The Ramsey Lewis Trio – The In Crowd

★★★★★ = Classic, essential listening

Sounds like?

swinging bop

Moods

Effortless cool, the quintessential jazz dinner-party album

Thoughts

I've been searching for this for unpretentious but engaging jazz and the trio here nails it. There's a comfortable loose feel to this, as if they know what they've got is gold.

When I refer to jazz dinner albums it means bop but not so technical that it's distracting. This succeeds with it's cool, samba like swing, busy downtown vibe and appropriate moments of somber builds.

More Info

https://www.discogs.com/The-Ramsey-Lewis-Trio-The-In-Crowd/release/4746742

Listen!

Youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsFST-7Hx-Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koSylsFxxpM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_SwYDL5Imc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nm4-JSKi9k0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aX8BS_nINfI

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The Ramsey Lewis Trio – The In Crowd

Description: Album Review of The Ramsey Lewis Trio – The In Crowd


Rating: 5 out of 5

 

Andrew Hill – Black Fire

★★★★★ = Classic, essential listening

Sounds like?

Avant garde hard bop

Moods

Damn good experimental hard bop, a turning point in jazz modernism

Thoughts

An enjoyable entry in Hills landmark outings, a turning point in jazz modernism. 5. This sits right on the line between solid hard bop and Avant garde experimentalism, incorporating disparite melodies and rhythmic techniques well still remaining formally in the structure of bop.

The allmusic review is perfect. Hills work during the 60s is landmark and this is a very fine example of things starting to turn into modernism.

More Info

https://www.discogs.com/Andrew-Hill-Black-Fire/release/6688097

Listen!

Youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUyfcnOCIOk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_CnHr8G_fE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSwhHSlOoBc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMdKD5GdCbU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRJqncygyXY

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Andrew Hill – Black Fire

Description: Album Review of Andrew Hill – Black Fire


Rating: 5 out of 5

 

Donald Byrd – Ethiopian Knights

★★★★★ = Classic, essential listening

Sounds like?

jazz with funk rock chops

Moods

Top notch jazz-funk

Thoughts

these are long cuts that give way to extended jams. Patience is rewarding:

'the emperor' is funky strum guitar and groovy picking bass line gives way to solos from xylophone and Byrd on trumpet. It's great.

'Jamie' is a brief chilled out piece in comparison, gospel like at times with the organ.

'Little rasti' brings back the groove where things are ever so slightly dirtier (think as if it were the late show at a jazz club as opposed to a cleaner early show on 'the emperor'). Things kick off with a drum solo and then get into a groovy set of solos this time include Wawa guitar, keys and of course a very confident Byrd.

I'm hard pressed to think of better funk rock jazz from this or any of the era. On par with Miles and a must for fans of the genre.

More Info

https://www.discogs.com/Donald-Byrd-Ethiopian-Knights/release/890204

Listen!

Youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtKcvoeO2vA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhiYaTLP8xM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAycZvJwtIA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=av4j96aEDAA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvHQGXdvbDc

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Donald Byrd – Ethiopian Knights

Description: Album Review of Donald Byrd – Ethiopian Knights


Rating: 5 out of 5

 

Michael Mayer – Immer

★★★★★ = Classic, essential listening

Sounds like?

Minimal house

Moods

One of the finest minimal house mixes ever is now on YouTube!

Thoughts

Michael Mayer's immer and fabric mixes were eye-opening to me in terms of what mix is capable of. Taken alone the tracks on Immer aren't anything special – bit of bounce here, bit of ambiance there – stitched together they become this incredible cohesive entity. The subtle shifts are perfectly timed and show a mastery of songwriting even when it's all borrowed sounds. I love the sparse emptiness of minimal, there's something so alienating yet comforting about it. Immer has a sound I can only describe as grey, like the weather in Berlin or the film tone in those Nordic crime dramas.

Mayer's skill here is largely reliant on his tasteful selection and vision for this mix which is executed perfectly. Kompakt is an impressive label but Immer is in a league of its own, forever indeed.

More Info

https://www.discogs.com/Michael-Mayer-Immer/release/34646

Listen!

Youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PeTIa1yGao

Spotify


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Michael Mayer – Immer

Description: Album Review of Michael Mayer – Immer


Rating: 5 out of 5

 

Billy Harper – Black Saint

★★★★★ = Classic, essential listening

Sounds like?

Post bop

Moods

A dense, urban post bop masterpiece

Thoughts

Great album,has an energy that's very west village jazz: dense, subterranean, and fighting restraint. The constant crash symbol use adds this de-constructing vibe. Heavy swirling and dissonant solos provide a madness. These guys are on point and each bring this intensity here.

Typically I reserve a 5-star for music that is essential in the catalog of sound. Could the world live without this record? Absolutely but I think it's such a remarkable illustration of the genre that it's essential.

More Info

https://www.discogs.com/Billy-Harper-Black-Saint/release/12148892

Listen!

Youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJOVUCEcsLg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edV6QIkWxr8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvTNnswzjhc

Spotify


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Billy Harper – Black Saint

Description: Album Review of Billy Harper – Black Saint


Rating: 5 out of 5

 

The Strokes – Is This It

★★★★★ = Classic, essential listening

Sounds like?

Modern guitar driven indie rock

Moods

A masterpiece of youth that captures the newfound excitement of urban independence

Thoughts

A simple masterpiece for two reasons:

Compositionally it's an album of quick chord driven indie tracks. Melodic, memorable, Danceable and remarkably varied; it works well in its entirety. Albert Hammond Junior is a competent guitarist whose style fits perfectly, loose and slightly technical, who seems to always sneak in the perfect crunchy solo.

Casablancas observant lyrics which perfectly capture a relatable time in life when you've come into your own independence and a 'is this it?' type of epiphany is made that's a mix of excitement and disappointment. I find 'Hard to explain' to be the precise moment in the record where this all boils over in emotion. He's in perfect form here.

A modern record with a Lou Reed vibe and post punk energy. Hasn't aged a bit and on relistens the strength of these songs is realized.

More Info

https://www.discogs.com/The-Strokes-Is-This-It/release/383812

Listen!

Youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzO7IGWGxu8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knU9gRUWCno

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOypSnKFHrE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXkm6h6uq0k

Spotify


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The Strokes – Is This It

Description: Album Review of The Strokes – Is This It


Rating: 5 out of 5

 

The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses

★★★★★ = Classic, essential listening

Sounds like?

British semi-psychedelica jangly 80s rock

Moods

I wanna be adored

Thoughts

There's a certain magic captured on this album that makes this essential music. It's a wanderlust feeling that speaks really well to a coming of age person, exploring relationships with poetry but not sappiness. The twinge of psychedelica gives it this slight haze that serves as a great balance to the expertly crafted pop. It shows it's age in places but I still really enjoy the first half which continues to age well, especially with newer fascinations with 'chill vibes'.

For years this was exclusively a headphone album. Relistening a decade later I think how great this would've been live at an outdoor festival, enjoyed with community. I'm really attracted to the jammy bits which I could see opening up into some cool things live (especially fools gold).

More Info

https://www.discogs.com/The-Stone-Roses-The-Stone-Roses/release/156092

Listen!

Youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4D2qcbu26gs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wD6Pq0bSMPo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NrLBlw9WZE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-WRa8jtZD0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNfHoPIxhXM

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The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses

Description: Album Review of The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses


Rating: 5 out of 5

 

Junior Walker & The All Stars – Shotgun

★★★★★ = Classic, essential listening

Sounds like?

scorching sax driven r&b

Moods

Motown at its most explosive

Thoughts

All hits on this LP of raw sax driven r&b. Walker's scorching solos screech out the sax, as if he can barely contain his sax playing. The result is an explosive swinging energy on every track. The recording has an appealing grit that likely results from the studio. It sounds it's age but doesn't feel dated.

Songwriting is kind of monotone but with energy this good it's hard to imagine the history of popular music without Jr. Walker.

More Info

https://www.discogs.com/Jr-Walker-And-The-All-Stars-Shotgun/release/6837125

Listen!

Youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CV27DtGUhnc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FI7CtxlisCk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyGHXD3WQ-I

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrDVZVBekcg

Spotify


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Junior Walker & The All Stars – Shotgun

Description: Album Review of Junior Walker & The All Stars – Shotgun


Rating: 5 out of 5

 

Aretha Franklin – Spirit In The Dark

★★★★★ = Classic, essential listening

Sounds like?

soul / r&b

Moods

Queen of soul sings southern gold

Thoughts

Aretha is such a focused and powerful singer that I've had trouble finding albums of hers I can sit and enjoy; recognizing her ability but not wanting to listen to a full LP of gospel or soul. Here she feels at her most personal, leaning heavily into R&B with a southern flair from the strong muscle shoals backing band. The result is wonderful and presents her in a very accessible format for rock fans. While she still sings with gospel flair at times (pullin ends with a particularly feverous higher calling) it's done so in a way that integrates smoothly with the r&b sound.

There's a few weaker tracks towards the end but the overall sound of this record, pairing the queen of soul with an almost raw blues band, makes this one not to miss.

For further reading around her personal history and troubles going into this are documented well in the Pitchfork review (https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/aretha-franklin-spirit-in-the-dark/).

More Info

https://www.discogs.com/Aretha-Franklin-Spirit-In-The-Dark/release/3020902

Listen!

Spotify


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Aretha Franklin – Spirit In The Dark

Description: Album Review of Aretha Franklin – Spirit In The Dark


Rating: 5 out of 5

 

Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

★★★★★ = Classic, essential listening

Sounds like?

An American rock folk alternative band

Moods

A calmly anxious American masterpiece

Thoughts

It took awhile for me to recognize the genius here. I think I was too  young when I first heard it, I wasn't drawn to it's sound. Even now I wouldn't recommend this to anyone under 30, the essence is lost without that unnerving only adulthood can provide.

At surface level it's boring adult pop, listen a little closer and you'll hear solid American folk songs. Backed by light (mostly) and tight instrumentation, it's just the right amount of precise while not feeling overly polished; a quality which typically bothers me but here it fits. Tweedy's got a pleasant voice and is an exceptional lyricist, switching between abstract thoughts and relatable lyrics on love. Few writers can capture anxiety, in its many forms, so poetically. It's his ability that elevates this album, turning these dense subjects into carthic singalongs. Ultimately the listener is left with a feeling of hope through the reliability in his words. True art captures some element of the human condition and I think Wilco nailed it on Yankee hotel foxtrot

Anyone who's ever experienced that spinning out of control feeling will understand the value of something grounded. The perfect soundtrack for something as enjoyable as a pleasant autumn day or as heavy as your car ride after checking out of the insane asylum.

More Info

https://www.discogs.com/Wilco-Yankee-Hotel-Foxtrot/release/1073285

Listen!

Youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gupjrl5ZSX0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBhj73WtiZU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlxH9-TYseY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efq95Pfqt5U

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKj5xIp4Kkg

Spotify


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Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Description: Album Review of Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot


Rating: 5 out of 5