Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Canciones de Amor

Some music becomes dated in almost no time, sounding passe or quaint within a few years, or even months. Some escapes that fate and continues to delight listeners generations removed from its origins. The music of Mexican (and Puerto Rican) trio Los Panchos is certainly in the class of music that remains compelling and appealing decades after its recording. Founded in New York in the 1940s, the group recorded extensively and has performed all over the world. The lineup has changed over the years, but the group, now based in Vera Cruz, continues to tour and many of their classic recordings remain available. The three guitars and the the beautiful harmony singing have always defined the romantic sound of Los Panchos and the collection Canciones de Amor is an excellent showcase for that sound. Featuring songs from great songwriters like Augustin Lara and Jose Alfredo Jimenez, this collection features recordings from the 1940s through the 1970s. Classic, enduring popular music.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Elvis at Stax

These seventies recordings give listeners a chance to revisit the 70s Elvis with some of his best recordings of that period. This 3-CD box set is a 40th anniversary chronicle of a dozen nights that Presley spent at Stax Recording Studios in his hometown of Memphis in July and December 1973. Whatever your feeling about late-period Elvis, these important recordings represent a clear view of what Elvis sang when he was directing his own career. Historically significant and lots of fun.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pokey LaFarge

Pokey LaFarge is one of those players who's steeped in the past, but ready to offer something new and fun. With the vintage clothes and cool old guitars, one might be forgiven for thinking this a revival act, one where classic old material is recycled for a new audience. LaFarge loves the vintage sounds of swing, blues, ragtime and country, but he's writing original songs with a contemporary sensibility. The overwhelming feeling here is fun, though, and this music is meant to make you smile and get your foot tapping. Jazzy guitar chords, an upright bass, cool harmonica and the occasional horns propel this very appealing exploration of traditional styles. Check this one out.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Soul Years

The Best of Bobby Womack: The Soul Years collects important recordings the great guitarist, vocalist and songwriter made between 1968 and 1974. Any fan of soul or R&B of the period will enjoy this. The tunes bridge the distance between gritty Southern Soul (Wilson Picket) and the later more socially conscious work of artists like Curtis Mayfield. It foresees, at moments, the smoother sound of the later seventies, but remains powerful and emotional music that is distinctly Soul. Earlier songs like "Across 110th St." (featured in Tarrantino's Jackie Brown) may be better than some of the surprising covers (although California Dreamin' isn't bad) but everything here is worth a listen.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Fado music is a genre of Portuguese song that traces back at least to the 1820s or 1830s. In common with the blues and other traditional music forms, Fado expresses feelings of sadness and difficulty, but the music itself can feel redemptive and affirming. Ana Moura is a contemporary practictioner of Fado and her recent recording Desfado, will help listeners to understand the continuing appeal of this music. Moura's voice is rich and warm and the mostly acoustic (guitar) accompaniment is perfect. For those who enjoy traditional singers from Dolores Keane to Cesaria Evora, Ana Moura's music will be an exciting discovery. A special treat among the beautiful Portuguese language songs is Joni Mitchell's haunting A Case Of You. Don't miss this.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The One: The Life and Music of James Brown

RJ Smith's The One: The Life and Music of James Brown  is a sensitive and comprehensive look at the complex life and career of one of popular music's most influential performers. The singer enjoyed great success during his life, sold millions of records and had a reputation as an amazing and moving performer. Beginning with Brown's early life, Smith shows the difficulties that led to the songer's troubled childhood and youthful incarceration. He also illustrates how Brown's will and forceful personality kept him focused on success even while often preventing him from enjoying it. The book moves beyond standard music biography when the author contextualizes Brown's dancing and emotionally intense stage shows in shamanic ritual and pentacostal religious experience. Peopled with characters as diverse as Bootsy Collins and Rev. Al Sharpton, he book is a fun, sad and ultimately insightful look at the vicissitudes of race and fame from the chitlin circuit to the world's greatest stages, and a close examination of one of the most troubled and celebratory figures in popular music. A first rate biography.

Recordings of interest:
40th Anniversary Collection     James Brown
CD of JB II: Cold Sweat and Other Soul Classics     James Brown
Live at the Apollo     James Brown
Say It Live and Loud: 8/26/1868     James Brown
In the Jungle Groove     James Brown
T.A.M.I. Show (DVD) various artists incl. James Brown

Sky Dog

Recently added to the library's collection:

"Duane Allman was one of the defining musicians of our era, rated second only to Jimi Hendrix in Rolling Stone's list of rock's 100 greatest guitarists. A founding member, with his brother Gregg, of the Allman Brothers Band, Duane was also active as a session musician, and as a member of the all-star Derek and the Dominos. This seven CD set, produced by Duane's daughter Galadrielle Allman and esteemed reissue producer Bill Levenson, shows the full breadth and depth of Duane's work, from early recordings (with Gregg) in bands such as The Escorts, Allman Joys and Hour Glass; to his studio work with Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Boz Scaggs, Delaney & Bonnie, Ronnie Hawkins and many others; to a live jam session with the Grateful Dead. The set includes several unreleased performances, many classic Allman Brothers songs, and a collector's cache of rare singles and long out-of-print album tracks. Also included are a 72 page book with essays by Scott Schindler and Galadrielle Allman, and many rare photographs." -