Let the birthday record bonanza continue to continue! Yes, more finds from last week's haul at Grassroots' 25 cent vinyl sale.
I think Alice Coltrane's discography is actually pretty underrated. She's abhorred by folks who blame her for turning John's later albums into a "mess" (you will acknowledge the quotes there, please). But, she's also celebrated by the folks who were able to look past her connection, the faux "mysticism" and judge her own music as its own entity. I am one of the latter. And, like most of us, I'm continually impressed by her impeccable sense of melody amidst seeming chaos. This album (her last for a major label for nearly thirty years) showcases her more accessible side. But it is a bit uneven, as this is a case of ambition exceeding execution (how can any album with a rendition of Stravinsky and an eleven minute salsa workout really be cohesive, honestly?). It's all over the place, as it finds Alice doing the extended small combo funk workouts ('Los Caballos'), fully orchestrated pieces ('Spiritual Eternity' and a selection from 'Rites of Spring') or her trademark introspective-tinged quasi-religious chant jams (the downright incredible 'Om Supreme'). But still, I really love when she just plays harp unaccompanied on 'Wisdom Eye.' Just has that really warm feeling to it. Overall, yeah, she has better albums, but I'm definitely happy to finally have this one in my collection. And, mixed bag or no, I highly recommend it to Alice fans.
America — View From the Ground (1982)
Yeah, this one isn't too good. It mostly gets the score it does because of the song 'Never Be Lonely.' That's a darn fine little jangly, vintage America number. The rest of the album, though. Yikes. Otherwise, you're treated to the purely cheesy "delights" like the hit single 'You Can Do Magic.' Their best work was behind them at this point. Oh, dear.
Cal Tjader — Plays the Contemporary Music of Mexico and Brazil (1962)
Reacquisition. I had this one on CD years ago (along with most of the Tjader catalogue), but ditched it in favor of who knows what. Slowly getting all this Tjader stuff back, as I find it. This one was secretly one of my favorites. It's a little early to be among his sample and breakbeat favorites, but it's just outside of his Fantasy years, so there's a bit of that "looking out and beyond"-edness at play that makes for a really wonderful affair that isn't quite technical enough to be considered among the jazz elite of the time, but is also too sophisticated to be assigned into the easy listening bin, either. There's slightly Latin overtones to the music (like with most of Cal's 60's output) and a really tuneful aspect going on that is just downright likable. Have a listen to the multi-movement closer 'Chôro e Batuque' (featuring the great Laurindo Almeida on guitar) and dig it.
Tom Rush — Wrong End of the Rainbow (1970)
Another good one from Tom's Columbia years. The title track is definitely a nice one, featuring one of the most underrated breaks and redemptive key changes I can recall. 'Merrimack County' showcases the great melding of Tom's folky past with the more MOR stance of this era. 'Riding on a Railroad' is an updated train song that possesses a great building quality that the best songs from this string of Tom's albums have. Overproduced, maybe, but it always works in the best interest of the songs. 'Starlight' is the highlight here, as it exemplifies how Tom was able to achieve this incredible soulfulness during these years. Really strong stuff and to have it end with the gospel-tinged 'Gnostic Serenade' is just completely appropriate. More excellent work from a guy that just seemed unable to fail at this point.