By Paul Casey
Purple Snow: Forecasting The Minneapolis Sound collects music from many musical outfits that helped shape the sound of the title. While the title is a nod to the importance of that miniature-sized and prodigiously talented man, the collection assembled by Numero Group has a broader interest. This is a work of love and commitment. It is a history lesson for those who think great artists are created in a vacuum. Everybody who has sat back and had a sob over the genius of Prince, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, or Alexander O’Neal and assumed they came out fully formed, should have a listen to this compilation.
The Idelsohn Society For Musical Preservation has an important mission: to look at Jewish history and the Jewish experience through recorded sound. Their motto: History sounds different when you know where to start listening. With their two CD set It’s A Scream How Levine Does The Rhumba: The Latin-Jewish Musical Story 1940s-1980s, they have created an important document that explores the connection between Jewish and Latin music. With vast liner notes, essays, archival photos and ephemera, it is a fascinating compilation.
It’s A Scream How Levine Does The Rhumba is surprisingly varied despite its narrow scope. There are Latin artists doing Jewish songs and Jewish artists embracing Latin beats. There are novelty songs from the early 20th century, disco beats, straight-up funk, and blazing salsa tunes.
The re-issue of these four albums is part of a seven-album Nikki Sudden oeuvre re-issue from Numero Group. This, the first part, consists of the first two Nikki Sudden solo albums (Waiting on Egypt, Bible Belt), and the first two Jacobites albums, (Jacobites, Robespierre’s Velvet Basement). Together, they give an overview of Nikki Sudden’s work directly after Swell Maps.
A sticker on the front of the CD proudly proclaims that Buck ‘Em! The Music of Buck Owens (1955-1967) isn’t your father’s Buck Owens collection, and it certainly isn’t. The hits are here, of course, but so are alternate takes and live tracks, as well as unreleased music. For a completist (like, say, me), it’s a treasure. With voluminous, entertaining liner notes written by Buck Owens himself (culled from his upcoming autobiography, also titled Buck ‘Em) (which is pretty impressive, especially since he passed away in 2006) (which is some Tupac level of productivity right there) it’s a chronological trip through the Buck Owens catalogue, and what a catalogue it is. Buck Owens and his Buckaroos made so many records, with so many catchy songs that it amazes me that they aren’t revered in the same way as Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson.
Wild Child’s sophomore effort, The Runaround, is one of those pleasant surprises that make listening to a band I’d never heard of so exciting. It’s a quirky, clever slice of Americana, crisply produced by Ben Kweller, and so eminently listenable, it’s been on constant rotation for a week now.
Not content to be known solely for the theme to True Blood, Jace Everett has recorded a wildly ambitious, brave album based loosely on Biblical stories. Lest that turn you off, they’re opaquely Biblical, and not preachy. They’re personal examinations of sin and strength. And they’re quite good. I will admit, as a heathen, that I puzzled over what stories the songs were about, drawing on my childhood Sunday school attendance. I came up short on most of them. That didn’t affect my enjoyment of the record, but it did make me listen harder and write down snippets of lyrics to decipher later. Which I didn’t.
By Paul Casey
Jimmy Jam is half of one of the most important production teams of the last few decades. As discussed earlier this year, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were probably the most talented people to be connected to Prince. Although both were more than capable of writing, producing, and performing on their own albums, their input on The Time was largely restricted to live shows. Their ability to work outside of Prince’s insecure and restrictive system would lead to their exit from the band and push them to become the hit-making powerhouses of the 1980s and 1990s, leading Janet Jackson to nine number ones.
The fine folks at Real Gone Music have released a definitive compendium of Patti Page records recently. The Complete Columbia Singles 1962-1970 does just what it says on the tin, and paints a portrait of an artist who was prolific and gifted, having a career that spanned seven decades. The photo of Patti Page on the front cover is strikingly beautiful and inside is a two-disc set with copious liner notes that mark the date of release of each song and their various chart positions.
While Page was ubiquitous on the Billboard charts in the 1950s, being the #2 artist of that decade, the liner notes caution us to not think of her in that way solely. In the ’60s and ’70s, she branched out, charting numerous times on the Easy Listening charts as well as the Country charts. The Complete Columbia Singles covers many of those hits.
The new Patti Page release From Nashville To L.A.—Lost Columbia Masters 1963-1969 is comprised of unreleased masters from recording sessions in the 1960s. In those days, recording sessions consisted of laying down several tracks in a span of three or so hours, usually three or four songs live with an orchestra. The most commercial pieces would be put out as singles, others would be used as B-sides or album tracks, but there would almost always be songs that didn’t meet either criteria. From 1962-1970, Patti Page recorded almost 200 songs for Columbia. Fifty or so were singles; many were on albums. These leftovers, in no way inferior, are being released on From Nashville To L.A. for the first time.
Jon Batiste was born into New Orleans musical royalty—it is not mere coincidence that Wendell Pierce’s character Antoine shares the surname. On their debut album, Social Music, Jon Batiste and Stay Human dip effortlessly into different genres and make a remarkable album. It’s warm and engaging, and Batiste’s piano prowess is awe-inspiring.