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SHELLEY BERMAN/Complete Albums 1959-61: With the exception of Bob Newhart, Jewish humor fueled the comedy boom of the late 50s/early 60s. Whether Lenny Bruce or many others, it seems pretty dated now. Berman had the first gold comedy record and won the first comedy Grammy, but he hasn't escaped the fate of time. One of the more neurotic of the Jewish comics, he was the one that really caught fire with the public. On these four golden age of comedy albums, Berman comes across as your grandfather that still remembers when he hung out in the Borscht Belt as a young waiter/tummler rubbing elbows with the greats. Because he didn't work blue, this humor survives in a retro way but if you listen to it all in one sitting, you might find yourself wishing he would discover the wonderful world of anti-depressants.

CATHY FINK & MARCY MARXER/Get Up and Do Right: The vet folk/children's music duo blow the dust off their back pages and pay tribute to the folkies that inspired them to embark on this journey many moons ago. With nothing more on board than the duo vocalizing with their strings and things, they give a master class in organic, acoustic music and show what a difference chops make when your ears have been jaded by wannabes and pretenders. This record makes a great case for turning the heads of the uber hip that turn up their noses at back porch/folk music, of course, if they can admit they've been wrong. If this doesn't earn the duo another Grammy, someone's not paying attention.

CSC FUNK BAND/Above the Starrs: And if you don't think Electric Cowbell is one of the more creative labels out there then explain this minimalist tribute to Gang Starr with members of GWAR lurking in the background. Acknowledging the vitality still lurking the corners of back in the day, there's a lot of stuff this will bring back into focus for you. Mixing live work and samples into a seamless whole, this after hours grabber will give you the right vibe when the tourists clear out and the party gets down to getting down. Check it out.

TIME IS FIRE: The young people are as pissed off today as they were when chaffing under Nixon's rule and here's the new seeds of rising up angry. With lyrics that seem to spring from foreign grounds of oppression, the impassioned blows against the empire come across loud and clear. When you keep the lid on tight enough long enough, here's proof it will eventually blow.

JOHNNY GRIFFIN/Riverside Collection: The hard bopping tyro known as the fastest sax in the west as well as for his associations with all the daddio jazz greats had a four year sweet spot where he proved to be a capable leader in his own right as well. Ever the daddio jazzbo even when doing a set of Irish ballads, this smoky, smoking stuff that shows what he could do in good company at the turn of the 60s is a non stop groover. A nonstop serving of what it is/was to be a real daddio. Totally gone grooves throughout!

EDDIE ‘LOCKJAW' DAVIS/Prestige Collection 1958-1961: The turn of the 60s was the golden age of the cutting contest and Davis had more than a cool nickname and a stylish hat going for him. Among the many hats he wore was a duo with Johnny Griffin where they were known to raise the roof a time or two. While there is no crossover with the Griffin collection, there's also no sign of Griffin on the 8 alums featured here. With Shirley Scott greasing up the B3 and a cast of other hotshots keeping him on his toes, Davis tears it up here madly swinging throughout and refusing to let time stand still. A hot and heavy collection, daddio jazz was in fine hands here. Killer stuff.

LEONARD COHEN/Upon a Smoky Evening: Recorded in Europe at the end of the 70s in
Europe where he was most revered, this is a veritable double disc of his greatest hits to that point. With most of the crew that would fuel the second stage of his career in 1988 already on board, this was probably Cohen's unwitting farewell to his folkie days. The songs are seeded with sly humor to keep the audience's attention and if you are a fan of his first phase, this will hit the target for you. Originally a local radio broadcast, don't expect a studio recording but do expect Cohen to be Cohen and give you what you came for. A snapshot preserved in amber, fans will know what to do.

MICHAEL PEDICIN/As It Should Be-Ballads 2: A long way from that funky stuff that inspired him as a kid, sax man Pedicin calls this a bunch of ballads but it comes from a deeper place in his psyche where he's seeing things differently as time passes by. Not new agy but steeped in feelings of acceptance, this lyrically lovely set of jazz that's rooted in Philly/east coast vibes is a great sonic companion to have for those after hours times when hygge is in the air. Pros playing for the joy of playing and playing with each other, this set will inspire you in ways you didn't see coming. Tasty stuff that shows things don't always have to be on fire to be hot. Well done.

OUMOU SANGARE/Mogoya: For her fifth album in a quarter century, the voice that many call the greatest living African vocalist goes for a real bag breaker with one ear cocked toward indigenous sounds and the other toward the future. The kind of world beat set that gringos don't understand but are often mesmerized by, this is certainly the kind of set that makes new world beat adherents with very little effort. Even if you don't know what she's singing about, this kind of tribally rooted set draws you into it's inner circle and you won't want to leave. Killer stuff that opens the ears way too easily. Well done.

TOM PAXTON/Boat in the Water: I was under the impression Paxton had retired last year. How nice I was wrong. A charming album that is loaded with back in the day folk music vibes, Paxton's new songs are less wizened than ones he was writing 40 years ago as he's eased into being the grand father he seemed to be when he was kind of like the grand father figure of the movement in the 60s. A modern text book young whippersnappers could learn a lot from while old fans revel in this visit from a welcome old friend, I hope he keeps putting off his notions of retirement if he's still writing and performing wonderful stuff like this. Killer stuff without a drop of nostalgia in the mix at all.

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY (unrated): Is it possible that studios are bitching about declining theater attendance because the cool, ‘unrated' stuff shows up on the home edition? Not a spin off of the similarly named Mike Judge classic, this set is loaded with contemporary comedy leading lights and nu SNL stalwarts. With an over top vibe as it's leading edge, this comeuppance comedy hit's the raunchy mark throughout. The story line takes a back seat to the antics and a good time is had by and assured for all. A solidly sure stop for side stitching belly laughs.

Volume 40/Number 154
April 4, 2017
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2017 Midwest Record

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