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STOCKTON HELBING QUARTET/Handprints: The Texas drummer comes in with a very personal sounding set that doesn't feel like venting but does feel like he's opening himself to the listener. So inner directed that it almost feels claustrophobic at times, this is what it feels like to go inside someone else's head. Wild stuff that shows just how far a field jazz can go and still be jazz. Quite the wild ride.

DEXTER ALLEN/Bluez of My Soul: If this killer old school electric blues date has you feeling like you're listening to Bobby Rush as it bowls you over, it might be because this is on Rush's label and Allen has been Rush's guitarist for a spell. A smoking set of originals that feels like it was marinated in gulf coast, chitlin, get out of town in the middle of the night Cadillac times, this non-stop, muscular sounding set can survive any parking lot knife fight and come out the winner. Hot stuff that's in the driver's seat all the way (with one hand on the wheel and one hand on a brick).

IF I HAD A HAMMER The Great American Folk Album Essential Collection/various: Whether you snickered at folk music or were a fan, this really is an essential collection. The scoffers will have their heads turned around, the fans will be validated. However, betcha, most people will think these were songs they learned at camp and didn't know they were real, grown up songs. Spread across three fatly tracked set are a glorious omnibus of top songs and top performers. Even if the recordings are the original performances, they aren't all performed by the original artists. That doesn't matter so much here. Take a track like "Spanish is a Loving Tongue".., Ian Tyson did a pretty definitive take on that but the lonesome tenor Glenn Yarborough serves up here is pretty definitive in it's own right. This set is tracked like that. Amid the familiar cuts you forgot about, there's a bunch of nice surprises, like Woody Guthrie doing "Stewball", Peggy Seeger doing the song that was written especially for her "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and more like that. (Let's keep it our secret that "Adios Mi Corazon" and "Spanish is a Loving Tongue" are the same song--no sense in starting a fight between Joe Kubiak and Glenn Yarbrough at this point in time). This collection is such a stone, cold gasser that you don't have to ask if wasn't that a time?. Well done.

DULCIE TAYLOR/Only Worn One Time: Here's a pretty sweet find. Taylor feels like a singer/songwriter that wanted to try something new after touring with Sade. While the material looks like a bummer on paper, in your ear, it's oddly hypnotic and mesmerizing. Taylor has a tiger by the tail on a lot of levels from writing to performing. Supported by a boat load of talent intent on not letting her down, this isn't down mouth college girl stuff. This is killer adult listening for anyone that wants more than beats in their bytes. Sure fire killer stuff from a major talent that been hiding from the rest of us for too long.

ADA ROVATTI/Disguise: So, when you bring together Anne Drummond, Randy Brecker, Charlie Chaplin and Led Zep with part of the cover art by your daughter inspired by "Self Portrait" era Bob Dylan, what do you think you might get? If done by a jazzbo sax ace, you get a jazzy, smart set that delves into various aspects of your jazz personality showing you don't have to fit any format other than the one you choose for yourself. Moldy figs will probably find the Zep cover a little too arts councilly, but the Zep tune is already 40 years old so how old are the moldy figs? What we have here is a highly creative player that knows how to stay on message that doesn't have to take a back seat to any one. Did we mention she's been kicking it pretty hard with all your fave fusion cats for over the last decade? She has. Well done.

JOHN HARTFORD/Live, Love & Music 5 Essential Albums 1966-69: Back when no one was showing Hartford the love (and they should have been), Raven was there with a fatly tracked, well stacked single record set that did a better job than RCA did with their late to the party single disc retrospective. In another showing of the label's good taste, they now round up five RCA albums on two discs that almost takes us right up to the point of Hartford becoming unabashedly quirky (think "Aereo Plain") (‘almost' because this set didn't have room for "Iron Mountain Depot" and the unreleased in it's time "Radio John"). As much as they wanted to unleash Hartford as a Nashville nu Dylan, he was his own man that could turn out a category killer of a song, a bunch of killer album tracks and other stuff that never fell to being throwaways. Since he was always seen as a cult act who couldn't get on a bigger label than Flying Fish from 1974 until his death, this is a mighty collection of Americana/alt.country that pretty much set the standard for what was to come. (By the way, his first Flying Fish album sold in six figures and won a Grammy, but what do we know?). This is some of most gleefully coloring outside the lines music ever and it's all from a cat that didn't know the world would last this long. This is must hearing for anyone who never knew what genius Hartford was hiding under his bowler hat.

JIM STRANAHAM LITTLE BIG BAND/Migration to Higher Ground: This is one of those records that makes you go ‘yeah!' right from the opening riff. Maybe he thinks he's leading a little big band but he certainly knows how to lead them into a frenzy that sounds like a holy, sonic riot. The multi reed playing leader is one of those can do it all cats that hits to all fields and gets on base every time. Any jazzbo looking for some solid, killer, mainstream playing need look no further. This set is a winner throughout.

JAY WILLIE BLUES BAND/Rumblin' and Slidin': A wonderfully nutty album, this third set by the blues rockers finds them really taking off the gloves and hitting it old school, west side Chicago style by way of the Sunset Strip putting Muddy Waters side by side with Steve Stills and throwing some Zawinul in for good measure among the band originals. It's a lot of fun when a band of recidivists take it to the next level of the game like JW and his posse are doing here. Going way beyond reheated frat house stuff, this bunch knows how to party and isn't afraid to bring it. Killer stuff that'll remind you what it was like to blow off studying for your finals when beer was calling. Check it out.

Volume 38/Number 240
June 27, 2014
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2014 Midwest Record

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