from all music:
After staking out new territory with the underrated South of Heaven, Slayer brought back some of the pounding speed of Reign in Blood for their third major-label album, Seasons in the Abyss. Essentially, Seasons fuses its two predecessors, periodically kicking up the mid-tempo grooves of South of Heaven with manic bursts of aggression. "War Ensemble" and the title track each represented opposite sides of the coin, and they both earned Slayer their heaviest MTV airplay to date. In fact, Seasons in the Abyss is probably their most accessible album, displaying the full range of their abilities all in one place, with sharp, clean production. Since the band is refining rather than progressing or experimenting, Seasons doesn't have quite the freshness of its predecessors, but aside from that drawback, it's strong almost all the way from top to bottom (with perhaps one or two exceptions). Lyrically, the band rarely turns to demonic visions of the afterlife anymore, preferring instead to find tangible horror in real life – war, murder, human weakness. There's even full-fledged social criticism, which should convince any doubters that Slayer aren't trying to promote the subjects they sing about. Like Metallica's Master of Puppets or Megadeth's Peace Sells…but Who's Buying, Seasons in the Abyss paints Reagan-era America as a cesspool of corruption and cruelty, and the music is as devilishly effective as ever.
When singer Sade and her band of the same name were establishing themselves, their record company, Epic, made a point of printing "Pronounced Shar-day" on the record labels of their releases. Soon enough, the music had no problem with the correct pronunciation. With the breakthrough Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten single "Smooth Operator" propelling the debut Sade album, Diamond Life, to the same spot on the Billboard 200 chart in 1985, the band fast came to epitomize soulful, adult-oriented, sophisti-pop…
John Pizzarelli lays it all out in the title of his 2015 album: this tribute to Paul McCartney is designed for play in the smoky late-night hours, when everything turns sweet and mellow. Furthermore, this is a tribute to McCartney, not the Beatles. There isn't a Fab song to be found here, as Pizzarelli focuses entirely on Paul's solo work (for these intents and purposes, this includes Wings records), concentrating on the '70s but also sliding McCartney's Great American Songbook wannabe "My Valentine" into the mix.
Since making his debut as a leader with 2001's At Last, Marcus Strickland has established a reputation as a composer of remarkable depth and breadth. On Nihil Novi, his first Blue Note offering, Strickland showcases a new band – trumpeter Keyon Harrold, keyboardists Mitch Henry and Masayuki Hirano, bassist Kyle Miles, and drummer Charles Haynes. His new tunes offer an even greater array of styles, harmonic textures, and dynamics, and reveal his preoccupation with hip-hop beatmaking. (This isn't a jazz/hip-hop fusion record.) Nihil Novi was expertly and empathetically produced by Meshell Ndegeocello, who also guests on bass. Strickland also brings in some old friends and allies, including Robert Glasper, Chris Dave, Pino Palladino, and Chris Bruce.