, second album. Landed gigs opening for Lucy Dacus and Marika Hackman. Appealing in that vein. B+(**)

Low Cut Connie: Private Lives (2020, Contender): Adam Weiner, from Philadelphia, plays a mean piano, sixth album since 2011. I thought the first three were pretty good, then lost interest. B

Lera Lynn: On My Own (2020, Ruby Range): Singer-songwriter, born in Houston, raised in Georgia, half-dozen albums since 2011, done some soundtrack work, with or without T-Bone Burnett. B+(*)

Lyrics Born & Cutso: Lyrics Born & Cutso Present Rapp Nite (2019, self-released, EP): Rapper Tom Shimura with DJ Paolo Bello, 7 tracks, 20:50, slipped by unnoticed in 2019, although it's easy enough to find the video for "Hit Number One." A-

Major Lazer: Music Is the Weapon (2020, Mad Decent): Dance music trio, originally billed as Jamaican-American but producer Diplo and MCs Walshy Fire and Ape Drums were all born in US. Still draws on dancehall (and maybe reggaeton), to distinctive effect. B+(**)

Christian McBride Big Band: For Jimmy, Wes and Oliver (2020, Mack Avenue): Bassist, third Big Band album since 2011, a tribute to Smith and Montgomery, who dominated their instrumental niches in the 1960s and played together as "the dynamic duo," and Nelson, a saxophonist better known as a big band arranger (Blues and the Abstract Truth is his masterpiece). In addition to the usual suspects, Joey DeFrancesco plays organ and Mark Whitfield guitar. They certainly hit all the right notes, but we're barely removed from a world where practically everyone tried to sound like Smith and Montgomery. McBride's choice of Nelson as his arranger idol isn't any more far-fetched. B+(**)

Zara McFarlane: Songs of an Unknown Tongue (2020, Brownswood): British jazz/soul singer-songwriter, parents Jamaican, fourth album. B+(*)

Ron Miles: Rainbow Sign (2020, Blue Note): Trumpet player, leads an all-star quintet with Bill Frisell (guitar), Jason Moran (piano), Thomas Morgan (bass), and Brian Blade (drums). Solid support, which sometimes leaves you wondering about the leader. B+(**)

Thurston Moore: By the Fire (2020, Daydream Library): Sonic Youth honcho, sounds much like his old band but less commanding, still misses his better half. Express panned this as a "pale imitation," which isn't really true. B+(**)

The Mountain Goats: Getting Into Knives (2020, Merge): Singer/songwriter John Darnielle, 19th album, 2nd this year. He has a knack for tunes and memorable turns of phrase. B+(***)

Tobin Mueller: What Survives: Radio Edits (2020, Artsforge): Pianist, discography (dating from 1980s) is split between jazz/funk and prog rock, with sections for solo piano, piano plus voice, and spoken word; biography includes a claim to have been one of the inventors of new age music. This is based on a 1995 Broadway show he wrote, played by nonet plus guests, the CD edited down from a much longer download-only release. Vocals are a weak spot. B+(*) [cd]

Róisin Murphy: Róisin Machine (2020, Skint): Irish singer-songwriter, fifth album since 2005, electropop. B+(**)

Johnny Nicholas: Mistaken Identity (2020, Valcour): Bluesman, from Rhode Island, recorded an album called Too Many Bad Habits in 1978, played in Asleep at the Wheel (1978-81), took a long hiatus (albums in 1988, 1994, 2001, 2005) before picking up the pace recently. B+(**)

Michael Olatuja: Lagos Pepper Soup (2020, Whirlwind): Bassist, born in London, raised in Lagos, based in New York. Second album. Core band: Terreon Gully (drums), Aaron Parks (piano), Etienne Sladwijk (keyboards), plus numerous guest spots, including five singers, also spots for Lionel Loueke, Regina Carter, Brandee Younger, Gregoire Maret, and Joe Lovano (by far the best). B+(*)

Douglas Olsen: 2 Cents (2018 [2020], self-released): Trumpet player, cites a 25-year history with a number of big bands, Latin jazz outfits, and r&b sidework, but I'm not finding any previous albums under his own name. Mostly a hard bop lineup, some tracks with extra congas. Six originals, a rumba, old bebop tunes from Dizzy Gillespie and Howard McGee/Fats Navarro. B+(**) [cd] [11-01]

OM [Urs Leimgruber/Christy Doran/Bobby Burri/Fredy Studer]: It's About Time (2020, Intakt): Group -- soprano sax, guitar, bass, and drums -- produced six albums 1975-80, returned for a live one in 2010, now this. Impressive when everyone connects and the sax fights its way to the top. B+(***)

Kelly Lee Owens: Inner Song (2020, Smalltown Supersound): Electronica producer, from Wales, based in London, second album. Was prepared to dis the vocals, but sometimes they work. Beats discreet, but they work too. John Cale contributes a song, neither here nor there. B+(**)

Ivo Perelman & Arcado String Trio: Deep Resonance (2018 [2020], Fundacja Sluchaj): Brazilian tenor saxophonist, avant, very prolific. String musicians are jazz stars in their own right -- Mark Feldman (violin), Hank Roberts (cello), and Mark Dresser (bass), resurrecting a group name they used 1989-96 -- and they control the flow here. B+(**) [bc]

Pinegrove: Marigold (2020, Rough Trade): Alt/indie band from New Jersey, singer-songwriter Evan Stephens Hall and drummer Zack Levine. Voice promises Americana. B+(*)

Pop Smoke: Meet the Woo 2 (2020, Victor Victor/Republic): Brooklyn rapper Bashar Barakah Jackson, second mixtape, commercial breakthrough (certified gold), released 12 days before he was shot dead, age 20. Plays much older than he was. B+(*)

Pop Smoke: Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon (2020, Victor Victor/Republic): Posthumous debut studio album, topped charts around the world. Opaque. B+(*)

Potsa Lotsa XL: Silk Songs for Space Dogs (2019 [2020], Leo): German alto saxophonist Silke Eberhard's project, originally a wind quartet, augmented here to tentet, with two brass, three reeds, piano, cello, bass, vibes, and drums. All originals by Eberhard. A-

Dafnis Prieto Sextet: Transparency (2020, Dafnison Music): Cuban drummer, moved to US in 1999, eighth album since 2003. With trumpet (Alex Norris), two saxes (Roman Fiiu and Peter Apfelbaum), piano, and bass, playing originals and "Con Alma." Drummer can dazzle. B+(**)

PUP: This Place Sucks Ass (2020, Rise, EP): Toronto punk band, acronym for Pathetic Use of Potential, three albums since 2013, this a 5-song, 17:19 EP. B+(*)

Rempis/Rosaly Duo: Codes/Myths (2018 [2020], Aerophonic, 2CD): Sax-drums duo, Rempis playing his usual alto/tenor/baritone, Rosaly a frequent collaborator, especially as one of the two drummers in Rempis Percussion Quartet. Each disc is manageable, with one long and one shorter piece (totaling 40:05, 41:19). B+(***) [bc]

The Ridiculous Trio: The Ridiculous Trio Plays the Stooges (2020, Modern Harmonic): Trombone-tuba-drums trio, no vocals -- not so ridiculous, given that the concept could be applied to all sorts of music. Bandcamp tags are: punk, jazz, stooges, Chicago. Not sure they've crossed into jazz -- most songs are done up pretty straight, although the tonality is novel. B+(**)

Joel Ross: Who Are You (2020, Blue Note): Vibraphonist, second album, first widely picked as "debut of the year" but I'd chalk that up to being on a "major label." Has some rhythmic ingenuity, and credit labelmate Immanuel Wilkins for the alto sax. With Jeremy Corren (keyboards), Kanoa Mendenhall (bass), and Jeremy Dutton (drums). B+(**)

Terje Rypdal: Conspiracy (2019 [2020], ECM): Norwegian guitarist, long list of records since 1968 (on ECM since 1971). With keyboards (Ståle Storløkken), fretless/electric bass (Endre Hareide Hallre), drums (Pål Thowsen). He always had a hint of fusion, but it's pretty deeply buried in ambient here. B+(*)

Angelica Sanchez & Marilyn Crispell: How to Turn the Moon (2019 [2020], Pyroclastic): Piano duets. Crispell is one of the few pianists who are really good at this, and the much younger Sanchez is an apt pupil. A- [cd]

Sa-Roc: The Sharecropper's Daughter (2020, Rhymesayers): Rapper Assata Perkins, originally from DC, studied biology at Howard, tenth album since 2010 (per Wikipedia; Discogs has 4 since 2014). B+(**)

Sault: Untitled (Rise) (2020, Forever Living Originals): British electronica group, little known about them, fourth album in two years, first two reminded me of Chic. Choice cut: "You Know It Ain't." B+(***)

Darrell Scott: Jaroso (2020, Full Light): Second generation country singer-songwriter, more prolific but less impressive than his late father, Wayne Scott (1935-2011). B+(*)

Sturgill Simpson: Cuttin' Grass Vol. 1 (The Butcher Shoppe Sessions) (2020, High Top Mountain): Metamodern country singer, seems like his progression through 2019's Sound and Fury was to make his work larger and grander than ever, but he had something extra that mere arena rockers (like Eric Church) didn't -- I was starting to think of him as the Wagner of Nashville. But when the pandemic threw him a curve ball, he choked up and slapped it down the left-field line. He scrounged some of these songs from his early albums, giving them a down-home bluegrass treatment. Presumably he's got more, and I could see the fascination fading, but for now this is the most likable he's every been. A-

Bette Smith: The Good, the Bad and the Bette (2020, Ruf): R&B singer-songwriter, from Brooklyn, parents from Trinidad, second album, on a German blues label. Rocks. B+(**)

Songhoy Blues: Optimisme (2020, Transgressive/Fat Possum): Saharan rock group, from Timbuktu, Mali, third album. Guitar band, best when they ululate like other Saharan blues groups, but sometimes you get the sense they'd really rather be playing metal. B+(**)

SPAZA: Uprize! (2016 [2020], Mushroom Hour Half Hour): South African group, second album, a live soundtrack improvised for a documentary on a 1976 uprising. Words, presumably, from the film. B+(*)

The Bobby Spellman Nonet: Revenge of the Cool (2020, Sunnyside): Trumpet player, from Boston, based in Brooklyn, several albums (including a group called Big Mean Sound Machine). Models this group on the Miles Davis Birth of the Cool band. Coolest bit is when they move beyond their models to briefly play free. B+(**)

Bruce Springsteen: Letter to You (2019 [2020], Columbia): Recorded last November with the E Street Band, features a couple of winning ballads, but most of the record is pumped up to classic proportions. If you're nostalgic for something like Darkness at the Edge of Town, you'll love this. I'm not, but I like it much more than Western Stars (or Darkness). B+(**)

Sufjan Stevens: The Ascension (2020, Asthmatic Kitty): "Singer-songwriter" seems too self-limiting. He is a pop composer of grand sweep and delicate bearing, an heir to Brian Wilson working on if anything a broader canvas. His is not a style I'm fond of, but half of these songs click for me, and the others seem to be lurking in the depths, awaiting their moment. A-

Ray Suhy & Lewis Porter Quartet: Transcendent (2020, Sunnyside): Guitar and piano, second album together, Porter is a well-known educator with a bunch of records since 2007. Backed by Brad Jones (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums). B+(**)

Sylvan Esso: Free Love (2020, Loma Vista): Electropop duo from North Carolina, singer Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sanborn. Third studio album, a short one (10 songs, 29:14). Slight inside the grooves as well, but that's part of the charm. B+(*)

Throwing Muses: Sun Racket (2020, Fire): Lo-fi indie pop band from Rhode Island, debut 1985 with step-sisters Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donnelly, latter left in 1991 (to found the Breeders), band broke up in 1997, reformed in 2003, third album since their return. Whispery vocals over off-kilter guitar/electronics. B+(*)

T.I.: The L.I.B.R.A. (2020, Grand Hustle/Empire): Rapper Clifford Harris, eleventh album, acronym for "Legend Is Back Running Atlanta." B+(**)

Tricky: Fall to Pieces (2020, False Idols): Trip-hop inventor Adrian Thaws, 14th album since 1995, a short one (11 tracks, 28:30), most featuring singer Marta. B+(*)

Josh Turner: Country State of Mind (2020, MCA Nashville): Neotrad country singer, eighth studio album since 2003. All covers here, most duets with guest stars: John Anderson stands out, possibly due to his contrast with Turner's deep voice, and Randy Travis delivered the single. B+(**)

Diego Urcola Quartet Featuring Paquito D'Rivera: El Duelo (2019 [2020], Sunnyside): Trumpet player, from Argentina, and clarinet player, from Cuba, backed by Hamish Smith (bass) and Eric Doob (drums). Both leaders share their differences, and both love Dizzy Gillespie. B+(**)

Luís Vicente: Maré (2017 [2020], Cipsela): Portuguese trumpet player, quite a few projects since 2013. This one is solo, holds your interest longer than most. B+(**) [cd]

Alexander von Schlippenbach: Slow Pieces for Aki (2019 [2020], Intakt): German pianist, a founder of the avant-garde from 1966 on, married to another very accomplished pianist, Aki Takase. Solo piano, slow as advertised, striving to make each note count. B+(***)

Loudon Wainwright III With Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks: I'd Rather Lead a Band (2019 [2020], Search Party): Sez here this album "travels back to Wainwright's big-band-era youth," but he's not that old. Randall Poster supervises, Giordano rounded up the 15-piece band (playing bass sax, tuba, and string bass), and Wainwright croons, mostly 1930s standards. B+(**)

Doug Webb: Apples & Oranges (2020, Posi-Tone): Tenor/soprano saxophonist, mainstream, nice tone, backed by Brian Carrette (organ) and Andy Sanesi (drums). Helps here that Charrette stays clear of organ clichés, not that he's quite able to push Webb out of his comfort zone. B+(***)

Amber Weekes: The Gathering (2020, Amber Inn Productions): Jazz singer, has a couple of albums, this one planned for Christmas. Played it by accident, and found it tolerable enough, fairly secular aside from "Silent Night," which oddly enough I found most appealing. B [cd]

What Happens in a Year: Cérémonie/Musique (2018 [2020], FiP): Josh Sinton (baritone sax/bass clarinet), Todd Neufeld (electric guitar), and Giacomo Merega (electric bass), group debut, ambles gently, leaning more toward chamber jazz than fusion. B+(*) [cd]

Walter White: BB XL (2020, Walter White Music): Trumpet player, has one of those names that make searching difficult, but has one previous record in my database, maybe more in the real world. Very splashy big band, some originals, also jazz standards like "Cantaloupe Island," "Blue Rondo a la Turk," "Nica's Dream," and a Latin bash ("Yo Conecto"). B [cd]

Tessy Lou Williams: Tessy Lou Williams (2020, Tessy Lou Williams): Country singer-songwriter, from Montana, parents moved there from Nashville, where they were session musicians. First album, nice voice, impeccable neotrad sound. B+(**)

Michael Wolff: Bounce (2020, Sunnyside): Pianist, close to 20 albums since 1993, this one a trio with Ben Allison (bass) and Allan Mednard (drums). Includes one vocal ("Cool Kids"). B+(*)

Nate Wooley: Seven Storey Mountain VI (2019 [2020], Pyroclastic): Trumpet player, prolific since his 2005 debut, released his first piece based on Thomas Merton's famous meditation in 2011, a trio with C Spencer Yeh (violin) and Chris Corsano (drums). This is done with a much larger group,with guitars, keyboards, pedal steel (Susan Alcorn), and voices. Starts in a dense murk, clarifies as the voices rise. B+(*) [cd]

Yelle: L'Ère Du Verseau (2020, Recreation Center): French electropop band, principally singer Julie Budet (Yelle) and Jean-François Perrier (GrandMarnier), recorded this fourth album (since 2007) in Montreal. B+(*)

Yo La Tengo: We Have Amnesia Sometimes (2020, Matador): Short album (37:16), pandemic filler, with (per Pitchfork) "five formless, comforting drones, recorded with a single microphone placed in the middle of their Hoboken practice space." The exception is the rather likable "Thursday" piece. B

Glenn Zaleski: The Question (2020, Sunnyside): Pianist, from Massachusetts, studied with Dave Brubeck, several records since 2010, this mostly a quintet with trumpet (Adam O'Farrill), tenor sax (Lucas Pino), bass, and drums. B+(*)

Denny Zeitlin: Live at Mezzrow (2019 [2020], Sunnyside): Pianist, many albums since 1963, trio with Buster Williams (bass) and Matt Wilson (drums), a group he's worked with off-and-on since 2001. B+(**)

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Allman Brothers Band: The Final Note: Painters Mill Music Fair, Owings Mills, MD 10-17-71 (1971 [2020], Allman Brothers): Guitarist Duane Allman's last gig, 12 days before he was killed in a motorcycle accident. So-so sound. Adds nothing to the band's legacy. B-

Walter Bishop Jr.: Coral Keys (1971 [2020], Black Jazz/Real Gone Music): Pianist (1927-98), first album, side A a quartet with Harold Vick on soprano sax/flute, B side Vick moves to tenor sax and Woody Shaw joins on trumpet. B+(**)

Daora: Underground Sounds of Urban Brasil ([2020], Mais Um Discos, 2CD): "Hip-hop, leftfield beats, afrobeat and dub-influenced sounds from Brasil," 32 tracks, compiled by Rodrigo Brandao, vintage unknown but probably recent, only one artist I recognize (Baiana System), title slang "for something that's dope." Edges a little soft, as tends to be the case in Brazil, but that introduces a loopy, oblique humor that you rarely hear elsewhere. A- [bc]

Ella Fitzgerald: Ella: The Lost Berlin Tapes (1962 [2002], Verve, 2CD): Recorded two years after Ella in Berlin. She turns in a superior "Mack the Knife" here, and I like her blues closer, but seemed pretty typical before those. B+(**)

Dennis González: Forever the Falling of Stars (1995 [2020], Daagnim): Trumpet player from Texas, started recording in 1979 and has ever since released a steady stream of albums, except for a dry spell in the 1990s, when this "rare gem" was commissioned but only circulated within a "small circle." No credits, but mostly electronics, with voices ranging from rap to tone color, and some trumpet. B+(**) [bc]

Wanda Jackson: The Capitol Singles 1971-1973 (1971-73 [2020], EMI Music Nashville): Rockabilly star from the mid-1950s, touted as "the queen of rockabilly," recorded for Capitol 1958-73, moving on to gospel label Myrrh -- most of her later records were religious, but she recorded I Remember Elvis in 2006, and The Party Ain't Over for Third Man in 2011. This is the tail end of her Capitol recordings, material that Rhino skipped when they ended Rockin' in the Country: Best of Wanda Jackson at 1970. After an over-the-top "Battle Hymn of the Republic" this settles into a ballad groove. B+(*)

John Lennon: Gimme Some Truth: The Ultimate Mixes (1969-80 [2020], Universal, 2CD): Capitalizing on that would have been the ex-Beatle's 80th birthday, this 2-CD solo (plus Yoko Ono) survey recycle the title from their 70th birthday 4-CD box. This includes 3-7 songs each from six albums, one each from three more, plus a few singles. The miscellany isn't as brilliant as that collected for the soundtrack The U.S. Vs. John Lennon (2006), and three of the albums are worth owning whole. (Some argue for Double Fantasy, but I've never been a big fan, and the seven songs sound like the weak spot here -- snapped hard by Milk and Honey's "Nobody Told Me.") Still, a remarkable, tragically shortened career, nicely summed up. B+(***)

Leyla McCalla: Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes (2013 [2020], Smithsonian Folkways): Carolina Chocolate Drops cellist, also plays banjo and guitar and sings, first solo album, wrote music to frame the poet's words, mixing in some Haitian folk songs. B+(***)

On the Road: A Tribute to John Hartford (2020, LoHi): Various artists resurrect 15 songs by the folksinger, best known for writing "Gentle on My Mind" but he was just as likely to toss off something like "Granny Woncha Smoke Some Marijuana" or "Tear Down the Grand Ole Opry." B+(***)

Evan Parker/Agustí Fernandez: Tempranillo (1995 [2020], Fundacja Sluchaj): Sax (tenor and soprano) and piano duets, recorded in Barcelona, first meeting. B+(**) [bc]

Edward Simon: 25 Years (1995-2018 [2020], Ridgeway, 2CD): Pianist, from Venezuela, studied in Philadelphia and New York, more than a dozen albums since 1995. Fine selection here, including a SFJazz piece. Most tracks have horns -- alto saxophonist Dave Binney most impressive -- and many have Luciana Souza scat, nothing much to complain about. B+(***) [cd]

Ebo Taylor: Palaver (1980 [2019], BBE): From Ghana, sings, plays guitar, was a minor star in the 1970s, staged something of a comeback from 2008, with Strut compiling a CD of his early work in 2011. B+(***)

TEST/Roy Campbell: TEST and Roy Campbell (1999 [2020], 577): TEST was a collective that made some noise in the late 1990s, with two saxophonists (Daniel Carter and Sabir Mateen, Carter also playing flute and trumpet, Mateen flute and clarinet), plus bass (Matthew Heyner) and drums (Tom Bruno). Campbell, a trumpet player who died in 2014, played with everyone (including with Carter in Other Dimensions in Music). One 47:08 free-for-all. B+(**) [bc]

Johnny Thunders: Live From Zürich 1985 (1985 [2020], Johnny Thunders Archive): Second banana in the New York Dolls, name Gemzale, went on to form the Heartbreakers (L.A.M.F.) and record a couple solo albums -- So Alone (1978) is a favorite -- before succumbing to the inevitable drug overdose at 38 (or was it?). Live date, past his prime but looks as far back as the Dolls, band includes a saxophone as well as some primal guitar. A-

Old Music


J.D. Allen: In Search of J.D. Allen (1998 [1999]. Red): Tenor saxophonist, from Detroit, first album, recorded in New York with Fabio Morgera (trumpet), Eric Revis (bass), Rodney Green (drums), and piano on three tracks (Shedrick Mitchell). Nine originals, closing with a cover of "Lonely Woman." B+(***)

J.D. Allen: Pharoah's Children (2001 [2002], Criss Cross): Second album, quintet, with Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Orrin Evans (piano), Eric Revis (bass), and Gene Jackson (drums). B+(**)

JD Allen: Radio Flyer (2017, Savant): Expands on his usual trio -- Gregg August (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums) -- adding Liberty Ellman on guitar. B+(***)

Tony Allen Plays With Afrika 70: No Accomodation for Lagos (1979, Polydor): Nigerian drummer, third album, leading what was essentially Fela Kuti's band. Two side-long tracks, 29:16; was squeezed with a second album into a 2002 CD, then split again for a 2011 vinyl reissue (by Kindred Spirits). B+(**)

Tony Allen Plays With Afrika 70: No Accomodation for Lagos/No Discrimination (1979 [2002], Evolver): Combines two albums, although Napster omits one track ("Ariya"). B+(**)

The Cramps: Songs the Lord Taught Us (1980, IRS): Garage punk/psychobilly band, seems like I must have seen them 5-6 times in the late 1970s, mostly an opening act at CBGB, never the one I looked to see. Christgau loathed them, and I never heard anything that convinced me he was wrong. First proper album, after an EP called Gravest Hits (1979), and they lasted a long time, finally breaking up in 2009 (last studio album 2003). Seems fairly tight to me. Closes with not-bad covers of "Tear It Up" and "Fever." B+(*)

The Cramps: Bad Music for Bad People (1977-81 [1984], IRS): Compilation was a mop-up operation for the label once the band went elsewhere, combining their best-known songs ("TV Set," "Garbageman") with leftovers -- not really sure if anything here was recorded after their second/last IRS album in 1981. More covers, mostly rockabilly. B+(*) [yt]

The Dirtbombs: Horndog Fest (1998, In the Red): Detroit garage punk band, first album, Mick Collins rushes through 12 originals in 29:31. The opener skitters on the edge of pure noise, but the second song ("I Can't Stop Thinking About It") has too good a bass line to ruin. Goes back and forth like that, a bit attenuated over time, or maybe just sloppier. B+(**)

The Dirtbombs: Ultraglide in Black (2001, In the Red): Second album, soul and funk covers, from the 1960s and early 1970s. Good chance I'd like a compilation of the originals better, but some kind of thing in its own right. B+(***)

The Dirtbombs: Dangerous Magical Noise (2003, In the Red): Less noise than their debut, no less loud, they've given themselves permission to write songs with melodies and hooks even, but not too nice. B+(**)

Fairport Convention: Fairport Chronicles (1968-72 [1976], A&M, 2LP): Genre-defining English folk-rock group, originally Simon Nicol (guitar/vocal), Richard Thompson (guitar/vocal), Ashley Hutchings (bass guitar), and a drummer (first in a long series), with fiddler Dave Swarbrick and Sandy Dennis becoming the voice of the group in 1969). B+(**) [yt]

Tav Falco/Panther Burns: 10th Anniversary Live LP: Midnight in Memphis (1989 [1990], New Rose): Rockabilly revivalist, or psychobilly pioneer, formed his band in 1979 and returned to the obvious spot for this anniversary. Gets sloppy toward the end, then wins me back with "Bourgeois Blues." B+(**)

Dennis Gonzalez: Stars/Air/Stripes (1981 [1982], Daagnim): Trumpet player, from Dallas, early album (first was 1979), organized sixteen musicians for this, recorded in various combos in various locations, to scattered effect. B+(*) [bc]

Dennis Gonzalez's Ataraxia: Ts'iibil Chaaltum (2017, Daagnim): "Eastern jazz trio," the leader playing trumpet/cornet, with Drew Phelps (bass) and Jagath Lakpriya (tabla), everyone adding to the percussion, but not breaking the calm. B+(*)

John Hartford: RCA Country Legends (1967-70 [2001], Buddha): Banjo-playing folksinger, I remember him on Flying Fish in the 1970s, but he started out with RCA in Nashville. This reduces seven albums to convenient form, including a song he wrote that Glen Campbell made famous: "Gentle on My Mind." B+(***)

Skip James: Blues From the Delta (1966-68 [1998], Vanguard): Mississippi bluesman, plays piano as well as guitar, high and lonesome voice, recorded 18 songs in 1931 -- many people revere those sides but I've never warmed to them, partly due to the poor sound quality -- then, like John Hurt, Son House, and others, vanished until the folk blues boomlet in the 1960s. This compiles most of two albums -- 9 (of 12) each from Today! and Devil Got My Woman plus two previously unreleased. Best cuts from the latter album. B+(***)

OM [Urs Leimgruber/Christy Doran/Bobby Burri/Fredy Studer]: A Retrospective (1976-80 [2006], ECM): Group -- saxes/flute, guitar, bass, drums -- recorded four albums for Japo, Manfred Scheffner's "Jazz by Post" mail-order label, eventually picked up by ECM. First two went on to have substantial careers as leaders, and I've run across Studer numerous times, with all four reuniting recently (see above). Given the dates, it's hard not to look at how this fits into fusion, but no matter how easily it flows, it doesn't even hint at the sickly aftertaste of the era's juggernauts. A-

Lee Perry "The Upsetter" Presents: Roast Fish Collie Weed & Corn Bread (1978 [1992], VP): Reggae star, started with the Upsetters in 1969, found his niche in dub, remains active after 50 years. One of his first records to use his name, and one of the last not to feature the nickname "Scratch." Island had released his Super Ape, but rejected this one. Hard to hear why now, given how popular dub was to come. A-

Ramones: It's Alive (1977 [1979], Sire): London show, three good albums in, bashing through 28 songs in 53:49. Approximately the same as the albums, which may make it redundant, or a reasonable substitute, or nothing much at all. [Pretty sure I had this as a 2-LP import, but didn't register a grade in my database. Christgau didn't review it until a 1995 reissue. In 2019 it was reissued in a 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition: 4-CD comprising all 4 concerts, plus 2-LP reprising the original release, plus a hardcover book.] B+(***)

Shaver: Unshaven: Live at Smith's Olde Bar (1995, Zoo Entertainment): Country singer-songwriter Billy Joe Shaver, debuted in 1973, was mostly distinguished by his wit until 1993, when he teamed up with his guitarist son Eddy Shaver and went with the common denominator band name. Band recorded six hard rocking albums up to Eddy's death in 2000. This is the live one, with many of his old songs revved up -- not as high and hard as this band could get, but this is fast becoming my favorite setting for his best-of. A-

Toots and the Maytals: True Love (2004, V2): Greatest hits, recut with a long list of guest stars, the sort of project Ray Charles and John Lee Hooker did late in their careers. Opens with a Willie Nelson duet -- the only cut that reduces Toots to background singer. Most, like Eric Clapton on "Pressure Drop" and Jeff Beck on "54-46 Was My Number" are just happy to play along. B+(***)

Link Wray: Rumble: The Best of Link Wray (1958-79 [1993], Rhino): Guitarist, cut instrumental rock singles after Duane Eddy and before surf guitar, but only the first two ("Rumble" and "Raw-Hide") were minor hits, with "Jack the Ripper" grazing the charts (64 in 1963). He got a second brush with fame in 1977 when Robert Gordon recruited him for a rockabilly revival project that didn't go very far, but got him a new record with the best track here ("Switchblade"). Five tracks have vocals. B+(**) [yt]

Revised Grades

Sometimes further listening leads me to change an initial grade, usually either because I move on to a real copy, or because someone else's review or list makes me want to check it again:


Dramarama: Color TV (2020, Pasadena): New wave band from New Jersey in the 1980s, recorded two good 1985-87 albums, a couple more before hanging it up in 1994. Regrouped for another in 2005, and now this one. Singer-songwriter John Easdale is constant, but happier than ever. [was: B+(*)] A-

Music Weeks

Current count 34260 [34098] rated (+162), 214 [214] unrated (0).

Excerpts from this month's Music List posts:

October 6, 2020

Music: Current count 34142 [34098] rated (+44), 217 [214] unrated (+3).

Among recent musician deaths, Eddie Van Halen (65) has gotten the most publicity, but Johnny Nash (80) is remembered for the better song ("I Can See Clearly Now"). Others I recognize but haven't noted: Waldemar Bastos, Wayne Fontana, Trini Lopez, Helen Reddy. It's been a rough couple weeks for baseball players too, with Hall of Famers Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, and Tom Seaver; also Horace Clarke and Ron Perranoski. More I didn't recognize, like pitcher Charlie Haeger (37, played 2006-10, lifetime W-L record 2-7, ERA 6.40), of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, after being named as a suspect in the shooting death of his ex-girlfriend. That would have been a tragic story some other week.

Record count includes most of Monday, so an extra day. I've been hard pressed to find things -- Phil Overeem's latest list was my most frequent guide.

Still hope to do a book post and a batch of questions and answers later this week. Lots of things wearing me down, including some yardwork that's left me sore. I did finally finish Zachary D Carter's magnificent The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Lift of John Maynard Keynes. Moving on to something much lighter: Ruth Reichl Gourmet memoir. I should dig up a cover pic for my reading file.

October 12, 2020

Music: Current count 34182 [34142] rated (+40), 212 [217] unrated (-5).

Let's get this over with quick. Seems like it's been a slow, annoying, frustrating week. I wanted to get a book piece done, but didn't. At the moment, I have about 20 tabs opened to possible books, and I want to get through them before I upgrade my computer software (Xubuntu 18 to 20), so I need to move on to that. I did manage to publish a batch of answers to reader questions last week. One of those questions was really just encouragement to follow through on a previous week's threat to mock up a 50-album all-time best ballot, which I sort of did.

Phil Overeem did his own ballot exercise, which is the source for the "old music" listed below. A lot of Memphis psychobilly on his list, which I'm naturally inclined to like but not revere, so my (usually one-play) grades are muted. I didn't jot down a proper checklist, so I missed some things -- mostly old albums by groups I know well from compilations (e.g., The "5" Royales). Double checking, I found two more albums I once owned but hadn't listed in my database (Drifters, George Jones), but remember well enough I feel I can assign them grades (A and A-; a better Jones comp is the earlier Cup of Loneliness, although my first pick is the career-spanning 2-CD box, The Spirit of Country: The Essential George Jones; as for the Drifters, Rhino's 1993 The Very Best of the Drifters is perfect for the 1959-64 group; the 2-CD All-Time Greatest Hits and More: 1959-1965 doesn't fall off much; and while all of the above ignore the early Drifters, Let the Boogie Roll: The Greatest Hits 1953-1958 is also solid A-, as is Clyde McPhatter's post-Drifters Deep Sea Ball: The Best of Clyde McPhatter).

I had more trouble with the various artist picks. It Came From Memphis, Volume 1 is probably the 1995 blues comp on Upstart -- Napster has a Volume 2 but not this one. I'm far less certain about Sweet Soul Music: as best I can tell, the choices are: a 1980 Atlantic (16 songs, with Arthur Conley's title hit); a 1987 J&B (17 songs, Conley again, Atlantics leaning heavy on Franklin-Redding-Pikett); a 1988 Stax (subtitle: The Stax Groups, 13 songs, most obscure); a 1992 Sire (subtitle: Voices From the Shadows, a tie-in with Peter Guralnick's book; and a 1995 K-Tel (26 songs, leads with Sam & Dave's cover, mostly great songs but scattered as far as "One Fine Day" and "Midnight at the Oasis"). My guess is that Overeem probably means the Sire, with its relatively obscure Memphis focus -- he seems to have a thing for Memphis (also for New Orleans).

Could be that some of the B+ records might kick in after a few plays. I listened to Fairport Chronicles on YouTube, which is never ideal, but I've never been that big of a fan. I've never liked the Ramones as much as many friends do, so while It's Alive was pretty good, it didn't strike me as special. If memory serves, I saw them once live, as the opening act for Iggy Pop (or was it the Clash?); either way, they were good but not that great. I'll also note that I was in a particularly bad mood when I played Ella: The Lost Berlin Tapes, which didn't start to clear up until "Mack the Knife." For the record, I also have her 1960 Ella in Berlin at B+, which puts it behind a lot of superior records.

Will get back to the book post after this. Should finish catching up the Trump book draft this week. Not sure what else, other than some cooking -- red cooked ham tonight, with stir-fried bok choy; will do twice-cooked pork sooner or later this week, and have a few more things in the refrigerator that need attending -- and some yard work, while it's still nice out.

October 20, 2020

Music: Current count 34222 [34179] rated (+43), 215 [213] unrated (+2).

Nominally a day late, given the late finish of Weekend Roundup. The delay pushed the rated count over 40, and contributed most of the unpacking below. Before that I had felt little urgency to break into the promo queue. I've been scrounging for things to listen to, and making short work of most of what I've found. I've heard the top 83 records in my metacritic file. Top one I haven't bothered with is Deftones: Ohms, followed by albums by Flaming Lips, Killers, Lemon Twigs, and Sorry -- a high B+ from any of those would be a big surprise. Caught up with eight Sunnyside jazz releases instead, four at B+(**), four lower.

Robert Christgau published his October 2020: Consumer Guide last week. I previously had albums by Public Enemy, Cornershop, and Dua Lipa at A-. He only concurred on PE. He rated Dramamrama, Ashley McBryde, and Dawn Oberg higher than I did. A recheck of the former suggests I wasn't paying much attention when I discarded it. His choice oldie was a compilation of early Skip James that I have at B (but Robert Santelli ranked as the 10th best blues album of all time). As I recall, the sound was atrocious. I should do some more research on him; e.g., Devil Got My Woman (1967), an A- for Christgau, number 45 for Santelli. I have a later compilation of James' 1966-68 Vanguard sides, Blues From the Delta, at A-. [PS: Got this messed up: Devil Got My Woman was an A- for me, ungraded by Christgau. Blues From the Delta was an A- for Christgau, graded B+(***) by me.] Meanwhile, the one I couldn't find was Hanging Tree Guitars. Well, also the Island rocksteady compilation. It's probably competitive with Trojan's Let's Do Rocksteady: The Story of Rocksteady 1966-68, an A- in my book.

One more week left in October. I'm going to cook a scaled down, socially distanced version of my annual birthday dinner this week. Did the shopping today, so I'm set to start cooking tomorrow, to serve on Wednesday. Moved it up a few days due to weather, so I'll wind up turning 70 in isolation, probably with leftovers. Nothing new this year. Turkish main dish (yogurtlu kebap), with Moroccan mezze -- struck me as a better fit than the Turkish ones -- and the traditional family birthday cake. Rated count should be down next week, as I'll spend a couple days playing golden oldies. Then it'll be time to knuckle down on Weekend Roundup. At this point, I'd just as soon cooked on the weekend and skipped the post, but weather broke the other way.

Seems like a lot of deaths last week. Among musicians: Spencer Davis, Toshinori Kondo, Jose Padilla. More HOF baseball players: Joe Morgan, after Whitey Ford (previous week).

October 30, 2020

Music: Current count 34260 [34222] rated (+38), 214 [215] unrated (-1).

I haven't been in much of a hurry to get this week's post out. (Cutoff was Thursday, Oct. 29, but didn't get the post up until Oct. 30.) I was delayed a day by Weekend Roundup. I missed two or three days of listening mid-week as I was preoccupied cooking an abbreviated version of my annual birthday dinner, so I didn't have much to show for the week anyway. I hadn't updated my Music Tracking or Metacritic files for a while, so had quite a bit of catching up to do there. I also wanted to take a pass at assembling my EOY Jazz and Non-Jazz files -- if nothing else to get a sense of whether my own grading was still historically consistent in this very abnormal year. All those things took lots of time. Besides, after the weather turned bad, I turned 70, and my massive report on last week's news fell on (evidently) deaf ears, I convinced myself no one much will miss a few days here. Plus we have extra days in October, so taking a few extra days just helps round up the monthly compendium (link above).

EOY lists were collected from the Year 2020 file, but I haven't gotten around to resorting them yet. One thing I noticed is that early albums ranked relatively high in the lists. That's probably an artifact of incremental list building. The current split is 54 jazz A/A-, 43 non-jazz. First pass on the lists usually splits like that, but evens out in January as I catch up with EOY lists. I was a bit worried that I was generating more A- records than is my custom, but if anything I'm a bit low. Last year's totals wound up with 77 jazz and 77 non-jazz. As February-October represents 75% of the rating year, a 12-month linear projection would expect the current list to expand to 72 jazz, 57 non-jazz.

I don't have a way to compare rating rate to same time last year, but I have 982 records rated so far this year, vs. 1252 for all of 2019. The 2020 tracking file at present lists 3667 records, vs. 5178 for 2019. Using the same time projection, I'd expect 1309 records rated this year (up 4.5%). The total listed would scale up to 4889 (down 5.6%), but I expect the number will rise instead. (Most of the list growth occurs during the EOY list period. The file will contain every record mentioned.)

Metacritic file (link above) is mostly updated through last week (based on AOTY, but not other sources), but doesn't yet include October 30 releases.

Did a brief check for recent deaths, knowing that Billy Joe Shaver (81) had passed. I gave Unshaven: Live at Smith's Olde Bar (1995) an A- in October. Great songs, cranked up a bit by a band that included his guitarist son.

One death I hadn't noticed was that of Jan Myrdal (93). Myrdal was Swedish, the son of Gunnar and Alva Myrdal, who wrote what in 1944 passed for the definitive study of racism in America: An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy. His parents were big believers in America's liberal tradition, but Jan Myrdal was decidedly more radical, with an early fascination with Asia and the Chinese revolution. I read two books by him: his early memoir Confessions of a Disloyal European (1968) and Angkor: An Essay on Art and Imperialism (1970, with his wife and illustrator Gun Kessle). The latter's critique of imperialism had a huge influence on me personally.

Notes

Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:

  • [cd] based on physical cd
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com
  • [yt] available at youtube.com
  • [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely available, may be a bootleg someone made available, or may be a publicist promo