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ANGEL BAND/Bless My Sole: Just because you're Mrs. Bromberg, that doesn't mean it's not a good idea to bring in Lloyd Maines to lend a production hand. With a dose of the Texas soul only he can bring forward, it was a much better choice than making a knee jerk move toward T-Bone Burnett as Maines knows how to make things juicier. This is a whole different sound than this crew had when they were first coming out of the gate and it's like the kick in the pants folk/rock gave folk all those years ago. A zesty trio whose group chops have really been honed at all levels over the last few years, this is first class adult pop for jaded ears that feel forgotten. A delight at every level.

PETE SEEGER/Tomorrow's Children: If 90 is the new 60, Seeger is the poster boy for the movement. And speaking of movements, he's still at the fore front making kids know that they have to pay attention to things other than the new phone and video game. With a bunch of friends and neighbors making up the crew, from kids to stars, this is a wild, organic set that is Seeger at his most elemental, charming and socially proactive. You bet this is the grandpa you always wanted really letting his freak flag fly. C'mon, you smell a Grammy for best kids album here at the very least.

CHIE IMAIZUMI/A Time of New Beginnings: Remember when hot, Asian chicks were all playing classical violin? Gone. Imaizumi has got smooth jazz mastered and there's a bunch of genre hitters from the last few generations that have gathered around her to prove she has the chops to go the distance. A secret the Rocky Mountains has been keeping from the rest of us, this moving set will remind you of dozens of sets you won't be able to put your finger on--because it's unique unto itself after all is said and done. Sets like this could single handedly put smooth jazz radio back on the dial, except when she‘s going exotic, bebopping, stirring up some borsch belt klez schmaltz and taking you other places you didn‘t know you want to go but are glad to go there with her. A winner throughout.

NILSSON-JOHN STEWART/Spotlight on Nilsson-Willard: Just why these two albums were complied together is anybody's guess, but it is the best treatment "Willard" has gotten in it's cd history where it's often treated like an unwanted stepchild. A superior album to "Signals Through the Glass", it has been lumped in with "California Bloodlines" with tracks cut off or made part of an anthology and not given it's proper due, but at las,t it's almost front and center. Produced by Peter Asher with James Taylor and Carole King on board when they were riding high, this 30 years ahead of it's time Americana classic didn't have anything remotely resembling a hit on board but it was loaded with killer cuts that transcended and were very influencial. Today, this would be an instant Americana classic. No matter, it sounds better than it ever has and there's a bonus track that's never seen the light of day from these session included as well. The Nilsson set is pretty typical of what was being released on Tower in the late 60s when the suits were trying to play catch up and appeal to the kids, but it's clear that under it all, Harry Nilsson wasn't destined to be a bank teller much longer.

JIMMY WEBB/Just Across the River: Webb has basically been making the same album over and over for the last 15 years, and he's done it again, but this time around he making a bid for the long over due respect that always seems to be denied him because of time and tide. Certainly one of the most towering of contemporary songwriters who can hold his own with any of the masters, he showed too much diversity and wrote for too many mainstream acts to be heralded by the pot heads that roamed the earth during his period of his greatest influence. Here we find him doing some of his biggest hits with some of his biggest pals, but interestingly, they don't duet on the songs that were their great successes together. Pushing 70, he's come with the career maker artist album that says it all. You've enjoyed his songs all along, this is the perfect setting to enjoy them up close and personal and let him really take his place, and enjoy the spotlight, of being in the pantheon of great American songwriters.

ESPERANZA SPALDING/Chamber Music Society: Jazz's current ‘it' girl turns it up and turns it loose with a left turn into new territories that finds her walking the line where Corrine Bailey meets art period Judy Collins. The kind of art jazz that could easily be a bookend to Collins' "In My Life", strap yourself in for a solid flight of sitting down jazz that will keep you riveted to your seat. If you're prepared to go somewhere different, this is the E ticket you've been looking for.

STEVE WIGGINS BAND/Precious Cargo: First class bunch of boogie woogie rocking blues boys that hit the ground rollicking and don't want to do anything but let the good times roll. Fun stuff from a bunch of cats that sound like your musician friends that never faced the real world but enjoy being Big Lebowskis and somehow abide. Buy their cd from the bandstand, tip your waitress and enjoy the party that never ends. A fun ride from start to finish and back again.

GABRIEL ALEGRIA/Pucusana: Wow, a killer throwback to the days of deep exotica, the kind that came after you realized Martin Denny was only the gateway drug. But this is a throwback to the original rush, not the lounge revival, where the next step was way out Afro Cuban jazz that was so abruptly off kilter to suburban sensibilities that it really shook things up. Expertly played by cats that know their stuff and are looking to stretch out, this is the soundtrack for your next luau. Exotica to the max and righteous throughout.

PATTI CRONHEIM/Days Like These: A white, suburban Jersey girl that grew up listening to John Lee Hooker records turned into a jazz vocalist and probably doesn't know who Snooki is. A savvy, accomplished set that finds a solid but mellow groove right out of the gate, she sounds like anything but what she is. Tasty throughout, this is a killer summer jazz set that goes great with sundown and sangria. Check it out.

JOHN LEE HOOKER JR./Live in Istanbul Turkey: Is this capitalizing on a gimmick or what? Hooker Jr kicks it out in Turkey where they probably don't know the difference between him and his father. With a smoking show band in tow, he kicks it out in fine fashion like he's a blues Hank Williams, Jr. Kicking stuff that you might not expect much from and you would be completely wrong. A few sons can go into the family business and make it on their own terms and Hooker Jr is one of the few. Hot stuff that is more steak than sizzle.

Volume 33/Number 264
July 24, 2010
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2010 Midwest Record

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