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Monday, October 28, 2019

The Top 25 Albums of 2019

Now originally I was planning to post this on the first day of November. But since Halloween is right around the corner this Thursday, I decided to have a change of heart. I know you're ready to have your Christmas and Hanukkah wish lists ready for this December after finishing up for Thanksgiving in November, but here's my top 25 albums of 2019.

1. Rosalie Cunningham - Rosalie Cunningham (Esoteric Antenna)
2. Bent Knee - You Know What They Mean (InsideOut)
3. Islidurs Bane & Peter Hammill - In Amazonia (Atraxia)
4. In These Murky Waters - In These Murky Waters (Apollon Records)
5. Sara Loera - The Undiscovered Country (Raellic)
6. IZZ - Don't Panic (Doone Music)
7. Crystal Beth - Push Thru (7D Media)
8. The Far Meadow - Foreign Land (Bad Elephant Music)
9. Magma - Zess (Seventh Records)
10. Tim Bowness - Flowers at the Scene (InsideOut)
11. Mark Wingfield & Gary Husband - Tor & Vale (MoonJune)
12. Jamie Saft, Steve Swallow, & Bobby Previte - You Don't Know the Life (RareNoise)
13. Roland Buchmann - Crucial (Self-Released)
14. Tony Patterson & Doug Melbourne - The Divide (Esoteric Antenna)
15. Marilyn Mazur - Shamania (RareNoise)
16. Jerry Marotta, Phil Keaggy, & Tony Levin - The Bucket List (Self-Released)
17. Flying Colors - Third Degree (InsideOut)
18. Stratus Luna - Stratus Luna (MusicMagick/MoonJune)
19. Stephan Thelen - Fractal Guitar (MoonJune)
20. Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso - Transiberiana (InsideOut)
21. Berlin - Transcendance (Cleopatra Records)
22. AKKU Quintet - Depart (7D Media)
23. Chat Noir - Hyperuranion (RareNoise)
24. Joost Maglev - Alter Ego (Bad Elephant Music)
25. Lost Crowns - Every Night Something Happens (Bad Elephant Music)

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Guarino Savoldelli Quintet - Core 'ngrato

Italy has been home to the masters of pop, progressive and jazz. From the minds of; Franco Baggiani, Arti + Mestieri, Le Orme, Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, Metamorfosi, and Franco Battiato. But it’s more than just Federico Fellini, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Antonio Vivaldi. Now I have some mixed feelings over the music of Boris Savodelli when I reviewed The Great Jazz Gig in the Sky, three years ago.

I gave it a very interesting review of his take of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon during that time frame. But looking back on it, I was very disappointed with the way on the way it was handled. I have some very strong opinions about covering some of the masterpieces which I won’t go into. However, listening to Core ‘ngrato which translates to Ungrateful Heart, is the album that the Guarino Savodelli Quintet have unleashed by finding their nieche.

This is real good jazz at its finest. Released on the Data Zero label and distributed by MoonJune Records, Core ‘ngrato is a return to those roots at the heart of the genre that has never heard before. From the realms of Classical, Free, and Bebop, this is an album that has been brought to the table for not just Savodelli, but for saxophonist and clarinet player Guido Bombardieri, pianist Corrado Guarino, contrabassist Tito Mangialajo Rantzer, and drummer Stefano Bertoli.

They bring these six magical moments on Core ‘ngrato. And whatever kind of special brew they were cooking in the kitchen, it must have included some incredible spices to add the flavors filled with both Tabasco and Wasabi sauce. So ‘le sorbe e le Nespole Amare has this incredible waltz with an intensive rhythm section that the sets the quinet up with some punching grooves.

As Boris sings into the sounds of the late ‘40s/early ‘50s, Tito plays into these strong melodies on his string bass in the midsection while Malafemmena sees Boris channeling his inner version of Tom Waits as Corrado and Tito go into this walking rhythm by following Boris into the heart of Central Park as Corrado channels the styles of Thelonious Monk and Tito honoring Charles Mingus.

When you listen to Tammurriata nera, the quintet have unleashed their weapons as they travel to the hearts of Brazilian Jazz with a Samba twist. I could imagine Boris is having a blast singing this song by having this bullhorn-sque sound by getting the tempo’s going for this midsection honoring George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.  

Cicerenella is where Boris gives Tito and Guido a chance to go into this dueling match between their instruments as they have some creative force with some intensity before Stefano’s drums take center stage by pounding them by sweating bullets all fired up in his machine gun. He knows what he wants to do throughout his drumkit by tipping his hat two of his masters, Buddy Rich and Elvin Jones.

La Nova Gelosia sees Corrado’s piano setting up these minor chords inside an old abandoned house that used to be beautiful, has now become a thing of the past, and turned into the loss of innocence. It gives Guido to set up this mournful scenario on his sax that will hopefully give the house a chance to be rebuild by starting off a new chapter in its life.

Sto Core Mio brings Tito to the forefront once more to do this dance-walk on his bass that gives Boris a chance to sing and walk before the clarinet flies up through the air while going up to the blue wide wonder with different time changes throughout the ballad. Core ‘ngrato took me a couple of listens throughout the entire album from start to finish.

And while the quintet have brought their meals to us with their unbelievable compositions, there is some specialty to the sound of Jazz that had been missing for a long, long time. And it’s opening those doors to reveal its true power and glory on Core ‘ngrato.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Nicolas Meier World Group - Peaceful

The music of Nicolas Meier’s guitar playing has never let me down. My introduction to him was four years ago with the releases of his collaboration with Pete Oxley on Chasing Tales and Infinity. Now we are here in the latter part of 2019. Nicolas is full swing with the release of his new album called, Peaceful. He has his own World Group that features bassist Kevin Glasgow, violinist Richard Jones, and percussionist Demi Garcia.

Released on the MGP label and distributed by MoonJune Records, Peaceful gives Meier an opportunity to go beyond the genre of Flamenco music. He and the World Group takes you to the heart of the sound throughout the different guitars that he plays on the album.

And it isn’t just the journey that he takes you to, but going through the outskirts into the European countryside across the sea with some middle-eastern textures. The percussions that Demi does on here, gives some aspects of the romantic side of the Tango while Richard’s violin gives Nicolas a chance to pull the handles of going back to those wonderous landscapes with some melodic textures that they would do together.

What I love about this album is that how the group have this amazing chemistry together and they would bring these delicious ingredients they brought from the grocery store and cook up a delicious meal together. Not only that, but they would bring up these structures to add more of these intensity levels to increase the challenge even more.

The music can make those challenging dances by tackling the traditional styles between the hearts of both Mexico and Brazil with some unexpected twists and turns. And with Peaceful, it can really capture you to see and hear on what not just the world group would do, but what would Nicolas Meier think of next.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Annie Haslam - Annie in Wonderland

In 1977 at the time Punk and Disco were ruling the waves by bashing both the Progressive and Hard Rock genre with a mighty fist, Annie Haslam of Renaissance released her first solo album that same year entitled Annie in Wonderland. By this time period keyboardist John Tout was ill. So it gave Renaissance a chance to take a break from that 3 month gap by giving Annie recording her debut solo release with a little help from Roy Wood of The Move and Wizzard.

Recorded at De Lane Music Centre in Wembley, Annie in Wonderland sees Annie not just showing her roots in the classical genre, but carrying the essence of Pop, Surf, Flamenco, Tribal, and a nod to Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. It isn’t just progressive, but with a little twist of lemon inside the red velvet cake. Both Hunioco and Nature Boy are Annie’s tip of the hat to the great masters of pop, ABBA.

She takes the listener through the hottest weathers across the Atlantic ocean while she sings the melodic lines that Roy’s electric sitar gives her some warmth to see the sun move to the west and going back into the dance halls. Roy’s sitar and percussion work on those two tracks come up with unexpected twists.

What Annie would do is give Roy free rein on the fourth track by setting up this African tribe on the percussion with an unexpected twist. The last minute and 51 seconds on the song, they go into this chant to free the gods once more for a call-and-response mode as Roy tips his hat to Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Listening to Annie’s take of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s If I Loved You from the 1945 musical Carousel, it sounds like a flamenco lullaby that brings similarities to the golden-era of Disney between the 1940s and into re-awakening from the mid ‘80s to the early ‘90s.

I Never Believed in Love features some acoustic-beatlesque voyages with some saxophone sections featuring sliding guitars, and Jon’s bass lines to give the lushful beauty to enjoy the driving throughout the countryside as Rockalise is a song dedicated the Nightbird herself, Alison Steele. She was the top Radio DJ in New York’s WNEW-FM station.

You may have heard her voice on the 2-CD set of Nektar’s live performance in New York in 1974. She was also a friend of Renaissance. For this instrumental piece, it a different variety of sorts. There are moments that go from classical, ‘50s rock, to surf music of The Beach Boys. It shows that how much Roy’s arrangements were way ahead of its time.

Going Home which was inspired by a 1973 TV ad for Hovis Bread and directed by Ridley Scott, this gives a chance to close the curtains for Annie to sing this beautiful song with the choir by giving it a suitable chance to make it a composition for the Christmas carolers to sing in December each year. And it is a wonderful finale that Annie could have written for Frank Capra’s 1946 classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.

The album was released both in the UK on the Warner Bros label and on the Sire label in the States. It reached no. 167 on the Billboard’s pop albums charts. With an amazing reissue by Esoteric Recordings, it is released as a digipack featuring the original artwork by Roy Wood himself.

It contains a 16-page booklet with liner notes by Malcolm Dome about the making of the album with an interview by Annie Haslam. It includes photos of the band members, Roy, Annie’s parents, and the gatefold of her wearing this beautiful white dress looking at the sky. Now this was a very interesting experience for me to listen to Annie in Wonderland.

Some like it, some don’t. But when I heard Esoteric were going to reissue this back in late September, I decided to check it out. And it’s not bad. It’s different, but pretty good. And I hope they continue with more of the Renaissance catalog for 2020. I’m crossing my fingers for Scheherazade and Other Stories, Azure D’or, and Turn of the Cards.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Bent Knee - You Know What They Mean

“When she counted all the pieces they didn’t add up/thimble breaks the abacus into thin strata/oversharp cynical/out of date/if you got a bone to pick with time/WE GOT A SCORE TO SETTLE TOO!” from the snarling arrangements of Bent Knee’s second piece called Bone Rage, it almost sounds like hell has arrived by blowing the doors down with an eruptive cannon blast, looking for a massive fight.

There’s no denying that Bent Knee have been around for 10 years. And their music can still grab you unexpectedly like an enormous flower that has opened to reveal its true glory. That and their fifth studio album on the InsideOut label entitled You Know What They Mean, a follow-up to Land Animal, has finally unleashed the beast from their cages as it continues to attack its prey.

It is loud, brutal, scary, and intensive that I’ve ever listened to. Catch Light has this chugging bass thump by Jessica Kion while Ben’s guitar snarls some more to get out of its prison for the first two minutes and eight seconds as Ben becomes free to bring out gigantic patterns for Gavin to reach towards the sky.

Garbage Shark sees Chris Baum plucking the intensive scenarios on the strings from his violin as it becomes very post-apocalyptic while the rhythm gives Bent Knee a chance to honor the atmosphere’s between Supersister’s No Tree Will Grow (On too High a Mountain) before travelling to hurtle through the cosmos of the post-rock version of Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd on Astronomy Domine.

Golden Hour is Bent Knee’s travel towards the seven seas of ambient voyages for the first two minutes to honor both Brian Eno’s Another Green World and Joy Division as Hold Me In gives Gavin a chance to do this Jazz swing on the drums before Courtney and Jessica set up this unbelievable twist with nightmarish vocals into this romantic bliss before erupting into a shining diamond.

They’re almost saying to the listener, “We got something very powerful. We can’t show it you until the very end.” And the magical powers they have are very damn good. Bent Knee’s new album is the group at their finest. They bring over the light and darkness together on You Know What They Mean.

And throughout their 10 years, since their formation at Berklee College of Music, they’re keeping the engines running hot. And they are one of the most amazing, scariest, and intensive bands I’ve listened to.