Album Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Jun 24, 2020  |  16 comments
Billed by his label as a “long lost masterpiece by Neil Young”, referred to by fans as “one of Young’s mysterious, great ‘lost albums’” and described by Young himself as “the one that got away”, Homegrown was recorded mostly between late 1974 and early ’75, with one track from late spring ‘74 and another from late summer of that year.

Malachi Lui  |  Jun 22, 2020  |  11 comments
A lawsuit. A specific club night. Films that you’ll never see. A stray cat. Extremely rare posters and promo items that probably ended up in landfill. An unrealized menstrual abacus egg timer. Several buildings.

Mentioned above are Factory Communications catalog items that frustrate completists; they’re unobtainable. Sure, you can get pieces of the buildings, or a picture of the cat, or track down people with (drug-influenced) memories of the party. But if you weren’t there, you really weren’t there and can’t go back. Only remnants of the Manchester label’s catalog oddities remain.

Evan Toth  |  Jun 03, 2020  |  11 comments
Jason Isbell might just be a genuine modern country legend in the making. After his early years (2001-2007) with the alternative country-rock band, Drive-By Truckers Isbell went solo, releasing several critically acclaimed albums: some under his own name and others with the support of his backing band, the 400 Unit. Isbell quit drugs and alcohol in 2012 and subsequently married his second wife: songwriter, backup singer and fiddle player, Amanda Shires. They had their first child in 2015. Most recently, Isbell worked with John Prine on his final album, The Tree of Forgiveness and following Prine's death in April of 2020 penned in The New York Times a moving and intimate opinion piece

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 01, 2020  |  34 comments
Last May 11th 2019 guest conductor Bernard Haitink conducted the BPO in his final performance with the orchestra. At the time plans were made to record the performance of Bruckner's 7th symphony "Direct-to-Disc" neither the orchestra nor the conductor knew it would be their last collaboration. Haitink announced his retirement shortly after the concert.

Michael Fremer  |  May 23, 2020  |  2 comments
Tucson Arizona-based minimalist synth, guitar and drum duo Trees Speak (with help from friends) released a limited to 100 edition white label 45 rpm single that quickly sold out. The story goes the action caught the attention of the U.K. based Soul Jazz Records label, which originally specialized in reggae, ska, dub and soul and later expanded its reach to include “world music”, mostly sourced from Africa and Brazil. More recently the label increased its reach to include electronica, which is probably how this duo’s full length album of minimalist, cinematic collages got a Soul Jazz release.

Malachi Lui  |  May 05, 2020  |  22 comments
Drake is now a walking corporation. Actually, he’s an entire industry. As he enters his career’s second decade, he’s invincible in a way unseen since Michael Jackson (to whom Drake frequently compares himself). He escapes every scandal unscathed: a secret kid with a porn star, accusations of sexual harassment, cultural appropriation, and using ghostwriters; Pusha T’s brutal diss track, and questions regarding contact with teen celebrities don’t harm the artist born Aubrey Graham. Just one of the above kills or greatly diminishes most stars’ relevance; Drake is so culturally omnipresent that he won’t go away anytime soon. Whenever he drops a somewhat mediocre lead single, I say “he’s struggling for relevance now, his reign is almost over.” And? Said single becomes an inescapable hit. The full-length project drops, and everyone walking the earth stops dead in their tracks to stream it. His music is meant to sound emotionally genuine, yet nowadays Drake and his OVO team carefully calculate his every word.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 23, 2020  |  2 comments
Cushioned by the Netherlands-based Matangi String Quartet, plus bass drums, percussion and occasional guitar, singer/songwriter/pianist Lori Lieberman delivers a tender, occasionally excruciatingly intimate song cycle replete with regret, heartache, abandonment, longing and loss.

Jeff Flaim  |  Mar 31, 2020  |  15 comments
Brooklyn- based quartet Big Thief formed after all four of its members— Adrianne Lenker (guitar, vocals), Buck Meek (guitar, backing vocals), Max Oleartchik (bass), and James Krivchenia (drums)— had graduated from the Berklee College Of Music.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 30, 2020  |  22 comments
If you're saying Monk's creative juices had begun to dry up by the time he signed with Columbia Records and released this 1963 label debut album you'll get no argument from me. But Monk, all of 46 when this was recorded, had a secret weapon: his rock'n'roll band of the hard-blowing Charlie Rouse on tenor sax, John Ore on bass and Frankie Dunlop on drums.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 25, 2020  |  7 comments
These two releases, one culled from a 2006 Rhino Tony Joe White compilation and the other a new one from APO (an Analogue Productions label) are naturals for a linked review.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 19, 2020  |  4 comments
What better time than now for the all-analog resurrection of this Chesky classic? Easter is three weeks away (though “Oh Great Mystery” is really about Christmas) and home lock down in a dreary time is here now.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 17, 2020  |  15 comments
I didn’t know who Mandy Moore was when the press blurb arrived in my inbox. Incredible Boomer ignorance. What my eyes latched onto was the blurb’s “laid down to tape” line. A web search quickly informed my Boomer/pop culture cluelessness! I should be embarrassed, but I don’t embarrass easily.
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 14, 2020  |  6 comments
Charles Lloyd turns 82 tomorrow (March 15th). Two years ago, to celebrate his 80th, Dorothy Darr, his wife/manager and herself an artist, threw a year-long party for him and as a present made him work.

Lloyd and his group toured, with each stop a celebration. On his birthday the entourage pulled into his hometown of Santa Barbara, California and performed at the 150 year old Lobero Theater.

The annotation notes that Lloyd has played there more often than any other venue and more often than any other performer, so it was a true homecoming celebration with “kindred spirits” on-stage and in the audience.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 29, 2020  |  7 comments
Tenor saxophonist Jerome Sabbagh's follow up to The Turn, a duet album with guitarist Greg Tuohey arrived quite some time ago. I've been playing it repeatedly trying to get a grasp.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 22, 2020  |  2 comments
R. Crumb’s cover illustration first drew me to this record, which recently arrived with others sent by Third Man Records. It opened to a triple gatefold that provided a fairly complete backgrounder on the folk violinist Alexis Zoumbas who was born in Ioannina, the capital of Epirus the Northern Greece region adjacent to Albania between the Pindus Mountains and the Ionian Sea. The notes by producer Christopher King suggest listening to the opening track “Epirotiko Mirologi” with undivided attention, which means stopping reading the extensive annotation.

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