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Record Store Day 2018 Part Two

May 1, 2018

When you blow several Benjamins on Record Store Day (RSD) it takes a while to digest it all. My last post talked about four releases from my RSD 2018 haul. Here are a few more.

DeJohnette, Grenadier, Medeski & Scofield – Hudson

Why I did not give this an album a serious listen in 2017 is beyond me. I was well aware of this supergroup debut and I did listen to it on Spotify when it first came out – just not seriously.  Hudson has some of my favorite jazz musicians playing on it. Sometimes, an album is released in the midst of too much other music or at a time when your ears are just not open. Anyway, this is a great album I missed in 2017.

The album features originals by DeJohnette and Scofield and covers of rock songs that have a New York Hudson Valley connection. Those “Hudson Valley songs” include a couple of Dylan songs,  a song by The Band,  one by Hendrix (LP only) and Joni’s “Woodstock.”

Sco dominates the proceedings with his rich fat tone. His guitar sounds so good I feel like I can taste it. It reminds me of a really good soft caramel.  Medeski is one of the most sympathetic keyboard sidemen in the business. His solos are subtle and tasteful. Grenadier (bass) and DeJohnette (drums) are a rock solid rhythm section. They have no need to dominate – they accentuate. DeJohnette provides additional value composing a third of the selections.

The vinyl edition has a slightly different song sequence and one additional song (Hendrix’s “Castle Made Of Sand”). Oddly, the revised sequence of the LP is better than the digital sequence. I assume the LP format dictated the new sequence.

In addition to some straight jazz, there is also some Bitches Brew improvisational funk, gospel (including some soulful vocals from DeJohnette) and even a homage to Native American music.  This is an album that should have been on my best of 2017.

Melvin Sparks

Melvin Sparks – Texas Twister 

Another funky jazz guitarist that caught my eye on “The List” was Melvin Sparks.  I was only vaguely familiar with Sparks, but I trusted that RSD was not going to let me down so I nabbed this LP.

Sparks comes from a fine pedigree: as a high school student he was working with Hank Ballard and the Midnighters.   He then worked with the Upsetters, a touring band formed by Little Richard, which also backed Jackie Wilson, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye.  Eventually, he found his way to NYC where he was a session cat for Blue Note and Prestige.  He was a go-to player in the soul-jazz scene of the late 60s and early 70s.  He often played with keyboard greats like Jack McDuff, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Charles Earland.

Texas Twister is a generous helping of slick soulful jazz, spiced up with some hard bop on the second side.  When I say slick, I don’t mean sappy slick, I mean Steely Dan slick.  The titular cut is super funky, but there is plenty of serious jazz soloing by Sparks and the band.  Overall, the album is playful, yet this is some serious talent.

Per the Light In The Attic web page:

This record is a delight and there’s A LOT happening while Sparks is peeling off some fluid lightning riffs! Texas Twister features Idris Muhammad on drums, which means a frenzy of funky JB-influenced over-the-top soul-jazz drumming. Featured on Hammond Organ is the great Ceasar Frazier and bass duties are handled by Wilbur Bascomb (know for his performance on Jeff Beck’s ‘Wired’ album and the soundtrack for the 1979 film version of Hair). Add some extremely tight horns and congas to the mix (which gives this album a sweet Latin Jazz vibe) and you’re swinging all night long. All of the above is carefully overseen by engineer Malcolm Addey & producer Bob Porter (known for their work with Quincy Jones, Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Miles Davis, Coltrane etc).

Texas Twister is the first seven cuts of this stream:

Caitlyn Smith – Starfire

Smith is on my radar because she is a local gal (raised in Cannon Falls, Minnesota) who has had some Nashville success as a songwriter (Rascal Flatts, Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton and a huge hit with Meghan Trainor & John Legend: “Like I’m Gonna Lose You”). In 2016 Rolling Stone named her one of “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know” describing her as

The most versatile honky-tonk singer you’ve ever heard, a virtuoso vocalist capable of torch, twang and a whisper-to-a-scream range.

So, we are kind of proud of her. Starfire is her major label debut.

All that being said, I have to admit I have not listened to Smith until recently. My first impression is that she was a bit generic modern country. Great voice, catchy songs. I listened to a playlist that mixed her songs covered by others with her own takes.  I learned that when Caitlyn sings her own songs it is something special. Her versions popped out of the playlist – after all she is a singer songwriter.

This is one of those albums that every time you spin it more is revealed:

  • The vocals become more complex
  • The lyrics become more clever
  • The song sequencing is carefully curated (e.g.: side 2’s three city songs in a row)
  • The arrangement’s subtleties blossom

Smith is a nice combo of rock and roll swagger and country twang. She can howl and purr.

From a RSD perspective there are two extra cuts on the LP and the Fetus had autographed copies.

Below is the playlist I talked about along with the full album less the bonus cuts.

It is going to take a couple more posts to get through the rest of the RSD2018 booty.

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From → Music Reviews

2 Comments
  1. Going to check out Melvin for sure.

  2. Also the Hudson album

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