Bob Putignano's Top Ten Picks for 2004
CDs, DVDs, Re-issues, Books
It’s been a positive year for the blues, as the listening and buying public seems to have opened up its ears and embraced a more soul-blues style, which has given many of these open minded artists far more airplay up and down the radio dial, including satellite radio, and internet radio. Good for them, as the crossover has ignited the careers of a well deserving Mavis Staples and Dr. John, and has gained new audiences for the more daring blues based artists listed below. Lets hope this open-minded trend continues, and that the record labels, radio hosts, and artists continue to support and expand the genre.
CD’s for 2004. + Top DVD, re-issues & books:
Mavis Staples: “Have a Little Faith” (Alligator) In retrospect, it is amazing that no one picked up this recording until Alligator came along. Mavis told me she had to borrow money from the bank to make the recording, and then shopped it around to the major labels. After a period of time passed Mavis decided to go with Mr. Iglauer, which worked wonders for both artist and label. Staples is probably the greatest living female vocalist alive today, (catch her live), and if you have not purchased this recording, shame on you, amen!
Dr. John: N’Awlinz: Dis, dat or d’udda” (Blue Note) The good Dr. returns to his Big Easy roots, bringing in many of his old buddies from his days at Cosimo Matassa’s studios like: Dave Bartholemew, The Nevilles, Snooks Eaglin, Earl Palmer, plus stars like BB, Gatemouth, Randy Newman, Willie Nelson also make appearances. This recording is brilliantly all tied together with the incredible arrangements of the legendary Wardell Quezergue.
Larry Carlton: “Sapphire Blue” (Bluebird) This is not a jazz record, I repeat, this is not a Jazz record! This recording will kick your butt. I challenge any guitar player who can compete with Carlton. Forget about his jazzy and Steely Dan roots, this CD is the real deal! By the way, the title track may be one of Carlton’s strongest solos on record, and it is a twelve bar blues. Nuff said!
Jean Jacques Milteau: “Blue 3rd” (Emarcy) JJ Milteau is a very gifted harp player from France, he follows last years wonderful CD “Memphis” (which featured Little Milton & Mighty Sam McClain) with an equally strong recording titled “Blue 3rd”. Milteau has USA soul, and knows how to make strong records, so don’t pass this one up. Be sure to check out the track with Gil-Scott Heron as well.
Pat Boyack: “Voices from the Street” (Doc Blues) Texas soul abounds, with the great horn charts of Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff, and cameo appearances by Boyack’s boss- Marcia Ball, plus Ruthie Foster, and W.C Clark all add good grease to the mix. Mr. Boyack does not sing, but he sure lets his guitar do all the talking you need to hear.
Al Green: “I Can’t Stop” (Blue Note) What a come back! Memphis soul at its best, as the title of the CD says it all. Kudos to: Blue Note records for making this CD a reality, and available to those of us in the know.
Tad Robinson: “Did you ever Wonder” (Severn) Blue eyed soul at its best! Severn Records always had soul, but this one is over the top. Robinson (an ex-New Yorker) delivers the goods, and is once again teamed up with his old band-mate from his Delmark records days, the outstanding guitarist (also an ex New Yorker): Mr. Alex Schultz, who just happens to have a great brand new retro record (with Tad on board for a couple of tunes) “Think about it” just released on Severn records as well.
Derek Trucks Band: Live at Georgia Theatre” (DerekTrucks.com) I have seen the future and its on this recording. Derek has a clear musical vision, he is willing to take risks, and has an outstanding career ahead of him. This live double CD will make you want to order tickets to see Derek and his band live, the next time he is in your neighborhood. Jam on!
Queen Latifah: “The Dana Owens Album” (A&M) The surprise recording of the year, as ex-Newark NJ Latifah does a complete career turnaround offering some of the most sumptuous covers in many a moon.
I thought they stopped making records like this, and this one will have you thinking that they re-opened up the old recording studios at Atlantic Studios again, and having David “Fathead” Newman on several tunes certainly gives you that impression.
Bravo to A&M records for having the guts and insight for getting this one out to the buying public.
Luther Kent and the Forever Fabulous Chickenhawks: “Deep in the Heart” (Louisiana Red Hot)
I have always been a big fan of Luther Kent ever since I saw him perform in New Orleans during Jazz Fest several years ago. This live recording captures the raw and vibrant talent of this powerful vocalist, who is backed by a killer big band that just wont quit. As the title implies “Deep in the Heart” will drill down deep both in your heart and soul!
B.B. King: “B.B King Wails”(ACE Records-Import) Classic B.B. with plenty of additional bonus tracks, which were found in the vaults by that transplanted UK wiz John Broven (author of Rhythm & Blues New Orleans.)
You absolutely need to hear B.B.’s version of “Everyday I have the Blues” sans guitar- backed by the illustrious Count Basie Orchestra, and “Yes Indeed” where a guitar-less B.B. fronts the Tommy Dorsey’s band. The King of the Blues, indeed!
James Brown: “Soul on Top” (Verve) In1969 JB went into the studio and recorded this long lost gem. It doesn’t get any better than this. Listen to the screaming Godfather of Soul, backed by the incredible Louie Belson Big Band, with arrangements by the immortal Oliver Nelson. The big band charts are understandably amazing throughout, and the version of “It’s a Mans World” will send chills down your back!
“Tom Dowd, The Language of Music” Mark Moorman. (Palm DVD)
This is definitely a sentimental favorite of mine. Pick up any LP recorded on Atlantic records, and more often than not you will see Tom Dowd’s name listed as the recording engineer. But what you will learn when viewing this documentary, is that Dowd was much more.
There are wonderful segments included within this DVD, as you will see a later day Brother Ray chatting with Dowd, a great piece with a young Ruth Brown performing from the 50’s, Aretha singing and playing piano at a recording session, as well as a fabulous (recent) chapter where you will see Dowd in front of the studio board re-listening to the infamous “Layla” recording sessions, potting up and down Clapton’s and Duane’s guitars, where he youthfully exudes “this is like jazz!”
Priceless history is captured here, and there is no question that you should add this delightful documentary to your musical audio video collection. Essential!
Note: At the time of this writing Moorman’s documentary has been nominated for a Grammy. Best wishes!
Escaping the Delta-Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, by Elijah Wald (Amistad)
A very pleasurable read. This book is not exactly what you think it would be. Though it covers the life of the
famous/short-lived performer-Johnson, author Wald offers stimulating thought-provoking concepts about the origins and the on-going evolution of blues music. Highly recommended.
Queen-The Life and Music of Dinah Washington, by Nadine Cohodas (Pantheon)
Author Cohodas clearly did her homework for this gorgeous documentary, as this book is as detailed as any could ever expect, offering year by year descriptions about Dinah’s super star career. By the way, Dinah passed away at thirty-nine, and was married seven times.
Additionally, check out the optional companion CD “Queen-The Music of Dinah Washington.” (Verve) Where Cohodas personally selects twelve of Dinah’s lesser-known, yet wonderful single recordings.
Elwood’s Blues-Interviews with the Blues Legends & Stars, by Dan Aykroyd & Ben Manilla (Backbeatbooks.com)
Nothing ground breaking here, but the well thought out interviews are informative, and were transcribed from the past eleven years “House of Blues Radio Hour.”
Happy New Year!