Hundred Word Reviews, May 2023: Vinyl!

Me, I dig vinyl. I’m happy to sidestep arguments concerning sound quality versus their digital counterparts; while CDs and even streaming have their place, I prefer the tactile, participatory experience of listening to records. And I like it when people send me records; I like it a lot (subtle hint right there).

Some did, and recently. Quite an assortment, too: jazz, punk, country(ish), electrofunk and Here’s what I think of each of ‘em, distilled down to 100 words.

Bill Evans – Treasures
Honestly, this one deserves deeper coverage than I’m able to give it in this particular space, so I’ll start out breaking my own rule and go way past 100 words. From Elemental Music (one of several Zev Feldman-curated imprints) comes this 3LP(!) set from the jazz master. The first disc is drawn from two concerts in Denmark, both 1965; here Evans is accompanied by trios. The second record features a Danish radio broadcast of solo Evans from ‘65 and a 1969 concert with full orchestra (and includes two readings of “Waltz for Debby”). The third LP serves up two more Denmark radio broadcasts from ‘66 and ‘69; Eddie Gomez is on hand for both, and drummer Marty Morrell drums on the later recording. Sound quality is first-rate, of course. Impeccably packaged, the only thing this collection lacks to earn a 5+ star rating (but hey, I don’t even do ratings) is liner notes*. It’s annotated clearly enough, but a lavish booklet and those deeply researched expert essays I’ve come to expect from Zev and his esteemed associates are lacking here. As a result, in a world in which I did give stats, this would rate a mere 5 out of 5. In other words, it’s essential, but if you’ve read this far, you knew that once you saw the names Evans, Gomez, Feldman etc.

* UPDATE/CORRECTION: The album does in fact include liner notes; a packaging error resulted in them not being included in my copy. You can be sure they’re excellent.

Tyler Keith & the Apostles – Hell to Pay
That this LP was cut in a mere two days is key to its immediacy. Imagine Iggy’s Stooges hanging out with Alex Chilton and his pals during the sessions that yielded Bach’s Bottom; that gives you a hint as to the character of this raw, rough and ready slab of rock. Unvarnished and possessing all of the spirit that makes rock ‘n’ roll the vital art form that it (at its best) can be, this rocks, and hard. From the initial sonic blast of “Cast Away,” the record grabs metaphorical hold of the listener, and it never once lets go.

Vic Ruggiero – Stuff in My Pockets
If you’re one of those people who loved that first Modern Lover record but heard, well, most everything else Jonathan Richman did only to wonder, “WTF?” then you’ll want to hear Stuff in My Pockets. It’s cut from similar, quality cloth, albeit with the influence of classic country folded into the mix. Ruggiero knows his way around a memorable tune, and the up-close-and-personal production fits these songs like a glove. The thrilling “Everyday Things” will take you back to My Aim is True, and “Just Like You” will leave you exhausted in its (heh) Aftermath. It’s a wonderful musical travelogue.

David LaMotte – Still
When he’s not on the road or engaged in some or other worthy endeavor, this singer-songwriting treasure calls Western North Carolina his home. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing him on multiple occasions. He’s always thoughtful and engaging, and those qualities are reflected in his original music. This album – his umpteenth, if I’m counting right – finds LaMotte joined by a veritable Who’s Who of our regional music scene (oh, and Leland Sklar!). But their presence is almost certainly down to two things: what they add to his musical vision, and their simpatico to what he’s about musically. A complete delight.

Tomek – Fairlight and Funk
Music fiends who paid attention to the technological advances of the ‘80s will have heard of the Fairlight CMI; it was (is) a synthesizer of sorts capable of reproducing most any sound. Yeah, you’ve heard that before, right? Well, it worked: Frank Zappa realized entire albums using the thing. Does it sound a bit wonky and sterile to 2023 ears? Yes, but it has its charms. An artist called Tomek thought so, too; he recorded a bunch of no-wave/funk with it in 1983. Imagine My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, but created with (almost) only a Fairlight. Weird? Yes.