Album Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Dec 23, 2021  |  9 comments
The term “singer/songwriter” hadn’t yet been coined when the “hotter’n a depot stove” 29 year-old songwriter Willie Nelson stepped into the studio to record his debut album for Liberty Records. Back then, you were either a songwriter or a singer, though of course there were a very few who were both. Here, Nelson proves he was one of them

Malachi Lui  |  Dec 13, 2021  |  9 comments
Uniquely deviating from the overplayed standard holiday music fare, Yen Records’ We Wish You A Merry Christmas is a Christmas LP actually worth your time, energy, and money. With exclusive material from Haruomi Hosono, Yukihiro Takahashi, Miharu Koshi, Taeko Ohnuki, Moonriders, and others, it creatively rounds up the YMO orbit in a cohesive holiday listen.

Michael Fremer  |  Dec 10, 2021  |  2 comments
This Village Vanguard Inside Straight set was recorded December 2014 a week before bassist McBride recorded with his trio another Village Vanguard engagement that became his Mack Avenue debut album.

Malachi Lui  |  Dec 07, 2021  |  14 comments
Primal Scream’s Screamadelica, released in September 1991, captured late 80s/early 90s UK rave culture’s peak. Unlike that era’s other UK “guitar bands” making dance music, Primal Scream was a Rolling Stones-esque rock band that—with the help of producers including Andrew Weatherall, The Orb, Terry Farley, and Hypnotone as well as singer Denise Johnson—drew from acid house in a seamless transition towards the current time. While it now sounds a bit dated, it remains a well-produced, relevant piece of rock history whose energy transcends any stylistic setbacks.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 30, 2021  |  4 comments
The always defiant, sometimes bitter and often angry Charles Mingus had a habit of declaring more than a few of his records as his best, including this one. He might be correct about The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady recorded January, 1963, though Tijuana Moods and several others are definitely in the running.

Malachi Lui  |  Nov 24, 2021  |  2 comments
In June 1968, to record their second album Wow/Grape Jam, San Francisco psych rock band Moby Grape traveled to Columbia Records’ New York studios. Towards these sessions’ end, guitarist Alexander “Skip” Spence vanished with an acid mystic known only as “Johanna.” Her LSD induced a three-day trip, during which a paranoid Spence turned against his bandmates. Two days later, Spence reappeared at the band’s hotel with a fire axe; when he didn’t find them there, he hailed a cab to the studio, ready to attack. “His eyes were like one-arm bandits,” producer David Rubinson recounted in 2009. Police arrested Spence, who then spent five months in Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric ward.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 10, 2021  |  4 comments
If Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas is a melancholic look back at childhood Christmas viewed through the eyes of the Peanuts gang, Duke Pearson's 1969 Blue Note release Merry Ole Soul is the Christmas record you'll want to play at a hip holiday cocktail party.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 03, 2021  |  18 comments
Ella Fitzgerald's Christmas album is a secular holiday delight sure to please every listener, even atheists and agnostics. Originally released in 1960, the sound here is warm and inviting as a Yule log burning in the fireplace—once you get past the opener "Jingle Bells", which is somewhat brighter, brasher and more in your face than the rest, though having Ella in your face is hardly problematic.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 02, 2021  |  12 comments
In the worthy annotation to this historically remarkable release, educator and author of the biography “John Coltrane His Life and Music” Lewis Porter provides a play by play of this unlikely nightclub performance of Coltrane’s worshipful masterpiece recorded October 2nd 1965.

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 28, 2021  |  40 comments
(photo: Jeremy Neech)
The blank white The Beatles double LP gatefold jacket intended to show the world that the group was finished with busy, production heavy studio creations that relied for completion upon production tricks and gimmickry. Instead, the group wanted to emphasize musicianship and “live play”.

Never mind that the songs sometimes ended up being more individual than group efforts and that squabbling and disagreement led to acrimony as well as long time engineer Geoff Emerick exiting, producer George Martin going on holiday and even Ringo Starr walking out for a few weeks.

Malachi Lui  |  Oct 24, 2021  |  4 comments
The cover of Fishmans’ “new” live LP Wakainagaramo Rekishi Ari (“Young, But With History”) might mislead you: after all, the drummer is wearing his own merch, the bassist’s baseball cap is far from stylish, and the eccentrically dressed frontman appears disconnected from reality, completely lost in his own music. And unless you live in Japan, you won’t see Fishmans albums in record stores, nor find them on “greatest albums” lists. So, what’s all the hype about?

Mark Dawes  |  Oct 24, 2021  |  7 comments
DJ Format (aka Matt Ford) is a hiphop DJ and producer from Brighton, England. DJ Shadow (aka Josh Davis) is a hiphop DJ and producer from Sacramento, California. Brighton and Sacramento; not the first urban centers you think of in relation to groundbreaking hiphop production. Format and Shadow, however, are at either end of a 25 year continuum of atmospheric instrumental beats. DJ Shadow’s 1996 debut Endtroducing….. which got a half-speed remastered 25th anniversary edition last month, was composed completely from samples, a methodology shared with DJ Format’s latest LP from 2021 Devil’s Workshop.

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 11, 2021  |  31 comments
(Update: I was wrong. These were cut from files and not from tape. The information I received was not clear. Some of the commenters are correct and I was wrong. I am always happy to end up with egg on my face to get correct facts published. These digital transfers are the best I've heard. I'm leaving the review "as is".. Brief and to the point: This is a previously unreleased Sarah Vaughan fan “must have” double LP set recorded at the Berlin Philharmonie November 9th, 1969 with Vaughan sympathetically backed by a trio of relative unknowns: Johnny Veith on piano, Gus Mancuso on bass and Eddy Pucci on drums. Mancuso’s story is fascinating and worth a read. You’ll have to fend online for yourself for more about the others.

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 05, 2021  |  21 comments
Everything is true that you might have heard or read about this “off the beaten Tone Poet path” release.

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 01, 2021  |  17 comments
The gentle, introspective Bill Evans Trio of The Village Vanguard sessions that produced Sunday At the Village Vanguard and Waltz For Debby yielded two years later to the somewhat more rhythmically assertive trio heard on this December 18th, 1963 Webster Hall recording released early in 1964.

The late bassist Scott LaFaro’s friend Gary Peacock replaced him in the trio with Paul Motian continuing on drums. Though no less cerebral and harmonically tuned in than was LaFaro, Peacock brought to the group a faster, more aggressive rhythmic style punctuated with nimble staccato runs. More tapping of the toes and less tugging at the heart.

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