Thursday, November 6, 2008

Casual Listening - Mavis Staples, Q-Tip, Bela Fleck

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

November 7, 2008

! Mavis Staples – Live: Hope at the Hideout (soul)

The sound of the rebirth of hope in America. One of the best gospel voices of the last half-century makes the civil rights movement sing again. The live versions of these freedom songs are an order of magnitude more powerful than last year’s studio release “We’ll Never Turn Back.” I fell for this album a week ago when I first heard it, but in the days after Obama’s election these songs sound different. There’s a whole new resonance to “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” when a piece of that prize has been won. Goosebumps, goosebumps, and more goosebumps.

Listen to Mavis Staples “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

* Q-Tip ­– The Renaissance (rap)

With creative instrumentation approaching jazz fusion, this is a producer’s tour de force. Clever and impressionistic lyrics with a wide romantic streak. Guests include Nora Jones and Rafael Saadiq. Thinkers’ rap.

Listen to Q-Tip “Official

* Bela Fleck & the Flecktones – Jingle All the Way (jazz)

The most adventurous Christmas album to come out in years. Bela Fleck is a samurai banjo player who has created thoroughly modern versions of holiday chestnuts. He’s broadened the cannon to include “Linus and Lucy” and Joni Mitchell’s “River” alongside “Silent Night” and even an excerpt from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Oh, and don’t forget “Jingle Bells” done by Tuvan throat singers.

Listen to Bela Fleck & the Flecktones “Sleigh Ride

…and since I teased you with it, “Jingle Bells (reprise)”

* Wee Hairy Beasties – Holidays Gone Crazy (kids)

This album bears the mark of an enduring kids album, which is that adults don’t get sick of it after the fourteenth consecutive listen. This is a multi-holiday album, with Halloween as well as Christmas and several year-round tracks. Ragtime guitar, ukulele, harmonica, kazoo, and washboard set off a fun set of original tunes. Way over the head of my two-year-old, but I’m guessing this will hit squarely with young schoolkids.

Listen to Wee Hairy Beasties “Dinosaur Christmas

Andrea Bocelli – Incanto (classical)

The pop opera phenom delivers a wonderful set of mostly Italian traditional songs. Orchestral arrangements with choir, mandolin and just enough schmalz for your next spaghetti dinner.

Listen to Andrea Bocelli “Santa Lucia

Grampall Jookabox – Ropechain (rock)

Freak folk with a capital Freak. Lots of bells, electronics, and chipmunk-range backing vocals, all of which still manages to hang together.

Listen to Grampall Jookabox “Old Earth, Wash My Beat

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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