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Back Cover

Gryphon Diablo 300

Reprise 566051-1
Format: 2 LPs

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

Neil Young wrote and recorded Tonight’s the Night in the late summer of 1973, shortly after two close friends died of heroin overdoses. Danny Whitten had been a singer and the rhythm guitarist for Crazy Horse, Young’s backing band, and Bruce Berry was Young’s roadie and friend. Young’s studio recording of the previous year was Harvest, which was hugely popular and put him firmly in the mainstream. Tonight’s the Night was a more emotionally difficult album, sloppier in execution -- and one of his best.

ECM 2577 (578 6780)
Format: CD

ECM 2577 (6730185)
Format: Vinyl   

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

British saxophonist Andy Sheppard has recorded extensively as a sideman over the last 30 years, appearing on albums by Carla Bley, Gil Evans, Keith Tippett, and George Russell, among many others. He co-led three sessions with Carla Bley and Steve Swallow, and has released 14 recordings as a leader. Romaria, his newest, is his fourth for ECM. It’s his second outing with his current quartet, which comprises guitarist Eivind Aarset, double bassist Michel Benita, and drummer Sebastian Rochford. Their previous release, Surrounded by Sea (2015), also appeared on ECM.

Blue Note B0027806601
Format: LP (2)

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

The jazz of GoGo Penguin, a trio based in Manchester, England, takes in all manner of influences, from electronica to the atmospheric rock of Radiohead. Hints of Brian Eno and of current minimalist composers, such as John Adams, also pop up, but this music isn’t slapdash or scattered. It has the improvisational excitement of jazz, while using carefully constructed themes and studio technology to create its sound. The group was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2014, and the following year signed with Blue Note France.

ECM 2576 5798928
Formats: LP and CD

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment: ****

Norwegian jazz drummer Thomas Strønen has appeared on more than 60 albums in the last 20 years, in a variety of groups and settings. Three of those recordings are his own as leader and composer, including the newest, Lucus, his second outing for ECM. His previous release for the label, Time Is a Blind Guide (2015), featured 11 compositions he wrote for a unique septet that included two additional percussionists, a violinist, and a cellist.

Warner Bros./Intervention IR-015
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ****1/2
Sound Quality: ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment: ****1/2

With its seemingly effortless flow of great melodies that stay in the head, and witty lyrics that are smart without being too clever or cynical, Marshall Crenshaw’s eponymous debut album was universally praised by critics on its release, in 1982. Crenshaw and Richard Gottehrer coproduced the album, which had a clean but somewhat bright sound, with an old-style reverb that highlighted the music’s debt to Crenshaw’s influences -- Buddy Holly, early Beatles, the Brill Building -- without sounding dated.

Daptone Dap-050
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ****1/2
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****1/2

When Sharon Jones died in November 2016, at the age of 60, soul music lost one of its most dedicated and skilled practitioners. Jones had recorded a series of singles beginning in the mid-1990s when, in 2002, she released the first LP with her formidable backing band, the Dap-Kings. She was 45 at the time, and went on to make six more albums with them. All were recorded in eight-track analog at Daptone House of Soul Studio, in Brooklyn, with no drum machines or synthesizers.

Intervention IR-018
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment: ****1/2

Joe Jackson’s Summer in the City: Live in New York was released in 2000 to little fanfare. Jackson’s third outing for Sony Classical, it followed Heaven & Hell (1997) and Symphony No. 1 (1999). Those albums had received mixed receptions, but Summer in the City reminded critics that Jackson’s pop-music talents were still intact. Indeed, just five months later he released Night and Day II, which revisited the sophisticated songwriting styles of his popular 1982 album.

Exile Productions/Caroline 2557718515
Format: CD

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

Every few albums, Van Morrison releases something that stands out just a little from the rest of his 15 recordings of the last 20 years. Magic Time (2005) had a good batch of songs played by a terrific band, and Keep It Simple (2008) was stripped down and soulful, with a nod to Morrison’s blues side. Last year’s Keep Me Singing benefited from a Morrison who seemed more at ease, perhaps because his previous CD, Duets: Re-working the Catalogue (2015), included appearances by some of his contemporaries. He clearly enjoyed singing with P.J. Proby, Chris Farlowe, and Georgie Fame.

Womanly Hips WHRC001
Format CD

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

Although Joan Osborne has written her share of good songs, she has from the beginning shown a talent for sensitive interpretations of work by others. Relish, her 1995 breakthrough, included tunes by Bob Dylan and Sonny Boy Williamson, and her strong feel for classic soul and blues was obvious on How Sweet It Is (2002), Breakfast in Bed (2007), and Bring It on Home (2012).

Blue Note B002681502
Format: CD

Musical Performance: ****1/2
Sound Quality: ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment: ****

Last year, tenor saxophonist and flutist Charles Lloyd released I Long to See You, a quintet recording with guitarists Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz; it was challenging and musically satisfying, but still accessible. His new disc on Blue Note, Passin’ Thru, is credited to the Charles Lloyd New Quartet, though this group -- pianist Jason Moran, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Eric Harland -- has played together since 2007. The quartet lineup and approach are more traditional than on I Long to See You, but the music is bracing and alive, crackling with energy and creativity.