Recent vinyl finds. . .
Guess they had to make one not-so-hot album in their run of seemingly untouchable albums. Plenty of fancy tunes though, regardless. It just doesn't hold together as an album at all. David Crosby's 'What's Happening?!?!' is the album highlight and one of my definitive 60's jangle songs, already. Wonderful stuff. Of course, this has the all time psych classic 'Eight Miles High' on it and I have to still marvel at how badass that opening vamp is. In 1966, I imagine that genuinely did freak people out. Side two is where the problems arise (I mean, other than there being no Dylan covers on the album), as the album just ventures off into a territory of experimentation for the sake of trying something "new man" in the face of Gene Clark's departure. It's not bad stuff, per se. Just everything good is up front.
Jorge Ben — Samba Nova (1976)
Jorge Ben is one of the most trusted names in my collection by this point. This is my ninth album of his and, of the previous eight, I'd consider them all at least minor personal classics. This one follows hot on the heels of his all time funk classic África Brasil. But it differs in sound slightly, as it ventures back into his more traditional territory of slower, acoustic guitar-based tunes, with no horn section. The very first song 'Oba, Lá Vem Ela' is case in point. A mid-tempo groove is accented by a brilliantly arranged —presumably by producer Paulinho Tapajos— string section that recalls David Axelrod more than a little bit. Elsewhere, 'O Circo Chegoo' recalls his late 60's albums with Trio Mocoto, while 'Hermes Trimegistro E Sua' is the sort of easy breezing gem that makes his music so likable in the first place. Yes, it tones down the funk, but I prefer the more rootsy and stripped down Jorge Ben anyway. It was a total accident of a find, and even I was skeptical after seeing the late date on it, but it's actually one of my better finds in recent times. More "buy vinyl" propaganda: the copy of this album I found was a promo pack that came with a glossy black and white 8x10 photo and a short one sheet bio. Just really can't get any cooler than that.
Bill Evans — Since We Met (1974)
A Bill Evans album I didn't already have! There are so few of them, as far as the official discography goes, that I did a real live quintuple take at the cover to make sure I didn't recognize it. It's a 70's album, so Eddie Gomez and Marty Morell fill out the trio on bass and drums respectively. And I really don't have much else to say about it other than that it's a predictably resonating, strong and solitary performance from one of my favorite bands of all time. The title track was a new composition at the time (and oh boy, is it a good one; capturing Bill at his tension-building best). Side two closes out with three classics that Bill honed to perfection with this band: 'Time Remembered', 'Turn Out the Stars' and a really thoughtful 'But Beautiful.' Hard to talk about such consistently brilliant music that's so closely related to so much other music of Bill's that I've treasured for over half my life. Absolute perfection. As usual.
Dave Brubeck — Time Further Out (1961)
Playing on the Brubeck group's notoriety for being able to play catchy tunes (and swing their merry arses off all the same) in time signatures other than the standard 4/4. Hell, the meters are even listed on the album cover next to the song titles! Been wanting to get deeper into Paul Desmond's catalogue for quite some time, so this was a nice thrift store find. I've already got a pretty good cross section of Brubeck albums and I've yet to encounter one that wasn't fairly good and this one is no exception. 'Far More Blue' is an absolutely unabashed 'Take Five' rewrite. But, guess what? It's really good, too. 'Unsquare Dance' will have you clapping along, while 'Blue Shadows in the Street' sounds like the best-ever film noir soundtrack. Great stuff. And completely recommended if you like Time Out and are looking for the next best thing.
Fairport Convention — Fairport Chronicles (late 60's/early 70's)
I frown on compilations, normally, but this was a bargain I could not say no to. I had roughly half of it previous, but as it contains a huge chunk of What We Did On Our Holidays (the only album of the classic Fairport era I don't have), it was of extreme interest to me. The really juicy tidbit included here, for me, was the single-only release 'Now Be Thankful.' Great stuff. Other discoveries to be had here are the atmospheric and lovely 'The Way I Feel' (released under the name Fotheringay) and the epic nine minute meditation 'Sloth.' Edit out the tracks I already had on other albums and this thing hangs together suprisingly well as a place holder until I can track everything else down. I can only imagine what I'd think if everything here was my first taste.
William Ackerman — Childhood and Memory (1979)
More early Windham Hill stuff from the label's founder. "New Age" debate is out the window, because the official word is that this guy jams. 'Seattle' is really the only bluegrass-y strummer on the album, as the rest of the pieces here are back to the slower, more contemplative sound that also dominates his first two albums (Childhood was Will's third proper album). The album's first track 'The Wall and the Wind' is a good indicator the whole thing. This time out, there is a duet with Dave Ross contributing flute to the excellent (and probably my favorite track on the album) 'Anne's Song.' Otherwise, it's all Will's fingers doing the guitar work (save for 'Sunday Rain', which features some multi-tracked work with a gorgeous banjo line). And, as such, it's really easy stuff to get into, especially since I liked his two previous albums so much and this is essentially an extension of them. Wonderful music.
Van Dyke Parks — Song Cycle (1968)
Supposedly a classic. Whatever. Strikes me as too smarty pants for its own good. Good tunes, in some cases though. Just have a listen to the first track 'Vine Street' for an instance of what I'm talking about. Beginning with a country band, jamming away and then swooping into a schmaltzy, full orchestral pop backing, Van Dyke sings about the tape you just heard. I get that it's totally "brilliant man" with all of the "genius" backing and everything, but I just don't hear very many good melodies, honestly. Seems like a case of presentation over actual substance. I've sat with it for a week now and I still don't feel like anything is jumping out at me. And the fact that the album's lone cover (of 'Donovan's Colours') is probably also its highlight should say all it needs to. I don't get it; yet it's still decent, just based on its sound and era of inception. This is my most negative "positive" review ever. Hope you liked it.