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FRED FRIED & CORE/Encore: So this jazz guitar man has to go Bucky Pizzarelli one better and play an 8 string guitar. Ok. He's got the chops and smarts to pass the test. The second outing by this crew finds them in a pianoless, guitar trio landscape once again that finds them to be grand shirpas. Using white space as the fourth man on the floor, this solid listening date has everything it needs to captive the listener on board and delivers a sterling performance that makes it hard to do anything but sit back and enjoy it. Well done stuff by a pro that needs to have the word spread farther than his northeast stomping grounds.

DEBORAH ALLEN/Hear Me Now: In a land that existed before Diane Warren ruled the earth, Deborah Allen was such a songwriting hit factory that it was rumored she was the richest woman in Nashville. That was the better part of 20 years ago and she looks and sounds none the worse for wear now that the meanwhile has passed. It might be country flavored, but Allen checks in here with a killer rocked up adult pop record where it's not about the hit, it's about how it hits you. With loads of sass and heart as well as the signature chops on both sides of the mic, Allen delivers the tonic and the straw that stirs the drink as well. A welcome return to form from one of the true originals.

THE GREEN/Ways and Means: So, let's get this right. A bunch of Hawaiian kids raise such a ruckus they sound like a reggae orchestra and are executive produced by a bunch of probably New York kids? Hey, I like it. With lyrics that are as equally inspired by love as they are Malcolm X, this bunch mixes authenticity with accessibility making smart pomo reggae for times almost 40 years after the initial explosion. Looks like the next wave is hitting the island like a tsunami, and it doesn't matter if it's the wrong island. Well done.

A MINISTER'S WIFE/original off-Broadway cast recording: Well, this is quite a mouthful. Austin Pendleton updated George Shaw's "Candida" to show that things below the surface aren't what they seem on the surface. Ok. Certainly Shaw gave the book, music and lyric writers something to work with, but what's really cool is how they ran with it. The presentation sounds old fashioned but the vibe is modern. The production features music as well as dialog and it's a special, new work that really gives the musical theater fans a lot of new rally points. This record is so right on that you don't even need the visuals to enjoy it. Everything about this fee s like one of those off-Broadway productions that will run forever. This set is a winner and all musical theater fans are missing the boat if they don't get on board. A winner throughout.

JONI HAASTRUP/Wake Up Your Mind: Remember that movie "Last Emperor"? Haastrup has a story kind of like that, except without all the betrayal and imprisonment. Born at the end of his family being monarchs in Nigeria, Haastrup soaked up all kinds of high life and found himself loving jazz and joining Ginger Baker's Airforce. This 1978 album sounds like it was produced by Curtis Mayfield in 1974 and is just a gasser of ‘lost funk". With sounds that could only have been realized by a true muso long before digging in the crates became fashionable, this some wild funky/political/Afro/disco rave up that is going to connect with any true lovers of the funk. Either that or it'll start them digging in the crates. Wild stuff that still cooks with the fire on high.

MONOMONO/The Dawn of Awareness: A groove record recorded in London/Lagos around the time of "Band on the Run", this has the same kind of groove Brian Jackson was laying down for Gil Scott-Heron a few years later. Multi culti soul/jazz-rock from a forward leaning London in the first half of the 70s, this could have easily been the soundtrack to a groovy, period movie that survived long before the Hollywood pillage/cash in ran it's course. Recorded as a reaction to the Watergate world that was swirling down the drain at the time, this was prime world beat before anybody knew what it was as the genre bending mixmaster was running on high. Killer stuff from another time and place.

MONOMONO/Give the Beggar a Chance: In the early 70s, hippies thought the only music that came from Africa was "Kumbiya". Who would have thought funky jazz/rock from a Nigerian émigré to London would have yielded such funky stuff, at least several years before we knew anything about Fela Kuti or "Soul Makoosa". "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" my ass. Monomono was funking it up in 1971 and this is a reminder of how something original has a real lasting after life that can keep it in the moment 40 years later. Sizzling stuff that'll have you wondering how you missed out on this for 40 years. Well done.

JIM PETERIK'S LIFE FORCE/Forces at Play: For a good portion of his career, Peterik has been a chameleon and a behind the scenes guy and it's made Chicago locals not appreciate him fully. This record is a real change of pace, Peterik goes smooth jazz and rounds up a guest list so august that it took the recession of 1991 to bring a bunch of cats like this together under the same cover. Don't get me wrong, he's got a lot of today's luminaries on board, not just geezers from another time zone. And he proves you can shift gears from "Eye of the Tiger" to first rate smooth jazz as well. If you keep your ears and mind open, this sets proves that incipient Social Security checks don't have to make you old. Well done.

Volume 34/Number 293
August 22, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2011 Midwest Record

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