Record Report (#3): August 17, 2006

Fred Anderson: Timeless: Live at the Velvet Lounge (Delmark): After cutting some scary avant-sax records circa 1970, Anderson settled into anonymity as the proprietor of Chicago's Velvet Lounge jazz club. Then as he passed retirement age, he picks up the tenor sax again and establishes himself as a living legend, with a series of albums, his raw tone growing more refined, his rough improves more cogent. Second smartest thing he's ever done. Number one was adopting a teenager from Louisiana who turned out to be drummer Hamid Drake. A- [jazz]

Balkan Beat Box (JDub): From NYC, where it's still possible to bring this mix of Bulgarians, Moroccans, and Israelis together without gunfire. Big Lazy drummer Tamir Muskat provides mostly electronic bears. Gogol Bordello reeds man Ori Kaplan honks and whines. Guests come and go. A- [world, rock]

James McMurtry: Childish Things (Compadre): This would make it on "We Can't Make It Here" alone, a long political song that slams home point after point after point to a spare and bitter backdrop. But it helps that it might make it even without the loss leader. He calls his band the Heartless Bastards. He's literate enough to know and use irony, but he uses it to get the perspective to resolve a clearer picture. Clarity is essential here. A- [country]

Charlie Musselwhite: Delta Hardware (Real World): Not as old as he looks, let alone sounds, not that that's the problem -- age reinforces the blues, both by the accumulation of suffering and by its survival. But his claim to fame used to be his harp, and he needs to air it out more. He's too ordinary a singer to get by on that alone. B [blues]

The Best of Pérez Prado: The Original Mambo No. 5 (1949-59, RCA/Legacy): The original mambo king played piano and ran the band that kicked off all the other bands in America's short-lived love affair with Cuba. His instrumental hits are clean, sly, sharply etched, but so packed with complex rhythm they threaten to explode. The one vocal track is sung by Benny Moré, a legend in his own right. A [world, latin]

The Rough Guide to the Music of the Sahara (1998-2004, World Music Network): A desert about the size of the United States with something like one percent of the population, scattered on isolated oases, many scratching out a nomadic living. The music draws from better known forms to the north and south, but retains a formidable distance, which oddly enough helps make it more accessible. A- [world]

Sonic Youth: Rather Ripped (Geffen): It used to be that every album had one of those sonic squalls to remind you they can still bite, no matter how melodic they get. But that's been a while. Even if this one is more muscular than the last couple, it's also more even tempered, effectively running all the songs into a steady stream. This accomplishment signifies maturity: youth no more, more sonic than ever. A- [rock]

Waco Brothers: Freedom and Weep (Bloodshot): In Jon Langford's native land, this would be "pub rock" -- rock and roll so straightforward and unassuming it can have no purpose other than to help you drink and carouse -- but since Langford moved to Chicago his music has gone native, making it even more so. Where he is still an outsider is in the lyrics, which repeatedly penetrate our self-illusions, as in "we're only as strong as the drugs we're taking" and "kill or cure, whichever is faster." A- [rock]