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LYN STANLEY/Potions From the 50‘s: Yow! Have a jazz diva take a bunch of songs from the 50s (eyes rolling), line a up bunch of gray haired jazzbos that really know how to play (so far so good), add Al Schmitt and Bernie Grundman to the mix (smart) and let the thrush add her special sauce. Bingo. A winner of a set is brewed. Stanley nails it in ways you wouldn't think possible and everyone is having a blast taking it back to the day. Without a false note anywhere by anyone, jazz vocal fans have a home run here. Killer stuff.

MICHAEL STANLEY/The Solo Years 1995-2014: For a cat that came out of nowhere in 1973 with an auspicious heartland rock debut and thought he was washed up in 1986 when FM/AOR was on the way out, he's certainly done a fine job of keeping it going with his pals over the last 30 years. This set is culled from the last 20 years of indie recordings he's kept churning out like the heartland rocker he is, was and will be. With a sound that could keep AOR as a viable alternative running through the material, with updates, this threefer set is a sterling example of why he's here today and not gone tomorrow. Going so far as getting back together with his original mentor, Bill Szymczyk, you get a pretty good idea why geezers like Eagles are still material today. Disenfranchised rockers have a shelter from the storm in this collection. Properly tracked throughout.

AHMAD JAMAL/The Complete Collection Part 1, 1951-59 (9023); The Complete Collection Part 2, 1959-62 (9024): Some of the sixteen albums on these two collections go back 65 years. He was an adult when these were recorded and 65 years is already a whole working life time yet he's still tickling the ivories and trying to reinvent himself and keep relevant. That's why these sides don't get the respect they deserve. Going toe to toe with cats like Tatum and Peterson, Jamal managed to single handedly write the book on piano trio jazz and these sides prove it over and over again over 16 albums. Even with strong competition from within his own label, Jamal was laying down the law. And because he refused to roll over and die on a timely basis, his early work isn't getting the love it deserves. These two fatty collections go along way in correcting that. Still sounding contemporary, current and forward thinking, Jamal, who was turning Islam when nobody knew what that was and owning his own club when others were putting their wages in their arm, Jamal's restlessness imbued the now hoary chestnuts on the set card with a drive that keeps them moving today. Certainly a killer text book if you want to know how and what evolved into what it is today, playing this end to end will give you 10 of the most delightful hours of jazz you could immerse yourself in. Killer stuff throughout that has decimated the test of time.

JJ CALE/Breezin' At the Café: Pulled from a 1988 radio broadcast when he was breaking in some new material after a five year recording layoff, augmented with some more live tracks from 1975 on New Years Eve in his stomping ground of Tulsa, that cat that wrote the classics delivers them here with the Mrs. in tow and the vibes running rampant. Playing them as they were written and really meant to be heard by the hard core, this is killer stuff for any of the few but many that have all of Cale's output. Since he never ventured out of his trailer much, this is the best you can get to being there. More a document than a record, this is the real deal no matter how you slice. Check it out.

JUDI SILVANO/My Dance: In which we find Silvano getting in touch with her art chick side and doing so by giving Michael Abene the day off from his gig as leader of WDR Big Band with just the two of them sharing the spotlight. Hard core jazzbo stuff from when jazz clubs were in hotel basements and didn't really get rolling until midnight, all that's missing to complete the experience is some clove ciggies.

BARBARA HIGBIE/Scenes from Life: Funny thing about this album , even though it came about because it was supposed to be a soundtrack for a movie that never got made, if you're of a certain age and you take a close look at the liner notes, it seems like a Windham Hill reunion record. Hey, it plays like one too---and that's not a bad thing since it plays like the stuff Higbie was doing with Mike Marshall from the era when they were making records like, Nightnoise, Liz Story's best stuff, Scott Cossu hitting his stride----that stuff. A real champ of a piano player, Higbie still has loads of the right stuff, so much so that the fate of the surrounding work is irrelevant. This is a fun instrumental romp from one that appreciates Vince Guaraldi as much as Bill Evans. Check out this post card from an old pal that's still in this time zone.

GALLAGHER/I Am Who I Pretend to Be: Getting old means replacing smashing melons with sledge hammers and putting anger in the driver's seat. Fortunately for all, Gallagher has the Carlinian knack for making anger funny. Laying off recording for 35 years so he wouldn't give his act away, breaking in this new late stage act is a good time to jump back in the recording game. Reinventing himself as a funny monologist, Gallagher knows how to deliver the laughs and serves them up hot and fast here. Sure to give your funny bone a hard core tickling.

COSY SHERIDAN/Pretty Bird: A set about loss from one of the top folkies of these times, this is an intensely personal album that deals with a lot of downers but never falls into the depths of the pity pot. Four stars for that right there. This queen of Kerrville might take the singer/songwriter-folkie vibe back 50 years but there's no dust on her as she keeps pushing on. Certainly the kind of meaty album a lyric fan would love to sink their teeth into, Sheridan has really struck gold here laying her heart and nerves on the line like never before. Killer stuff.

THE BEST OF THE DANNY KAYE SHOW: Whither Mr. Kaminsky? One of the last of the great hyphenate entertainers, risen from the time when tummlers ruled the earth, it's dizzying to think that he's almost forgotten today. This show was originally aired when movie stars were being pulled to television as (believe it or not) television was still in it's infancy and needed oomph. Kaye gave it tons of oomph and this six episode collection of the several years the show aired hardly does the output justice---even if it does serve up loads of panache. This was the kind of variety show the whole family gathered to watch. Until some plucky entrepreneur comes with the cash to do some complete seasons, this is a glimpse into some real showmanship and how swell it all was. Give yourself this trip down memory lane.

Volume 39/Number 1
November 1, 2014
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2014 Midwest Record

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