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FRANK VIGNOLA/100Years of Django: We don't hand them out lightly, but Vignola's tribute to Django Reinhardt's birth centennial earns a jaw dropping, five Motherfucker!!!!!'s. While centennial fever pretty much ebbed, flowed and reached it's peak with Duke Ellington while letting a lot of worthy notables get another turn in the spotlight, this set would have followed in Duke's footsteps if Django lived longer and had his influence felt even harder. Clearly a figure you have to point to as a fountainhead of modern guitar, Vignola plays from the heart as well as the fingers in a spot on set that has the master smiling. Much more than a tribute, Vignola picked 10 hard core Reinhardt classics to let it all hang out on. A must have album for guitar lovers.

RACHEL & VANESSA FUIDGE/A Touch of Class: If these English teen twins had an Italian mom with a better fashion sense to pass along, we could lede with "Hey, did you know the next Labeque Sisters are coming out of England?" Two records re-released as a single set from when they were a few years younger, this finds them covering some well trod Labeque ground and covering it quite well. Probably forced to practice as much as Asian kids, they could quite easily be 2 of the next 5 Browns. Moldy figs may complain about how there's no new ground broken here but we can be quite happy with good taste that tastes good, like what's going on here. A striking new sound that bodes well for keyboards of the future.

ANTHONY GOLDSTONE/Vladimir Rebikov--Russian Piano Music Series V. 2: Just like you never heard of Salieri until Mozart when mainstream, again, there are a raft of Russian composers that probably never scored a blip on your radar. Musical archeologists like Goldstone don't let that stand in their way as he raises another worthy composer from the dust bin of time and gives him his due. You can play a lot of musical chicken/egg games here as some of his works predated masters you know yet seem eerily similar. A great bit of hide and seek for classical enthusiasts that want to dig deeper without have to go on a scavenger hunt to do so.

THE HONEY DEWDROPS/If the Sun Will Shine: Ok, who are these kid's parents? This boy/girl folk duo not only kicks it lo-fi in hi style, but they perfectly capture the sound of college coffeehouses before disco rolled over everything. This could even stand tow to tow with the best of what was coming out of Chicago folk bars that were the last hold out against the 70s disco invasion. A thoroughly delightful folk/lo-fi outing that simply hits all the right notes, this is what you need to fire up a doob and roll the clock back 40 years or so. Charmingly beguiling in a way that goes way past something like "Once" that probably inspired this.

LADY K and the King s of Swing/Live at Blackhawk: You can't judge a cd by it's digipak. The cover shot of this set makes you think Kaye Leedham has always harbored fantasies of being a vocalist/jazz singer and she finally brow beat her lawyer husband into financing a recording session for valentine's day. Wrongo, friendo. Lady K is a multi wind instrumentalist that knows how to swing. This is a solid big band date that takes a nice walk down memory lane without being ironic or sentimental, just swinging. With a very Sinatresque set card and a large, like minded crew, this isn't just for gramps and his pals. It's a sophisticated outing that anyone with a taste for big bands can enjoy. Mix up a Manhattan and let the good times roll.

FINIAN'S RAINBOW/new Broadway cast recording: I said it before and I'll say it again: Tommy Krasker is the illegitimate grandson of Goddard Lieberson. When you are reviving an iconic show, you either make "improvements" that piss people off or you are totally faithful to the original and make people wonder why you bothered. There is a thin margin where you remake the show and stay true to the original but add certain fine tweaks that make it all worthwhile. Done that here. The iconic show is brought forward in tact and it feels just like a classic Columbia cast album that could even stand toe to toe with the recent re-re-re-re-remasters of those classics. Directing a spot on performance, recorded in one day, Harburg fans are sure to delight as there's not a false note in the bunch. A thoroughly wonderful ‘revamp' that hits it right out of the park. Clearly a must for show music fans.

LUTHER ALLISON/Songs from the Road: Cd/dvd combo packs like this earn Tom Ruf the right to punch anyone one in the nose if they doubt he's a friend of the blues. A non-record, this is Luther Allison in concert four days before he was told he had the terminal cancer that would find him dead within a month. He's not playing like there's a death sentence over his head. Ruf had the tapes rolling and we're all musically better for it. Simply on fire, this is first rate contemporary blues. The dvd is full of many of the same tunes on the cd and it's a full on experience long time blues fans won't want to miss.

ZUILL BAILEY/Bach Cello Suites: You ever have that dream where you're standing up in front of a crowd to speak and you're naked? That must not be much different than taking on a double disc set of Bach totally solo with just your cello. If you try either one without a huge member to hide behind, it can probably be an unsettling experience. Based on how Bailey holds your ear in the palm of his hand for 2.5 hours, with just him and his cello, we aren't in a hurry to challenge him to a sword fight. Whether classical fan or not, Bailey brings his powers to the fore creating an enchanting experience that's just amazing to hear. Working out on six cello suites, this is nothing short of a well played, classy experience that pretty much transcends genre. On top of that, it's probably still too soon to say this cat is playing at the top of his powers. Hot stuff.

Volume 33/Number 94
February 3, 2010
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2010 Midwest Record

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