Prices vary.Reviewer: Nick Whetstone - TNT UK
At this time of writing, I have nothing ready to review! Fearful that the Italian editorial staff will send me a 'we breaka your legs' email for not contributing this month (only joking Lucio), I have decided to deviate a little and write an article on the music that I have discovered this year that has most impressed me. I know that music is a most subjective subject, and one man's meat is another man's poison, but I strongly recommend auditioning any of the following if you are able to do so.
These albums have not been released this year, rather I only discovered them in 2005. And I don't intend this as a critical review of the albums listed, more a pointer to some very good music that you may not be aware of. For more information on each album, may I suggest Googling!
First up is the album 'As Above So Below, by Julian Arguelles. Definitely a jazz album (Arguelles is a jazz saxophonist), you should forget what you would usually expect from that genre. If you found this CD in the classical section at the library, you couldn't claim that it was out of place. Haunting beautiful, something to put on late at night while you enjoy a glass of something nice!
Forget the frentic type of jazz, this is probably Arguelles most calm piece of work. With an eight-piece band, and accompanied by the twenty-piece Trinity College Of Music String Ensemble, this is a beautiful meeting of jazz and classical music. I've seen this music described as both 'slushy and 'bland' and ‘…an object lesson in melodic and rhythmic delicacy’ and personally feel the latter is nearer the mark. Sure, it's an album to put on later in the evening but the compositions are beautifully arranged, the album well recorded, and the whole work unique enough to warrant a place in any collection.
I wouldn't describe myself as a huge jazz fan, more somebody that is looking for different types of music and ready to experiment. But it is another jazz CD that is my second recommendation here. 'Filming - New Concept of Jazz' by Bugge Wesseltoft is pretty much what is says in the title.
Bugge Wesseltoft has been one of the primary innovators behind the new jazz movement coming out of Norway in recent years. 'Filming' is his fourth album. I like this album for it's diversity. Electronically treated solo piano, funky good time jazz, soulful jazz. And all these tracks are kind of set against a landscape portrayed by background sounds such as cicadas and motor engines. This is one of those albums that takes you on a journey each time that you listen. Although you can listen to individual tracks, rather like say, Roger Waters, 'Amused to Death' and other concept albums, it's a CD that you should listen to from start to finish. Like the Julian Arguelles album, this grows on you after a few plays but neither are difficult to get into.
I'm indebted to a friend for lending me Lambchop's two CD's, 'Aw C'mon' and 'No You C'mon'. Apparently Lambchop's Kurt Wagner made a resolution to write a new song every day and the band landed up with so much material that it had to be put onto two albums. Sometimes when that happens, the result is a long list of tracks, each one sounding too much like the others. But in this case, the tracks are all individually good enough to make listening to both albums in succession an absolute pleasure!
I'm not sure how to categorize Lambchop. Pop I suppose although I have found them in the Country section at my local library. One thing's for sure, it's an American band! Both these albums have such a diversity of material that you could point to elements of country, jazz, pop and even easy listening (and I'm not being derogatory with that last one). The string arrangements when used are sumptuous, the singing on some tracks pleasantly reminding me of Leonard Cohen, and at times, the guitar work is hypnotic. Listening to these albums is like savouring one of your favourite meals. Do yourself a favour and get these CDs and your hi-fi will sound even better!
I have to admit that I had not heard of Shirley Horn at the time I came across her CD, 'May the Music never End'! But better late than never as they say and boy am I glad that I found this one! Do you remember how when we were younger, people we considered 'old' seemed to loose their legitimacy? Only our generation could do anything well. Then we grow older ourselves and find out the opposite is true. Shirley horn was born way back in 1934 so I would have quickly 'written her off' when I was a teenager. Now, with the benefit of many more years behind me, I recognise that this is a tremendous talent. I hear the polished performances that only many years of experience can produce.
'May the Music never End' contains songs that most of us will be familiar with. 'Forget Me', 'If You Go Away' and 'Yesterday' open the CD and Ms Horn manages to sing them in her own style such that you could believe that she had written them herself. One of the great jazz vocalists and pianists, the performances are faultless. The album is particularly well produced and an absolute pleasure to listen to when you have perhaps tired a little of your Diana Krall CDs.
This year I discovered Carrie Newcomer although she appears to have been making great music for many years now. The CD that introduced me to Ms Newcomer is called 'The Gathering of Spirits'. I guess that you would describe this music as folk/country! It impressed me for not having a weak track in the whole album, and reading up on this artist, that would appear to be true of all her work. The songs mainly based on life-experiences are very well crafted and combined with great melodies. Ms Newcomer's voice is rich and melodic and never fatiguing. Both thought-provoking and pleasurable!
I'm old enough to remember when Pink Floyd released 'Dark Side of the Moon'. It was a landmark in the development of modern music and has remained a favourite with all ages ever since. In 2003, the Easy Star All-Stars released 'Dub Side of the Moon', a reggae version of the original album. In my opinion this is every bit as good as the original and has been constantly in my CD player since I got hold of a copy earlier this year. If you haven't yet heard it, but it now, I can't believe that anybody would not love it!
Well OK, I haven't discovered this next album this year, more like re-discovered it! I originally bought Heart's 'Dreamboat Annie' on vinyl but must confess that I haven't used my turntable as much as I should this last few years! Anyway, I managed to pick up the album on CD this year and it's not a bad recording on the shiny silver stuff although not quite as good as the vinyl version. I'm not quite sure what lifts 'Dreamboat Annie' above the many other brilliant rock albums of the same era but it is surely a classic. The songs remain in the mind hours after you listen to it. A brilliant mix of acoustic and electric rock with fantastic vocals and well-crafted songs lifts the mood even on the darkest of days. It's also one of those rare pieces of music that is both instantly enjoyable and yet never gets stale with repeated listening!
The album was originally released in 1976 and it really hasn't dated. If you missed it first time around, or are old enough to have forgotten it, look out for a copy on either CD or vinyl and enjoy!
And that's it for 2005 folks. I wonder what 2006 will bring us!
© Copyright 2005 Nick Whetstone - www.tnt-audio.com