So, I didn’t realize that I didn’t purchase a lot of new music in 2018. Most of the stuff I got were repurchases of old stuff I had forgotten about or things that were previously released. Therefore, my new discoveries will include both items released this year and in previous years.
Citrus Sun – Ride Like the Wind (2018)
This was a new discovery on two levels. Citrus Sun is a side project of Incognito. Or rather, it IS Incognito, just under a different name and with an emphasis on instrumentals. In fact, this is the first album of theirs to include vocalists, on the title track and 2 others.
Ride Like the Wind is their 3rd release, and it is truly in the Incognito style. The musicianship is top notch, there is the ever-present passion to the music, and of course, Bluey likes to bring the funk to even the most mellow endeavors.
The highlight of the album is the title track, a cover of the Christopher Cross classic. However, having a woman vocalist brings a different flavor to the song. Singer Imaani (my favorite Incognito vocalist) brings a slightly different urgency to Cross’ original vocals.
What is really interesting in this release is they do a 5 part suite – Krabi. Included in this suit are Long-Tail Boat to Railay, My One and Only Tuk, Don’t Tell Me What To Do, Reno and the Queen Pin and Back to the Moon. The reason this is interesting is because there is a fluidity between the songs as the blend together that Incognito hasn’t really done before.
The other thing that is different from most Incognito releases is the horn arrangements are more pronounced and at times, some of the songs feel more like feel good jam sessions rather than planned compositions, somewhat reminiscent of the first 2-3 Incognito releases.
Even though there was no official Incognito release in 2018, Citrus Sun still allowed me to get my Incognito fix. And according to what Bluey said in concert this year, there will be a new Incognito album in 2019, so I can’t wait!
Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio (2012)
It is fairly regular for me to say on Facebook that I arrive late to certain parties. And this one is no exception. I do not know why I had not gotten into Glasper before a few months ago, but even though I was late to the party, at least I got here.
I’ve been aware of Glasper for quite some time and several friends of mine have given them glowing recommendations. Prior to the social media war with Lauryn Hill, I was exposed to his cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and I was floored by it. That caused me to explore the other tracks on the first album, and then I just took it from there.
That said, I have to say, Glasper is a true talent. In some ways, he reminds me of Prince. Not in his musicianship, but in his attitude towards music. He is something of a purist, and his arrangements on his songs not only remind me of Prince, but also an early Quincy Jones.
His mix of jazz, R&B, hip-hop and rock all create an excellent pallet where even with his covers create a reminder of the glory days of the jazz and R&B genres.
The other thing that strikes me is that there is a spoken word vibe through most of his albums. From the “conversations” that are included between songs to just the tempo and flavor of the song, it really reminds me of the vibe that was showcased in the movie Love Jones (one of my all-time favorite movies).
My favorite tracks on this album include the previously mentioned Nirvana cover, along with Cherish, the Sade cover featuring Lalah Hathaway, Move Love (feat KING), Ah Yeah…That’s Just Great (feat Musiq Soulchild and Chrisette Michele) and of course, the title track, Black Radio featuring Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), one of my top 5 favorite MC’s, who is in top form on this song.
The Foreign Exchange – Love in Flying Colors (2013)
There are some similarities between The Foreign Exchange and the previous entry. Another party that I came late to, although it is a party not a lot of people are familiar with.
I was first exposed to FE through a friend who suggested a couple of tracks. I listened to them, liked it, but didn’t pay much attention. Then another friend of mine, DJ Sean Haley, recommended them through an extensive music conversation on FB. When Sean passed away this past summer, in tribute to him, I went and listened again, and I could see exactly why he recommended them to me.
While neo-soul as a genre has fallen off slightly, Foreign Exchange is still carrying the banner with their mix of R&B melodies, hip-hop beats and jazz sensibilities. Honestly, they are a group that would have been perfect during the heyday of neo-soul along Maxwell, MeShell and others. They also have a slight house vibe going through a couple of tracks as well, which adds to my appreciation of them.
That being said, FE offers consistently great, positive, upbeat music with a certain joy permeating through all of the tracks. The standout on this release is “The Moment.” The combination of the music in the track, the vocals and the lyrics makes it a must play for me. Other notable tracks are On A Day Like Today, Better and Call It Home.
All of their albums to me are quality, but this one which was their first, remains in my regular rotation. And of course, whenever I listen to them, I say a silent thank you to Sean for introducing me to them. May he rest in peace.
Jaco Pastorious – Jaco Pastorious (1976)
I was drawn to this release via going down a rabbit hole on Wikipedia one night. I believe I was looking at the backstory for the classic song “Birdland” by Weather Report, went a couple of other places, then wound up again looking at Weather Report, which led me to Jaco Pastorious.
Pastorious was the bassist for Weather Report and also played with Pat Metheny, both of whom are favorites of mine. I guess I was curious when I read about how he died in 1987, as the result of a bar fight.
I decided to take a listen to his solo efforts and when I did, I was immediately drawn in. With this album, his second solo release, you can hear both why he is such a great part of Weather Report and also why he fit in so well with Metheny.
All instrumental, there is a bit of an experimental vibe here as Pastorius explores everything from jazz inspired rifts to almost world beat/African inspired music. What is even more impressive is that while he was primarily known for being a jazz bassist, the bass is not the primary instrument used on this album. He allows pianos, horns, guitars and percussion to take prominent over his own superb bass skills.
Standouts on this album for me are Come On, Come Over, Continuum and Opus Pocus, but all of the songs mesh into each other as if there is an connected tissue running through all of the songs. I meant to explore some of his other solo work, but I haven’t as of yet. I guess I know what to do in 2019.
Tears For Fears — Saturnine Martial & Lunatic (1996)
I almost made Tears for Fears reunification album “Everyone Loves a Happy Ending” a re-discovery, because when it first came out I despised it, but in recent times it has grown on me. But only so much.
However, in the late summer, I ran across this collection which I was unaware which is a collection of their b-sides and selections left out of previous releases. And this collection shows why Tears for Fears is one of the most underrated groups in pop music history.
TFF always had a penchant for intellectual and pretentious titles (Schrodinger’s Cat, Deja-Vu and the Sins of Science), to their songs and this is so different. But what lies behind the titles is a progression from primarily electronic based music and typically basic lyrics to songs that really began to explore the complexities that can be had in modern music, along with lyrics that have some real meat to them.
This collection is not without it’s faults, however. Lyrics from “Sowing the Seeds of Love” are used as a rap verse in “Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams” and well, it doesn’t work. However, the vast majority of the rest of it does work, especially with the 3 instrumental tracks. Truth be told, the portion of “Broken” on Songs from the Big Chair that is an instrumental is one of my favorite TFF tracks primarily for that reasons. So with the instrumental tracks Tears Roll Down, The Marauders and The Body Wah, it showcases their musical acumen.
You can also see how they worked on certain songs as the music behind “When In Love With a Blind Man” is the same backing track that can be found on The Working Hour from Songs from the Big Chair. While When in Love is a good track, The Working Hour is the far superior.
There is also an interesting cover of David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes,” which is pretty faithful, musically, to the original. Orzabal’s vocals try to invoke the same spirit of wonder and discord, but at the same time, is slight less despondent than Bowie’s version. Also remarkable at the beginning of the song are Orzabal’s voice to Bowie’s, where it seems he is deliberately trying to mimic Bowie’s vocals, then uses the chorus to return to his own style of singing. I’m routinely very harsh with cover versions of classic songs , but this pays great respect to the original.
Overall, it is a nice glimpse into other aspects of the band that we didn’t always get to see/hear and to see how some of the songs we became familiar with were worked on and experimented with.
Calling You – Various Artists
This one is a departure from the other entries. Because this is not about an album, but a song by several different artists.
Many, many years ago, a version of this song by Jai Uttal and the Pagan Love Orchestra was shared with me. I always thought it was nice but didn’t think much more of it. It was not until a few months ago while at a girlfriend’s house that the original version by Jevetta Steele came on her playlist.
I recognized the music immediately but was thrown by the different vocals. I then investigated the song and saw how many times this song had been covered and noticed the wide range of artists who covered it. The song has been covered by Natalie Cole, Barbara Streisand, George Benson, Celine Dion and many others.
Now, I think Steele’s original version from the Baghdad Café soundtrack is absolutely fantastic. But other versions I really enjoy are George Michael from his 1993 Five Live release and Jeff Buckley’s version from is Live at Sin-E release, also from 1993. As a side note, one of these days I am going to explore Buckley. Another on the 2019 to do list.
This seems to be a song which just calls to a certain type of artist. One that knows how to convey the pleading tone of the lyrics without sounding desperate, but also to show the gentle side of the song come through. This is a song where I will keep by eye out for covers by other artists to see how their versions compare.
And there is a part of me that wishes Prince had done a cover. Then again, knowing Prince, anything is possible.