Record Release Roundup: Spring 2011

Brooklyn correspondent Justin Colletti listens to new releases every day of the week except Sunday. Here, he shares the twelve Spring releases that best broke through the noise and captured his imagination.

1. Booker T.  Jones – The Road From Memphis

From 1962 to 1970, Booker T. served as one of the essential sidemen who helped shape the sound of classic soul and R&B. As part of Stax’s integrated house band he played back-up for Otis Redding, Wilson Picket, and Sam and Dave. As bandleader for the MGs, he brought instrumentals to the top of the charts with the iconic cut “Green Onions.”

Booker T. Jones "The Road From Memphis" (May 2011, Anti- Records)

Jones’ latest effort, The Road From Memphis is a rootsy hybrid of hip hop, funk, and soul that makes the rock/fusion hybrid of his GRAMMY-winning 2009 release Potato Hole sound gimmicky by comparison.

Even with his name on the cover, Jones maintains the soul of a sideman. His playing is casual, relaxed, almost conversational, as he cooks through a cover of Gnarles’ Barkley’s “Crazy” on the Hammond B3, or supports Sharon Jones on an original tune.

There’s little musical grandstanding on this record, which features an all-star band of ace musicians who stay firmly rooted in-pocket throughout.

The Road From Memphis was produced by ?uestlove of the Roots and Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliot Smith). It was recorded by Gabe Roth of Daptone (interviewed here over the winter), and features guest performances from Sharon Jones, Lou Reed, Matt Berninger of the National, and Jim James of My Morning Jacket.

Watch the album preview (with studio footage and interviews).

2. Dennis Coffey: Controlled Aggression

Here’s a release that reminds us why we should never look to television or glossy magazines for music recommendations. Although you might not think it by the looks of him, Dennis Coffey will melt your face off with the funk.

When he’s not busy swapping fashion tips with George Costanza or posing to reassure you he’d do a great job adjusting your tax returns, Coffey leads a double life as a former guitarist for Motown, and the man behind the steaming new release Controlled Aggression.

Thanks to the good graces of the internet, this unlikely gem of a record doesn’t have to go undiscovered. Click the link below to hear the track “Space Traveller,” selected as NPR’s song of the day on May 31st.

When listening, don’t be afraid to turn up your speakers. Not only does this cut feature an old-school sensibility when it comes to musicianship, it features a refreshing lack of the aggressive over-mastering that’s had musiophiles up in arms for more than a decade. In a welcome blast from the past, the louder you crank this record, the better it sounds.

Listen to “Space Traveller” at NPR.

3. Thurston Moore: Demolished Thoughts

Thurston Moore "Demolished Thoughts" (May 2011, Matador Records)

Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore had a new release last month. This largely acoustic, gracefully orchestrated collection of songs was produced by Beck for Matador Records, and has music geeks across Generations X and Y asking, “Where the hell was this record when I was a teenager?”

In some ways, Demolished Thoughts is Moore’s equivalent to Beck’s Sea Change. Although much of this record is as wizened and reserved as Beck’s navel-gazing opus, the tone of Demolished Thoughts remains notably less melancholy than that easy touchstone.

Arrangements are generally sparse and intimate, with subdued strings that are startlingly pretty and never overwhelming. On the production end, the album’s tone is spacious and milky, unafraid to stay just a little boxy and decidedly natural.

Listen here…

4. Kate Bush: Director’s Cut

If you’re a Kate Bush fan who’s disconcerted by musical revisionism, you may have mixed feelings about Director’s Cut. On this album Bush revisits and revamps songs from The Sensual World and The Red Shoes.

Unlike Brian Wilson’s 2004 revisit of the Smile sessions however, it’s doubtful any of these re-interpretations will be accused of ruining old favorites. Bush’s voice has stayed strong, and some of these cuts improve on the source material, which is largely culled from The Red Shoes, an album generally considered to be one of her weaker efforts.

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  • supermario

    bwahahaahaha @ lady gaga review…

  • Bry

    if kate bush is 64 that means im just about 60 myself which im not,shes 53  and im 49 thank god..but anyway she would still sound amazing when she does turn 64,i only hope  im still around for that

  • Thanks for catching that misprint. You are correct, Kate Bush will be 54 next month. And yes – she looks and sounds great, for any age.

  • Death Before Decaf

    Dennis Coffey, Premium Blend