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BLACK SHIPS/Dead Empires: Wow, it doesn't get more malcontent than this. Complete with fuzzy psych pop sounds bottoming it all, this is the soundtrack for anyone that wants to land some blows against the empire.

DARREN BARRETT/Trumpet Vibes: For his 7th album Barrett brings a bit more of himself out from behind the curtain as he finds a way to meld hard bop with his Jamaican heritage. An elbow rubber of a host of contemporary jazz greats as well as being a protégé of Donald Byrd and a student of William Fielder (go on, Google him), Barrett hits it out of the park harder than before with a horned up fun fest that reminds you how jazz started out as party music for parties in all their various forms. Well done.

FRED LOCKS MEETS DAVID O/Time to Shine Vol 1: From the depths of hipster Brooklyn comes this old school reggae session with one of the original cats that recorded for Coxsone long before Chris Blackwell ever thought about making a star out of Bob Marley. Skanking along like it's the real thing rather than an extension of the real thing, party people in the market for getting irie in fine style need look no farther than this session for some new kicks that hits the target squarely head on Tasty stuff that'll take you back to the day whether you were there or not. Well done.

RAZ BAND/Madison Park: A classic example of an after hours album, where else would you find a group that has members having you mention Badfinger and Eagles in the same breath---but that's where some of these band members come from. Played with pent up, busman's holiday energy, this is a bunch of pros playing the way they want to play without some label geek that wasn't even born when they were ruling the charts telling them which end is up. With a dose of after hours funky sloppiness that doesn't roll off the rails being the intangible good time element, this is the kind of stuff you see in a club live that finds you not minding paying the babysitting some over time. A rollicking good time you have to be a long time bar band fan to really get. Hot stuff throughout for those in the know.

WAINWRIGHT SISTERS/Songs in the Dark: Those twin sisters of different mothers take a break from telling the world their shared father had a case of BMFA-itis to look back at the songs they were sung as tots that left a mark on them Their parents didn't load the sleepy time set card with self writes and exposed them to Woody Guthrie, Townes Van Zandt, "Uncle" Richard Thompson and others giving them an encyclopedic knowledge of music from an early age A lullaby album not presented as a lullaby album, nobody knows most of these songs any more making it quite a delightful offbeat folk album. With their pedigrees, it's no mistake that this is a first class, left field album that will top any lo-fi fan's top ten list this, or any other, year. Killer stuff. (And beware of the lullaby that poppa did write)

MISSISSIPPI BIGFOOT/Population Unknown: Pomo blues from a bunch of white boys and their front gal? Well, yeah. It's pomo in that they gleefully genre splice within the traditional blues category freely mixing Piedmont, delta, Chicago, Memphis and Texas into a fine contemporary mix with Christina Vierra sounding like a feral Janis and the rest of the crew keeping pace using their fave influence of their own individual, particular choosing. And it works! A fine set of sounds coming from the roadhouse you were at last night that might turn out to be an illusion on the way to the crossroads, this is a first class electric blues feast for the real connoisseur Check it out

JENNIFER SARAN/Merry Christmas, You Are Loved: Here's a Christmas album that's so normal it seems like an anomaly. Sounding like it could have been produced by Bing Crosby, it was produced by Narada Michael Walden with the focus being on a white bread looking white girl living in Hong Kong. Saran and Walden kick in a few originals that fit right in with the flow of the chestnuts and classics the result being a niche project that you might only get if you are one of the few nuclear, happy families around. Talk about taking the long way around the block to go back in the day! This album's greatest secret weapon is it's guileless charm. Check it out.

JUHANI AALTONEN & IRO HAARLA/Kirkastus: The first duo recording by these two long time fellow travelers, this piano/sax date is reminiscent of the kind of low key ECM and Windham Hill dates that we loved so much for their combination of simplicity and depth as well as deceptive calm. These two talented improvisers turn in the kind of date that would make Paul Winter proud as well as make his fans smile. Well done

WADADA LEO SMITH & JOHN LINDBERG/Celestial Weather: It's the AACM's fiftieth anniversary so if Smith wants to go all free jazz with a long time side kick, you might as well give him the room to do so. A trumpet/bass duet set that's anything but cocktail music, the free jazz flies like it's trying to escape from the church basement for the first time For a lot of listeners, this will be the first time they are standing on the corner where unbridled creativity meets the unknown.

DOUG WAHLBERG BAND/Flying Under the Radar: This album has the perfect title since it seems to sum up Wahlberg's career A classic hard rocking shredder from another time and place, he's lauded by all the classic rockers, has rubbed shoulders with scads of them and knows his niche well. Anyone who misses original entries under melodic hard rock is well advised to cock an ear in this direction as it will be amply rewarded.

INSIDE AMY SCHUMER/Season 3: I've actually been hearing hipster backlash over having Amy o.d.s but fortunately the rest of us, the unwashed, are nowhere near that saturation point and we rally behind her Emmys and Peabody well earned for being one of the most original and fearless voices out there keeping comedy fresh. This recap of season three of her show continues to whiz along as a meteoric place delivering the laughs, face palms and gasps as she continues the skewer anything and anyone that has the nerve to be overstuffed. May the farce be with her for a long time to come. This is one of your better holiday purchases this year if you love to laugh.

Volume 39/Number 23
November 23, 2015
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2015 Midwest Record

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