New Music Monday: Long-awaited return for Mitch Ryder, scorching blues from Otis Taylor

We dig into brand new stuff from Mitch Ryder, Otis Taylor, Uriah Heep and Ahmad Jamal for New Music Monday this week , as well as reissues and live product from Barry White and Spock’s Beard. Also, look for new albums over the coming days from Audra Mae and the Almighty Sound, Charles Gayle, Gregory Porter, Hey Rosetta!, Kevin Gordon, Lillian Axe, Lorraine Feather, Luis Perdomo, Peter Appleyard, Polica, Rob Mosberger and the October Trio; as well as interesting updates of older items by Ronnie James Dio, Manfred Mann and the Spinners, among others.

PRESENTING NEW MUSIC MONDAY FOR THE WEEK OF FEB. 13, 2012 …

Adam Kromelow TrioYoungblood (Jazz)

AHMAD JAMAL – BLUE MOON (JAZZ): The impressionistic octogenarian returns with an energetic, legacy-burnishing set of songs recorded last year in New York City. Appearing with drummer Herlin Riley and percussionist Manolo Badrena, pianist Ahmad Jamal echoes his rightly revered 1950s Chess sides, without appearing to overtly mimic them. Reginald Veal, who like Riley is an alum of the Wynton Marsalis band, is now sitting in for longtime bassist James Cammack. Standout tracks include the Rodgers and Hart-penned title track, “The Gypsy,” “Autumn Rain” and “Morning Mist.” Already credited as a huge influence on Miles Davis, Blue Moon gives Jamal another chance to inspire a new generation. (More here.)Nick DeRiso

Albert Lee and Hogan’s HeroesOn the Town Tonight (Country)
Amos LeeAs The Crow Flies (Pop/Rock)
Anita O’DayMy Funny Valentine Live 1955-59 (Vocal)
AnvilPound for Pound; Strength of Steel; Worth the Weight (Pop/Rock)

AUDRA MAE AND THE ALMIGHTY SOUND – AUDRA MAY AND THE ALMIGHTY SOUND (POP/ROCK): Whereas Audra Mae’s initial album, 2010′s The Happiest Lamb, boasted this gloamy, lightly swinging throwback appeal, the addition of the Almighty Sound gooses her into sizzling new soul-packed places. Of course, this self-titled album, courtesy of Side One Dummy, is still shaped by her dark and scuffed-up vocals — in particular on tracks like the hooky “Ne’ver Do Wells,” and the chugging — and aptly titled — “The Real Thing.” Audra Mae is. (More here.)Nick DeRiso

AxeAxeology 1979-2001 (Pop/Rock)
Band of SkullsSweet Sour (Pop/Rock)

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BARRY WHITE – LET THE MUSIC PLAY: EXPANDED EDITION (R&B): Originally released in 1976, maestro Barry White’s sixth album — despite including three monster hit singles, including the title song, “You See The Trouble With Me” and “Baby, We Better Try To Get It Together” — somehow had gone out of print. That is, before this new reissue from Hip-O Select. And boy, are they excited! The expanded edition includes not one, not two, not five, but six — yes, six! — different mixes of “Let the Music Play.” (More here.)Nick DeRiso

Bettye LaVetteNearer to You (R&B)
Beneath the MassacreIncongruous (Pop/Rock)
Catherine RussellStrictly Romancin’ (Jazz)

CHARLES GAYLE TRIO – STREETS (JAZZ): After five years between studio releases, Gayle goes back to his bread-and-butter tenor and his bread-and-butter bass-drums-sax format. The title is derived from a sad clown persona that Gayle has been featuring in his shows since the 1990s, and Streets The Clown usually complements his music with religious and political commentary in his performances, though — never fear — Streets is strictly about the music. His sax tone is huge, abrasive, confrontational, but in an odd way, also ingratiating. There’s also a rare sense of purpose in his playing, one that retains shards of blues and bebop, and hints at his deep understanding of pre-avant jazz. (More here.)S. Victor Aaron

Connie FrancisNever on Sunday; Songs to a Swinging Band (Jazz)
Cotton MatherKontiki [Deluxe 2CD Edition] (Pop/Rock)

DIO – HOLY DIVER (POP/ROCK): The first of three seminal Dio solo albums — with Last in Line, and Sacred Heart to follow — that are getting the deluxe reissue treatment, with the endorsement of widow Wendy Dio. 1983′s Holy Diver, a platinum-selling metal staple, featured the underrated young Irish man Vivian Campbell on guitar and a pair of legacy-making standout songs, the title track (No. 40 on the mainstream rock charts) and “Rainbow in the Dark,” which Dio said reflected his feelings on leaving Black Sabbath. The original CD has been re-mastered, and the album includes a bonus CD of outtakes and extras along with an expanded booklet with notes from Malcolm Dome, the well-known English metal writer. Dio’s all-star rhythm section here included fellow Sabbath alum Vinny Appice and veteran bassist Jimmy Bain. (More here.)Nick DeRiso

Drew NelsonTilt-A-Whirl (Folk)

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Ella FitzgeraldElla Swings Brightly With Nelson (Jazz)
Field MusicPlumb (Pop/Rock)

GREGORY PORTER – BE GOOD (JAZZ): What sets Porter apart from innumerable other jazz crooners is that he’s not the traditional torch singer, presenting tired old interpretations of sung-to-death Tin Pan Ally songs and show tunes. Never one to over-emote, he can nevertheless convey all levels of passion with convincing sincerity. Porter writes most of his material and draws comparisons to Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Donny Hathaway, Curtis Mayfield and melodically, at least, even Wayne Shorter. On many of his songs, he’s really a soul singer with an acoustic jazz combo backing; a legitimate heir to Lou Rawls. (More here.)S. Victor Aaron

GOATWHORE – BLOOD FOR THE MASTER (POP/ROCK): Yes, I agree it’s probably one of the worst band names in the business, but sadly, fairly tame among the extreme metal genres. I’m not likely to be sporting their T-shirt any time soon, and when they come to town occasionally, I can’t even put their name in the paper. That said, these New Orleans boys are among the better bands in the extreme genres. Their music – which mixes elements of thrash, death and black metal – is abrasive, aggressive and brutal, but it maintains melody and even catches an occasional groove. I’m very picky about the more extreme genres and not a huge fan of most of the stuff coming out of them, but occasionally I hit on something I like. The music – if not the band name – gets a thumbs-up from me.Fred Phillips

Heartless BastardsArrow (Pop/Rock)

HEY ROSETTA! – SEEDS (POP/ROCK): Into Your Lungs, Hey Rosetta! (with an assist from producer Tony Doogan, who’s worked with Belle and Sebastian, and Wintersleep) offers another retro-cool chamber pop triumph here, but with a pleasant dash of pop-music raucousness. Always smart and melodically inviting, it’s swinging art-rock of the first order — equal parts sweeping orchestral emotion and hooky delight. No easy feat. (More here.)Nick DeRiso

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Holly ColeSteal the Night/Live (Pop/Rock)
Jack JonesThis Was My Love; Shall We Dance (Vocal)
Joan SutherlandLegendary Performances (Vocal)

KEVIN GORDON – GLORYLAND (POP/ROCK): Returning with his first new album in seven years, this Nashville singer-songwriter drills in on the second half of that descriptor — telling stories that resonate like age-old fables, even on the first listen. Produced by Dove Award winner Joe McMahan (Freedy Johnston, Allison Moorer), Gloryland is another milestone in a career that’s already seen Gordon craft well-regarded sides with producer Garry Tallent of the E Street Band, singer Lucinda Williams and Bo Ramsey, now producer and guitarist with both Greg Brown and Williams. Along the way, the Louisiana native’s songs have also been reinterpreted by the likes of Irma Thomas, Southside Johnny, Keith Richards and Levon Helm, too. His powerful new release underscores all over again why Gordon has so quickly soared into that rarefied air. He’s got the goods. (More here.)Nick DeRiso

Kirk WhalumRomance Language (Jazz)
KrokusHellraiser (Pop/Rock)

LILLIAN AXE – XI: THE DAYS BEFORE TOMORROW (POP/ROCK): Lillian Axe is a band that should have been bigger than they were, but a contract with MCA (not the most hard rock friendly label) and a glut of other hairy bands in the 1980s kept them from finding mainstream success. Years later, founder and guitarist Steve Blaze is still hammering away at the business, though, with a new lineup and a slightly different sound. The Days After Tomorrow is an excellent addition to their catalog. (More here.)Fred Phillips

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LORRAINE FEATHER – TALES OF THE UNUSUAL (JAZZ): In a genre that’s rapidly becoming overwhelmed with vocalists reinterpreting the Great American Snoozebook, Lorraine Feather is not kidding with this album title. Each and every song has new lyrics written by Feather and — in keeping with her 2011 project Ages, (More here.)Nick DeRiso

LUIS PERDOMO – UNIVERSAL MIND (JAZZ): Perdomo as a pianist has a touch that’s neither too light nor too aggressive, and he can really dig into the harmonics of a song as he stays well within range of a song’s core personality. Still, you can’t take your ears off Jack DeJohnette. The consummate sideman, he always plays in service of the song and the leader, but does so in forceful way, playing with always sound to me like he has an extra limb. He and Perdomo combined for a couple of extemporaneous duets, “United Path,” parts 1 and 2, where the abilities of both to use restraint, shadings and moods as effective modes for expression just as readily as sheer technical prowess. (More here.)S. Victor Aaron

LyambikoSings Gershwin (Vocal)

MANFRED MANN – COMPLETE GREATEST HITS OF MANFRED MANN (POP/ROCK): Look past the doo-wah diddies (though that formed a memorable hit in 1964) and Manfred Mann — part of an early 1960s wave of Answers To The Beatles — is your basic renaissance hipster doofus. Known by turns for playing jazz and R&B-based stuff, but also blues knockoffs, and later for pop and progressive rock, Mann was all over the map. Unjustly slighted, though, in the wake of the 1970s chart topper “Blinded by the Light” is their first period, when Mann’s band was all weird eyeglasses and goatees. They made pop that was hard to resist because of these groovy organ fills and informed, boppy guitar lines. And then they only got better. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

Mark O’ConnorAmerican Classics (Folk)
Mary BlackStories From the Steeples (Folk)
Matt WilsonAn Attitude for Gratitude (Jazz)
Michael LandauOrganic Instrumentals (Jazz)
Michael LingtonPure (Jazz)
Michael RabinThe Unpublished Recordings (New Age)

MITCH RYDER – THE PROMISE (POP/ROCK): The famed 1960s-era blue-eyed soulster (“Devil with a Blue Dress,” “Jenny Take a Ride,” Sock It To Me, Baby”) returns with his first new full length American release in three decades, working with producer Don Was, a fellow Detroit native. The Promise features 11 new originals — with the title track’s gritty portrait of a struggling middle America as its centerpoint — plus a live version of the Motown classic “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” recorded at Was’ annual Concert of Colors. The two first met when the producer was at work in the studio were Ryder was making 1980′s Naked But Not Dead, and their simpactico sense of things gives the new album this directness and authority — notably on a thrillingly scuffed up new version of Ryder’s old tune “My Heart Belongs to Me,” which roils like a muscular old Memphis side. Ryder reminds us of his own promise here, and he makes good on it all over again. (More here.)Nick DeRiso

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Omar and the HowlersEssential Collection (Blues)
Orange GoblinEulogy for the Damned (Pop/Rock)

OTIS TAYLOR – OTIS TAYLOR’S CONTRABAND (BLUES): A musical alchemist and stirring modern-day storyteller, Taylor is just as apt to experiment well beyond the Delta tradition as he is to explore the raw passions of this nation’s fight for racial justice. This isn’t your grandfather’s blues. Witness the forthcoming Contraband, this haunting mixture of ominous guitar and banjo work (yes, banjo), wildly inventive syncopated rhythms, and a series of raw themes dealing with searing personal demons, the scourge of war, and the scalding verities of love. Collaborators include cornetist Ron Miles, pedal steel guitarist Chuck Campbell and djembe player Fara Tolno of West Africa — in itself, a road map to the musical complexities of Taylor’s work. (More here.)Nick DeRiso

PETER APPLEYARD AND THE JAZZ GIANTS – THE LOST 1974 SESSIONS (JAZZ): A vibraphonist very much in the tradition of Lionel Hampton, Appleyard — who’d, fittingly, worked with Benny Goodman in the period that these recordings were made — is joined by a star-studded group that includes Hank Jones on piano, Zoot Sims on sax, bassist Slam Stewart, Mel Lewis on drums and others. Recording after a Goodman date at Ontario in 1974, the sessions have the off-handed, friendly atmosphere of a jam session — maybe, because it really was. Pleasant, if a little unchallenging, The Lost 1974 Sessions is nevertheless a rare opportunity to hear many of these legendary performers one more time. All but Appleyard and trombonist Urbie Green have since passed. (More here.)Nick DeRiso

Philipp FankhauserTry My Love (Blues)

POLICA – GIVE YOU THE GHOST (POP/ROCK): A fizzy combination of Cocteau Twins-style dream-pop and stamping R&B grooves, Poliça is a meeting of the musical minds by electronica producer Ryan Olson (Gayngs) and vocalist Channy Leaneagh. Together, they’ve fashioned an album in Give You The Ghost that is both haunting and hooky — like next-gen trip-hop, maybe. But too diaphanous for that. It makes for a brilliant creative tension. I hesitate to mention that many of Leaneagh’s limber vocal intricacies are achieved through auto-tune, since that technology is typically more of a cheat than a tool. Yet here, it becomes part of a layered, deeply resonant, quite remarkable soundscape. Hey, even synthesizers had their moments, right? (More here.)Nick DeRiso

Punch BrothersWho’s Feeling Young Now? (Pop/Rock)

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ROB MORSBERGER – GHOSTS BEFORE BREAKFAST (POP/ROCK): Diagnosed last year with a Grade 4 Gliobastoma, the worst manifestation of the most malignant form of brain cancer, Mosberger has emerged here in complete command of his craft — even as his health shockingly fails him. It’s an idea that, once internalized, is impossible to avoid while Ghosts Before Breakfast spins. The power of this album, however, lies not in that sad sense of loss, but rather in the way that Morsberger can take something so horrifying, so chaotic, so very final, and give it such beauty, grace and meaning. (More here.)Nick DeRiso

Rosie ThomasWith Love (Pop/Rock)
ShearwaterAnimal Joy (Pop/Rock)

THE SPINNERS – SPINNERS (R&B): Friday Music has remastered the Spinners’ explosively popular debut, adding new liner notes, discography and photographs. But it’s the songs themselves, of course, that will always sell this one — including hit after hit after fonky, fonky hit: “One of a Kind Love Affair,” “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love,” “Ghetto Child” and, best of all, “I’ll Be Around” — a different kind of a song about getting dumped, and still loving her anyway, and thinking to yourself … and then saying out loud … that you’ll wait for as long as it takes for her to return, since there’s always a chance, no matter how remote, that these things work out in the end. That’s to say nothing of this song’s bone-deep, riffy soundtrack — Philly Soul, personified. (More here.)Nick DeRiso

SPOCK’S BEARD – X TOUR: LIVE (POP/ROCK): A three-disc live souvenir, including two CDs and a DVD, from a Spock’s Beard tours in support of 2010′s X at California’s Downey Theatre. Of course, live dates are nothing new for this band — Spock’s Beard has released Gluttons For Punishment in 2005, Spock’s Beard Live in 2008 and appeared on last year’s Testimony 2, with former frontman Neal Morse, as well — but this one is notable in that it features music from the band’s last studio album with former drummer and vocalist Nick D’Virgilio, who left last fall for a solo career. (More here.)Nick DeRiso

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Stephane GrappelliBringing It Together (Jazz)
Sugar and the Hi-LowsSugar and the Hi-Lows (Pop/Rock)
Swallow the SunEmerald Forest & The Blackbird (Pop/Rock)
The ApollasAbsolutely Right! The Complete Tiger, Loma And Warner Bros. Recordings (R&B)
The DunwellsBlind Sighted Faith (Folk)

THE OCTOBER TRIO – NEW DREAM (JAZZ): When you peel away all chordal instruments, the rhythm section gets exposed. That can be a delight or a disaster, but in the case of Toronto’s October Trio, it’s the former. Evan Arntzen’s sax or clarinet has a lot of character, a product of his expressive articulation, but Josh Cole’s bass occupies a lot of the space normally taken up by a piano or guitar, providing a funky counterpoint. In this way, the October Trio finds a way to interact in a playful, spry way that makes these angular tunes light and fun to listen to. (More here.)S. Victor Aaron

UnisonicIgnition (Pop/Rock)

URIAH HEEP – LOGICAL REVELATIONS (POP/ROCK): Featuring 10 new compositions, plus four new live takes on classic Uriah Heep tunes, including “The Wizard,” “Gypsy” and “Easy Livin,’” which perched just inside the Top 40 of the Billboard charts after it was plucked off the 1972 concept album Demons and Wizards, long called their best. In retrospect, however, “Easy Livin’” proved to be an early and obvious hint of the looming shift toward more mainstream rock efforts for the band, and that continues here. Even so, “Easy Livin’” still simply leaps out of the speakers, all rumbling rhythms and gurgling organ fills. There’s a reason this song has often been used to the close their shows — and does so again on Logical Revelations: It’s a fun piece of escapism with a sledgehammer beat. While Bernie Shaw — Uriah Heep’s frontman since 1986 — owes perhaps too much to subsequent heavy metal vocalists like Ronnie James Dio, he again throws himself into this project with a personable abandon. (More here.)Nick DeRiso

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