For her 34th studio album, Anne Murray recorded a set of duets with many of her favorite female singers, from Nelly Furtado to Sarah Brightman. There are a number of country duet partners here, such as Shania Twain, Emmylou Harris, and Martina McBride, but there are even more pop-oriented women singing with Murray, encompassing the likes of Celtic Woman and Celine Dion. This makes perfect sense, as Murray's always straddled the pop-country fence effortlessly. Her singing on Duets: Friends and Legends is just as effortless. Now in her fifth decade as an active recording artist, her voice hasn't lost a beat, sounding just as pure and clear as it did on 1970s "Snowbird" (done here with a surprisingly relaxed, easy vocal from Brightman, sounding for all the world like a young Olivia Newton-John). The majority of these songs are ones which have been sizeable hits for Murray in the past, most of which work nicely recast as duets, or at least showcases for harmony singing.
Following his stint as leader of the Electric Light Orchestra, singer/guitarist Jeff Lynne forged an equally successful career in the '80s and '90s as a producer, with his distinctive sound gracing the latter-day records of many veteran rock & roll legends…
On Crooked Numbers, Unlikely Friends trades in being the “best hardly-known indie pop band in the Pacific northwest” for the title of “the indie pop band that everyone in the Pacific northwest will soon not be able to shut up about.” The Seattle-based group who, for some time now, have been quietly cultivating and refining their infectious brand of indie pop, have struck gold with Crooked Numbers. Over the span of an ambitious and sprawling 15-track record, the group wastes no time in effortlessly trying to get your feet to uncontrollably move. As instantaneous and as feverishly as they did on 2015’s Solid Gold Cowboys, they succeed in many attempts to do so throughout the new record.
Due to the very interesting grouping of players – guitarist Ralph Towner, who also performs on piano and French horn; trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, cellist David Darling, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Michael Di Pasqua – and six of Towner's better originals, this is one of the guitarist's best in a long string of ECM recordings. Wheeler adds fire to the music that is tempered a bit by Darling's mellow cello. An intriguing set well worth several listens.
The title of Many Bright Things' third album highlights the nature of the project: a large cast of friends coalescing around guitarist Stan Denski. After a seven-year gap, Denski – better known by now as the compiler for QDK Media's high-profile series of obscure psychedelia, Love, Peace & Poetry – delivers an entertaining disc of spaced-out jams. Many Bright Friends combines the folky side of Jefferson Airplane ("Minor Parade for 18 Strings," the title track, "There Will Be a Slight Delay") and the crudest grooves of the Krautrock school. The album is structured around two main tracks. The first one is "East West," a 21-minute cover of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band's anthem to cross-pollination. Featured in this orgiastic jam are guitarists Denski, Nick Saloman, Daniel Noland, and Al Simones (trading solos); Vess Ruthenberg (bass); Steve Obenreder (drums); and harp player Byrd Birocco, who steals the show. "I Am Not a Collector Potato," the other key track here, is a feature for Jello Biafra, who tells listeners what collecting psychedelic records used to be like (with plenty of reverb in the voice), over a quiet groove improvised by Denski, Larry Demyer (guitar), David "Tufty" Clough (bass), and Lon Paul Elrich (percussion).