Hundred-word Reviews: February 2021, Part 3

These five are all archival, reissue and/or compilation releases. There’s even a vinyl release here.

Wolfgang Lackerschmid & Chet Baker – Quintet Sessions 1979
I was only recently introduced to the sublime collaborative genius of Lackerschmid and Baker via this release. Now, from the same era, comes this archival release. It’s even better, featuring as it does Larry Coryell on guitar, Tony Williams on drums and bassist Buster Williams. The tunes – all instrumental save for a single Baker scat vocal turn – are delightful, full of energy yet never ponderous nor overwhelming. This is the sound of five masterful players enjoying the opportunity to work together. 1979 isn’t generally thought of as a prime period in the history of jazz, but this session suggests otherwise.

The Chi-Lites – (For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People
This 1971 r&b/soul record reached the number three spot on U.S. r&b album chart; it even crossed over (in the parlance of those times) to the pop chart, making it to #12. The album drew listeners in on the strength of its alluring single “Have You Seen Her,” written – like all nine of the album’s tracks – by lead singer (and producer/arranger) Eugene Record. But it’s the soaring title track that really cooks, with a vibe closer to Sly & the Family Stone. With a knowing political perspective that remains as relevant now as then, it’s essential listening. On vinyl!

Richard Hell and the Voidoids – Destiny Street Complete
Though they never entered to commercial mainstream the way that Blondie, Ramones and Talking Heads would, Richard Hell and the Voidoids were one of my most important and significant bands to come out of the NYC punk scene of the 1970s. Their best known songs — “Blank Generation” and “Love Comes in Spurts” – date from ‘77, but their 1982 album Destiny Street is widely considered the artistic equal – if not an improvement upon – their ‘77 debut LP. This expansive 2CD set gives it deluxe treatment, with three versions of the album plus an album’s worth of demos dating from 1978-80.

Bonnie Hayes with the Wild Combo – Good Clean Fun
As I’ve been learning through my research for my upcoming book about 415 Records, the San Francisco punk/new wave scene of the late ‘70s and early 1980s was a thrilling, free-wheeling phenomenon that was welcoming to most all comers. One of those – though not on 415 – was Bonnie Hayes. With her group the Pnts and later with Wild Combo, she made highly appealing, slightly ambitious pop/new wave. Perhaps if Good Clean Fun had a different title and less horrible cover art, it might have launched. The unfailingly appealing, upbeat and keyboard-led pop-rock deserved better. Thrill to it now.

Hasaan Ibn Ali – Metaphysics
For listeners who enjoy a compelling back story, Metaphysics certainly has one: The album was recorded and then shelved with pianist Hasaan Ibn Ali was jailed on a narcotics charge. The album would have built on the success and buzz of the 1964 LP The Max Roach Trio Featuring the Legendary Hasaan, but it was not to be. Yet thanks to Omnivore Recordings, this lively session can now be heard. And the back story can be embraced or ignored at will, because the music’s the real draw. Ali is a madman on the piano, playing with lyrical fire and intensity.