Proving that 2002's appropriately titled Return of a Legend was no one-off fluke, semi-legendary Chicago guitarist Jody Williams cements his comeback with this invigorating follow-up. Producer Dick Shurman, who worked on the previous disc, frames Williams' expressive voice and clean, jazzy guitar in a subtle, frills-free environment that brings out his best. The album's 13 originals (and one Sam Cooke cover) showcase Williams' talents as a fluid, understated, yet soulful guitarist; witty songwriter; and, more importantly, a singer of surprising passion. Esteemed horn arranger Willie Henderson also returns from the last album to add his arrangements to four tracks, highlighted by the simmering, staccato touches on a remake of Williams' "Hideout," originally recorded in 1962. Part Freddie King's "Hideaway," part Earl King's "Come On," it's an accurate, updated example of Williams' six-string prowess. Although the majority of the tracks are straightforward Chicago shuffles and slow blues, the guitarist infuses his upbeat personality to the proceedings, which makes the album so consistently refreshing.
Home Before Dark is Neil Diamond's second collaboration with producer Rick Rubin. It follows the fine but ill-fated 12 Songs, which was sabotaged by Sony's "Rootkit" program scandal: a nefarious bit of "copy protection" software that invaded the operating system of PCs and wreaked havoc. 12 Songs had to be recalled from store shelves just as Diamond received better reviews than he had in a decade. Sony reissued it in 2007, but the damage was done. Diamond, disappointed but undaunted, sought out Rubin. Rubin enlisted Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench and lead guitarist Mike Campbell, studio guitarist/bassist Smokey Hormel, and former Chavez guitar slinger Matt Sweeney…
Angel in the Dark is a lovely recording featuring the graceful vocals and finely crafted songs that everyone expects from Laura Nyro. These sessions were completed in the summer of 1995 and represent the last music Nyro recorded. The title cut and "Sweet Dream Fade" mine the same soul terrain as her late '60s recordings, featuring horns and underlined by heavy guitar riffs. These upbeat pieces perfectly integrate voice, arrangements, and lyrics to create an organic whole, and are two of the best cuts on the album. Slower, piano-based songs like "Triple Goddess Twilight," "He Was Too Good to Me," and "Serious Playground" are mixed in-between these songs. These pieces are quieter and introspective, with Nyro's voice more intimate. It is almost as though she was sitting at the piano, late at night, and singing to herself. There are also several covers including "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and "Let It Be Me." The first of these is over five minutes and has been slowed down so much that it drags. In fact, she slows down all of the covers as if to convert them into heartfelt ballads.
The better-than-usual repertoire (including the calypso "Duke or Iron," "Dancing in the Dark" and the Warren & Dubin number "I'll String Along with You") makes this outing by Sonny Rollins's usual band ~ AllMusic