February 28, 2016
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.
February 28, 2016
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.
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.
February 19, 2016
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.
February 19, 2016
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.
February 19, 2016
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.
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.