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BETH WIMMER/Ghosts and Men: Left leaning, neo nu folkie travels to Italy to give her songs a load of special sauce that might not have been sprinkled on if staying in her native Boston and recording locally. Presenting deeply felt songs in a deeply felt performance, you also feel something lurking under the surface that there's a nod and a wink lurking in there somewhere giving away that she's not really a queen of pain type. It's got it's heart and soul in back porch music, but Wimmer's back porch might be the balcony of a high rise condo.

BILL COSBY/Icon: Bill Cosby is a very funny fellow, right? That's what they said when he was at Warners. When he left WB for Uni, it was a long way off from when Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy would change the face of comedy and a long way from Cosby doing "Himself" and "Leonard, Part 6", but his 5 Uni albums have a tendency to get lo tin the shuffle. This distillation shows them not to be as off the mark as believed as it's top heavy with some bits that people tend to associate with his Warner records. Stop driving yourself nuts looking for them, the bits are right here. Now snort some coke and smile. That was his saying, or something like that, right? It's still funny, dive in.

JOHN LEE HOOKER/Icon: Hooker was with a lot of labels that have since been absorbed by Universal and this could have been a wild and wooly collection but the compilers chose to focus on his stay at Chess as opposed to shuffling the deck. That's ok, it gives us his ABC collection to look forward to next time. Seminal stuff that cemented his reputation and even threw off a few classics as well. C'mon, who doesn't like Hooker.

STRONGHOLD SOUND PRESENTS THE AUDIO REFUGE COLLECTION/various: Who knew there was so much cool world beat going on in San Francisco? From the opening tinkles, there's something about this set that tells you that you're in for something special and the crew on board has nary a slacker in the bunch. Pretty much a collective operation, Stronghold shows great musical sense in picking their charges and the players respond to the love. While there's a lot of diversity, it isn't an uneven collection with no jarring left turns as different acts take the spotlight. One of those sets where you might like some stuff better than others but with nothing you won't like. It might seem like it's for deep world beat fans but the music is so sprightly and accessible that armchair travelers will want this no further than arm's length most of the time. Killer stuff throughout.

Volume 34/Number 272
August 1, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2011 Midwest Record

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