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Articles | Featured | Future

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Various Artists: Unusual Sounds: The Hidden History of Library Music

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Library music--aka stock or production music--was first marketed in the 1920s, to be used by “picture palaces" showing silent movies. Its golden age came during the 1960s and 1970s, when it provided off-the-shelf incidental music for radio, television, film and advertising. Ever since Quentin Tarantino included recordings by one of that era's most prolific British library-music composers, Keith Mansfield, on the soundtracks for Kill Bill: Volume One (2003) and Grindhouse: Death Proof (2007), the genre has acquired a collectable retro-allure. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Various Artists: Confessin' The Blues

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If it weren't so scrupulously annotated (at least up to a point) or attractively designed, this title might be flippantly described as “The Greatest Hits of the Blues." As is, it is the third in a roots revival series of sorts. Confessin' The Blues follows Chicago Plays the Stones (Raisin' Music, 2018), where a Windy city musical aggregation covers the curators of this set and, last but not least (and actually first in chronological order), Blue & Lonesome (Rolling Stones, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Various Artists: Putumayo Presents: Ska Around the World

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For casual fans and newcomers to the music of Jamaica (a growing number, given the popularity of the BBC / France 2 TV mystery series Death in Paradise and its Jamaican-infused soundtrack), the definitions of ska vs. reggae are likely too obscure to worry about. Much as only hardcore jazz fans worry about drilling into the differences between cool and bop, those who simply love the sun-drenched rhythms of all the postwar popular styles of Jamaica are content to listen ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Various Artists: Running The Voodoo Down Volume 2

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A raft of scholarly theories can be put forward to explain the affinities linking the genres represented on this compilation, subtitled Explorations In Psychrockfunksouljazz 1965-77. But there is a simple explanation: grass and acid, the lingua franca of the era's counterculture. True, there is only circumstantial evidence to suggest that John Coltrane and Joe Zawinul, both featured on the album, used either substance. But if they did not, a large proportion of their audience certainly did. As for the other ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Various Artists: Nicola Conte presents Cosmic Forest: The Spiritual Sounds of MPS

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The description “spiritual jazz" means different things to different people. It was first applied to the predominantly African American style platformed by the Strata-East and Muse labels in the early and mid 1970s. The tag was not introduced until a decade later, and a better one would have been “cultural jazz," despite the tautology--for although every Strata-East and Muse artist would, if asked, almost certainly have acknowledged the inspiration of John Coltrane's masterpiece A Love Supreme (Impulse, 1964), little of ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Various Artists: Innerpeace: Rare Spiritual Funk And Jazz Gems

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It took a few years for producer Bob Shad's newly formed Mainstream Records to nail its direction in the 1960s. A less than auspicious start was releasing the first singles by the latter-day Trump-boosting halfwit Ted Nugent. A better move, given hindsight, was releasing the debut album by Janis Joplin's Big Brother & The Holding Company. But by the end of the decade, Mainstream had hit its stride as a platform for jazz--in particular freedom jazz / spiritual jazz, with ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Various Artists: Technicolor Paradise: Rhum Rhapsodies & Other Exotic Delights

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Close your eyes and dream for a moment. There are beaches and palm trees. Long drinks are served with parasols and consumed while relaxing in hammocks to the distant sound of bird calls and bongo drums. There is no stress and the only adventure is the kind you seek for yourself when you go out into the jungle like a version of Indiana Jones. Of course, this is all fiction. But the point is that music can ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Various Artists: J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969 - 1984

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There is a lovely anecdote in Charlie Laurie's introduction to The Blue Note Years: The Jazz Photography Of Francis Wolff (Rizzoli, 1995). Describing the first Blue Note Festival at the foot of Japan's Mount Fuji in 1986, Laurie wrote: “Where else but in Japan can one see a field packed with fifteen thousand teens and twentysomethings roar with excited recognition at the first four bars of Sonny Clark's 'Cool Struttin'?" Young Japanese musicians were as entranced by US jazz during ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Various Artists: Stax Singles, Vol. 4: Rarities & Best of the Rest

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Stax Records defined the “Memphis Sound" of soul music in the 1960s. With a roster that took in Otis Redding, Booker T & The MGs, Sam & Dave, Rufus Thomas and Isaac Hayes, Stax and its sister label Volt provided the main competition to Motown as a home to classic soul acts. Three separate box sets issued in the early 1990s collectively compiled every single ever released by Stax and its subsidiaries (and the 1960s were a time ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Various Artists: We Out Here

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This vivid snapshot of young London's jazz scene, featuring nine bands and a collective pool of 35 musicians, contains close to an hour of daring and uplifting music--from rebooted spiritual-jazz through abstract experimentation to Afrobeat-flavoured dancefloor urgency, a rich mix further enlivened by shots of grime, hip hop and funk. It was recorded over three days last August under the light-touch supervision of its musical director, the saxophonist and clarinetist Shabaka Hutchings, who leads his own line-up on one track ...