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KEN THOMSON/Restless: With 2/3s of a Bang on a Can reunion taking place here, Thomson shows his serious as a heart attack side showcasing some neo-classical works that fall outside the modern/contemporary range of the ilk. Deeply and fully realized chamber works, this is definitely not arts council music. It requires focus but is accessible at the same time. Played out with only cello and piano, composer and players find away to raise enough of a ruckus that they fill your ears all on their own. A dandy trip for the musically adventurous.

DAN CHADBURN/Beyond Words: The former shy kid comes in with his sixth album of instrumental delights as proffered by him and his solo piano and it's all a delight. As with most impressionistic music, he can tell you what he thinks it means, much of which is personal to him, but the limitless boundaries let you bring what ever you want, or nothing at all, to define the meaning for this delicate, gentle playing that let's you leave your anger at the door. Tasty stuff that provides a great escape when the walls are starting to seem a little too close. Well done.

JOHN BARRY/Plays 007 and Other 60s Themes for Film, Television and Radio: Easily England's answer to Henry Mancini, Barry deserves to be remembered for more than "James Bond" and "Born Free". Even though this set restricts itself to the 60s, there's still plenty of 60s soundtrack work that isn't covered here as this focuses on James Bond and other off beat works in need of being remembered. With much more going for him than a retro groovy sound, this set shows how some cats have that something extra that separates them from the well meaning pack that knows how to get the job done. A killer collection that one can only hope is the start of something big. Check it out.

LEONARD COHEN/The End of Love: A 2 cd set culled form a Swiss radio broadcast of what ostensibly would have been his last tour, this set gives live voice to his last two studio albums of the time highlighting why "I'm Your Man' was such a strong comeback. A mere lad of 65 at the time, the send off energy is palpable and the performances are almost definitive. With only a few obligatory waves to the past in the song mix, Cohen really hits those Euros that really supported him over the years with a show that has both barrels blazing. This is a fine slice of prime, late career Cohen really shining.

LADY A/Loved, blessed & Blues: Think you're imagining that Malaco/Fame vibe here? Lady A was kicking this out on Jackson, MS so it's not your imagination. A solid, southern soul lady, this is going to take your ears to stops on all those Ace compilations that cover mighty, unreleased sides from those southern companies recorded back in the day. A real deal set throughout, this woman knows form whence she sings. A winner throughout.

LUKE HENDON/Silk & Steel: When is a Django not a Django? When guitarist Hendon is at the helm pouring out originals that sound like Reinhardt tunes you think you remember but can't place. Bringing his own hot club along to assemble pretty much a Hot Club of Now, Hendon and his pals strike all the right chords any gypsy guitar fan will recognize as the real deal. Sounding very much like the kind of cat who has the good hands to hold the vibe and keep it alive, this set is a stone cold high water mark for the genre. Sharp ears can pride themselves for finding the versatile Adrian Cunningham smartly tooting his clarinet in the mix adding to the festivities. Killer stuff throughout.

TAMI NEILSON/Don't Be Afraid: Inspired by the death of her father as these sessions were taking place, this scion of Canada country music royalty, transplanted to New Zealand where her talents are recognized far and wide, ditches country for a gospel/soul mix that shows the fury of a soul on fire and comes from some deep place in the heart. Turing the whole roots thing on it's head, unless you are deep into the genre, it might take a few listens to get past the raw emotional outpouring, but once you do, this will hook you like a burr. This is music you can feel. Well done.

JOSHUA BELL/For the Love of Brahms: Sounding very much in sound and feel in line with the classic Masterworks classical albums of the 50s, Bell and his friendly co-horts re-examine the works of Brahms that were coated in friendships with his peers. The protean, ever globe trotting violinist and his peers seem to will themselves to inhabit the spirits of the masters when they were at work. Absolutely essential listening for the classical fan or the tourist that wants to feel like a grown up, this sounds like a reminder why so many important classical concerts were scheduled in the middle of Sunday afternoons. With the late Neville Mariner's bunch bringing up the rear in their impeccable style, this well crafted, flawless date will rekindle your appreciation of Brahms, no lullabies needed to complete the task. Killer stuff.

DAVE LIEBMAN GROUP/Expansions Live: This is the Lieb tour de force you've been waiting for. A double cd set, one disc acoustic, one electric, in which improv madness is in the air but Lieb and pals refrain from swinging the wrecking ball in all directions not caring what they smack into. Tackling everything from Miles to Elvis with original stops in between, this is a break neck thrill ride of spontaneity that modernistic, old school jazzbos, say circa "Bitches Brew", will remember why they became fans in the first place. Lieb might be wearing his Larry David Halloween mask on the cover but this set is the glorious sound of freedom, not frustration. Killer stuff laid down in the most righteous fashion.

ALSARAH & THE NUBATONES/Manara: And the times they are a changing'. Retrofitting their sound and selves as their long time oud player passed form cancer, this bunch has reinvented themselves as pioneers of east African retro pop and are creating works that feel like they are to be listened to throughout rather than on a track by track basis. Even though the average gringo won't know what they are saying, the sound of rootlessness and discovery seem to pop through no matter what the language. A world beat set inversion that it starts out as African music and adds touches from everywhere else, the armchair traveler will be turning their pals on to this in no time flat. Quite an engaging set in any language. Well done.

Volume 39/Number 337
October 5, 2016
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2016 Midwest Record

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