Bruce Cockburn's self-titled debut's blend of diversity, enthusiasm, and innocence never quite resurfaced again in his work, especially in his more clinical, politically inclined tracts of later decades. The opening number, "Going to the Country," still evokes that hippie-esque, back-to-the-earth movement as well as any song ever recorded, complete with a sly wink that keeps it fresh to this day. And since this was 1970, the album also comes equipped with some of those quaint excesses of the period; try the nasal tone poem gracing "The Bicycle Trip." "Musical Friends" remains a lively, happy-go-lucky classic with piano signature lifted from Paul McCartney's playbook; it's difficult to picture the dour Cockburn of more recent years ever having this much fun. In contrast, "Thoughts on a Rainy Afternoon" offers a trance-like, introspective atmosphere reminiscent of British folkie legend Nick Drake.
A pair of funky jazz sets from Bennie Maupin – '77's Slow Traffic To The Right and '78's Moonscapes – together in a single set! Slow Traffic To The Right is Maupin's first LP for Mercury, and a great bit of spiritual funky jazz that recalls a lot of the sound of his work with The Headhunters. The first track, "It Remains to Be Seen", is an excellent groover, with some very dark keyboard work by Patrice Rushen, and the rest of the tracks are pretty great too. Pat Gleeson produced and plays synth on the LP, and the cuts include "Quasar", "You Know the Deal", "Water Torture", and "Lament".
It was a sad day for cool jazz when Lennie Niehaus made film music – not jazz – his primary focus. From a jazz standpoint, the Los Angeles resident had so much going for him. Niehaus had an attractive tone along the lines of Lee Konitz and early Bud Shank, and he was a talented arranger to boot. Produced by Lester Koenig in L.A. in 1956, Lennie Niehaus, Vol. 5: The Sextet is quite representative of Niehaus' Contemporary output of the 1950s. This album finds Niehaus leading a sextet that boasts Bill Perkins on tenor sax and flute, Jimmy Giuffre on baritone sax, Stu Williamson on trumpet and valve trombone, Buddy Clark on upright bass, and Shelly Manne on drums – in other words, the cream of the southern California crop.
Nina Simone Sings the Blues, issued in 1967, was her RCA label debut, and was a brave departure from the material she had been recording for Phillips. Indeed, her final album for that label, High Priestess of Soul, featured the singer, pianist, and songwriter fronting a virtual orchestra. Here, Simone is backed by a pair of guitarists (Eric Gale and Rudy Stevenson), bassist (Bob Bushnell), drummer (Bernard "Pretty" Purdie), organist (Ernie Hayes), and harmonica player who doubled on saxophone (Buddy Lucas). Simone handled the piano chores. The song selection is key here. Because for all intents and purposes this is perhaps the rawest record Simone ever cut. It opens with the sultry, nocturnal, slow-burning original "Do I Move You," which doesn't beg the question but demands an answer: "Do I move you?/Are you willin'?/Do I groove you?/Is it thrillin'?/Do I soothe you?/Tell the truth now?/Do I move you?/Are you loose now?/The answer better be yeah…It pleases me…." As the guitarists slip and slide around her husky vocal, a harmonica wails in the space between, and Simone's piano is the authority, hard and purposely slow.
2006 digitally re-mastered two-fer from the legendary Savoy Brown featuring two of their most popular albums (Street Corner Talking from 1971 and Hellbound Train from '72). The line-up on these albums feature the ever-present Kim Simmonds on guitar with Dave Walker (vocals), Andy Sylvester (bass), Paul Raymond (keyboards) and Dave Bidwell (drums), all of the formerly of Chicken Shack! Standard jewel box in a slipcase with extensive liner notes.
This Soul Jam release presents one of Hooker's most difficult to find albums on CD, the eponymous John Lee Hooker. It was originally released in 1962 by the Fantasy Records' subsidiary Galaxy label. The album includes a selection of hard-to-find recordings taped with his electric guitar during different sessions in the 1950s, all of them produced by Bernard Besman, the man who helped define Hooker's recorded sound, which has often relied upon heavy walking beats, boogies, and an eerie atmosphere. In addition to the original masterpiece, this remastered collector's edition also contains 8 bonus tracks from the same period.
With their second album, Miles Smiles, the second Miles Davis Quintet really began to hit their stride, delving deeper into the more adventurous, exploratory side of their signature sound. This is clear as soon as "Orbits" comes crashing out the gate, but it's not just the fast, manic material that has an edge – slower, quieter numbers are mercurial, not just in how they shift melodies and chords, but how the voicing and phrasing never settles into a comfortable groove. This is music that demands attention, never taking predictable paths or easy choices.
With the release of the spectral title tune, and the efforts of the Columbia marketing and publicity departments behind him, a thirty-year old Miles Davis entered into a period of extraordinary artistic maturity and growth. And Miles instinctively knew how to cultivate his star quality. Looming behind those shades, was the diffident, sensitive anti-hero–proud and defiant–who only spoke to his audience through his horn, and turned his back on them when the other soloists were blowing. The combination of attitude and intellect was irresistible. Beginning with ROUND ABOUT MIDNIGHT and proceeding through a remarkable succession of famous recordings over the next 30 years, Miles Davis became one of the greatest soloists, arrangers and talent scouts in the history of American music. People who didn't own a single jazz record came to know his name–Miles was a jazz icon.