Every once in a while an artist puts it all together. Memphis, a Boz Scaggs project that is by turns silky smooth and then a raucously grooving delight, is that record.
Elsewhere, the Replacements make a triumphal return, as well.
New Music Monday also finds us enthusing about a pair of archival releases that will do much to add shading and context to the legacies of Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding.
With Hendrix, we have some actual new music, after years of posthumous sham recordings. And Redding? A theme record collecting some of his most heart-wrenchingly touching moments.
There is terrific new jazz from Hiromi, Ches Smith, Samuel Blaser, Stefano Battaglia and Troy Roberts. And some tough new hard rock from Soilwork and Krokus.
Then there’s Tenacious D, who are set to celebrate the 12th — yes, the 12th — anniversary of their hilarious debut recording.
Elsewhere, look for new stuff from the likes of Trent Reznor, Madeleine Peyroux and Son Volt, among many others. Let’s dig in …
Al Thompson Jr. – City Mainstream (Jazz)
Bennett Paster – Relentless Pursuit of the Beautiful (Jazz)
BOZ SCAGGS – MEMPHIS (BLUES): Boz Scaggs references some of the most distinctive, timeless R&B recordings of the 1970s, even as he continues exploring outward from that tradition on Memphis. Like Scaggs himself, it’s not easily pegged. Still, while the results are something hard to pin down, in terms of theme, Memphis is easy to appreciate from the chin down. This is music for the heart, and for places somewhere lower. In that way, Scaggs has made a triumphal return, after a five-year span between projects. Listen without trying to figure things out, and he maps out a stunning argument for his place as one of our greatest living white soul singers. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso
Caitlin Rose – The Stand-In (Pop/Rock)
Chelsea Light Moving – Chelsea Light Moving [with Thurston Moore] (Pop/Rock)
CHES SMITH AND THESE ARCHES – HAMMERED (JAZZ): Smith is proving his might as a leader with a very inclusive, original and scopic view of music. Smith is fully aware that he’s assembled some of the best free improvisers of the current scene; he must be, because they’re improvising relentlessly, intensely and — with the direction coming from Smith’s freewheeling compositions — a sense of purpose. So aptly titled, Hammered is a strong indication that Smith may be even more experimental than his more famous practitioners of outside jazz and improvised music. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron
Cloud Cult – Love (Pop/Rock)
HIROMI – MOVE (JAZZ): What do you get when you cross the discriminating refinement of a piano jazz trio with the ferocious impact of a power trio? You get Hiromi’s latest, dangerous little combo. The virtuosic piano sensation from Japan had teamed up with Anthony Jackson (contrabass guitar) and Toto’s longtime drummer Simon Phillips to make her last album, 2011′s Voices, and in the ensuing tour, saw more to exploit from this configuration. Thusly, she got right down to business and composed songs that aimed directly at the limitless abilities of her drummer and bassist, not just her. The product of this is a finely crafted album of purpose and mind-blowing musicianship. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron
How To Destroy Angels – Welcome Oblivion [with Trent Reznor] (Pop/Rock)
JIMI HENDRIX – PEOPLE, HELL AND ANGELS (POP/ROCK): Jimi Hendrix’s legacy has been so brazenly, endlessly plundered, it’s fair to approach any so-called “new” material from the late guitarist with a deep distrust. Circumspection this time soon transforms into pure joy. Exploring a series of roving, post-1968 sessions after the dissolution of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, People, Hell and Angels does, indeed, include freshly discovered sounds — though separate takes, in some instances, have seen the light of day. Finally, Legacy Recordings has gotten it right — blessedly, finally, right. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso
Josh Ritter – Beast in Its Tracks (Pop/Rock)
KROKUS – DIRTY DYNAMITE (POP/ROCK): Krokus’ last album really surprised me with a raw, no-nonsense AC/DC-type approach that was far different from their slick 1980s material. It gives me at least a little interest in this record. — Fred Phillips
Long Tall Deb – Raise Your Hands (Blues)
Lonesome Wyatt and the Holy Spooks – Ghost Ballads (Folk)
Luke Bryan – Spring Break: Here to Party (Country)
Making Movies – A La Deriva (Pop/Rock)
Madeleine Peyroux – The Blue Room (Vocals)
Mark Winkler – The Laura Nyro Project (Vocals)
Melvin Taylor – Taylor Made: Starring Melvin Taylor (Jazz)
Neal Alexander – Darn That Dream: Solo Piano Vol. 1 (Jazz)
Nirvana – MTV Unplugged in New York [Vinyl] (Pop/Rock)
OTIS REDDING – LONELY AND BLUE: THE DEEPEST SOUL (R&B): This isn’t the foot-stamping Otis, the one whose orgasmic proto-funk could bring down concert halls. This is that same guy after midnight, when the shadows — and the ghosts — start to gather. Sure, there are some familiar tracks here, but this new set digs deeper, and discovers new wells of meaning, in plucking lesser-known songs on the same love-lorn theme. A meditation on the most wrenching, soul-deep cries for love from the master of such things, Lonely and Blue illuminates Otis Redding’s way with a lyric in a manner that straight-forward greatest hits packages never have. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso
Poco – All Fired Up (Country)
Robyn Hitchcock – Love from London (Pop/Rock)
SAMUEL BLASER QUARTET – AS THE SEA (JAZZ): The second straight album with this lineup, and carrying over the personnel intact from album to album is a first for Blaser. But As the Sea is not quite Boundless Redux. Again culled from live performances but from the same show, this album finds Blaser tightening up his compositions with more scripted directions for where the band needed to go. That they’re being handed more challenging assignments than before is a product of the togetherness the four have developed. Blaser didn’t pick guys who sounded like him or approached music like he does, he went out to get guys who challenged the whole notion of what a jazz quartet is supposed to sound like. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron
Shirley Bassey – All the Best (Vocals)
Son Volt – Honky Tonk (Pop/Rock)
SOILWORK – THE LIVING INFINITE (POP/ROCK): Like most double albums, this latest effort from the masters of Swedish melodic death has some filler, but not as much as you’d expect. The Living Infinite is by far Soilwork’s most varied record to date, with bashing melodeath numbers that will please fans of their older material and plenty of much more melodic material as well. It has the potential to be a bit of a dividing album among fans. (More here.) — Fred Phillips
STEFANO BATTAGLIA TRIO – SONGWAYS (JAZZ): Songways is his fifth ECM album, his first coming in 2006 but the first time on ECM he’s repeating a format; Songways, is like 2011?s The River of Anyder a trio album comprised of Salvatore Maiore on double bass and Roberto Dani on drums. This trio is also a vehicle for Battaglia’s latest stage in his musical development, representing, in his own words, “a new harmonic balance between archaic modal pre-tonal chant and dances, pure tonal songs and hymns and abstract texture.” To my ears, it means a priority on discreet melodic development, using groups of chords that loosely define the melody, and music that moves freely in an avant-garde way but with highly lyrical chord sequences. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron
Stereophonics – Graffiti On The Train (Pop/Rock)
TENACIOUS D - TENACIOUS D: 12th ANNIVERSARY VINYL EDITION (POP/ROCK): OK, who else but Tenacious D would celebrate a milestone like the 12th anniversary with a vinyl edition of their first album? I’m not sure I’d drop $30 on it to have it on vinyl, but it is a fantastically funny record. — Fred Phillips
The Cave Singers – Naomi (Pop/Rock)
They Might Be Giants – Nanobots (Pop/Rock)
THE REPLACEMENTS – SONGS FOR SLIM EP (POP/ROCK): Highlighted an an unlikeliest of lead singles, a new take on Gordon Lightfoot’s — yes, Gordon Lightfoot’s — “I’m Not Sayin.’” Anyone who was a fan of their dangerously debauched brand of college rock, so long gone now, would have thought that chances of the Replacements getting back together were roughly the same as the odds they’d cover a Gordon Lightfoot song. They’re doing both, with a very good cause being the thing that finally smoked out erstwhile leader Paul Westerberg. He’s joined by fellow ‘Mats vet Tommy Stinson here as part of a benefit for ex-guitarist Slim Dunlap — who suffered a debilitating stroke last year. He was hospitalized for nine months, and remains partially paralyzed. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso
TROY ROBERTS – NU-JIVE 5 (JAZZ): Australian native and tenor saxophonist Roberts has a wide, low tone and an acrobatic articulation that’s so rhythmically aware; it’s apparent that to him, harmony and rhythm are joined at the hip. Downbeat was impressed enough to bestow four consecutive Jazz Soloist awards on him. Roberts has a real modern approach that’s a progression from Michael Brecker’s, and it’s easily identifiable even when he’s playing old jazz standards. That said, there’s not much “standard” about Nu-Jive 5 — which is that rare fusion jazz record that excels in all facets of fusion. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron
Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse (Pop/Rock)