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SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK/#LoveinEvolution: Still boasting a few original members after over four decades, this soul/gospel vocal group couldn't have picked a better time to release their first studio album in almost a decade. With songs of healing, more than appropriate for these times tipping the scales of the set list, what started out as an interesting anomaly on Flying Fish has become an important cornerstone now that all the fashion statements between then and now have peeled away. Real music that has boatloads of heart powering it, you don't have to be a fan of message music to want to play this repeatedly. This is a towering statement that puts all the fame whore wannabes properly in their places. Well done throughout.

LETIZIA GAMBI/Blue Monday: When she released her debut a few years ago, Lenny White's stamp of approval was enough to get my attention. White is on board again and he's hit his rolodex hard once again to corral a stellar round up of guest players. And Gambi pushes the envelope here by turning standards and chestnuts so heavily on their heads you have to check the liner notes to make sure you're hearing what you think you are hearing. Killer stuff that sets a sure footed course to tomorrow, this is the future of jazz vocal right now, and it's bad to the bone. Killer stuff delivered from all present for the date, this is sure to blow your ears wide open.

JIM CLAYTON/Lenny Jumps In: The Canadian mainstay piano man stays home with his pals for his second solo set but he still has Nawlins in his thoughts and fingers. Sure to be a set that widens his name recognition pool beyond his established base, this buoyant set simply sounds like fun. Inspired by his 5 year old daughter, he captures the sense of wonder that must be flowing through her eyes and ears and replays that on the originals and covers. Righteous stuff that doesn't need to set the world on fire but does make it a much warmer place. Tasty throughout by a bunch of pros it's time to get to know better.

BALKUN BROTHERS: Just by sticking to the basics, this pair of white boys with the blues, and then some, craft a sound and vibe that's so explosive that infectious is where it begins. A tonic for the starved blues rock fan that just wants to blow the roof off the sucker, this incendiary device has all the fire power you need with none of the histrionics or pyrotechnics. Killer stuff that keeps the party going well into the next day and certainly is hot stuff throughout.

FAHIR ATAKOGLU/Live at Umbria Jazz: It might be this cat's 17th record but it's the first time around for us. What grabs us right out of the box is this Turkish cat has world wise ears and on this set, he points them in the direction of some of the mid 70s world fusions we liked best, namely stuff from the post Miles axis of Chick Corea, John McLaughlin etc. A piano man that incorporates stuff from his fave stops among the world beat route, this is a wonderful trip back to the day that points to the future of world jazz as well. High octane throughout.

THE WESTIES/Six on the Out: Organic music from a cat trying to make up for lost time by reinventing himself as a member of a folk rock band with his wife. The songs aren't always pretty but the writing is a real attention grabber that sets your ears on edge. Often getting darker than Cohen and Van Zandt together, this can be one of those fun house trips that turns into a house of horrors before it lets you out the other side. This is one solid audio trip through the heart of darkness all primed and ready for anyone up for taking a walk on the wild side.

TOMMY Z/Blizzard of Blues: A white boy shredder with the blues knows no boundaries when it comes to kicking it out on the blues as he mash ups a flurry of post war styles in a fine style that hangs together quite nicely. With traditional blood flowing through his veins, he's crafted a fine entertainment for any fan that doesn't want the apple to fall too far from the tree while opening some new spaces for the ears as well. Tasty stuff that hits all the right notes in the right order, this is sure to be what your blues rock sweet tooth ordered. Check it out.

JON PATRICK WALKER/People Going Somewhere: Nothing like his last album, Walker finds his hidden Beatles side and uses al the theatricality he can muster from his ‘day job' as an actor to put these across. A return to the late 60s/early 70s for nu ears, kids now can feel like what it was to discover Beatles on acid for the first time on this genre busting set.

WANDERWILD/Fleeting: An Athens, GA second generation vet, self contained Matt Martin goes alt meets electro pop for a nu singer/songwriter set of bold introspection amped up for power. Certainly the kind of stuff that can resonate through the halls of college dorms everywhere, Martin knows how to hit the universal young feeling right on the head to propel him for the spokesman for those still looking for the right way to articulate.

SNOW WHITE & THE SEVEN DWARFS: Disney probably didn't know what the future would hold long after he was gone but as each new technical iteration shows, he was making movies for the ages back when the medium was still having growing pains. Describing this himself as a perfect story, this is the proverbial pic for kids of all ages as one of Disney's early princesses faces off against the evil witch with nothing to help her but seven well meaning goofballs. So heigh ho and off you go to see how this looks for the first time digital HD and revel in the glory of those reverse acetate cels and the magic that was captured in them when grandpa was a kid. Some call it the greatest animated film of all time and it's hard to disagree. There's also plenty of geeky, contemporary extras for the complete freak that'll want to hang around to soak it all in.

Volume 39/Number 82
January 22, 2016
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2016 Midwest Record

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