Archives for the month of: November, 2011

Welcome music lovers. Read on for reviews of new music, re-discovery of old, and musing on the spaces in between. I hope this collection helps expand your collection of music, books, and other content that brings you joy.

My musical tastes are very broad, ranging across the jazz, funk, rock, folk, reggae, R&B, hip-hop, and electronic genres. What interests me most are the connections in between genres and the influences that today’s artists draw from the masters.

Much of my exposure to new music comes from innovative radio DJs, usually from the world of community and public broadcasting. Two such favourites are Gilles Peterson of BBC Radio 1 and Jason Palma of CIUT 89.5 FM in Toronto.

My first series of posts will be reviews of albums I’ve held in high regard for many years as well as some newer discoveries I’m excited about.

Read more posts, listen to more music. Thanks,

torontoArm

Album Review: 100 and Rising, Incognito, 1995

One of the things we buried with disco was orchestral strings in pop music. It had gotten out of hand – case and point: Stars on 45. Good riddance. But wait. Along comes Simon Hale who re-writes the book on string arrangements, updating them to work with the likes of Incognito and Jamiroquai. Hale’s work on this album and on Jamiroquai’s Travelling Without Moving, heralded the return of string arrangements and made them cool again.

As a result, this Incognito record, among the 30 years of studio recording for that fine UK ensemble, stands out as the most stylistically unique. The title track is a particularly effective blend of R&B with the string sound, supported by a wonderfully penned melody. A must have for Incognito fans and a fine update to the sound we left behind when disco died.

Album Review: Minute by Minute, The Doobie Brothers, 1978

The liner notes on this album describe how the band, emerging from their final recording session for Minute by Minute, thought the album was probably crap. Turns out it didn’t matter what they thought. What they created was a groundbreaking work of soulful, warm, R&B sounds with a folk rock pedigree. As unlikely as the pairing of long-haired bearded guys was with something akin to Luther Vandross, it is a blessing that they created this classic album. The keyboards and bass are as plush as can be. Michael McDonald emerges as one of the best vocalists in R&B, albeit from an unlikely source.

Album Review: Static in Transmission, Spoons (Fontana North, 2011)

The Spoons have returned with this album after a long recording silence and what a nice comeback! Static in Transmission is a smart, original album that harks back to the innovation of their masterpiece, Arias and Symphonies. The Spoons are good at pop songs, as evidenced by tracks like “Old Emotions” and “Romantic Traffic”. But they are GREAT at progressive music that blends an 80s new wave ethos with edgy rock melody and original arrangements. Deppe’s guitar and voice laid over Horne’s bass and backing vocals are the Spoons’ magic elixir. They are back to using it to its potential in this album. “Imperfekt”, “Numb”, and “End of Story” are all meaty tracks that soar above pop rock and give the listener some depth to enjoy.