High Violet, the new full-length record by the National, is a nervy, melodic, explosive and beautiful set of songs that find the band at the height of their collaborative powers. The music is wide-ranging in its moods, by turns intimate and rough, expansive and spare, full of stark angles and atmosphere. Berninger's singing wild, half-broken, sly evokes a feeling of being haunted, by love, by paranoia, by something just out of reach. High Violet may be The National's most thematically twisted record to date but it somehow also manages to be their most infectious and immediate.
Laconic California indie minstrel M. Ward's fifth offering is a thrift shop photo album filled with histories that may or may not have been, dust bowl carnival rides, and slices of sunlit Western Americana so thick that you need a broom to sweep up the bits that fall off of the knife. Ward makes records that sound like he just wandered in off the street with a few friends and hit the record button, but what would feel lazy and unfocused in less confident hands comes off like a tutorial in old-school songwriting and performance that hearkens back to the days of Hank Williams and Leadbelly if they had had access to a modern-day studio.
Long before No Doubt brought back ska and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy resurrected swing, Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry were making music that recalled an earlier time. How early? Try the Renaissance. Everything old–really old–is new again on Aion, the band's fifth and arguably finest album.
Billy Ocean was one of the most popular and successful R&B singers living in the UK during the 70s and 80s. Born In Trinidad and Tobago in 1950, Ocean moved to England at the age of 8 where after learning his trade singing on the London club scene Billy Ocean released his first single in 1972. Four years later he recorded his first album and captured the #2 spot on the UK pop charts while scoring #22 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with single, Love Really Hurts Without You. Red Light Spells Danger returned him to the UK #2 spot a year later in 1977.
This CD is a compilation of some of Miles Davis's earliest recordings as a sideman from the late 1940s. His formative years are represented here in a large group setting. The groups featured here are scaled down or actual big bands. This CD is probably most dominated by the arrangements of Tadd Dameron, arguably the definitive arranger-composer of the bop era.
The Flight of the Condor: Ice, Wind and Fire is a documentary on The BBC World program, first aired in 1982. Directed and produced by Michael Andrews, who spent eighteen months in the Andes mountain range along with award-winning cameramen Martin Saunders, Hugh Miles and Rodger Jackman, the documentary shows wildlife as well as the particular Andean landscapes.
Sweet organ lines, heavy drums, and a great little groove throughout – a tight batch of groovers from the mighty Charles Kynard! The keyboardist is in fine 70s form here – stepping away from the sparer sound of his albums for Prestige with a fuller style for Mainstream Records – in a groove that's almost part blacksploitation funk, thanks to some sharp backings from arranger Richard Fritz! The mighty Paul Humphrey is at the bottom of the set on nicely funky drums – and other players include Arthur Adams on guitar, Chuck Rainey on bass, and some great additional horns, which give the record a larger jazzy finish, but never get in the way of Kynard's lean, mean organ lines. There's a great version of "Rock Steady" on the album, one that has a great funky intro – plus the cuts "Shout", "Lime Twig", "Slop Jar", "Name The Missing Word", "Little Ghetto Boy", and "Hot Sauce".
A somewhat less ambitious record than Mudlark, from a recording standpoint, Greenhouse is a true solo record that offers several surprises. Over a third of it is made up of vocal numbers, including two that are absolutely superb. "Tiny Island" may be the best track here, a song by Al Gaylor, inspired by the death of Jimi Hendrix, that offer one of Kottke's best vocal performances of his whole career.