Streamnotes: May 31, 2021


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 April 26. Past reviews and more information are available here (16973 records).


Recent Releases

Alchemy Sound Project: Afrika Love (2018 [2021], ARC): Postbop group, third album, seems to have two tiers where each core member wrote a song -- Sumi Tonooka (piano), Salim Washington (tenor sax, flute, bass clarinet, oboe), Erica Lindsay (tenor sax, clarinet, alto flute), David Arend (bass), and Samantha Boshnack (trumpet) -- rounding out with trombone (Michael Ventoso) and drums (Chad Taylor). B+(**) [cd]

Lina Allemano Four: Vegetables (2020 [2021], Lumo): Canadian trumpet player, divides her time between Toronto and Berlin, seventh quartet album with various lineups, here: Brodie West (alto sax), Andrew Downing (bass), Nick Fraser (drums). Opener is "Onions," reminds me a bit of the Beach Boys song but free jazz. B+(**) [bc]

Rossano Baldini: Humanbeing (2020 [2021], RareNoise): Italian pianist, also electronics, couple previous albums, does a lot of soundtrack work. Solo here except for some cello (Carmin Iuvone). Six tight rhythm pieces, short (28:07). B+(**) [cdr]

Carsie Blanton: Love & Rage (2021, So Ferocious): Singer-songwriter, based in New Orleans, albums since 2005, breakthrough was her 2019 album Buck Up. Eleven more first rate songs. Easy enough: to stay off her "Shit List," just "Be Good." A-

Enzo Carniel and Filippo Vignato as Silent Room: Aria (2021, Menace): French pianist, Italian trombonist, both have several previous albums. Duo first played together in tribute to avant-trombone legend Albert Mangelsdorf, but they're also into Brian Eno's ambient synths, and find a pleasing synthesis herein. B+(***) [cd]

Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt: Made Out of Sound (2020 [2021], Palilalia): Drums and guitar duo, former has been prolific since 2002, often working with guitarists (including several previous albums with Orcutt). Some debate whether this is jazz -- Orcutt has more of a noise/rock profile, but that doesn't seem to limit the drummer. B+(**) [bc]

Fail Better!: The Fall (2017 [2021], JACC): Free jazz quintet: Luis Vicente (trumpet), Albert Cirera (soprano/tenor sax), Marcelo Dos Reis (guitar), José Miguel Pereira (bass), Marco Franco (drums/flute). Third album. B+(***) [cd]

Marianne Faithfull With Warren Ellis: She Walks in Beauty (2021, BMG): The Bad Seeds violinist used his soundtrack expertise to craft the music. Faithfull reads poetry: Byron, Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth, Thomas Hood and Lord Tennyson. I haven't read them in 50+ years, and doubt I ever will again, but there's no denying their brilliance. B+(**)

Andre Ferreri Quintetto: Numero Uno (2021, Laser): Guitarist, born in New York, based in North Carolina, claims several albums (but I'm not sure about the 1995 nature sounds that are the only things I find on Discogs). With sax, bass, drums, and piano (three names, one each day of the sessions), plus trumpet (1 track). Nice postbop groove. B+(**) [cd]

Flow Trio With Joe McPhee: Winter Garden (2020 [2021], ESP-Disk): Tenor/soprano saxophonist Louie Belogenis, released an album in 2007 called The Flow, leading to several Flow Trio albums, with Joe Morris (bass) and Charles Downs (drums). This adds a second tenor sax, an old master making the rounds. Morris is better known as a guitarist, but plays some exceptional bass here. A- [cd]

Nnenna Freelon: Time Traveler (2018-20 [2021], Origin): Jazz singer, started in church, dozen or so albums since 1992, reprises singers like Dionne Warwick and Roberta Flack here. B+(*) [cd]

David Friesen & Bob Ravenscroft: Passage (2015-20 [2021], Origin): Bassist, Discogs credits him with 65 albums since 1976, in a duo with the pianist -- his much thinner discography goes back to 1982, mostly devotional music for Music Serving the Word Ministries. Short, interesting pieces, nicely turned out. B+(**) [cd]

Satoko Fujii Tokyo Trio: Moon on the Lake (2020 [2021], Libra): A rare conventional piano trio, although bassist Takashi Sugawa doubles on cello, with Ittesu Takamura on drums. Some spectacular passages, as you'd expect. B+(***) [cd]

Aaron Germain: Bell Projections (2015-20 [2021], Aaron Germain Music): Electric bassist, grew up in Massachusetts, moved to San Francisco area in 2000, also plays guitars here, with various musicians, recorded over five years. Paul McCandless plays oboe on two cuts, Nestor Torres is one of several flute players, mostly percussionists beyond that. B+(*) [cd]

Greg Germann: Tales of Time (2020 [2021], Origin): Drummer, based in New York, evidently well established for work on Broadway and in films. Not wild about the vocals (Chelsea Forgenie), but he hires two stars -- Luis Perdomo (piano) and Donny McCaslin (tenor sax) -- and gets his money's worth. B+(**) [cd]

Maria Grand: Reciprocity (2020 [2021], Biophilia): Swiss tenor saxophonist, based in New York, third album, sings some, trio with bass (Kanoa Mendenhall) and drums (Savannah Harris). Again impressed by her sax, less engaged by the vocals (some by Harris). B+(***) [cdr]

Noah Haidu/Buster Williams/Billy Hart: Slowly: Song for Keith Jarrett (2020 [2021], An Die Musik): Piano trio, the pianist born in 1972, when Jarrett was 27 and conquering the world, joined on bass and drums by players of Jarrett's generation (actually, a couple years senior). All three wrote songs (5 in total), compared to one by Jarrett, plus several standards. B+(**) [cd]

Thomas Heberer/Joe Fonda/Joe Hertenstein: Remedy (2020 [2021], Fundacja Sluchaj): German trumpet player, albums since 1988, trio with bass and drums. Engaging free jazz, the bassist a standout. B+(***) [bc]

Vincent Herring: Preaching to the Choir (2021, Smoke Sessions): Alto saxophonist, hard bopper these days but he started farther out in left field. Quartet with Cyrus Chestnut (piano), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), and Johnathan Blake (drums). Hype talks about him getting Covid, which led to rheumatoid arthritis, which made it hard to play, but doesn't pin down the date when this was recorded. He does sound pretty sharp, so hoping this documents his recovery. B+(***)

Brent Jensen: More Sounds of a Dry Martini (2020 [2021], Origin): Alto saxophonist, recorded a Paul Desmond tribute in 2001, and decided to add another volume here. With guitar (Jamie Findlay), bass, and drums, plus piano on two tracks. Three Desmond songs, one Brubeck, several standards, including an especially nice "These Foolish Things." B+(***) [cd]

James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet: Jesup Wagon (2020 [2021], Tao Forms): Tenor saxophonist, always impressive, means to pay homage to George Washington Carver (1864-1943), but see the booklet for that. A blindfold test puts him closer to David S. Ware, aside for the change-of-pace closer ("Chemurgy"), my favorite piece here. With Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Chris Hoffman (cello), William Parker (bass/gibri), and Chad Taylor (drums/mbira). A- [cd]

Damon Locks/Black Monument Ensemble: Now (2020 [2021], International Anthem): Credited with "samples & electronics," also "lyrics & compositions," with a half-dozen other vocalists, backed by Angel Bat Dawid (clarinet), Ben LaMar Gay (cornet/melodica), Dana Hall (drums), and Arif Smith (percussion). I'm not getting a lot out of the vocals, but the closer, "The Body Is Electric," offers an inspiring groove. B+(**)

Doug MacDonald: Live in Hawaii (2019 [2021], DMAC Music): Guitarist, albums since 1981, quaret with vibraphonist Noel Okimoto especially prominent. B+(*) [cd]

Madre Vaca: The Elements (2020 [2021], Madre Vaca): Collective, based in Jacksonville, fourth album as a group but their label lists 13 albums, including ones by various members. Website lists 16 musicians, but just a quartet here: Jarrett Carter (guitar), Thomas Milovac (bass), Jonah Pierre (piano), and Benjamin Shorstein (drums), with one original piece from each (you can guess the titles). B+(*) [cd] [06-12]

Shawn Maxwell: Expectation & Experience (2021, Jazzline): Pandemic project, alto/soprano saxophonist, also plays clarinet, wrote these compositions and hit up 30 musicians to record their bits remotely. B+(**) [cd]

Simon Moullier Trio: Countdown (2020 [2021], Fresh Sound New Talent): French vibraphonist, second album, scattered standards ("Hot House," "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," "Nature Boy," two Monks). Trio with Luca Alemanno (bass) and Jongkuk Kim (drums). B+(**) [cd] [06-11]

Natural Information Society With Evan Parker: Descension (Out of Our Constrictions) (2019 [2021], Aguirre/Eremite): Chicago bassist Joshua Abrams, plays guimbri in this group, which dates back to his 2014 album Natural Information. Group also includes Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Lisa Alvarado (harmonium), and Mikel Patrick Avery (drums). Recorded live at Café Oto in London, with Parker sitting in on soprano sax. One long groove piece with a lot of Parker's signature circular breathing. B+(***)

Matt Niess & the Capitol Bones: The Beat Goes On (2020 [2021], Summit): Trombonist, 30 years in the US Army Blues, led two previous Capitol Bones albums on Sea Breeze 1996-2000. Current group has seven trombones (4 tenor, 3 bass), two guitars, piano, bass, and drums. I'm a trombone fan, and I'm impressed by some of the solo spots here, but the songs are all over the map, and the arrangements can get irritating. B [cd]

No-No Boy: 1975 (2021, Smithsonian Folkways): Julian Saporiti, Vietnamese-American born in Nashville, based in Portland, second album, steeped in Asian-American history, group named for John Okada's 1957 novel ("perceived as disloyal to the US but not fully Japanese"), title for the year Saigon fell. A-

Jeannine Otis: Into My Heart (2021, Adrielle Music/Monpolyhouse): Singer, writes some, originally from Detroit, seems to have a checkered career with an album in 1980, some singles (as Jahneen) in the 1980s. Mix of originals and standards here. B+(**) [cd]

Keith Oxman/Frank Morelli: The Ox-Mo Incident (2019 [2021], Capri): Tenor saxophone and bassoon, Denver-based, Oxman has nine albums, mainstream, while Morelli's previous discography is classical. Quintet with piano (John Jenkins), bass, and drums; two Oxman originals, rest divided between show tunes and classical pieces (Brahms, Puccini, Rachmaninoff, two from Borodin). B+(**) [cd]

Evan Parker Quartet: All Knavery and Collusion (2019 [2021], Cadillac): Tenor sax, backed by Alexander Hawkins (piano), John Edwards (bass), and Paul Lytton (drums). Passes rather uneventfully. B+(*)

Nicki Parrott: If You Could Read My Mind (2021, Arbors): Bassist from Australia, has developed into a fine standards singer. Nudges the songbook into the 1970s, with "Jolene," "Lean on Me," "Every Breath You Take." Good as she is, the sweet spot here is any time tenor saxophonist Harry Allen butts in. B+(**)

Rich Pellegrin: Solitude: Solo Improvisations (2019 [2021], OA2): Pianist, based in Seattle although he teaches in Florida and has written "extensively" on jazz. Fourth album, solo, XXV numbered improvisations. Nice. B+(**)

Ruben Reinaldo & Kely Garcia: Acuarel (2019 [2020], Free Code): Guitar duo, probably Spanish, only album I can find by either, cover can be parsed to read credits either way, but spine is as listed. Hard to say much about this pleasant and engaging record. B+(***) [cd]

Jeff Rosenstock: Ska Dream (2021, Polyvinyl): Former leader of the Arrogant Sons of Bitches (1995-2004) and Bomb the Music Industry (2004-14), fifth solo album since 2015. The earlier groups classified themselves as ska-punk, and this album is conceived of as a ska re-recording of his 2020 album No Dream. I suppose it helps, but not a lot. B+(*)

Almog Sharvit: Get Up or Cry (2019 [2021], Unit): Israeli bassist, based in New York, first album, a short one (6 songs, 26:50). Starts off with a kind of mariachi hoedown, with Brandon Seabrook's banjo and Adam O'Farrill's trumpet. The other pieces are less fun, especially the ones with vocals. B+(*) [cd]

Jen Shyu & Jade Tongue: Zero Grasses: Ritual for the Losses (2019-20 [2021], Pi): Born in Peoria, Illinois; parents from Taiwan and East Timor; studied classical music, ballet, theater, and opera; sixth album since 2002, group name from her 2009 album. Early favorite for Jazz Critics Poll Vocal Album, as a significant number of critics seem to like (or at least be impressed by) this sort of disjointed art song. I can't stand it, myself, but will admit that when I did force myself to listen closely, it offered a few alluring details and admirable sentiments. C+ [cd]

Greg Skaff: Polaris (2020 [2021], Smoke Sessions): Mainstream guitarist, only his sixth album since 1996, a trio the cover notes as "featuring Ron Carter & Albert 'Tootie' Heath," who played together in the 1960s backing Wes Montgomery. B

Wadada Leo Smith: Trumpet (2016 [2021], TUM, 3CD): Released for the AACM trumpet player's 80th birthday year, this adds significantly to his seven previous solo trumpet albums. Solo trumpet is rare: few trumpet players even bother, and no one else has anywhere near that many. The first impression explains why: the tone is narrow, the dynamics slow, it's impossible to generate rhythm or much harmony, leaving you with sharp slashes and smears. Yet as I played and re-played these discs, I started to be entertained. Nice booklet with extensive notes, exploring the deep history that informs this music. B+(***) [cd]

Wadada Leo Smith: Sacred Ceremonies (2015-16 [2021], TUM, 3CD): When I first saw these 3-CD sets, I thought compilations, but improvisers just create something new. One disc here is a trio with Bill Laswell (electric bass) and Milford Graves (drums). The other two are duos. The box is dedicated to Graves, who died last year, but his duo disc is the highlight, one of the best things he ever did. Laswell's duo is less interesting: he's a guy who works with an extraordinary range of people, and never overshadows them. The booklet, superb as usual, is especially good for its bios of Laswell and Graves. A- [cd]

Alexa Tarantino: Firefly (2021, Posi-Tone): Alto saxophonist, also plays soprano, flute, and clarinet, from Connecticut, fourth album since 2015, with Behn Gillece (vibes), Art Hirahara (piano), Boris Koslov (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums). B+(**)

Butch Thompson & Southside Aces With Charlie Devore: How Long Blues (2019 [2020], Southside Aces): Minneapolis trad jazz group, several albums since 2005 (although this is the first in Discogs), "jazz legend" pianist also from those parts. Starts as a septet, with vocalist Devore entering for the second song. B+(*)

Vasco Trilla: Unmoved Mover (2020 [2021], Fundacja Sluchaj): Spanish drummer, Discogs credits him with 40 albums since 2013, mostly duos and small groups where everyone is named. Solo here, credited with timpani and gong. B [bc]

Uassyn: Zacharya (2019 [2021], JazzThing): Young Swiss avant-sax trio (Tapiwa Svosve, Silvan Jeger, Vincent Glanzmann), second album, recorded in Zürich. Fairly short (32:01), but intense. B+(***) [cd]

João Valinho/Luis Vicente/Marcelo dos Reis/Salvoandrea Lucifora: Light Machina (2020 [2021], Multikulti Project): Drums, trumpet, trombone, electric guitar -- order unclear, as all of the material is joint improv. Especially nice outing for the trombonist, previously unknown to me. B+(***) [cd]

Carlos Vega: Art of the Messenger (2017 [2021], Origin): Tenor saxophonist, from Florida, third album, all his own material, with Victor Garcia (trumpet), piano, bass, and drums -- an original take on Art Blakey (his two previous albums were titled Bird's Ticket and Bird's Up). B+(**) [cd]

Marta Warelis/Carlos "Zingaro"/Helena Espvall/Marcelo dos Reis: Turqoise Dream (2019 [2021], JACC): I guess you could call this "chamber jazz": piano, violin, cello, guitar. The Polish pianist has a couple recent records out -- not sure which one should count as her first. "Zingaro" has been around for ages, and dominates when he plays, slashing through the prickliness. B+(**)

Amber Weekes: 'Round Midnight Re-Imagined (2021, Amber Inn Productions): Standards singer, several albums. Nothing very surprising in her reimaginings, although her take on the oft-recorded Monk ballad is touching enough. Hits more touchstones from "Hazel's Lips" and "Summer Samba" to "More Than You Know." Lots of strings. B+(*) [cd]

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Khaira Arby: Live in New York 2010 (2010 [2021], Clermont Music): Singer from Timbuktu in Mali (1959-2018), touted as the first Malian woman to start a musical career under her own name (1992). Credited with two albums (at least internationally), the first coincident with her 2010-11 tour of the US and Canada, whence this set from Bard College. Tremendous energy here. A-

Blue Muse ([2019], Music Maker Foundation): Twenty-one various artist tracks from the outfit that released Hanging Tree Guitars last year. No documentation, but looks like the label has 40+ albums, many full albums by the artists listed here, so effectively this is a label sampler. Could lead to a long research project, but something to be said for the variety. B+(***) [bc]

Alex Chilton: A Man Called Destruction (1995 [2020], Omnivore): New wave Memphis rocker, big hit early with the Box Stops, followed by legendary cult band Big Star, followed by a very checkered solo career, ending with his death in 2010 (at 59). Half originals (counting one based on a Chopin funeral march), half obscure covers, this album (originally on Ardent) was as checkered as any. Reissue adds seven more tracks. B+(**)

Alex Chilton and Hi Rhythm Section: Boogie Shoes: Live on Beale Street (1999 [2021], Omnivore): Backed by a local band (albeit, as Al Green's rhythm section, a famous one), opening for Rufus and Carla Thomas, so he doesn't bother trying to flog his own catalog. Just ten rock and soul standards that neither is known for but all know. B+(*)

The Cucumbers: The Desk Drawer Tapes (1988-2005 [2021], Life Force): Twelve songs, recorded over the years and stuffed into a drawer. Not top drawer material, but distinct in form and spirit. B+(**)

Henry Franklin: The Skipper (1972 [2021], Black Jazz/Real Gone Music): Bassist, first album, with trumpet (Oscar Brasheer), tenor sax (Charles Owens), guitar, electric piano, and drums. Franklin wrote 4 (of 6) tracks. Adventurous postbop, has some passages that could be taken as spiritual. B+(***)

Henry Franklin: The Skipper at Home (1974, Black Jazz): Second album, more horns, with trombonist Al Hall Jr. contributing 3 (of 6) songs. Seemed like a step up until "Soft Spirit" went too soft. B+(*)

Aaron Neville: Tell It Like It Is: The Sansu Years (1968-75 [2020], HHO): New Orleans singer, best known for his group (The Neville Brothers), with various solo ventures: singles for Minit 1960-63 ("Over You"), a second batch for Sansu (studio name, records appeared on various labels), a solo career from 1986 on. This is the latest repackaging of the Allen Toussaint-produced Sansu period, 19 songs, only the title cut a big hit (although it's hard to see why "Hercules" wasn't). Mixed bag, one cut I could do without is his tortured reading of "Yesterday." B+(***)

Ojoyo: Plays Safrojazz (1996 [2021], Sunnyside): South African saxophonist Morris Goldberg, moved to New York before the fall of apartheid, where he played with Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon, and many others. Leads various musicians here -- one group has Chris Botti on trumpet, another Diego Urcola. The township jive vamps are fun, but neither here nor there. B+(**) [cd]

Chester Thompson: Powerhouse (1971 [2021], Black Jazz/Real Gone Music): Organ player, first album, nothing more until 2012, having spent the intervening years playing keyboards in Tower of Power and Santana. Soul jazz moves, with sax (Rudolph Johnson), trombone (Al Hall), and drums. B+(*)

Steve Tintweiss and the Purple Why: Markstown (1968 [2021}, Inky Dot Media): Bassist, mostly played in the 1960s on albums by ESP-Disk artists, from Albert Ayler to Patty Waters and Frank Wright. This is billed as "authentic sixties ny city avant-garde free jazz," from two dates (St. Mark's Church, The Town Hall). Compositions by the leader, quintet plus vocals, only name that jumps out at me is Mark Whitecage (tenor sax/flute). Album does feature his bass, and he impresses. B+(***) [cd]

Old Music


Khaira Arby: Tchini Tchini (2012, Clermont Music, EP): Three tracks, 16:11. Fewer rough spots than on the album(s), lasts long enough to get a good groove going. B+(***)

Khaira Arby: Gossip (2015, Clermont Music): Second album released in US, reportedly her fifth overall. Strong voice, supple guitar, traditional instruments in cross-cultural splendor. Strikes me as impressive as anything I've heard her do, but I'm at a loss to make fine distinctions. B+(***)

Asleep at the Wheel: Comin' Right at Ya (1973, United Artists): Founded in West Virginia by Ray Benson and Reuben Gosfield (aka Lucky Oceans), they soon moved to Berkeley (well, East Oakland), crossing bluegrass with hippiedom, then decided they could have it all. Drummer LeRoy Preston's originals fit comfortably with country standards that probably seemed less obvious at the time, and Chris O'Connell's vocals balance nicely against Benson's. A-

Asleep at the Wheel: Asleep at the Wheel (1974, Columbia): Label dropped them, they moved to Austin, and wound up in a Nashville studio. LeRoy Preston only penned three originals, so they doubled down on Bob Wills, and stretched a bit with Count Basie and Louis Jordan, picking "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" as their lead single. B+(**)

Asleep at the Wheel: Texas Gold (1975, Capitol): Third album, third label, finally sold some records. Identifying more with Texas. B+(**)

Asleep at the Wheel: Wheelin' and Dealin' (1976, Capitol): Down to two LeRoy Preston originals, they're becoming a covers band: "Route 66," "Miles and Miles of Texas," "Blues for Dixie," "They Raided the Place." B+(*)

Asleep at the Wheel: The Wheel (1977, Capitol): Big change here is original songwriting, reducing the cover count to one, a "traditional" instrumental they arranged. And for once the originals aren't just nice filler but could have been obscure gems ("A Dollar Short and a Day Late," "My Baby Thinks She's a Train," "Am I High?"). B+(***)

Asleep at the Wheel: Collision Course (1978, Capitol): This year the writers came up near-empty: Benson (1), Preston (1). They go back to the well for more Louis Jordan and Count Basie. Also Randy Newman. B

Asleep at the Wheel: Western Standard Time (1988, Columbia): Christgau stopped reviewing them after 1979's Served Live (C+). I didn't start until their first Bob Wills tribute in 1993, which doesn't come close to their 1999 Ride With Bob or their 2015 Still the King -- both fortified with a long list of guests. Among their 1980s albums, this set of obvious covers seemed promising: Three from Bob Wills, a "Hot Rod Lincoln" to match Commander Cody's, a Willie Nelson guest spot on the opener, and Ernest Tubb to close. B+(*)

The Asylum Street Spankers: Spanker Madness (2000, Spanks-a-Lot): Acoustic blues-roots band from Austin, active 1994-2011, four lead vocalists but foremost is Christina Marrs, who wrote the five songs she leads. Mostly drug songs, although one after running the gamut winds up preferring beer. A-

Asylum Street Spankers: Mercurial (2004, Yellow Dog): Looks like all covers (well, one credited to Wammo), from "Tight Like That" and "Digga Digga Doo" to the B-52s and Beastie Boys. B+(***)

The Asylum Street Spankers: What? And Give Up Show Biz? (2008, Yellow Dog, 2CD): Live double, recapitulates most of the albums above with lots of extra patter. A good argument for catching them live, but I'm not sure how often I'd want to replay it. B+(***)

Au Pairs: Sense and Sensuality (1982, Kamera): British post-punk band, seemed promising but this second album turned out to be their last. B

Average White Band: AWB (1974, Atlantic): Hailing from Scotland, a modest but somewhat above-average approximation of a soul group, with several voices intertwined, and an instrumental for their hit single. Second album, their commercial breakthrough. Nothing here feels like disco or funk, which is where the 1970s went without them. They fell off the charts after 1979, broke up in 1982, regrouped 1989. B+(**)

Eric B. & Rakim: Let the Rhythm Hit 'Em (1990, MCA): Turntablist Eric Barrier and rapper Rakim (William Griffin Jr.), recorded four famous hip-hop albums in the 1987-92 golden age, this the third. The flow is steady, the rhymes part of the rhythm. B+(***)

Sam Baker: Mercy (2003 [2004], Blue Lime Stone): Austin-based singer-songwriter, folkie division, first album at age 50. Eighteen years earlier was riding a train when a bomb exploded, killing seven including three sitting with Baker. He suffered numerous injuries, including brain damage, blown-in eardrums, and possibly what sounds like a speech defect here. He has a song about it here, plus others with one-word titles. He rounded up a six-piece band here with pedal steel and violin, and picked up some guests, but it sounds pretty basic, the 8:08 title cut especially lovely. A-

Sam Baker: Pretty World (2006 [2007], Blue Lime Stone): Thoughtful singer-songwriter, but weaves bits of other songs into his tapestry. Title song gets a well-deserved reprisal. A-

Sam Baker: Cotton (2009, Music Road): I'm not seeing the familiar band credits from previous albums. The album is quieter, although piano grounds most of it, and a female singer helps out. Baker's voice has smoothed out into a rather offhanded John Prine. B+(***)

Sam Baker: Say Grace (2013, self-released): Strings return, used tastefully, framing literary songs that don't give up anything easily. Okay, "Ditch" does, but I'm having trouble here. B+(***)

Sam Baker: Land of Doubt (2017, self-released): More trouble following his songs, less interest in trying again. Not that I doubt I'm missing something. B+(*)

Sam Baker: Horses and Stars (2019, self-released): Live, solo with guitar and harmonica, recorded in Buffalo, ten songs from his first three albums, one each from the other two. I recognize many, but the arrangements are so spare he can only hook you with words, which is hard to do. B+(*)

Lester Bangs and the Delinquents: Jook Savages on the Brazos (1981, Live Wire): I knew him as a rock critic, corresponded a bit, but he left Creem before I could write anything for him. I met him my first night in New York, where he tried to make it as a rocker, but rarely ran into him, and never saw him perform. I bought (and kept) his single, "Let It Blurt," but never saw or heard this album -- the only one he released before his overdose (inadvertent, friends assure me) in 1982. Not as consistent as one would like, but several songs stand out, as does enough of the guitar. A- [yt]

Ronnie Barron: Blues Delicacies, Vol. 1 (1979 [1981], Vivid Sound): Ronald Barrosse (1943-97), from New Orleans, grew up in the local piano tradition along with Professor Longhair and Dr. John. Sideman with Paul Butterfield and other blues outfits, recorded his first album as Reverend Ether (1971). Discogs lists 6 releases of this album under 4 titles, the hopes expressed by Vol. 1 unrequited. Distinctive voice, familiar songs. B+(***) [yt]

Jorge Ben: Samba Esquema Novo (1963, Philips): Major Brazilian artist, Jorge Duilio Lima Menezes, adopted Jorge Ben as his stage name, then extended it to Jorge Ben Jor in the 1980s. First album, a hit, tapping into the popular samba mainstream, which would define him even as he moved on. B+(***)

Jorge Ben: Sacundin Ben Samba (1964, Philips): Third album. B+(**)

Jorge Ben: Big Ben (1965, Philips): Fourth album, ends his early period on Philips, the label he would return to in 1969. B+(*)

Jorge Ben: O Bidú: Silêncio No Brooklin (1967, Artistas Unidos): Regarded as his samba-rock fusion breakthrough, I can hear both sides but have trouble reconciling them, especially as he seems to be reaching for something they'd soon be calling tropicalía, or psychedelic to foreign ears. B+(***)

Jorge Ben: Jorge Ben (1969, Philips): Backed by Trio Mocoto, with some strings to slick down the rough edges, flowing as naturally as samba but with so much more going on. A-

Jorge Ben: Negro É Lindo (1971, Philips): "Black and beautiful." More recognizable as a samba album, even when inscrutable. [YouTube version looks to be scrambled, with all the songs but in the wrong order.] B+(***) [yt]

Jorge Ben: A Tábua De Esmeralda (1974, Philips): Seems to be going singer-songwriter here, not that I can really tell (aside from the Jesus paean "Brother"). B+(***)

Jorge Ben: Solta O Pavão (1975, Philips): "Unleash the peacock," referring "to the outward expression of inner beauty." Samba flow, but more urgent and complex. Seems to be entering a peak period. A-

Jorge Ben: África Brasil (1976, Polygram): Dense rhythm, much going on, but flows easily enough, some kind of masterpiece. A- [yt]

Jorge Ben: Tropical (1976, Mango): His regular label is Philips, a major in Brazil, but this one was picked up by Island, hoping it might piggyback on their success introducing reggae to the American market. Hard to peg this, but veers toward salsa (and misses). B [yt]

Jorge Ben: Samba Nova (1970-74 [1976], Mango): A second American release, this a compilation of more typical (and more classic) material, drawn from three (or four) albums.

Jorge Ben: Alô Alô, Como Vai? (1980, Som Livre): Rod Taylor admits that Ben declined after África Brasil, but argues that his "Som Livre period" continued to produce worthwhile music -- his comparison is to the Rolling Stones post-Exile. I'm not specialist enough to know or care, but this is agreeably upbeat most of the way through. B+(**)

Jorge Ben: Dádiva (1983, Som Livre): Same here, feels live, note that the high point is a medley of oldies. B+(**)

Roy Brown: Hard Times (1967-68 [1973], Bluesway): His 1947 single, "Good Rockin' Tonight," is remembered as one of the first great rock and roll songs, but his King compilation (1947-57, out of print on Rhino) flounders, and his Complete Imperial Recordings (1956-58) isn't much better. This seems to be his first proper album, recorded a decade after he "retired," and released half a decade later. The big blues riffs and soul horns really lift him up, and his voice does the rest. A- [yt]

Shirley Brown: Woman to Woman (1974, Truth): Soul singer, usual church upbringing, first album, title song her first (and only) hit single, voice drew comparisons to Aretha Franklin. Recorded two more albums for Stax (1974, 1979), then resurfaced on Malaco in 1989. B+(**)

T Bone Burnett: Trap Door (1982, Warner Brothers, EP): Eventually better known as a producer, since O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), the guy every movie producer seeking roots music turned to. After his 1980 debut on Takoma, he signed to Warners, and released this 5-track, 22:08 EP before his 1983 Proof Through the Night. B+(**)

T Bone Burnett: T Bone Burnett (1986, Dot): Fourth album, new label, MCA's revived country imprint. So he goes a bit more country, but just a bit. B+(**)

Joe Cocker: Joe Cocker's Greatest Hits (1969-76 [1977], A&M): The history of interpretive rock singers starts with Elvis Presley and ends with Joe Cocker, and doesn't include much in between. Granted, the practice persists in country and pop, but even there the stars usually claim a piece of the action. Like Elvis, Cocker got by on voice and arrangement, but didn't get nearly as far. I was a big fan of his Leon Russell-organized Mad Dogs & Englishmen, but unlike Elvis he never had that many hits, even here. B+(***)

Johnny Copeland: Fuel Presents an Introduction to Johnny Copeland (1961-67 [2006], Fuel 2000): Blues guitarist-singer, born in Louisiana, moved to Houston, started recording singles in 1956. This collects 16 tracks from small labels (All Boy, Golden Eagle, Paradise, maybe others). Only one song intersects with Kent's It's Me: Classic Texas Soul 1965-72. B+(**)

Johnny Copeland: Copeland Special (1981, Rounder): First proper album, has all the chops you need for flashy blues. Also picked up a lot of horns, including three legendary avant-saxophonists (George Adams, Arthur Blythe, and Byard Lancaster), not that you'd recognize them in the mix. B+(***) [yt]

The Cucumbers: The Cucumbers (1983, Fake Doom, EP): Four songs, 10:46, "My Boyfriend" should have been a hit. Included in The Fake Doom Years (1983-1986), which is also: A-

The Cucumbers: Total Vegitility (1999, Home Office): Jangle pop band/duo from New Jersey, Jon Fried and Deena Shoshkes, peaked in 1994 with Where We Sleep Tonight. Their jangle is sharpened, but not the songs. B+(**)

Miles Davis: Water Babies (1967-68 [1976], Columbia): After his second great quintet folded in 1968, Davis recruited young musicians and invented what came to be called fusion: a style that arguably ruined jazz in the 1970s, although his own records were often glorious exceptions. When Davis went on hiatus in 1975, his record company dredged up this transitional filler, with one side of classic quintet (Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams), and one one side of his next step, with Hancock and Chick Corea on electric piano, and Dave Holland on bass. B+(**)

Miles Davis: Circle in the Round (1955-70 [1979], Columbia, 2CD): More hiatus product: the first side three cuts from 1955, 1958, and 1961 (all great bands); from 1967, the 26:15 title piece, with Joe Beck sitting in on guitar; the 1968 quintet plus George Benson; and finally, from 1970, a much expanded band (Shorter and Bennie Maupin on reeds, three famous keyboard wizards, electric bass, sitar, two drummers, plus Airto Moreira on percussion) vamping on David Crosby's "Guinnevere" for 18:06. B+(**)

Miles Davis: The Man With the Horn (1980-81 [1981], Columbia): Married actress Cicely Tyson, kicked cocaine, and returned from hiatus. Jazz-funk, recorded with various lineups, but mostly Bill Evans (tenor sax), guitar, electric bass, drums, percussion. B+(**)

Miles Davis: Star People (1982-83 [1983], Columbia): Teo Macero's last production, pieced together from five studio and live dates over seven months. With Bill Evans on sax, Mike Stern (and in 1983 John Scofield) on guitar, Marcus Miller on bass (except for the last-recorded track), Al Foster drums, and Mino Cinelu perussion -- a fast, funky groove album elevated by the trumpet (not that it lasts). B+(***)

Kimya Dawson: Hidden Vagenda (2004, K): Antifolk singer-songwriter, started as the more mature half of the Moldy Peaches, went on to the more successful solo career, although both of those comparisons are strictly relative. There's a nursery rhyme simplicity to these tunes, a playfulness that rarely comes around. A-

Gilberto Gil: Refavela (1977, Philips): Opens with the very slippery title tune, and matches it later on, but not so reliably. B+(***)

Hakim: Talakik (2002, Mondo Melodia): Egyptian shaabi singer, nicknamed the Lion of Egypt, albums since 1991 (only 2 since 2007). B+(***)

Handsome Boy Modeling School: White People (2004, Atlantic): Prince Paul and Dan the Automator, both had independent solo careers, joined up for So . . . How's Your Girl?, one of 1999's best-regarded albums, regrouped five years later for a second (and so far last) album. Lots of guests (maybe too many), lots of skits (better than average). B+(***)

The Handsome Family: Odessa (1994, Carrot Top): Husband-and-wife duo, Brett and Rennie Sparks, plus a drummer and maybe others. He writes music, she does the lyrics, he does almost all of the singing -- she quavers punk, while his deadpan voice is clear as a bell, and no more engaging. First album. I missed one later on, but like them enough to go back to the beginning. Enough guitar drone to separate them from the folkies. Too much sarcasm for country (although they try in "Water Into Wine"). Here's another lyric: "How can you say there's only one way up/when you know there's a million ways down/ Some folks are falling, others trying to get up/ I'm the one who's staggering around." Had anyone noticed, this could have been deemed prophetic. Nowadays, of course it is. A-

The Handsome Family: Milk and Scissors (1996, Carrot Top): Second album. Settling into a groove, with fewer rough edges. B+(**)

The Handsome Family: Through the Trees (1997, Carrot Top): Third album, slipped by easily enough. B+(**)

The Handsome Family: Down in the Valley (1994-97 [1999], Independent): Irish-only release, picks songs from the first three albums, slighting the first (2 tracks, vs. 6 and 5 for the later ones). Debut is more interesting in its own right, not least because it has a rock edge the later albums lack, but the later selection kicks out lots of memorable lines. Not sure if they really picked the best songs, or the extra plays paid off. Note that their 2000 Live at Schuba's Tavern covers the same era songs, if anything more entertainingly. Rennie may avoid singing, but she doesn't shy away from the microphone between songs. A-

The Handsome Family: Twilight (2001, Carrot Top): Bland voice and simple melodies, doesn't seem like much, but I often enough find myself hanging on the words, grim as they may be. B+(***)

The Handsome Family: Smothered and Covered (1993-2001 [2003], Handsome Family Music): Demos and outtakes, covers from "Banks of the Ohio" and "Knoxville Girl" to "Sunday Morning Coming Down" and "Far Away Eyes," short instrumentals of Brett Sparks playing cello and Rennie playing prepared piano. Sound's a little weak. B+(**)

The Handsome Family: Singing Bones (2003, Carrot Top): Revisits an old folk song, "Dry Bones," best known from Bascom Lamar Lunsford, binding the murder songs, the more pervasive air of death, even to the end of the world -- twice, once in fire, again in ice. B+(***)

Ted Hawkins: Watch Your Step (1982, Rounder): Bluesman, born in Mississippi, drifted around the country, in and out of jails and asylums, wound up busking in Los Angeles. turned to music on hearing Sam Cooke, and he picked up the voice and style. First album, not clear when he recorded it. The liner notes speak of a DJ ("Johnny Jr.") discovering him in 1971, leading to demos, but it's likely these were re-recorded. B+(***)

Ted Hawkins: Happy Hour (1986, Rounder): A second album, also produced by Bruce Bromberg. Between records, he spent 18 months on a child molestation charge, which he subsequently denied. Title song is sad enough it belongs in Nashville. Or maybe it came from there? It's one of two non-originals, the other "Gypsy Woman." B+(**)

Henry Cow: Legend (1973, Virgin): Experimental British group, thought of themselves as rock but without vocals came closer to jazz. First album, aka Henry Cow and The Henry Cow Legend (all three titles appeared in 1973). Fred Frith (guitar), Tim Hodgkinson (keyboards), Geoff Leigh (reeds), John Greaves (bass), and Chris Cutler (drums), with most credited with additional instruments -- also voice toward the end. B+(**)

Henry Cow: Western Culture (1978 [1979], Broadcast): Fifth studio album, three founders remain (Frith, Hodgkinson, Cutler), plus Annemarie Roelofs (trombone, violin) and Lindsay Cooper (bassoon, oboe, soprano sax, recorder), with Hodgkinson writing the first side ("History & Prospects"), and Cooper the second ("Day by Day"). Also a couple guest spots, including Irène Schweizer (piano). B+(***)

Z.Z. Hill: The Brand New Z.Z. Hill (1971, Mankind): R&B singer-songwriter from Texas, recorded for Kent in Los Angeles in the mid-1960s, ended up his career in the 1980s with Malaco, where classic soul music was repackaged as blues. This starts with a 3-act "Blues at the Opera," where the connected by spoken word that's hard to follow. The second half songs are perfectly solid. B+(**)

Z.Z. Hill: The Complete Hill Records Collection/UA Recordings 1972-1975 (1972-75 [1996], Capitol, 2CD): Three LPs rolled into 2CD. Early albums seem to have an edge, but he's pretty consistent. Nice packaging on this series (I bought quite a few of them when they were new). B+(*)

Z.Z. Hill: This Time They Told the Truth: The Columbia Years (1978-79 [1998], Columbia/Legacy): Two years, two albums -- Let's Make a Deal (1978) and The Mark of Z.Z. (1979) -- reduced to 12 tracks, but still the most minor of way stops. The only salvageable cuts go in different directions: "Tell It Like It Is" lets his voice shine, while "Let's Have a Party" is a pure funk rhythm track. Everywhere else: strings. B

Z.Z. Hill: Z.Z. Hill (1981, Malaco): Mississippi label, opened a recording studio in 1967, but only started releasing records around 1976, billing itself as "The Last Soul Company" and picking up artists cut loose by majors as r&b evolved into new forms. Hill was one of the most important, releasing six albums up to his death in 1984 (age 48, a heart attack from a blood clot that could be traced back to a car crash). This was his debut, sounding like he was finally in his comfort zone. B+(**)

Z.Z. Hill: Down Home (1982, Malaco): Second album here, even more comfortable but he picks up better songs, and knocks most right all out of the park. No reason to prefer this over Greatest Hits, which recycles the top three. A-

Z.Z. HIll: The Rhythm & the Blues (1982, Malaco): Christgau complains about a drop in song quality, but hard for me to be that picky. Two more Greatest Hits songs, and "Wang Dang Doodle" is a shot in the arm. B+(**)

Z.Z. Hill: I'm a Blues Man (1983, Malaco): Do I detect a little more grit in his voice? He's never been bluesier, but isn't soul his calling card? Four songs made it to Greatest Hits, but they're not the ones I recall instantly. B+(***)

Z.Z. Hill: Bluesmaster (1984, Malaco): Fifth Malaco album, last before his death. Two more Greatest Hits, but the delights don't stop there. "You're Ruining My Bad Reputation" and "Why Don't You Spend the Night" are better than anything on the previous album. A-

Z.Z. Hill: In Memoriam 1935-1984 (1981-84 [1985], Malaco): Hill was banged up in a car crash in February 1984. Two months later, he died of a heart attack, caused by a blood clot formed after the accident. He was 48. Malaco threw this first draft of history together, ten songs, pulling songs from his middle three albums and adding a couple non-album singles, then a year later came out with a slightly better-programmed Greatest Hits, only repeating "Down Home Blues" and "Someone Else Is Steppin' In." A-

Alberta Hunter: The Glory of Alberta Hunter (1982, Columbia): Blues singer, born 1895 in Memphis, recorded extensively in the 1920s, retired in the 1950s, had a second career in nursing, started singing again after she was put out to pasture. Made a big comeback at 85 with 1980's Amtrak Blues, followed by this album -- more great American soundbook than blues, especially the risqué material she's famous for. B+(**) [yt]

The Jive Five: Here We Are! (1982, Ambient Sound): Doo-wop group from Brooklyn, had their only real hit in 1961 ("My True Story"), survived the deaths of Jerome Hanna (1962) and Norman Johnson (1970), led by Eugene Pitt until 2006. This is the first of two albums they recorded in the 1980s (front cover notes "Featuring Eugene Pitt"). There are few things I love more than doo-wop, so it's nice to see it carry on, but this didn't sweep me away. B+(**)

The Jive Five: Their Greatest Hits (1961-63 [1990], Collectables): Fourteen songs, "My True Story" the only top-ten (or sixty) hit, as far as I can tell all from Belltone -- they recorded for United Artists from 1964-66, with a minor hit ("I'm a Happy Man," 26 in 1965), and Musicor in 1967, but none of that here. The ballads are fine, but the uptempo pieces jump out. B+(**)

Joy of Cooking: Castles (1972, Capitol): Berkeley group, led by singers Toni Brown (piano) and Terry Garthwaite (guitar), released three albums 1971-72. Eponymous debut was a landmark, second album a letdown (relatively speaking), then I missed this one (aside from the songs picked up on the American Originals CD, packed in my traveling case and played recently). A-

Joy of Cooking: Back to Your Heart (1968-72 [2006], Njoy, 2CD): One disc of studio outtakes. Other disc a live Berkeley concert, climaxing with an 11:02 "Brownsville/Mockingbird" and 9:08 of "Laugh, Don't Laugh." B+(**)

Mory Kanté: Sabou (2004, Riverboat): Guinean griot, became lead singer in Rail Band after Salif Keita left, shortly moving on to his own solo career. B+(***)

Gladys Knight and the Pips: Greatest Hits (1967-70 [1970], Soul): A Motown group from 1966-1973, they started recording around 1958, and continued with Buddha, Columbia, and MCA up to 1988. This starts with three remade pre-Motown singles, which tend to be omitted in later Motown comps, probably because they have several more years of hits to work with. B+(**)

Gladys Knight & the Pips: The Definitive Collection (1967-73 [2008], Motown): Motown never released a Greatest Hits Vol. 2. By 1973, they were issuing their Anthology series (2-LP, 23 tracks, expanded to 40 for the 1986 2-CD). Knight & the Pips have been represented in all the label's reissue series, like the 22-cut The Ultimate Collection (1998), the 11-song The Millennium Collection (2000), and this more recent 18-track edition. I'd like to say this one is the right-sized, but it might be a bit long. B+(***)

Gladys Knight & the Pips: Claudine (1974, Buddah): Cover explains: "The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" and adds "Score Written and Performed by Curtis Mayfield," with some versions also noting stars James Earl Jones and Diahann Carroll. Rather slight, with just six songs and an instrumental running 30:18. B+(***)

Milo: A Toothpaste Suburb (2014, Hellfyre Club): Rapper Rory Ferreira used this name before switching recently to R.A.P. Ferreira. First album, after a 2011 mixtape. Liquid beats, "Buck 65's Knee." B+(**)

Milo: Who Told You to Think??!!?!?!?! (2017, Ruby Yacht): Kenny Segal produced, as on 2016's So the Flies Don't Comme, but fewer (and less famous) guest shots, focuses more on the star. Hard to write about him, but dozens of rhymes catch my ear, which is all it takes for the ditzy beats to work. A-

My Bloody Valentine: Isn't Anything (1988, Relativity): Band from Dublin, reportedly more or less invented "shoegaze," a style where a band plays monotonous guitar riffs while staring passively at their shoes. I can think of examples I like, but not the two (of four) Christgau A-listed albums from this band I bought back in the day (the EP Glider and second LP Loveless). This was their first studio album (per Wikipedia, after two "mini albums" and a live one, on little-known labels). Not totally tuneless, nor totally uninteresting as noise, but no regrets at cutting them short. B [yt]

My Bloody Valentine: Tremolo (1991, Sire): Teaser for their much-anticipated album Loveless, 4 tracks, 18:36. Fucking useless. C+

My Bloody Valentine: MBV (2013, MBV): Band signed with Island in 1992, but never released anything, and officially broke up in 1997. They regrouped to tour in 2008, and eventually hacked up this third album. Title stylized m v b. B-

The Nagel Heyer Allstars: Uptown Lowdown: A Jazz Salute to the Big Apple: Live at the 1999 JVC Festival New York (1999 [2000], Nagel Heyer): Filed this under Randy Sandke, who arranged and directed, and shares the trumpet spot with Warren Vaché. Other Allstars: Allen Vaché, Ken Peplowski, Joe Temperley, and Scott Robinson (reeds); Wycliffe Gordon (trombone), Eric Reed (or Mark Shane, piano), Howard Alden (guitar), Rodney Whitaker (bass), and Joe Ascione (drums). Starts with "The Harlem Medley," and returns to Ellington for the closer. B+(***)

The Naysayer: Deathwhisker (2000, Carrot Top): Singer-songwriter Anna Padgett, first album, with co-founder Cynthia Nelson (drums) and Tara Jane O'Neill (guitar). Understated country-ish. B+(*)

The Naysayer: Pure Beauty (2002 [2003], Carrot Top, EP): Five songs, brighter and funnier than the album, 15:16. B+(***)

Aaron Neville: Make Me Strong (1968-75 [1986], Charly): First repackaging of the Sansu singles, 14 songs, nothing cringeworthy, hits often enough to show off his voice and Toussaint's songcraft. Long out of print. [I cribbed 13/14 songs from the HHO compilation, so should hedge a bit.] B+(***)

Aaron Neville: The Classic Aaron Neville: My Greatest Gift (1966-75 [1990], Rounder): Christgau describes this as an "improved version of Charly's Make Me Strong," but is it? Released in the CD era, it retreats from 14 cuts to 12, repeating 7 obvious ones, adding 5 pretty good others. B+(***)

Aaron Neville: Hercules (1961-75 [1993], Charly): Twenty-cut CD, trims Neville's Sansu selection back to 10 songs, making way for 10 early Minit sides, starting with "Over You." It's possible to find more completist reissues, like Charly's 2011 2-CD, 47-track Hercules: The Minit & Sansu Sessions: 1960-1977, But this gets you what you need, including another very choice cut: "Let's Live." A-

Aaron Neville: Orchid in the Storm (1985, Passport, EP): Six 1950s songs, 19:42, most doo-wop classics, taken slow to show off his high, quavering voice, with a splash of tenor sax (David "Fathead" Newman) on "Pledging My Love." 19:42. B+(***)

Aaron Neville: Nature Boy: The Standards Album (2003, Verve): Jazz label, jazz combo -- including Anthony Wilson (guitar) and Ron Carter (bass) -- plus a few horn spots (Roy Hargrove, Michael Brecker, Ray Anderson), with Linda Ronstadt joining for "The Very Thought of You." I suppose he always sounded mannered, but he never reminded me of José James before (although historically, that would have to be reversed). B+(*)

Aaron Neville: Bring It on Home . . . The Soul Classics (2006, Burgundy): Annoyed at first that Discogs doesn't have any credits, but the closest thing to an obscurity here is "Ain't No Sunshine" (Bill Withers), and that was close to inevitable. B+(**)

New Order: Republic (1993, Qwest): New wave guitar band, produced some of the heaviest disco music of the 1980s, and eventually got popular. Sixth studio album, the only one I missed, perhaps suspecting their run was coming to a close. Indeed, it was eight years before their seventh appeared. Still, this has a slightly lighter texture, as if the grooves are coming more naturally. B+(***)

Nirvana: Hormoaning (1992, DGC, EP): Six-songs, 18:47, released in Japan and Australia only. Four covers, two b-sides to Nevermind singles, four back for the 1992 Incesticide compilation (counting the different take of "Aneurism"). I thought they were ridiculously overrated, but liked the trash they collected in Incesticide, and this is of a piece with that. B+(**) [yt]

No-No Boy: 1942 (2018, No-No Boy): First album, title recalls the concentration camps the US built to lock up 130,000 Japanese-Americans for the duration of WWII. That racism seems like he foundation of the American experience, with Vietnam -- both the war and the exile and resettlement built on it. A-

NRBQ: NRBQ (1969, Columbia): Stands for New Rhythm and Blues Quintet (later Quartet), first album, Terry Adams (piano) the constant over a 50+ year run, with Steve Ferguson (guitar) also contributing original songs, mixed with covers ranging from Eddie Cochran and Sonny Terry/Brownie McGhee to Sun Ra and Carla Bley. Shows their good taste, not the same thing as genius. B+(**)

NRBQ: NRBQ at Yankee Stadium (1978, Mercury): Sixth album, including one with Carl Perkins -- I'm not yet ready to check them all out, but this has a bit of a rep. Adams and/or bassist Joseph Spampinato wrote the originals, plus two for guitarist Al Anderson. Still, none as good as the covers ("Get Rhythm," "Shake, Rattle and Roll"). B+(*)

NRBQ: Kick Me Hard (1979, Rounder/Red Rooster): Aside from the Quartet, a couple horns help out. More songs about buildings and food, not to mention "Wacky Tobacky." B+(*)

Orchestra Makassy: Agwaya (1982, Virgin): East African group, formed in Kampala in 1975 with Zairean and Ugandan musicians, moved to Tanzania to flee Idi Amin, and later to Kenya, disbanding in 1982, leaving this one album. Soukous influence, gently sweetened. A-

Orchestra Makassy: Legends of East Africa: The Original Recordings (1982 [2004], ARC Music): Reissue of Agwaya, plus three extra songs (two previously unreleased), presumably from the same period. ("Ubaya Wa Nini," "Muungano," "Mume Wangu"). A-

Ray Parker Jr.: The Other Woman (1982, Arista): Soul singer, cut two albums (1978-79) as Raydio, two more as Ray Parker Jr. & Raydio (1980-81), then this solo, followed later the same year by Greatest Hits, which with its catchy "Ghostbusters" bonus seemed like the obvious choice. Light touch, funky bass, leads with a hit, trails off toward the end. B+(***)

Parliament: Gloryhallastoopid (Or Pin the Tale on the Funky) (1979, Casablanca): Suspecting a decline, or maybe just a feeling that their extended funk jams were becoming too mechanical, the only one of George Clinton's marquee group's nine 1970-80 I didn't buy. Should have skipped Trombipulation instead, but no real surprise here, other than that you can still grin your way through a whole heep of stoopid. B+(**)

Parliament: Greatest Hits: P. Funk, Uncut Funk, the Bomb (1974-79 [1984], Casablanca): First-generation best-of, ten songs from a group that lost nothing when their 2-CD Tear the Roof Off came out in 1993 (and still had me complaining about omissions). Title songs from their first two Casablancas, only three songs from their two peak 1976 efforts, four more of their later vamp pieces. With their many spinoffs, they defined the 1970s for me. Not exactly my choice cuts, but a solid grounding for those of you who missed them. A

Parliament: The Best of Parliament [20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection] (1974-80 [2000], Mercury): Budget series, limited to 11 cuts, but picking long-ish ones adds up to 67:30. Eight dupes from 1984's Greatest Hits, dropping "Do That Stuff" and "Theme From the Black Hole," adding "Dr. Funkenstein," "Agony of Defeet," and "Testify" (the 1974 album remake of Clinton's 1967 doo-wop hit), while discarding chronological order. I'd rate it a very slight improvement, but "Do That Stuff" is not one I would have sacrificed. A

Party of One: Dead Violet Shannon (2000, Murder of All Music): Minneapolis guitar-bass-drums trio, singer-songwriter named Eric Fifteen, first album. Sketchy, lo-fi, but something here. B+(**) [bc]

Party of One: Caught the Blast (2000-01 [2003], Fat Cat): Second album, new bassist Terrica Kleinknecht sings some, adding an important new dimension to Eric Fifteen's deadpan "oral propaganda." A- [bc]

Party of One: Streetside Surprise (2014, Go Johnny Go): A third album for Eric Fifteen's group, a decade after their second. New band, quartet this time, with bassist Joe Holland returning from the first album. B+(**)

Pavement: Slay Tracks: 1933-1969 (1989, Treble Kicker, EP): Five songs, 14:02, the most important alt/indie band of the 1990s makes its debut, with the nu-punk "You're Killing Me," the psyhedelic folk "Box Elder," and three more less coherent stabs at guitar noise. No idea what the dates signify. Reissued in 1993 as the first 5 (of 23) songs on Westing (by Muskeet and Sextant). A-

Pavement: Demolition Plot J-7 (1989 [1990], Drag City, EP): Second EP, six tracks, 11:52, also in Westing. B/W cover, monochromatic noise, doubt there's anything brilliant buried here, but hard to tell. B+(*)

Pavement: Perfect Sound Forever (1989 [1990], Drag City, EP): Seven songs, 11:52, originally on 10-inch vinyl. B+(**)

Pavement: Terror Twilight (1999, Matador): Fifth (and final) album, after two EPs I haven't heard (Pacific Trim and Shady Lane), closing out their decade before Stephen Malkmus launched his now-longer solo career. Malkmus is such an odd vocalist that good Pavement albums seem like uncanny miracles. Took me three plays to concede that this is another of them. A-

Johnny Paycheck: Johnny Paycheck's Greatest Hits (1972-74 [1974], Epic): Country singer Donald Eugene Lytle (1938-2003), recorded for Little Darlin' in the late 1960s -- I liked CMF's 1996 The Real Mr. Heartache: The Little Darlin' Years -- before signing with Billy Sherrill at Epic in 1972. This seems a little premature, as his only number one hit didn't come until 1977, but this reduces five albums, adding two non-album singles (one a duet with Jody Miller). "She's All I Got" was the closest thing to a hit here. It's pretty good, but not the only song here George Jones sang better. B-

Johnny Paycheck: Greatest Hits, Volume 2 (1975-78 [1978], Epic): His breakthrough came in 1978 with his David Allen Coe-penned hit, "Take This Job and Shove It." He moves into his "outlaw" phase here, which puts some swagger into his voice, and must have been fun until he got busted in the 1980s. B+(**)

Johnny Paycheck: 16 Biggest Hits (1971-79 [1999], Epic): Doesn't quite go to the end (1982) of his Epic period, but a good, solid selection of his 1970s singles, slanted toward his "outlaw" years, since that's where the better songs lie. B+(***)

Johnny Paycheck: Mr. Hag Told My Story (1981, Epic): In 1980, Paycheck recorded Double Trouble with George Jones, mostly playing old rock songs for yucks: "Roll Over Beethoven," "Tutti Frutti," especially "Along Came Jones") and the single, "When You're Ugly Like Us (You Just Naturally Got to Be Cool)." The introductions here are just short of brown-nosing, but the songs aren't predictable, and the band is Merle & the Strangers. B+(**)

Pearl Jam: Ten (1991, Epic): In the early 1990s I found myself turning to jazz, to old blues and country, to anything but rock and rap, which fell under the spell of grunge and gangsta. The former was dominated by a rash of Seattle bands, of which this one was ostensibly number two (after Nirvana and, maybe, Soundgarden). First album. I still don't get the grunge concept here, or much of anything else. B

Pearl Jam: Yield (1998, Epic): Fifth studio album, the second (after Vitalogy -- the only one I got suckered into buying) Christgau A-listed. This is a bit better, or at least less monotonous. That leaves three more Christgau * or ** albums I won't trouble myself with, as well as scores of live albums he didn't touch. B+(*)

Teddy Pendergrass: TP (1980, Philadelphia International): Former lead singer with Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (1970-75), went solo in 1977 and reeled off five platinum albums before a 1982 car crash left him paralyzed from the chest down. This was the fourth, long on ballads and schmaltz. B+(**)

Teddy Pendergrass: Greatest Hits (1977-80 [1984], Philadelphia International): Nine cuts from the five platinum albums, for my money superseded by the 15-song 1998 Greatest Hits on The Right Stuff (8 repeats). I tend to favor his upbeat songs, but they he slips in some sheer seduction like "Close the Door." A-

Teddy Pendergrass: The Essential Teddy Pendergrass (1972-84 [2007], Philadelphia International/Legacy, 2CD): Picks up some early cuts with Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, and touches his first Asylum album. Lots of good material, but I find fatigue setting in. B+(***)

Esther Phillips: Esther Phillips Sings (1966, Atlantic): R&B singer Esther Mae Jones, joined Johnny Otis' Rhythm and Blues Caravan at age 14, scoring several hits early on. Second of five 1965-70 albums for Atlantic, with Oliver Nelson, Ray Ellis & Jimmy Wisner arranging the big band and strings. Fine singer, not much else to recommend. B

Esther Phillips: Burnin': Live at Freddie Jett's Pied Piper, L.A. (1970, Atlantic): Large (10 piece) band, arranged and produced by saxophonist King Curtis. B+(**)

Esther Phillips: Conessin' the Blues (1966-70 [1976], Atlantic): Good selection of blues material from the late 1960s, first side with big bands stocked with jazz musicians like Sonny Criss, Teddy Edwards, and Herb Ellis. Second side small groups, but in all cases her voice is gripping. A-

Esther Phillips: Black-Eyed Blues (1973, Kudu): She left Atlantic in 1970 for Kudu, which was Creed Taylor's soul division (although their roster included a lot of soul-oriented jazz musicians, like Grant Green, Lonnie Smith, and Grover Washington). Third Kudu album. Six songs (33:53), title from Chris Stainton and Joe Cocker, others range from Ellington to Withers. Pee Wee Ellis arranged the horns, and Bob James the strings. A-

Esther Phillips: The Essential Esther Phillips: The Kudu Years (1971-77 [2018], Legacy, 2CD): Note the qualifier, as this skips the first 20 years of her career, as well as the last 7, before she died in 1984 (at 48). This picks 33 songs from 7 albums -- by reputation uneven ones, but she's such a consistently powerful singer they flow like one, and the bands are well stocked with jazz talent. A-

Esther Phillips: Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song): 1984/New York City (1984 [2007], Jazzwerkstatt): Studio album, recorded March 6, five months before her death on August 7. Originally released by Muse in 1986 as A Way to Say Goodbye, reissued 1999 in Germany by ITM under the new title, which this label expands on. B+(*)

Charlie Rich: The Legendary Sun Classics (1958-62 [2010], Charly): Country singer, became a big star in the 1970s, by which time his early stint with Sam Phillips at least looked good on the résumé. Like most of the label's output, these tracks have been reissued many times, most completely in Bear Family's 3-CD box, The Sun Years, 1958-62. This 14-cut sampler looked like as good a place as any to start. B+(*)

Charlie Rich: The Fabulous Charlie Rich (1970, Epic): After Sun, RCA, and Smash, Rich signed with Epic in 1968 and settled into a pleasant countrypolitan groove. Sporting silver hair at 37, he's smooth and steady, picking good songs that hold up even to Billy Sherrill's strings and chorus. B+(***)

Charlie Rich: The Best of Charlie Rich (1968-72 [1972], Epic): Seems premature after only three Epic albums, only one charting (peak 44). Indeed, I have to hedge here, given that I could only find 8 (of 10) songs on subsequent Epic compilations I consulted: Greatest Hits (1976), American Originals (1989), Super Hits (1995), Feel Like Going Home: The Essential Charlie Rich (1997, 2CD), 16 Biggest Hits (1999), Love Songs (2000), The Essential Charlie Rich (2007, 2CD) -- the latter, going back to 1959 and forward to 1991, is the one I recommend. B+(***)

Charlie Rich: Pictures and Paintings (1992, Sire): Rich died in 1995 (at 62), leaving this final album, produced by Peter Guralnick, nicely playing up Rich's jazzy side. B+(***)

Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth: All Souled Out (1991, Elektra, EP): I like this genre: "Golden age hip hop." Producer and rapper, six tracks (including two mixes of "Good Life"), 29:09. Nice bounce to this. B+(***)

Max Romeo: Open the Iron Gate (1975 [1978], United Artists): Evidently a reordered, retitled reissue of his 1975 Jamaican album Revelation Time, which means it predates his Island-released 1976 album War Ina Babylon. B+(**)

Diana Ross: Diana (1980, Motown): I love the Supremes as much as anyone, but haven't followed her solo career (just one short best-of in my database, a high B+). So I'm gobsmacked that she recorded this closet Chic album -- all eight songs written by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers. A-

Doug Sahm With the Sir Douglas Quintet: Rough Edges (1969 [1973], Mercury): With Sahm moving on, Mercury scraped together this set of Quintet leftovers. Turns out leftovers is what they do best. B+(***)

Doug Sahm & the Sir Douglas Quintet: The Best of Doug Sahm & the Sir Douglas Quintet 1968-1975 (1968-75 [1990], Mercury): CD era best-of, 22 tracks vs. 12 for Takoma's 1980 Best of, where the last 4 tracks were missing from The Complete Mercury Recordings -- two from Atlantic albums, two more that are among the album's best. A-

Doug Sahm: Hell of a Spell (1979 [1980], Takoma): After Chrysalis bought John Fahey's Takoma label, they scrounged around for artists, and found Sahm available. The label requested a batch of blues, so Sahm dedicated this to Guitar Slim, and capped eight originals with a powerful turn on "The Things That I Used to Do." B+(***)

Doug Sahm: Juke Box Music (1989, Antone's): He recorded for Sonet in Sweden after Takoma, and lived in Canada for a spell, but here he is back in Austin, with 15 short songs, only three bearing his byline. Rhythm and blues, mostly obscure, ample horns. B+(**)

Doug Sahm: The Last Real Texas Blues Band (1988-94 [1994], Antone's): Live at Antone's Nightclub in Austin, six tracks left over from 1988, eight more presumably more recent, nearly all blues covers. B+(*)

Del Shannon: Greatest Hits (1961-70 [1990], Rhino): Rock/pop star from the unjustly ignored early 1960s, hit number one with his debut single ("Runaway"), went top 20 3 more times (7 in UK), up through 1964 ("Keep Searchin'"). There are dozens of best-ofs with the same dozen-plus songs, plus varying hard-to-find filler. Christgau likes Music Club's 16-cut This Is . . . Del Shannon, but I gave up 3 songs short. I liked him enough at the time I'm surprised I didn't pick this up, from Rhino's pre-Warners golden age, but again I'm 3 short of 20 cuts (only 1 shy of 14 on on the cassette). B+(***)

Del Shannon: This Is . . . Del Shannon (1961-66 [1997], Music Club): Sixteen cuts, different picks toward the end, doesn't make much difference, not even the slightly better hits/also-rans/filler ratio. [13/16] B+(***)

Sir Douglas Quintet: The Best of Sir Douglas Quintet (1965-66 [1966], Tribe): Rock band from San Antonio, led by Doug Sahm with Augie Meyers, had a breakthrough hit in 1965 with "She's a Mover," their signature a loud, pumping organ with a Tex-Mex accent. First album ("best of" could have been "rest of"), closest thing to a second hit was "The Rains Came" (31) with "Mendocino" (27) in the future. B+(**)

Sir Douglas Quintet: The Best of Sir Douglas Quintet . . . Plus! (1965-67 [2000], Westside): Adds nine tracks, singles on Tribe and other period pieces. Napster attributes this to Edsel, release date 1980, but Discogs doesn't confirm, so I went with an edition that matches what Napster offers -- partly because the title makes the point. Edsel does have a 2-CD compilation, The Crazy Cajun Recordings, that includes everything here plus much more. The extras are about as scattered as everything else. B+(**)

Sir Douglas Quintet +2: Honkey Blues (1968, Smash): Feels like they're aiming for a soul record, but as the title indicates, they have doubts. The "+2" are extra horns. Seven tracks (28:53). B

Sir Douglas Quintet: Mendocino (1969, Smash): Title cut their second biggest hit (and last of 3 to crack the top 40). They also reclaim "She's About a Mover" here. B+(**)

Sir Douglas Quintet: Together After Five (1970, Smash): Seems like he's -- all songs by Doug Sahm, except for a Dylan bit in a medley -- hit his metier, steady as it goes, no hits but everything sounds distantly related. B+(**)

Sir Douglas Quintet: 1+1+1=4 (1970, Philips): All five band members are named on the cover, but Doug Sahm is the only one on every track, and he only wrote 5 (or 6, of 11), the band ranging from 4 to 10 musicians, so sometimes you get a big band feel. While that's a little strange, it's not so bad. B+(*)

Sir Douglas Quintet: The Return of Doug Saldaña (1971, Philips): The band is back together -- at least Sahm, Meyer, and drummer John Perez, with Ricky Morales taking over on sax, and auditions for bass -- still feels more like a solo singer-songwriter album, but loose and comfortable. Signature song: "Me and My Destiny." A-

Sir Douglas Quintet: The Best of the Sir Douglas Quintet (1968-71 [1980], Takoma): Napster has this as All Time Best: The Takoma Recordings, released 2015 by a label called All Time Best, but aside from order this matches the Takoma best-of. Not inconceivable these were re-recorded, but the simplest explanation is that they were licensed from Mercury (Smash or Phillips). Sahm had moved on (or been pushed out) by 1973, and recorded a couple albums around 1980 for Takoma (after it was bought by Chrysalis). Oddly, Mercury didn't produce its own compilation until the CD era in 1990 (22 tracks vs. the 12 here, definitive until the last two, which sound like the psychedelics just kicked in). A-

Percy Sledge: The Very Best of Percy Sledge (1966-94 [1998], Rhino): Soul singer from Alabama. I long thought of him as a one-hit wonder, for his magnificent "When a Man Loves a Woman" (1966), but he cracked the top 20 three more times to 1968, and left enough stellar material for a best-of compilation, like this one: part of a CD series that normally stops at 16 tracks, but adds an alternate take here. I didn't snap this one up because I was perfectly satisfied with The Ultimate Collection ([1987], Atlantic), which has more songs and sticks to his 1966-69 heyday. One plus here: "True Love Travels on a Gravel Road." A-

Spinners: Spinners (1973, Atlantic): Vocal group, started near Detroit, recorded an album for Motown, but didn't take off until they moved to Atlantic and producer Thom Bell with this, their third album. I totally missed them at the time, and probably didn't put enough time into the best-of I bought much later on. Five songs charted here, but only "I'll Be There" sounds like a hit from the git-go. Still, three plays in even an oddity like "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You" was clicking. A-

Spinners: Mighty Love (1974, Atlantic): Fewer hits, although "I'm Coming Home" and "Mighty Love" suffice. B+(**)

Spinners: New and Improved (1974, Atlantic): Not clear to me that either is true. Dionne Warwick joins for a single. B+(*)

Spinners: Pick of the Litter (1975, Atlantic): Another short record (8 songs, 33:49), slow-to-mid-tempo, some chart songs, everything pretty enticing but nothing quite strikes me as a hit. B+(***)

Spinners: Happiness Is Being With the Spinners (1976, Atlantic): Fifth (and final) gold record with Atlantic, although they carried on, releasing nine more up to 1984. One of their biggest hits ("The Rubberband Man"), nothing else especially memorable. B+(*)

Spinners: The Best of Spinners (1972-76 [1978], Atlantic): Ten tracks, all chart singles, not necessarily the biggest and/or the best hits. A-

Peter Stampfel: Dook of the Beatniks (1999 [2010], Piety Street Files & Archaic): One of only two albums Christgau filed under the auteur's solo name. Hard to get a handle here, especially as YouTube blended into something else, but he's older than me, and I can recall my fascination with the beats, whih we must have shared. B+(***) [yt]

Peter + Zoë Stampfel: Ass in the Air (2010, Jolly Olga): With his daughter, I think, although fact-checking isn't easy. Nor do I have time to figure out what's new and what's old (the latter certainly include "Drink American," "Bad Boy," and "Dook of the Beatniks"). I can't call these duets. At most she's a backup singer, and not just because no one can match his voice. I'm sure songs like "White Man's World" and "Song of Man" are meant ironic, but can't say I enjoyed them. B+(**)

Steel Pulse: Reggae Greats (1978-80 [1984], Mango): Reggae band from Birmingham, England; recorded three albums for Island 1978-80, the basis for this LP series (other single artist volumes: Black Uhuru, Burning Spear, Jimmy Cliff, Gregory Isaacs, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Jacob Miller, Pablo Moses, Lee Perry, Sly & Robbie, Third World, Toots & the Maytals, The Wailers), although the group went on to record for Elektra (1982-85) and MCA (1988-97). Five cuts from Handsworth Revolution, two each from the others, plus a stray single. B+(***)

Gary Stewart: Greatest Hits (1975-81 [1981], RCA): Country singer-songwriter, grew up in Florida, burst on the scene with singles from his debut Out of Hand -- "Drinkin' Thing," "Out of Hand," "She's Acting Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles" -- by far, his best album ever. He was one of the first country artists I got enthusiastic about. (I wrote a rave review of his 1976 album Steppin' Out, then let people talk me into thinking it wasn't that good.) This pulls nine songs from five 1975-78 albums, then tacks on a new single, which later/longer compilations unfortunately didn't bother with -- I constructed my play list from 1997's 20-cut The Essential Gary Stewart, then checked the missing "Let's Forget That We're Married" on YouTube. A-

Gary Stewart: The Essential Gary Stewart (1974-82 [1997], RCA): Twenty tracks, ends with the title cut from his 1982 duo album with Dean Dillon, Brotherly Love. This was part of an impressive series of CD reissues, and Stewart easily fills the bill. Stewart also appeared in the slightly shorter RCA Country Legends (2004). After mergers, Sony's Legacy reused the title here for a 2-CD 2015 compilation. Also that my favorite remains 1991's Gary's Greatest, on Hightone after they licensed Stewart's RCA catalog. I'm also a fan of his MCA demos, released as You're Not the Woman You Used to Be in 1975 to cash in on his RCA hits, and some of his later Hightone records -- for which, see 2002's The Best of the Hightone Years. A-

Gary Stewart: Live at Billy Bob's Texas (2003, Smith Music Group): At 59, his wife of 43 years -- long time for a guy who made his living from cheating songs -- died of pneumonia, and a month later he shot himself dead, leaving this as his last album. Song list is a de facto best-of. A-

Super Mama Djombo: Super Mama Djombo (1979 [2003], Cobiana): Band from Guinea-Bissau, a small former colony of Portugal, which is to say it was a port for exporting slaves. The group was formed in the mid-1970s, released several albums from 1978-83. This is considered a compilation, but seems to come from a single 1980 session. Hard to get a real feel for, but mostly quite upbeat. B+(***)

Systema Solar: Systema Solar (2009 [2010], Chusma): Colombian group, first album (two more through 2017). Raw, exuberant, the turntablism less important than the percussion, but not by much. A-

Howard Tate: Howard Tate (1967 [1969], Verve): Soul singer from Georgia, worked with Jerry Ragavoy, who produced three albums 1967-72, then he basically vanished until Rediscovered in 2003. His first was Get It While You Can, in 1967. This is a reissue, with two extra songs, all impressive, but risks confusion with his 1972 eponymous album. My recommendation is the 1995 CD reissue, with more top-notch material: Get It While You Can: The Legendary Sessions. A-

Howard Tate: Howard Tate's Reaction (1970, Turntable): Second album, produced by Johnny Nash and Lloyd Price, on the latter's label (aka Lloyd Price's Turntable). Uneven, although the singer's leaps and flourishes are impressive. B+(**)

Howard Tate: Howard Tate (1972, Atlantic): Back with Jerry Ragavoy, who produced and wrote most of the songs. Powerful voice, likes to take it over the top. A-

Hound Dog Taylor & the House Rockers: Beware of the Dog! (1974 [1976], Alligator): Blues guitarist-singer, from Mississippi via Chicago, named Theodore Roosevelt Taylor, became a full-time musician in 1957 but didn't get a recording contract until 1971, Recorded two studio albums for Alligator, and had this live one, recorded over several sets in Chicago and Cleveland, in the works before he died in December 1975, age 60. A-

Hound Dog Taylor & the Houserockers: Genuine Houserocking Music (1971-73 [1982], Alligator): Previously unreleased scraps from what we'll have to call his prime period (because it yielded his only two studio albums). Cheap guitars, cracked amplifiers, "couldn't play shit, but sure made it sound good!" Indeed, it does, especially fast and loose. Not sure why these are considered inferior to the album picks. Maybe too many Elmore James licks? Sounds to me like a feature. B+(***)

Johnnie Taylor: Chronicle: 20 Greatest Hits (1968-75 [1977], Fantasy): Rhythm and blues singer, from Arkansas, replaced Sam Cooke in the Soul Stirrers in 1957, signed with Stax in 1966, charted most of his singles there but only one broke top-10 ("Who's Making Love"). Stax folded in 1975, so this ends there, missing his only number one ("Disco Lady" in 1976). Christgau described Taylor as "everything you could ask for a soul singer except great." That's not wrong, but he deserves credit for hitting the mark so consistently. A-

Irma Thomas: Sweet Soul Queen of New Orleans: The Irma Thomas Collection (1961-66 [1996], Razor & Tie): From New Orleans, recorded for Ron as a teenager in the late 1950s, then for Minit and Imperial during this prime period, and kept working into the 1980s. No big hits, but songs like "It's Raining," "Ruler of My Heart," and "Time Is on My Side" are indelibly etched in my brain. [NB: I found 22 (of 23) songs on The Irma Thomas Collection 1961-1966 (Capitol Catalog), which doesn't show up on Discogs.] A-

Butch Thompson: Butch Thompson Plays Jelly Roll Morton Solos (1968 [1996], Biograph): Ragtime/trad jazz pianist from Minnesota, recorded two LPs of Morton solos in 1968. This matches the second, Vol. 2, but the smaller print on the cover now reads: "Classic New Orleans Jazz Vol. 3 From the Rare Center Series." Not sure what else appeared in the series (first two volumes were by George Lewis and Jim Robinson) -- I can only speculate that they went with Vol. 2 here because it has more famous songs. B+(***)

Butch Thompson: Thompson Plays Joplin (1997 [1998], Daring): Solo piano, ten Joplin pieces plus three others (Arthur Marshall and Louis Chauvin, both of whom wrote with Joplin). As expertly paced and finely tuned as any ragtime set I can recall. A-

Charles Tolliver Music Inc: Live in Tokyo (1973 [1974], Strata-East): Trumpet player, used "Music Inc" as his group name on his 1969 debut (The Ringer), and kept that through the 1970s, although the only constant in his quartets was pianist Stanley Cowell (co-founder of Strata-East Records). With Clint Houston (bass) and Clifford Barbar (drums). Three originals, one by Cowell, and "'Round Midnight." B+(**) [yt]

Further Sampling

Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.

Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society: Mandatory Reality (2017 [2021], Eremite): [1/4, 23:39/81:39] +

Hedvig Mollestad Trio: Ding Dong. You're Dead. (2021, Rune Grammofon): Norwegian guitar-bass-drums trio. [2/7] +

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:


Gilberto Gil/Jorge Ben: Gil E Jorge (1975 [1992], Verve): Two stars meet up, or collide. Alternate (original?) title: Ogum, Xangô. I bought the CD long ago, found it bewildering, and only gradually acclimated myself to radical fringe artists like Tom Zé, who took advantage of these liberties. Most striking now: how neither singer-guitarist backs down or shies away. [was: B] A-

Johnny Shines: Johnny Shines (1970 [1991], Hightone): Christgau: "the most vigorous surviving practitioner of acoustic Delta blues." He was reviewing an eponymous album recorded 1968 and given a US release on Blue Horizon in 1972. Seemed like this might be the one, but per Discogs this was recorded in 1970 and released by Advent in 1974. Christgau's album seems to be more properly titled Blues Masters Vol. 7, with a "The Complete Series" sticker on the cover (Vol. 1 was by Magic Sam). Also turns out I had this one, slightly misfiled, in the database already, so this is a regrade. [was: B] B+(**)

Music Weeks

Current count 35522 [35287] rated (+235), 208 [220] unrated (-12).

Excerpts from this month's Music Week posts:

March 3, 2021

Music: Current count 35336 [35287] rated (+49), 220 [220] unrated (+0).

The music part is easy enough to introduce. Early in the week, I pulled enough new music from the demo queue to keep the backlog count even. I tried to grab things that were already available, but I went ahead with Simon Moullier (out June 11) after I inadvertently slapped it on. The other future release is the new James Brandon Lewis, coming out later this week. I couldn't wait.

I did a little work last week adding jazz records to my tracking file, so that suggested some of the new non-CD records, and leaves me more for the future. First time I did that this year, but the list currently has 109 unheard records (almost all jazz), in addition to the 226 records I have rated (or have in my queue). Still far from exhaustive. (I've only made it about 50% of the way through Discogs 2021 jazz list, and have only picked out records that struck me as interesting.)

More old music again. I lost track of where I was with my file of albums that Christgau has graded but I haven't heard, so started again at the top, with Asleep at the Wheel and Asylum Street Spankers. I like the former's more recent Bob Wills tributes (Ride With Bob and Still the King), also the Spankers' The Last Laugh, but had heard little of their earlier work. I also had totally missed Sam Baker. Still working on him.

Before that I took a dive into Jorge Ben, who Christgau hasn't reviewed (except for Gil E Jorge). I had listened to a fair amount of Gilberto Gil recently, which led to the Ben recommendation. I had two unrated Ben albums in my database: Tropical and Samba Nova, both on Mango in 1976, but I couldn't find the LPs. I did find the former on YouTube, but not the latter -- a comp from 1970-74 albums, but I couldn't find enough of them to assemble a songlist, so I wound up dropping it from my unrated list.

While researching the Ben albums, I was surprised to find Wikipedia citing my grades for albums I had never heard before. Turns out the grades came from a notebook entry, where I had squirreled away a multi-part "Jorge Ben Projeto" that Rodney Taylor had posted on the now-defunct MSN Expert Witness forum. Taylor covers everything there, but it turns out he later revised and greatly expanded his piece, available on his Brazil Beat blog. Someone should alert Wikipedia and get them to credit the grades properly. They definitely shouldn't drop them, nor should they substitute (or even include) my new grades, which are little more than guesses from someone who knows very little about Brazilian music, who doesn't speak or follow the language, and who has rarely heard these records more than once or twice.

For resources on Brazilian music, I should also mention Cam Patterson's Brazil Project, which also dates from MSN EW days (2011), and I've long hosted in my "guests" space. Knowing a little bit more now than I did then, I should revisit the piece and check out some of his recommendations.

Still not finding much new non-jazz that appeals to me, but I'm not looking very hard. Just notice Phil Overeem's Most Euphonious Fruit of First Quarter, 2021, so I have work to do catching up, but will note that his 3 and 5 picks are new jazz: James Brandon Lewis's Jesup Wagon and Miguel Zenon's Law Years, which rank pretty high on my 2021 list.

Christgau wrote a nice, ungraded review of Peter Stampfel's 20th Century in 100 Songs. I slogged through the Bandcamp a while back, and gave it a B+(**). Chances are that in CD-sized chunks, with the nice packaging and extensive documentation, it might rate better -- although I may have already cut him some slack.

March 10, 2021

Music: Current count 35378 [35336] rated (+42), 220 [220] unrated (+0).

Mostly old music again, continuing down my list of albums graded by Christgau but unheard (at least in that specific release) by me. Started with Sam Baker, whose earlier (somewhat better) albums were reviewed last week. At this late date, the records tend to get a single play (unless something seems like it might be worth clarifying). I also occasionally check out lesser graded albums that catch my fancy (e.g., Lester Bangs, Handsome Boy Modelling School)), and delve deeper into some catalogs. I'm not done with Z.Z. Hill, although I'm pretty sure that the essential album is Malaco's 1986 Greatest Hits.

I've resorted my 2021 pending list to keep the records in release order. I'm trying to review things that are out, and hold back on future releases (3 well into June). Would probably be more helpful to sort the box I keep them in, but that's harder to do. Only six records in the queue that are out now but I haven't gotten to.

Very sad this week to hear that Ed Ward died. (For obituaries, see: New York Times; NPR; Rolling Stone; Austin American-Statesman. Ward was one of the main rock critics I read in the mid-1970s, leading to my own brief fling at freelance rock crit. I never met him, but we corresponded a bit, and I remember him as being very open and supportive. I learned a lot from his section in Rock of Ages: The Rolling Stone History of Rock & Roll. In recent years, he returned to Austin, and published two volumes of rock history, up to 1977.

Two more deaths need to be noted here. Lloyd Price (88) was a major r&b and pop star in the 1950s. His early Specialty hits are worth owning (e.g., Lawdy!), but his 1956-60 pop hits (see Greatest Hits: The Original ABC-Paramount Recordings) are the ones I remember from my youth. In the 1960s he moved into business, and seems to have been quite successful there, too.

Curtis Fuller (86) also died. He was one of the most prolific trombonists of the hard bop era, most notably with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (1961-66), but he led a couple dozen album, and played on many more, with a great many of the luminaries of the era. I recognized dozens of albums on his credits list, but when I went to compile an A-list I was surprised not to find many (9, 3 of those with Blakey; others with Sonny Clark, John Coltrane, Art Farmer, Benny Golson, Blue Mitchell, Ernie Wilkins; surprised by how many records on the list I've heard of but haven't heard).

March 17, 2021

Music: Current count 35420 [35378] rated (+42), 216 [220] unrated (-4).

Robert Christgau published his Consumer Guide: May, 2021 last week. It included reviews of five albums I had previously weighed in on (his grades in bold, mine in brackets):

  • Carsie Blanton: Love and Rage (So Ferocious) A- [A-]
  • Lana Del Rey: Chemtrails Over the Country Club (Polydor/Interscope) A- [B+(**)]
  • Milo: So the Flies Don't Come (2015, Ruby Yacht) A- [B+(**)]
  • Todd Snider: First Agnostic Church of Hope and Wonder (Aimless) B+ [A-]
  • Spillage Village: Spilligion (2020, Dreamville/Sincethe80s/Interscope) A [B+(*)]

Only one of these I've replayed is the Milo, which I could have nudged up a notch, but didn't have to. Spilligion got a lot of favorable press late last year, but I only gave it a single play. I checked out records by Khaira Arby and Milo below. I'm feeling a bit iffy about Arby, which strikes me as a bit raw. If I had the time, I might wind up preferring her 2015 album Gossip (unreviewed by Christgau) over the new Live in New York 2010. But I moved on.

Otherwise, I spent more time with my project of checking out old Christgau-graded but unheard-by-me albums -- a list I've been updating as I go along. I did run into a snag on Sunday, when Napster dropped into a deep funk, interrupting the music stream every few seconds, making it nearly impossible to listen to. I finally rebooted, in case background processes were hogging the computer, but with nothing else running it got worse than ever. I've complained. If the problem isn't fixed soon, I should look into other streaming services. Or give up. I can't say as I'm enjoying this very much.

March 24, 2021

Music: Current count 35475 [35420] rated (+55), 214 [216] unrated (-2).

While I was fretting about yesterday's Israel/Palestine post, I kept powering through the unheard Christgau A-list (Nirvana to Johnny Shines this week), accumulating a substantial Old Music section. In between, I played some new jazz from my demo queue. The most tedious part occurred when I was looking for a compilation that wasn't on Napster. Sometimes I could synthesize one (or at least come damn close) by selecting tracks from other albums. This underscored for me what a mess trying to review compilations is. Several times I punted, when I couldn't find enough, but I decided I was close enough for Del Shannon.

Sometimes I'd find a searched-for album (like Agwaya) elsewhere, which led me to an extended alternative. Some compilations (like the Johnny Paycheck Greatest Hits) had to be reconstructed from later compilations. Some I looked for frustrated me. One on the list I didn't bother trying was the Rolling Stones' Rewind (1971-1984). Undoubtedly an A-, but already had many of those.

I've had less luck with YouTube lately. There must be some method for creating a playlist to sequence of song/videos approximating an album, but I don't know how to do it. I'll also note that I've seen a couple albums now on Spotify that aren't on Napster. My problems with streaming on Napster have largely abated -- I'm not convinced they won't reappear, as nothing's really changed -- so I find myself wondering whether it might be time to pick a different resource. Any expert opinions appreciated.

Starting with Sir Douglas Quintet this week. One more Monday in May, so it might be good to push to the end of the list this week, then take a fresh look at 2021 music in June. Following Christgau's May Consumer Guide, people on Facebook have been praising No-No Boy, so I did finally give his new record a spin, and liked it enough to go back to his debut, which is approximately as good. The concentration camp pieces remind me to recommend Big Bands Behind Barbed Wire, a 1998 record by Anthony Brown's Asian American Jazz Orchestra.

Surprise appearance in Facebook's "People You May Know": Mike Pompeo. One "mutual friend," a childhood neighbor I've seen once in 50 years, but thought it would be cool to add him to my limited set of "Facebook friends." By the way, my original intent in joining Facebook was to follow some family members who adopted it as their primary means of communication. Since then, I've only added people I know personally, plus a few I've corresponded with. I regularly get "friend requests" from musicians, and ignore them: nothing personal, but I don't want to see the feed clogged up with music stuff.

March 31, 2021

Music: Current count 35522 [35475] rated (+47), 208 [214] unrated (-6).

Mostly old music again, continuing down the unheard Christgau list from Sir Douglas Quintet/Doug Sahm to Butch Thompson. As I'm mostly stopping for Christgau A-listers, my own grades are skewed considerably above the usual curve. I'm 71% through the file, so I'm a couple weeks from ending my first pass (and I skipped bunches of things I didn't feel like at the time). One problem I run into a lot is compilations that are no longer in print. In most cases, I can match them with song lists picked up from other compilations, so that's what I'm doing. If I'm missing 1-3 songs, I can usually pick them up on YouTube, not that the experience is the same. YouTube has been a valuable fallback, but also a nuisance, especially when it automatically segues to something else. I almost never play something twice there, which may be why Dook of the Beatniks stalled out for me.

May archive is finished, but I haven't done the requisite indexing, or unpacked the usual Music Week comments. I'll get to them later in the week. Beginning to feel like taking some time to see what else is new, but it's easier to keep ticking off a list. Another one that might be worth exploring is this one by Brazil Beat.

While working on Peter Stampfel albums this week, I found this interview, and thought it may be of interest, both on the new box and damn near everything that came before it. Among many items of interest is a discussion of Allen Lowe's latest (and greatest) project, Turn Me Loose White Man (30 CDs, plus notes on every song -- when I bought my copy, I only got one book, but the second volume came in the mail last week, so new buyers should be the whole package; link here).

Robert Christgau wrote a review of Eric Weisbard's Songbooks: The Literature of American Popular Music. I like the idea of a book about books, so ordered a copy. Back in my teens, I developed a technique for speed-reading American history books: just read the footnotes, which is where academic historians consign their own opinions, and the bibliography (especially if it is annotated). I learned a helluva lot that way. (Of course, I also had the benefit of Robert Wine's 8th grade Amerian history course -- by far the best grade school teacher I ever had. Much later, I came up with a game: go to bookstore, pick up E.D. Hirsch's Cultural Literacy and go to a random page, check whether you knew the item. I always did, and a good 80% of the items I recalled learning in Wine's class. Of course, that also says something about Hirsch.) The footnotes give you perspective, some insight into how the author thinks, and also a quick sense of what others understand about the subject. Even more useful was pouring over John A. Garraty's Historical Viewpoints, a large book of interviews with prominent American historians. (Later came out in two paperback volumes -- long out of print and damn hard to find.) Hoping Weisbard's book will provide a similar map.

Notes

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

  • [cd] based on physical cd
  • [cdr] based on an advance or promo cd or cdr
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com
  • [yt] available at youtube.com