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JONES FAMILY SINGERS/Live From Mt. Zion: That staple of the gospel recording sector, the live album from church, is rock and rolled out here in high style. The runaway gospel train that's been charming them at SXSW for years delivers on being Staple Singers for millenials as they continue to tear the roof off the sucker, giving the secular is due as well. Killer stuff you don't' have to be a bible belter to enjoy, perhaps even more so if you aren't. Yep, even gospel comes into the nu age. Well done.

CINEMA CINEMA/A Night at the Fights: Certainly not as wild as G. G. Allin but certainly not timid either. Rollicking sonic hard core thrash that provides a really great soundtrack for releasing really pent up teen aged hormones, keep your ass out of the way of this ass kicker if you're faint of heart.

HELEN TZATZIMAKIS/Soulfully: You have to listen to this Greek cabaret artist more than once to appreciate that she's not just an art chick serving up the tortured artist effect. An award winner in some pretty hefty circles, she's a skilled singer/artist that has the sense of mix Jacques Brel, Willie Nelson, Kurt Weill and Billie Holiday into her mix and make it all work. Elegantly backed by a piano, bass, trumpet trio, Tzatsimakis will have you forgetting about nature boys, Sondheim and all the rest of the cabaret clichés in no time flat. A solid bet for urbane tastes.

MASON RAZAVI-BENNETH ROTH NEWELL/After You: Having played together here, there and everywhere in the service of others, this time around, when the tapes are rolling, the duo is doing it for themselves in their first guitar/piano duo date. With spirited, hip happening playing on both chestnuts and tasty originals, these jazzbos show they are well skilled at raising a joyful noise that could stop the clinking of glasses in the most crowded club. Showing it doesn't have to be earth shaking to be a breath of fresh air, this duo is a winning combination throughout.

THE POP GROUP/Citizen Zombie: The album kicks off sounding like some Zappa MGM stuff from the mid 60s, but in some weird way, I think this is the post-punker's "The Wall". Very much in touch with today's pissed off suburban teen, if Gen X didn't already have it bad enough, boy are they in for it when their kids start rebelling against...what? In the end, it's all good, clean fun.

EYAL VILNER BIG BAND/Almost Sunrise: Blame it on my youth. The thing that hits me the most about Vilner's big band chops is that he gets the gang to sound like the mouse orchestras Tex Avery used to round up when Jerry wanted to torture Tom all night long by having all the cats (well, mice) blasting it out inside the walls. Of course, the music was made by the best musicians the MGM studio could round up at the time, but still.... Anyway, this sax man has the skills to pay the bills---and then some. With versatile arrangements that respect the classics on display here while adding flourishes for contemporary ears and tastes, here's another practitioner that shows the future of big band is still in good hands. A winner throughout.

STEVE WASHINGTON/Right to Love: The kind of hard working singer/actor that could have benefited from a bit part on "Frasier", Washington hasn't let lacking that kind of cameo slow him down. With the kind of classic phrasing you got from the Coles, Eckstines etc, Washington displays a program of classics and chestnuts ranging from "Alright, Okay" to "MacArthur Park" that he obviously knew would put his male vocal chops front and center. With more jazz in his soul than a Broadway cat can be expected to show, this is a fine set by a cat that knows how to hit his marks.

KINETIC ELEMENT/Travelog: This set proves you can't judge an album by it's back cover. They play like Return to Forever jamming with Yes but look like a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band. Go figure. Playing with skilled, well developed chops, they can do long jams and long solos that actually go somewhere other than right to the center of the player's ego. And the deep lyrics are there as well for those who cherish them. It's like jazz flavored prog never went away.

ALLEN TOUSSAINT/Toussaint-The Real Thing 1970-1975: Three albums on two discs that'll have you wondering why the "Toussaint" album wasn't included on the Rhino Handmade release. Well, 1-it was reviled in it's time for unknown reasons and 2-it originally came out on Scepter making this a cross label anthology. Now go ask Warners why it didn't include "Motion" in the Rhino Handmade release. Meanwhile, back at the funk, three of the classiest funk practitioner's prime albums are collected here under one wrapper. As solidly Nawlins as et tu fais, the grand hit maker for others was more interested in his solo sides coming from his heart and not straying far from it. Y'know what? These would have been hits too if he didn't have his fingers in so many other pies keeping him too busy to toot his own horn. Now, let's go speak to that guy that took two years to get around to writing a bad review of the first album and tell him which end is up. It's full of classics that it didn't take 45 years to recognize. Toussaint wrote the modern book on Nawlins R&B/soul/funk and he's still delivering the word today. This is a killer collection throughout. Now excuse me while everything I do is gon be funky from now on!

FRACTAL MIRROR/Garden of Ghosts: Progressive/electronic music pioneer Larry Fast is still keeping his hand in the game exec producing and mastering this nu prog band that keeps it to the commercial side of the ledger without losing the real taste of the genre. Deep stuff for suburban kids that want some nu depth to help affect that moody pose that cheerleaders still give sloe eyed side glances to.

AZIZ ANSARI/Modern Romance: You know we are living in deconstructed times when a cat that's on a long running network show and can sell out Carnegie Hall can be perceived as flying under the radar. A top flight comic, here he turns to being a relationship expect---for real. While he doesn't keep his comedy at bay, he co-wrote this with a serious relationship expert and it's a serious tome; just presented with grins along the way. Recently turning up as Amazon's #1 selling relationship book, when it was in pre-release (!), Ansari has the power. Keeping it in the now, Ansari really does look at MODERN romance, accenting looks at hook ups, texting. computer dating etc etc etc. Modern romance for modern times. This really wouldn't have worked if it wasn't leavened with a comic touch---but that's the times we're living in. If Ansari can help his nephew Harris in life, he can certainly help you with love. Leave that old school stuff in the back of Half Price Books where it belongs and get with the nu.

Volume 38/Number 253
July 11, 2015
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2015 Midwest Record

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