Gristle To Gold By Randy McAllister

February 28, 2016

I'll See You In The Summertime Outsiders

Randy McAllister is now nearly a dozen albums into his career. He is one of those hardcore bluesmen who is a road warrior, plying his craft in hundreds of towns and clubs each year, taking some time off every once in awhile to enter the recording studio and produce an album of well created blues that branches off in a number of directions.

He originally trained as a drummer but has emerged as one of blues music signature harp players. When combined with his blues laden vocals and ability to write lyrics for his energetic music, you have an artist whose music has acquired a nice patina and one who deserves more commercial success.

“The Kid With The Really Old Soul” and “The Push” blast the album out of the starting gate with the raw energy of a southern blues/rock fusion with McAllister’s harp leading the way. “Something That Don’t Cost A Dime” feature nice interplay between McAllister and guitarist Rob Dewan. “Bowling Pin” is an all too short two minute piece that finds McAllister wailing on his harp supported by some tasty slide guitar from Dewan.

“I’m Like A Boomerang” and “Glass Half Full” prove that he is able to create music that is more complicated and has a fuller sound. The first has two guitars and an organ, which create a number of layers waiting to be explored. “Glass Half Full” has a brass section in support, which moves the music to a different level.

McAllister’s approach to the blues has always been a little unique. His harp and personal lyrics fuel his music. If you have not been exposed to McAllister, give Gristle To Gold a try.

The Best Of (Picture Disc) By Earth, Wind & Fire

February 28, 2016

i make a fool of myself valli

Earth, Wind & Fire has sold in excess of 100 million albums and is safely enshrined in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. One of the highlights of their career was the release of their 1978 album The Best Of Earth, Wind & Fire, which sold over five-million copies.

Record Day’s Black Friday event in late November enables labels to release a number of creative and unusual releases. One of Columbia Legacy’s contributions was a picture disc of The Best Of Earth, Wind, & Fire.

The vinyl album is eminently playable but was issued primarily as a collectable. Songs such as “Got To Get You Into My Life,” “September,” “That’s The Way Of The World,” and “Shining Star” have been re-released many times and in a number of formats throughout the years but this new picture disc is a nice addition the bands legacy.

It is a release that is not for everyone but for the discerning collector, it is a shiny addition to a collection.

Mr. Tambourine Man By The Byrds

February 27, 2016

Time has clouded the impact of “Tambourine Man” by The Byrds but at the time of its release, it was the first song to fuse rock and folk music.

Oddly the only group member to actually play on the original recording was Roger McGuinn, whose electric 12 string guitar was essential to the sound. Studio musicians Hal Blaine, Larry Knechtel, Leon Russell, and Glen Campbell provided the rest. M.cGuinn, David Crosby, and Gene Clark provided the vocals

On June 26, 1965, “Mr. Tambourine Man” reached the top of the singles charts in the United States. The song may have only spent one week at number one but a new musical sound was born.


American Spirit By Christian Howes

February 19, 2016

Caroline no sweden

Christian Howes is not a fiddle player; he is a jazz violinist who is recognized as one of the best in the world. He incorporates classical elements into his music, which forms a unique fusion sound that branches out in a number of directions.

His new album American Spirit has a distinctly American theme that combines three originals and eight classic covers within a jazz format. Nothing is more American than jazz music and while his approach may be detached from the norm, it nevertheless fulfills the intent of his theme.

He is backed by a tight band of musicians including keyboardists Josh Nelson and Hamilton Hardin, bassist Ben Williams, drummer Gregory Hutchinson, plus vocalist Polly Gibbons on two tracks.

The opening tune sets the tone for what will follow. The song’s is unrecognizable until a couple of minutes in when they return to the well-known melody of “America” from West Side Story. Joni Mitchell’s folksy “Both Sides Now” is given a hard edge led by some violin re-verb, which takes the place of a guitar. “Shenandoah” is given a modern-day edgy performance completed by Gibbons vocal. Fats Waller’s “T’Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness” returns Howes to his gospel roots.

The best two tracks are the closest to pure jazz. “Galop” is a Samuel Barber composition. A frenetic piano forms the foundation for Howes violin improvisations to float above the mix. The album closer, appropriately titled “Postlude” is a solo violin piece in which he explores various themes from a jazz perspective. It is a performance that is creative and unique and there are few violinists that could re-create it.

Christian Howes is a niche superstar. If you are a fan of the violin and jazz, then American Spirit an album for you.

So Low By Tim Williams

February 19, 2016

dear johnny sandra dee

The title of Tim Williams new album. So Low, is actually a take on the word solo. That means the music is just Williams alone; his guitar, his voice, his imagination, and a little toe tapping with no overdubs or studio wizardry. In many ways this is the way the blues was meant to be played.

It is an album of original compositions and covers of some classic blues tunes by such artists as Mose Allison, Big Bill Broonzy, and Blind Boy Fuller.

Williams is a purist and his music reflects his love of the blues. If you have a need to hear some old style blues whose legacy is connected to the Southern Delta of the United States, then Tim Williams’ So Low is an album for you.

Panophobia By Von Grey

February 19, 2016

FullSizeRender (3)

This one has been sitting on my desk awhile so shame on me as it contains some of the better music of the past year.

Annika, Fiona, Petra, and Kathryn are sisters who not only mange to get along but also are able to create some interesting and creative music together. They are classically trained and retain some of its elements but basically they create sonic pop with tight harmonies and song structures that push their sound to the edges of the mainstream.

“Katie” and “Forever Bound” are both stunning pieces of music. The sound ebbs and flows but the soaring vocals push it all to the next level. Interestingly, the official videos for the two songs add an extra element to the process and make me think the visual medium is one they may want to explore more.

Six songs is too short as it only provides an introduction to their sound. It is a group not only worth hearing but wondering what lies in their future.

I Can’t Help Myself By The Four Tops

February 18, 2016

Levi Stubbs, Abdul Duke Fakir, Renaldo Benson, and Lawrence Peyton began singing together in 1953 and remained together until Peyton’s death in 1997. The Four Tops were a rare group where the original members stayed together for over 40 years.

The Four Tops were an important part of the classic Motown sound of the 1960’s. “Baby I Need Your Lovin'” was their first hit but it was “I Can’t Help Myself” that made them stars.

“I Can’t Help Myself” is 2 minutes and 43 seconds of musical nirvana and topped  the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks beginning June 19, 1965.

Live From San Francisco By Maynard Ferguson

February 16, 2016

I'll See You In The Summertime Outsiders

Live From San Francisco is the second of two Maynard Ferguson reissue albums curtesy of the Omnivore label. The first, Storm (see previous review), was originally issued in 1982. Now what may be the best live album of Ferguson’s long career has finally been resurrected after decades out of print. While the two albums were originally issued two years apart, there is no duplication of material.

Ferguson had just returned to a more jazz fusion sound after years of trying to fit into the commercial styles of the day. His band at the time consisted of a nine piece brass section and a basic drums/bass/keyboard rhythm foundation. It is a full sound with plenty of room for solos. Key to his music during this time period is the underpinning of drummer Gregg Bissonette.

The highlight of the performance is the 13 minute “Bebop Buffett,” which is a brass filled tribute to Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk. Ferguson steps forward for a rare vocal duet on the classic “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” with band member Denis DiBlasio. Throw in originals such as “Fireshaker,” “Ganesha,” and “Coconut Champagne” and you have the makings of a concert that presents Ferguson at his best.

The sound is excellent for the time period and holds up well. There could have been better liner notes but that is a minor complaint.

Live In San Francisco catches Ferguson at the beginning of the fertile last phase of his career.It is a performance to savor.

Storm By Maynard Ferguson

February 16, 2016

I'll See You In The Summertime Outsiders

Maynard Ferguson, jazz trumpet player and band leader, could hit seemingly impossibly high register notes. He learned his craft while serving in bands led by the likes of Stan Kenton, Jimmy Dorsey, and Charlie Barnett. He formed his own band in 1957 and was able to remain relevant and popular from the end of the big band era through the rock and roll era until his death in 2006.

He explored a number of styles and sounds within a big band setting. Swing, bebop, and cool jazz dominated the first part of his career. During the 1970’s and early 1980’s he moved in a more commercial direction as musical tastes changed during the disco era. In 1982 he moved in a fusion direction, combining a big band foundation with classical jazz, which brings us to the re-issue of his 1982 album Storm.

His brassy cover of Duke Ellington’s “Take The A Train” is unique and his funky take on the “Sesame Street Theme” gives new life to the old children’s ditty. Original compositions “Go With The Flo” and “Hit In The Head” help establish the sound that would carry his band for the rest of his career. He even provides the vocal for the classic “As Tears Go By.”

Storm was one of several turning points in the career of Maynard Ferguson and it retains it freshness 36 years after its original release

The Complete Singles: The 50th Anniversary Edition (CD) By The Mamas & Papas

February 16, 2016

BB surf's up

If Brian Wilson was the king of mid-to late 1960’s producers, then John Phillips was the crown prince. He had the knack of taking his own voice, plus those of Mama Cass Elliot, Michelle Phillips, and Denny Doherty and creating a virtual choir of sound. The result was some of the best vocal pop music of the 20th century. Real Gone Music has now issued the two-disc set, The Complete Singles: 50th Anniversary Collection.

The 53 tracks include all the singles released by the Mamas and Papas, plus solo releases by Elliot, Phillips, and Doherty on the Dunhill label. Not included are Mama Cass’ releases on RCA and Michelle Phillips singles for the A&M label.

As the title announces, it has been a half-century since “California Dreamin’” entered the American charts, January 8, 1966. Songs such as “Monday Monday,” “I Saw Her Again,” ” “Look Through Any Window,” Words Of Love,” and the quirky “Creeque Alley” soon followed setting the standard for smooth west coast pop. The vocals are impeccable and Philips was able to create textures that remain amazing today.

The first disc contains 27 songs in chronological order and is an essential listening experience. Even what is considered the second tier of their single releases, “Dedicated To The One I Love,” “Twelve Thirty (The Girls Are Coming),” “Safe In My Garden,” “Glad To Be Unhappy,” and “For The Love of Ivy” are outstanding. At this point, there may not be many surprises as the songs have been ingrained into the American musical consciousness but they are like old friends who have come for a visit,

The second disc roams a little out of the ordinary as many of their single releases quickly disappeared with Mama Cass’ “New World Coming” and John Phillips “Mississippi” being the exceptions. The disc begins with the group cover singles of “Do You Wanna Dance” and “My Girl,” which are brilliant in their somplicity. The other singles by Elliot, Phillips, and Doherty are solid, if not spectacular and quickly establish that the whole was better than the individual parts. Still, if you are a fan of the group, there are tracks that have not seen the light of day in decades.

The sound is clean, which is important for the material. The liner notes center around producer Lou Adler and Michelle Phillips, who is the only member of the quartet still living.

The lifespan of the original group was short and Mama Cass’ death in 1974 at the age of 32 prevented any complete reunions. Left behind is a wonderful collection of material that spans the decades as some of the best pop on record.