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Merge Records MRG 730LP
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ***½
Sound Quality: ***½
Overall Enjoyment: ***½

Bob Mould is mad as hell and wants you to know it. In an online interview he describes his new album, Blue Hearts, as “the catchiest batch of protest songs I’ve ever written in one sitting.” Even when he’s contented, as he was on Sunshine Rock (2019), Mould plays exhilaratingly loud and fast rock’n’roll. Add anger to the equation and you get, well, punk rock. On “American Crisis,” the first single from the album, Mould and his band sound more like the Sex Pistols or the Clash than anyone else.

Keeping the Blues Alive KTBA61081
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ***½
Overall Enjoyment: ****

Dion DiMucci, one of the early fathers of rock’n’roll, has been making records since 1957, and turned 81 in July. Dion, as he’s best known, has gone through several musical transformations in his recording career, but in late 2005 he released Bronx in Blue, the first of half a dozen albums that have highlighted his guitar skills and his command of blues and traditional country music. His records since then, among them Son of Skip James (2007) and Tank Full of Blues (2012), showed him in strong voice and let his guitar playing shine.

Polydor 0859857 (LP), 0880405 (CD), 0880406 (CD, Deluxe Edition)
Formats: LP and CD

Musical Performance: ****½
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****½

Paul Weller doesn’t enjoy the level of stardom in the US that he does in his native UK, but his Stateside following is strong enough that his records have always been released here. Many of us in North America became fans when Weller fronted the Jam and, after that, the Style Council. We’ve stayed with him during his solo career of almost 30 years because his songwriting skills have never faded -- if anything, they’ve continued to grow -- and his records always surprise and challenge.

Reprise 093624893639
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ***½
Sound Quality: ****½
Overall Enjoyment: ****

When I imagine the vault that holds all of the recordings Neil Young has ever made, I conjure up a Batcave filled with tape boxes. In the last 14 years or so, Young has released a lot of material from his Neil Young Archives. The eight-CD Neil Young Archives Vol.1, 1963–1972 (2009) mixed previously unreleased rarities with things that had been available for a while. Young has also cut loose a series of live albums from performances over the years, and in 2017 issued Hitchhiker, a solo acoustic studio album recorded on a single evening in 1976. He has also released all-analog vinyl editions of much of his catalog.

New West NW5397
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ***½
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****

Many musicians have recorded music that is overtly political, but few have done it more often or been more resolutely outspoken than Steve Earle. His albums Jerusalem (2002) and The Revolution Starts Now (2004) were critical of the George W. Bush administration, and Earle’s opposition to the death penalty has led him to write and record several songs about the issue, including “Billy Austin” and “Ellis Unit One,” both featured on the soundtrack of the film Dead Man Walking (1995).

Blue Note ST-84199/0850312
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ***½
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****

Just when I think I’ve bought too many Blue Note reissues on vinyl, the label releases something I like but own only on CD. Trumpeter Lee Morgan recorded The Rumproller in April 1965, and Blue Note released it in January 1966. The album followed The Sidewinder, which had become a surprise hit following its release in July 1964.

World Circuit WCV094
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ****½
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****½

Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, who’s been recording and touring since the late 1950s, is best known for his long stint with Fela Kuti’s Africa 70, which incorporated American funk and soul music into the African-influenced jazz that was Kuti’s specialty. The result came to be called Afrobeat, and Allen was the music’s driving rhythmic force. He recorded more than 30 albums with Kuti over the next ten years, and when Africa 70 disbanded in the late 1970s he went on to play as leader and sideman on a vast number of recordings. Pop-music fans will recognize him as a member of the British band The Good, the Bad & the Queen.

Pro-Ject PJR001
Format: 2 LPs

Musical Performance: ***½
Sound Quality: ****½
Overall Enjoyment: ****

By 1991, vinyl had been pronounced dead. But Heinz Lichtenegger, who that year founded Pro-Ject Audio Systems, remained faithful to the format. Although Pro-Ject now makes all manner of hi-fi gear, from DACs and amps to cables and accessories, its foundation remains turntables, and it continues to improve and innovate in a field that has made an impressive and, to many, unexpected comeback. Clearly, Lichtenegger and a few others, such as Roy Gandy of Rega Research, and Harry and Sheila Weisfeld of VPI Industries, believed that the attractions of vinyl would remain strong enough for the format to remain viable.

Blue Note/Slow Down Sounds SDS-84099
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ****½
Sound Quality: ****½
Overall Enjoyment: ****½

Although I’d heard of the great jazz guitarist Grant Green by the time I began collecting jazz albums, in the 1970s, I didn’t begin listening to him seriously until the early ’90s, when there was little available on new vinyl. The last few years have seen the return on vinyl of several Green albums, some through Blue Note’s 75th- and 80th-anniversary reissue and Tone Poet series, others from such audiophile labels as Analogue Productions and Music Matters.

ECM 1001 (LP)
ECM 0110 (24-bit/96kHz WAV)

Musical Performance: ***½
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****

Jazz pianist Mal Waldron moved from New York to Munich in 1967, and thereafter, until his death, in 2002, did most of his recording in Europe. He’d performed and recorded as a leader and sideman since the early 1950s, and had found that American -- especially African-American -- jazz musicians were treated and paid better across the Atlantic.