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GREG NAGY/Stranded: What makes a white boy really sing the blues? How about a traumatic divorce after 24 years of marriage? Seems to work here. Impassioned vocals and solid instrumental work that has given him loads of notice in the past make the writing on this pick up the pieces treatise really resonate. Being old school enough to be a shining example of how great art can come from the depths of pain, this is the soundtrack for the newly divorced dad trying to figure out the next move, which should give Nagy a pretty big audience to pull from. Well done.

ELISE LEBEC/Heart Song: Here's a stunner of a set that'll take you back to the day. When new age first vectored from noodling to new acoustic music, there's was some mighty powerful stuff coming out and this set is a throw back to those NAC days. Leading with her piano and putting in other instrumental coloration when needed (even bringing along a vet from those times on cello), she might be inspired by the ships she sees from her studio window but the inspiration here feels more like it's taken from watching the silver blue Pacific as a whole. This is an utterly lovely album that's sure to grab you by the heart and not let go.

MANUEL VALERA TRIO/Live at Firehouse 12: The leading light of modern Afro-Cuban jazz tickles the ivories with great skill once again as he throws the covers off his first live date. The recording has an intimate feel making you feel like you were there, and you'll probably wish you were. First rank sitting down jazz, this is music that you just have to let carry you away and the crew has it all on the ball and it's best to let them do all the work. Hot stuff.

CHRIS DANIELS & THE KINGS featuring Freddi Gowdy/Funky to the Bone: Daniels' tribute to the great Louies might have been his ultimate album, but his first new set in 8 years finds him back in penultimate shape delivering solid doses of white boy funk with the help of an old funkateer that still has lots of life in those old bones. Boomer party music that delivers the goods throughout, there's enough Bay area grease dripping off these Colorado cats to make you think they couldn't be from Colorado. A stone killer good time for party people.

DAN KENNEDY/Bloom Road: You have to give this new age piano man points for bringing in Charles Neville to add to the sound. A world encompassing date that takes you from his Massachusetts farm house to points beyond and back, this is music for the mind and body that goes farther on than that as well. Easy rolling stuff for the stressed out adult that isn't looking for aural pablum, this set doesn't go well with a snifter of cognac but it is a great late afternoon beach for your mind.

THOM DOUVAN/All Over Again: I'm not hearing the Detroit in this jazz guitarist bag of tricks this time around but there's sure traces of how he splits his time between LA and SF. California sounding smooth jazz with some key players from both scenes, this is an easy going, sure handed delight that reassures you it is 5 o'clock somewhere in the world and it doesn't pay to stand on ceremony. Loaded with all the good vibes you'd want from a date like this, business in general ought to rethink their position about not being accommodating to people with gray hair. A winner throughout.

HERMAN RAREBELL & FRIENDS/Herman's Scorpions Songs: Rocking senior citiznes show they have their own take on mash ups. With almost 20 years of Scorpions under his belt, Rarebell rounds up youngsters as well as old pros from Toto, Santana and other quadrants, and they all band together to deliver hard rock crunch just like the old days never left. Even cats that used to lug equipment for Who get into the act here. Cross generational stuff, I'll be even Beavis accidental, illegitimate kids would bang their heads to this.

TOP FIVE: Brother Rich tried it with "Jo Jo Dancer" and Woody Allen pulled it off with "Annie Hall", but Chris Rock (whose character's last name is co-incidentally Allen) hit it out of the park with this pic about a stand up who becomes a movie star and re-examines his life (released right around the time he told his wife he just didn't want to be married anymore). A refreshing take on introspection that actually goes against the tide of these narcissistic times, Rock delivers all the movie star presence you knew he had in him back in "Lethal Weapon 4" and takes that over the top without going all Shatner when there's scenery around to be chewed up. A wildly funny take for the times about fame and it's pitfalls, this is a must see pic from a great go to guy. A winner throughout.

Volume 38/Number 130
March 10, 2015
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2015 Midwest Record

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