October of 2008 already saw a Best of Annie Lennox hit the streets in Europe, and in early 2009 those of us Stateside get the Annie Lennox Collection, which boasts enough hit singles to keep the punters happy, as well as a few keen B-sides to make the late-coming collectors to Lennox's work pick this up as well. While ubiquitous hits such as "Walking on Broken Glass" and "Sing" are included here, it's great that the set's compilers thought to add non-full-length selections such as "Love Song for a Vampire" to this mix. Her stellar covers such as the reading of Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale" and the Freeman-Hughes standard "No More "I Love You's" are in the mix as well, making this a very well-rounded collection.
Tragedy has a way of putting everything into perspective, a truism that's brought into sharp relief by the Dave Matthews Band. LeRoi Moore, the group's saxophonist, died in 2008, something that shook the DMB to their core and they've responded as any working band does: by carrying on, playing gigs – including one on the day of his passing – and finishing the album they were recording at the time of his death, turning Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King into a tribute to their fallen comrade. By saluting his spirit, DMB wind up returning to their roots, jettisoning any of the well-manicured crossover pop of Stand Up and reviving the loose-limbed jams that were their '90s specialty, a sound they've largely abandoned – at least on record – since 1998's Before These Crowded Streets. During that long, long decade between Before and Big Whiskey, DMB remained one of America's biggest bands even though much of those ten years found Matthews working through various existential crises – things got too big so he pulled away from the band, turned out a dark solo record, then came back – and his namesake band drifted along with him. Here, everything snaps back into focus: what was glossy is now clean and unvarnished; there is no avoidance of their rangy, loping rhythms or predilection for elastic solos; and these signatures – shunned on record, not on-stage – are embraced warmly, given muscle, and married to the dark undercurrents that have flowed throughout Matthews' new-millennium writing.
Best known for his string of late-'80s MOR blues-pop hit singles, Middlesbrough's biggest musical export Chris Rea has spent the best part of the noughties reinventing himself as a Tom Waits-esque troubadour with a series of ambitious and often gargantuan-sized albums focusing on the vintage slide guitar blues sounds that influenced his hugely successful 30-year career. More up to date than 1994's The Best Of and more extensive than 2005's Heartbeats, Still So Far to Go is the husky-voiced guitarist's first hits collection to place as much emphasis on his later more revered and prolific output as his more familiar and commercial airplay staples…
Three Steps To The Ocean is an instrumental project born in 2006 in Milan, Italy. The band combines massive riffs, sonic progressive textures and desolate soundscapes in a unique context.
By the time of Spice Crackers' 1995 release, Camouflage found themselves dealing not only with changing times on the part of their key inspirations – Depeche Mode having long since grappled with rock motifs on albums like Violator and Songs of Faith and Devotion – but with the shift from electronic pop being pop, to being a quieter concern amid the aboveground explosion of techno in Europe throughout that decade. Spice Crackers feels like a reaction to both changes in many ways, a chance for Camouflage to find their own identity as well as see how to roll with the times – and what's striking is how they predated some future developments elsewhere as a result. (It says something that the bass-heavy introduction "X-Ray" might have appeared on Depeche's Ultra, for instance, even though that album was two years away from release at that point.) There's a self-referentiality to the field that's almost amusing in its apparent po-facedness – calling one song "Kraft" and the one immediately after it "Electronic Music" is almost too much – but the exquisite instrumental "Ronda's Trigger," arguably the album's best song, celebrates things more effectively, a classic electronic dance number in the best way, propulsive and serene at the same time.
Najponk's music comes directly from the roots of jazz, i.e. the blues and a swinging rhythm. His playing is a distinctive rendition of classic jazz withou any needless avant-garde experiments. It is rich in inventiveness, virtuosity and enthusiasm. With his poetic musical expression, along with fine keystrokes and perfect jazz timing, he belongs among the "storytellers", which is the higest achievement in the world of music. His own compositions greatly reflect the development of the jazz tradition within its original rules. Najponk (Jan Knop) playing the piano since she was nine years old and about since then is quite obsessed with jazz. In 1990 he founded his trio and quartet later Najponk Q. He won first place in the international jazz piano competition in Ostrava in 1995 and was invited to the project of the Czech Radio Tribute to Thelonious Monk.