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Review

January 27, 2017

Best CDs of 2016

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In case you missed them, here’s a look at some of last year’s best CDs and boxed sets

 

Loud Hailer –
Jeff Beck
(Atco/Rhino)
Guitarist Jeff Beck has been 
an influential force since the 1960’s. His stint with The Yardbirds gave way to a brilliant, sometimes mercurial solo career. His guitar playing and technique has never been in question. The track record is imposing­ — “Stroll On,” featured in the nightclub scene in the film Blow-Up. “I Ain’t Superstitious” with Rod Stewart on vocals, featured on the album Truth and used to chilling effect in the film Casino. Mind-blowing instrumental albums like Wired and Blow By Blow. After periods of silence, he came roaring back, touring with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Buddy Guy.
On this CD, Beck teamed up to write songs with vocalist Rosie Bones and guitarist Carmen Vandenberg. Bones makes for a tough, passionate vocalist, ably backed up by Vandenberg and the solid rhythm section of bassist Giovanni Pallotti and drummer Davide Sollazzi. The songs are hard-hitting, the lyrics full of timely social comment. As for the lead guitarist, it’s like he never left.

 

Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976) –
David Bowie
(Jones/Tintoretto)
This exhaustive 9-CD set from the late rock and roll chameleon includes CD of the albums Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, Station to Station, David Live, remix of the last two CDs, and Re:call2, with remixes of his singles. The unreleased CD Gouster, which features some of the funky music that turned up on Young Americans and Live Nassau Coliseum ’76 are also included. It’s a fascinating overview of one of rock’s most gifted and prolific artists.

 

Freedom Jazz Dance: 
The Bootleg Series, 
Volume 5 –
Miles Davis
(Columbia/Legacy)
This 3-CD set, released during the 50th anniversary year of Miles Smiles unfurls sessions recorded between 1965 and 1968. Jazz trumpeter and composer Miles Davis recorded sparkling music that would eventually appear on the albums Miles Smiles, Nefertiti and Water Babies with his second great quartet-bassist Ron Carter, pianist Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, and drummer Tony Williams. By the time these tunes were waxed, Shorter and Hancock had already record their own solo albums and this band had been together for several years. The evidence is in the discs. Many Shorter compositions are featured here including “Delores,” “Footprints” and “Nefertiti.” There are session reels where the listener gets to hear the songs gel as well as the master takes, the keeper for each tune. Close to 20 previously unreleased tracks are included. At the top of their game, the band’s sizzling interplay, telepathic rapport and ensemble dynamics make for exciting listening. The effect is energizing and relaxing at the same time.

 

Live-American Outlaws –
The Highwaymen
(Columbia/Legacy)
“Friends forever.” Waylon Jennings said this to his pals Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson after a recording session for their third album as The Highwaymen. The friendship and bon homie comes through on this boxed set. Two CDs and the DVD were recorded at Long Island, NY’s Nassau Coliseum, CD 3 at two Farm Aid concerts.
Cash was in a lot of pain during the Nassau Coliseum shows, but you’d never know from hearing him. Songs from the country supergroup weave together seamlessly with favorites like Willie Nelson’s warm vocals on “Nightlife” and his covers of “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” and “City of New Orleans.” Johnny Cash’s unmistakable bass rolls through “Folsom Prison Blues” and he duets with Willie on “I Still Miss Someone.” Kris Kristofferson turns in a spirited vocal on his songs “Me And Bobby McGee” and duets with Willie on “Loving Her (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again).” Waylon duets with Johnny on “There Ain’t No Good Chain Gang.” They all chime in on “Big River” and “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky.” Willie’s longtime ace harmonica player Mickey Raphael frequently chimes in. There won’t be a group like this again.

 

Day Breaks –
Norah Jones
(Blue Note)
As the weather turns cold-
er in many regions, one response would be to burn wood in a fireplace or to turn up the thermostat. You could also put on this CD, Norah Jones sixth. Day Breaks can warm up the chilliest atmosphere. It’s a collection of beautiful jazz influenced melancholy-or melancholy jazz. Between Jones’ silky vocals and sinewy piano skills, it’s always beautiful. Highlights include covers of Duke Ellington’s “Fleurette Africaine (African Flower),” Horace Silver’s “Peace” and Neil Young’s “Don’t Be Denied.” Saxophonist Wayne Shorter and drummer Brian Blade add their own special luster.

 

It’s Too Late To Stop Now…Volumes II, III, IV and DVD –
Van Morrison
(Exile Productions/Legacy)
This boxed set consists of material recorded during live sets at L.A.’s Troubadour, the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and London’s Rainbow. Comprised of all unreleased tracks (the original live album of the same name is not included). A DVD of the London set is included. Lucky you.
In fine, passionate voice, and backed by the smokin’ Caldonia Soul Orchestra, Van The Man makes every song sound like an encore.
“Moondance,” “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Gloria” share space with Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin’,” and Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me” and Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want To Make Love To You.”

 

Dig In Deep –
Bonnie Raitt
(Redwing)
A solid array of songs, stell-ar arrangements, soulful vocals and an unmistakable saucy slide guitar-what’s not to love about a Bonnie Raitt CD? The veteran singer-songwriter-guitarist self-produced this one for her own indie label.
Thrown into this choice mix of songs are sassy covers of INXS’ “I Need You Tonight” and Los Lobos’ “Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes.” Originals range from the heartfelt “The Ones We Couldn’t Be” to the social comment of “The Comin’ Round Is Going Through.”
Raitt’s core band of Ricky Fataar, Hutch Hutchinson, George Marinelli and Mike Finnigan shine on every track.

 






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