Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Best cd's of 2015

Hey now, here is my list of the best cd's to grace my ears in 2015. The cd's are listed in alphabetical order. I normally don't include live recordings, especially by bands who allow taping (as the internet is flooded with shows), but there can be exceptions... My #1 favorite cd for 2015 is a 3 way tie between The Bad Plus Joshua Redman, Steve Earle, and John Scofield. As always, this list and comments are my opinion, and mine alone...  If I left something off that you feel is a must hear, please note it in the comment section below or email me your recommendations.

Top 15

* The Bad Plus Joshua Redman

This was recorded after the Bad Plus and Joshua did a week long residency at NYC's Blue Note. 7 original tunes and 2 Bad Plus re-do's... This music is killing, fairly avante garde and free-jazzy at times, and beautifully recorded.

* Jim Campilongo & Honeyfingers / Last Night, This Morning

Western Swing meets Gypsy Jazz! This crowd-funded release by acclaimed Telecaster master Jim Campilongo does not disappoint. Are you a Speedy West/Jimmy Bryant duo fan? Django Reinhardt? If so, give this cd a listen.

* Consider the Source / World War Trio Parts II & III

I discovered this band roughly 8 years ago while on a work junket to Dallas. Instrumental music with elements of jazz/fusion, prog, metal, jamband, world music, and middle eastern music. This double cd set was also a crowd-funded release and is amazing. There is a lot of fretless guitar on this album, which contributes heavily to their very unique sound.

* Steve Earle & the Dukes / Terraplane

I've come to realize Steve Earle can do no wrong.

* David Gilmour / Rattle that Lock

Great music, plenty of DG's trademark guitar playing and tones, I like this cd more than last year's Pink Floyd release. Check out the video single released by Dave: https://youtu.be/7PwQrEbEnrM

* Warren Haynes (featuring Railroad Earth) / Ashes & Dust

So Warren Haynes decided to record a folkie/Americana album, what better band to recruit than Railroad Earth? The answer is none, he could not have chosen a better band. This cd is mostly originals, some new and some old, with a few covers thrown in too; including a fine rendition of Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman" with Grace Potter on vocals (https://youtu.be/XAhVcc89e_0).

* Jorma Kaukonen / Ain't In No Hurry

Jorma is sounding mighty fine these days, at the ripe age of 75... He is the epitome of that 'like fine wine' quote. I can visualize Jorma sitting in a rocking chair, on a porch at his cabin on his ranch, pickin' these tunes. Best Jorma recording since 2002's "Blue Country Heart."

* Los Lobos / Gates of Gold

This is the latest kick ass Los Lobos cd, the Wolves have been on a roll for quite a while ;-)

* Papa Mali / Music is Love

I'm a big Papa Mali advocate. As great as the bands are that he has been involved with lately (The 7 Walkers, the M&M's), he really shines on his own albums... Papa Mali is all about peace and love and music, and that vibe is projected strongly on this smile-inducing collection of cover tunes.

* Native Construct / Quiet World

This trio of talented Berklee students is a recent discovery for me, and this is their debut cd. Their official genre is progressive metal; but they jump around so much, stylistically, that this might be a bit much for some people. Personally, I consider this cd a masterpiece. Influence wise, I hear obvious traces of Mr. Bungle, Queen, Dream Theater, and Frank Zappa.

* John Scofield / Past Present

Sco on semi-hollowbody guitar, saxaphonist Joe Lovano, drummer Bill Stewart, and Larry Grenadier on upright bass. This cd is more traditional as far as a Scofield recording goes. No Warren Haynes or Phil Lesh inluenced jams, and no noticeable use of phrases/samplers/etc.

* Kurt Vile / b'lieve i'm goin' down

Kurt Vile is another recent discovery for me. He was a founding member of the War On Drugs, but he amicably left the band long before they released their breakout cd in 2014, "Lost In The Dream." This is moody chill introspective singer songwriter music. His wiki says "influenced by Pavement, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Tom Petty, and John Fahey." I also hear traces of Steve Earle and Bob Dylan.

* Widespread Panic / Street Dogs

This album caught me off guard, I was not expecting it to be so good. In my opinion it's their best studio effort since 1999's "'Till the Medicine Takes." WSMFP!

* Steven Wilson / Hand. Cannot. Erase.

Steven Wilson is the hardest working man in rock and roll; yes, even compared to Warren Haynes.... When not working with closely with Robert Fripp re-mastering the King Crimson catalogue, or remastering Yes and Gentle Giant and Jethro Tull albums, or recording/touring with his main band Porcupine Tree, or recording music with one of his other side projects (Blackfield, No-Man, Bass Communion, Storm Corrosion), he finds time to release solo gems such as this... If you like  the bands/artists mentioned in the above run-on sentences, then you will like this :-)

* The Word / Soul Food

The Word is North Mississippi Allstars (including Chris Chew on bass), plus John Medeski on keyboards, and Robert Randolph on steel guitar. 14 years after their initial debut cd came out, they have finally released this very fine follow up effort. 21st century sacred steel!

Honorable Mentions:

* Faith No More / Sol Invictus

The first FNM release in 18 (!) years. It's better than their last couple cd's and the band still sounds fresh. Mike Van Patton's voice still sounds very strong, especially considering "The Real Thing" came out in 1989. I have to assume there are a lot of effects on his vocals. Regardless, FNM is back!

* AJ Ghent Band / Live at Terminal West

As noted at the top of this post, I usually don't put live albums on my best of lists. However, I made an exception in this case because it's AJ's debut release and all original tunes. Genre wise I would say somewhere between rock and rhythm & blues/soul music. AJ was previously in Col. Bruce Hampton's Band; and his father is the sacred steel guitar icon Aubrey Ghent, who played at Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi's wedding. This disc includes a DVD too. Introducing the future of steel guitar...

* Goatsnake - Black Age Blues

Goatsnake is a revered doom metal band whom I discovered via this disc. They are considered a supergroup, with ties to the desert rock scene. They're recently returned from hiatus, their last cd was released in 2000. If you like early Black Sabbath you will like this cd.

* Buddy Guy / Born To Play Guitar

At 79 years young, Buddy is one of the last living old-school blues men from the 20th century; in my opinion he is a national treasure. It blows my mind that 50 years into his recording career, Buddy is still recording albums of such magnitude. He hasn't slowed down a bit or missed a beat. As far as contemporary blues albums go, this cd is completely relevant... And from a guitar player perspective; whether shredding, playing with his teeth, or saying "more with less," Buddy Guy continues to blow away much of the competition, young and old alike.

* Ben Monder / Amorphae

This ECM Records release is atmospheric, textural, experimental, music; at times a bit Frisellian. Ben on electric and electric baritone guitars, Pete Rende on synthesizer, Andrew Cyrille (4 tracks), and Paul Motian on drums (2 tracks). Tunes in solo, duo, and trio formats. I believe the Paul Motian tracks (Recorded in October 2010) might be, as of today, his most recent posthumous drum tracks. Note: Ben plays guitar on the new David Bowie cd, which will most likely appear on my best of 2016 list next year.

* North Mississippi Allstars & Anders Osborne / Freedom & Dreams

Yes, NMAS and Anders have joined forces. NMAS has been on my "hot list" since I first heard 'em in 2000, while Anders came on my radar roughly 4 years ago and has since morphed into one of my favorite live performances.... This cd is worthy of repeated listenings. I like the Anders penned tunes best; Katrina, and Lonely Love. Note: The above Amazon link is for MP3 downloads, it seems a physical cd currently is only available from the Anders Osborne website: http://squ.re/1OJmH5G

* Planet of the Abts / All Things the Valley

Another very proggy album from Gov't Mule's rhythm section, plus guitarist/keyboardist/singer T-Bone Andersson, and special guests including Warren Haynes and Danny Louis. This, same as their previous release, sounds more like Yes or Pink Floyd then it does Gov't Mule.

* Ben Seawell / South Winds Jostle

I'm biased on this cd due to a personal connection. I know Ben as a friend, and as a NYC jazz bass player; but he plays multiple instruments here, and also sings, and this is far from a jazz cd. I hear traces of the Beatles, Brian Wilson, Steve Earle, Prince, and Joe Jackson; among other notes. Also, not one band but many different sidemen on different tunes, including (to name a few) Doug Wamble, Frank Kimbrough, Henry Butler, Becca Stevens, and Leo Nocentelli. I highly recommend this disc.