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MORGAN HERITAGE/Strictly Roots: In the years that have passed since this crew were the teen aged kids backing up their pop, Denroy Morgan, through their win for the original version of this album winning the 2015 Grammy for best reggae album, they have been part and parcel of the progress of reggae through time and tide. This spiffed up deluxe edition, which they rightfully regard as a personal best, brings classic I & I reggae into the contemporary present with no loss along the way. A high octane, hard charging set, even the casual reggae fan will have the hair on the back of their neck stand up with a dose of this barn burner in the air. The genre has been producing a lot of interesting stuff the last few years, but this revisit to a real high water mark shows how it's really done. Killer stuff throughout made better.

GARY WILSON/It's Christmas Time: An LA underground legend for 40 years that's only recently been getting national due in uber hip circles tunes up his Casio for his first Christmas album, a skewed but not so skewed set that you still won't find at Cracker Barrel or Yankee Candle gift sections. The perfect antidote for those that want some holiday sounds but just can't fathom sitting through something sanctioned the establishment.

JOE LYNN TURNER/the Sessions: He might be the hard rock vocalist of choice but when you look at who shows up on these tunes, you'll not only be amazed that he knows so many diverse players, but when you look at some of the match ups you'll be surprised the players even knew each other. Pulled from bunch of sessions, hence the title, this actually hangs together as a cohesive album that shows just how well chops can transfer when the players really have it together. With a set list that almost makes this play like a gift shop version of a hard rock record, it's a fine trip down memory lane for headbangers with mortgages that want to show their kids how it was once done. Check it out.

JOSH PRESTON: A Nashville cat that finds himself veering from folk to roots keeps his far left of center lyrics at the fore. With a sense of humor that's planted somewhere between cynical and realistic, he could easily become the contemporary Loudon Wainwright giving wry observations of the silliness of it all. A modern off beat on the rise.

ROBERTO OCCHIPINTI/Stabilimento: You want a left leaning jazz set that has chops to spare? This bass led, ensemble work is loaded with Juno winners, Grammy winners, MacArthur grant winners, Rolling Stone sidemen and more. A swinging set where egos are checked at the door and chops run wild without being indulgent, swing, post bop and aggressive mainstream playing all come together here in a delightful whole. With high octane energy to spare, this is the kind of set hard core jazzbos have been on the prowl for. Killer stuff throughout.

ANDREW DURKIN/Breath of Fire: A progressive jazz piano man steps up for his long over due solo debut in which we find him crafting progressive music addressing physical difficulties he's experiencing. With inner driven chaos driving an external explosion of sound, this left leaning date that isn't cute art for art's sake music is a real ear grabber and head turner of a date. Left leaning tastes will rejoice.

JOE GOODKIN/Record of Loss: With Leonard Cohen gone, who's gong to make folk music that makes you want to gargle with razor blades? Joe Goodkin! An ep that's the first half of a projected album with one side being about love and one side being about loss, this ep gives you the loss. He knows his stuff and puts it across for anything that doesn't think life isn't already hard enough.

THREE SOUNDS/Groovin' Hard: How nice that a record store day vinyl set has been released on cd for the rest of us that aren't hipsters. Never before released live sets culled from several different appearances in a Seattle hotspot, originally recorded back when music has regional hotspots, this sounds like a Detroit version of "Live From Bohemian Caverns". With Gene Harris leading the way from the piano bench, this set is loaded with familiar tunes the instrumental trio puts their stamp on and swings through in signature fashion. A work of timeless beauty, these over 50 year old sides prove once and for all that Harris was a player for the ages. Killer stuff throughout.

TIM GARTLAND/If You Want a Good Woman: A harp master blaster with a sound you can tell got it's start in Chicago, Gartland brings his road warrior ways to the fore in this entertaining blues set. Honoring the tradition without hewing to it slavishly, this is a dandy outing of drinking and dancing tunes that have good times slathered all over it. A rollicking ride from start to finish, this is color blind white boy that puts the blues first. Well done.

J BOOG/Wash House Ting: A Samoan from Compton having a #1 reggae record? What will they think of next? When you've got the passion, nothing else matters. Skanking with the best of them, as his track record shows, this is akin to white boys with the blues giving it their all and making a good showing. A righteous soundtrack for getting flat and letting things be irie with a conscience lurking in the background, this is smoking set that's going to see this lad rocketing to the top once again. Hot stuff throughout that shows there's still plenty of new life left in reggae to take it to the next level of the game.

Volume 40/Number 52
December 22, 2016
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2016 Midwest Record

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