Album Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Aug 27, 2020  |  10 comments
While you wait for that soon to be released Coltrane Ballads reissue, do yourself a favor and pick up tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath’s worthy final recording. The younger brother of MJQ bassist Percy Heath passed away at age 93 January 19th, 2020 at home in Loganville, Ga.

Heath was as well-known as a composer and arranger as he was as a performer. He began as an alto saxophonist, emulating Charlie Parker but soon switched to tenor to get out from under Bird’s plumage.

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 18, 2016  |  18 comments
Best known to American Miles Davis fans as side one of the twelve inch Columbia Records LP release Jazz Track (CL1268), Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (“Elevator to the Scaffold”), the jazz soundtrack to the Louis Malle film was originally released in France in 1958 on the Fontana label as a 10” LP.

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?

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 22, 2018  |  24 comments
Startling when first released in 1968, The Band's debut continues to evoke mystery, grandeur and an abundance of musical depth that few rock records achieved then or now.

Books have probably been written about the album and certainly have been about the outfit known as The Band, the members of which though mostly unknown to buyers lured by a Bob Dylan cover (literally and musically), were touring and recording veterans—not that experience alone can explain what the group achieved here.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 21, 2013  |  10 comments
Frank Sinatra recorded this album for Capitol in the summer of 1960—the same year he left the label and with a few hundred thousand dollars of his own money started Reprise Records. You can be sure plans for the new label were well underway during the production of this thirty three minutes and change long album.

Michael Fremer  |  Feb 22, 2015  |  6 comments
What can these two tow headed little brothers pictured on the cover know about Big Bill Broonzy? Obviously plenty as you'll hear on this inspired collaboration—the Alvin brothers' first together in almost thirty years.

Malachi Lui  |  Oct 30, 2020  |  4 comments
Shortly after their 1970 sophomore album Fun House’s release, Detroit proto-punk legends the Stooges played the Goose Lake Festival in Jackson, Michigan, 80 miles west of Detroit. Intended to be a Midwest Woodstock of sorts, with acts like the Small Faces, Jethro Tull, and Chicago (among many more) the 3-day festival drew 200,000 attendees over a stifling weekend. The environment became tense; in this LP’s liner notes, Jaan Uhelszki writes of 500 people attending the Open City LSD bad trip rescue tent, with countless others also being stoned on PCP masquerading as cocaine. Still, the festival itself was well-organized. Bands played on a rotating stage, were limited to 45-minute sets without exception, and a six-foot fence and trench blocked performer/crowd interaction.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 24, 2017  |  4 comments
We think of "field recordings" as vital ancient musical history, primitively captured. These "field recordings" dating from the 1990s were recorded using a pair of Bruel & Kjaer 4165 microphones and B&K power supply, Cello preamp, Apogee 1000 ADC and a Nagra D digital recorder given by Mark Levinson (the man) to producer Timothy Duffy .

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 25, 2019  |  5 comments
Darkness into Light, Evil into Good, Ugliness into Beauty, Ignorance into Knowledge, Confusion into Certainty, deliverance from oppression (and the other way around) and simultaneous alternative realities are familiar transformative comic book and biblical themes (Shorter is a known comic book fan; not sure about his biblical proclivities).

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 19, 2013  |  5 comments
Only side one was actually recorded live at New York's now shuttered Half Note back in June of 1965; the other side was taped during an Autumn studio date at Van Gelder's place in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. The Kelly Trio, which included Jimmy Cobb and Paul Chambers — the rest of Miles Davis' former rhythm section — is joined by one of the world's most original jazz guitarist, the late Wes Montgomery, on a smooth set that goes down easy both because of the straight-ahead swing of the playing and Van Gelder's superb recording. The live side captures Montgomery's rich sound better than any other recording I've ever heard, and the studio side is only down a notch from that.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 02, 2015  |  21 comments
This Michael Hedges album shook up the guitar playing world in 1984 the way Leo Kottke's 6 and 12 String Guitars had in 1969.

Mark Dawes  |  Feb 19, 2021  |  4 comments
Spoken word or sung poetry? There’s plenty of both in the British Isles: the rolling, sprawling narratives of Kai Tempest; the angular Sinead O’Brien, smiling in Irish; the arch delivery of Dry Cleaning; the startling machine-gun rapping of Little Simz; a new collection on Decca by Cerys Mathews, the first in a series of “poem song” albums, pairing poets with musicians from Hidden Orchestra. From the defiant 70’s reggae of Linton Kwesi Johnson, to the many decades of the late Mark E. Smith, to the current dystopian punk barrage of Sleaford Mods, the British Isles has an abundance of musical poetry on record, joined now by Londoner Arlo Parks.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 18, 2017  |  2 comments
España is Chasing the Dragon's latest and most ambitious Direct-to-Disc record. It's difficult enough to record Direct-to-Disc a string ensemble, or a big band or a big band with vocalist, all of which the label has done successfully managed.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 01, 2019  |  20 comments
Counseloring at Camp Ma-Ho-Ge near White Lake, N.Y. the summer of 1968 was, in the summer of 1969, my ticket to drive to the back of Max Yasgur’s farm traffic free and without delay. I knew the back roads—not that I thought I’d need to use them when we set out for this music and arts festival we’d seen advertised all spring and summer on the walls of the New York City subway system. How could we not go? The advertised line-up was almost too good to believe.

Michael Fremer  |  Feb 04, 2014  |  15 comments
The BBC did not preserve the master tapes of any of The Beatles BBC appearances. The tape was considered more valuable than the performances recorded therein. That's not exactly a secret. The audio used for the original edition of this set first issued in 1994 came from BBC Transcription Service vinyl, tape copies and radio broadcast tapes provided by fans.

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