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TOWNES VAN ZANDT/Down Home: This 1985 is just another reminder that Van Zandt was making posthumous albums long before he died. While he was one of the creative greats, the well ran dry for periods of time and the faithful had to be glad for yet another live version of "Pancho & Lefty" while keeping a light on in the window. One of the sly jokes on this set is that early in his career he was one of the army of singer/songwriters touted as the new Dylan--he records "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" here as a little bitch slap to all. The performance doesn't disappoint and he's backed here by a flute/sax player in addition to a second guitar. If you're one of the faithful, you know you need this. If you're one of the few not privy to the legend, this is actually a pretty nice place for the uninitiated to jump into the deep end all at once.

FIVE PLAY JAZZ QUINTET/Five & More: 30 years together and only their third album, this is one for the books you should not miss. Sounding like smooth jazz but really being anything but, this crew knows how to float along the surface delivering the kind of jazz that always sounds like summer. With the kind of interplay and simpatico that comes from being able to read each other's minds after being together so long, there's no contempt bred by familiarity here. Smoking stuff that wasn't made to change the world but can certainly change your day, it sounds like a sonic sundae but it's got plenty of meat waiting for you to byte into. Hot stuff throughout.

VOLARE! The Greatest Italian/American Vocalists/various: Remember how bad you felt when the cover of that copy of "Mob Hits" that you liked to have hanging out of your glove box got ruined? Well this doesn't have the cool cover or concept, but it is a 3 cd, fatly tracked collection of mob hits by the pound. Yep, the gang's all here, the songs are on deck and there's even more than the two volumes of "Hits" and the Christmas companion combined. Mostly originals with a few ringers, this set is enough of a fatty that you can retire your copies of "Mob Hits", "Eh, Paisano" and all the other collections that all cover the same ground. How they missed fitting Jimmy Roselli in here, I don't know, but other than that, this is certainly a feast of sounds. 3cds? Boy, that's some heavy lifting!

WOUTER KELLERMAN/Mizansi: Talk about your world fusion...Kellerman fuses African and Celtic in the same breath. World beat for those who have wanted to get into it but have been intimidated by the world beat police, this is a wild multi-culti, genre busting set where everything is fair game, including the kitchen sink---I think I hear him banging on it somewhere in the mix. An utter gasser that's about to become South Africa's gift to the rest of the world, you can't help but to get into the lively spirit of this fun music that takes you around the world without having to leave your armchair. Killer stuff.

SALSA DE LA BAHIA V. 1/various: There's a lot of salsa in the San Francisco area and this twofer celebrates a big boatload of it. One of those various artist omnibus sets that just hangs together perfectly without a false step, there's plenty of different character and flavor on display here but it somehow makes you forget you're playing a various artists set. A delightful ear opener that's one for the senses, it's enough to make a gringo think about going to a ‘bad neighborhood' in search of some more. The Bay area's contribution to salsa have been overlooked because of the strong influence of New York and Miami but this set is sure to right some old wrongs. Killer stuff.

OMAR AKRAM/Daytime Dreamer: After copping a Grammy for his third record, Omar is back with a full on sonic assault to make sure he does it again. Not exactly pop, he does turn it up a notch loading the new age deck with pop and jazz smarts, keeping it buoyant, upbeat and winkingly sassy. This isn't massage or healing music, this is listening music that anyone with a jazz lite bone in their body will love. Check it out.

GOT ROCKIN' ON MY MIND Red Hot Rockabilly/various: These 50 sides aren't a bunch of found wacko stuff, this is a fat collection of all the guys that reached for the gold ring that weren't Johnny Burnette. Probably the coolest records that you'd need an invitation to the Cramps house to hear, this is what proto Americana was in the 50s when rock kicked country on the face and there was a wide trench between them where players just loved to kick it out and tear it up. Fun stuff that handily shows why the genre has survived without real stars or signature hits for much longer than other blips that have come and gone. Daddios and gone kitties will find this essential.

OH CAROLINA The Jamaican Hits of 1961/various: Proto reggae and proto ska, this is a fun house snapshot of what basically amounts to the Jamaican top 40 before reggae started taking root. With doo wop you know didn't come from the streets of New York and other contemporary forms rolling by, with an island twist in the mix, it was only a matter of time before independence took roots there just like post war freedom took root here and gave us the 50s. It's a real nostalgia trip but with a few rum drinks in you, it's all a pleasant blur that'll make you feel like a real hipster.

JIMMY CLIFF/The KCRW Session: Why has it taken so long for Jimmy Cliff to get the unplugged treatment? A reggae king pin of long standing, he rolls through a veritable greatest hits set here with just his guitar live at the public radio station. Oh yeah, the other thing he brought with him is a lot of heart. With no production or embellishment, you can't get it any more direct and from the heart than this. His discography too unwieldy for you? Try jumping in here. Killer stuff.

Volume 37/Number 292
August 20 , 2013
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2013 Midwest Record

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