CD reviews: Herbie Hancock collection should satisfy completionists
‘The Complete Columbia Album Collection 1972-1988'
Herbie Hancock (Columbia Legacy)
And if any of you jazz-loving completists still have money to burn after the buying the Miles Davis set, check out this mammoth offering from Herbie Hancock. “The Complete Columbia Album Collection” includes a whopping 31 albums spread over 34 discs and will set you back about $200. Fans of Hancock's piano/synth wizardry will find this collection worth every penny as you get remastered versions of every album, from 1973's “Sextant” to 1988's “Perfect Machine.” Included, of course, is 1983's “Future Shock,” the multi-platinum hit that featured Hancock's still-great “Rockit.” Good stuff.
Grace & Tony (Rock Ridge)
I've been spinning “November,” the debut album from husband-and-wife duo Grace & Tony, pretty much nonstop ever since it came across my desk several weeks back. I was enamored from the very first listen, yet find myself liking the 11-track platter a little more every time I hear it. Grace Shultz and Tony White seamlessly blend punk, folk, bluegrass and Texas swing — dubbing the concoction “punkgrass” — and there isn't a misstep to be found. Opener “Hey Grace, Hey Tony” sets the tone, and they trade vocals on keepers like “Holy Hand Grenade,” the title track, “Can We Save This?”, “Grassphemy,” “From Me to Me” and “La Carrera.” Amazing.
Agony Aunts (Mystery Lawn)
Having loved last year's sunny “Poppy Seeds” from indie pop collective the Corner Laughers, I was excited hear Agony Aunts. It's a side project featuring four of the five Laughers and “Big Cinnamon” is as much fun as I'd hoped. I could listen to Karla Kane sing (and play ukulele) all day, and Agony Aunts dabble in everything from chamber pop to yacht rock to psych country on this spirited 12-track gem. Highlights abound, most notably “Twenty-four Mergansers,” “Family Drugs,” “We Got the Jekyll,” “You're So Vague” and “Trouble Was Born.” Highly recommended.
Tough Age (Mint)
Be advised that the self-titled debut from Canadian garage rockers Tough Age is rough and gritty and occasionally abrasive. And I mean that in a good way. The 11-track release is intense, without question, but what sets it apart is the ability to inject some catchy melodies and hooks amid the chaos. The opening tandem of “We're Both to Blame” and retro gem “The Heart of Juliet Jones” is terrific, and Tough Age also score with “Sea of White,” “Have You Seen Her,” “Cocaine Vouchers” and “I Waste Too Much Time on Myself.”
‘I'm a Dreamer'
Josephine Foster (Fire)
Josephine Foster's, uh, let's call it “unique” vocal approach takes some getting used to on “I'm a Dreamer.” But once you settle into the rhythms and old-school approach employed by Foster on this intriguing 10-track release, I'd be surprised if you don't like what you hear. “Sugarpie I'm Not the Same” offers a glimpse of what's to come, and by the time Foster finished “No One's Calling Your Name” I was on board. Additional keepers include the title track, “Blue Roses,” “Magenta” and “Cabin in the Sky.”
Christian Kjellvander (Tapete)
Swedish native Christian Kjellvander grew up in Seattle and, upon returning home, enjoyed success fronting Americana outfit the Loosegoats. The band called it quits in 2000, but Kjellvander has pressed on as a solo performer. “The Pitcher,” his fifth solo effort, may be his best yet. It's a low-key collection of nine tunes that should appeal to fans of Will Oldham, Iron & Wine, Jose Gonzalez and the like. Sprawling opener “The Mariner” is the best of a very good bunch and Kjellvander also soars on “The Trip,” “The Woods,” “The Island” and “The Bloodline.” Seek this one out.
‘Some Things Never Stay the Same'
Heidecker & Wood (Little Record Company)
Comedian Tim Heidecker and pal Davin Wood played it surprisingly straight on their 2011 “Starting From Nowhere” debut, and the record turned out to be an enjoyable tribute to the AM Gold sounds of the 1970s. Sophomore set “Some Things Never Stay the Same” continues in the same musical vein. Opener “Cocaine” sounds like something that might have appeared on Warren Zevon's “Excitable Boy,” and Heidecker & Wood also impress on “Getaway Man,” “Tell Her I Love Her,” “Coming Home” and “Hurricane.”
‘In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores'
Hilary Hahn (Deutsche Grammophon)
Acclaimed violinist Hilary Hahn has never been content just playing the classics. In an attempt to expand her already impressive repertoire, Hahn commissioned 27 composers to write short-form pieces for violin and piano. She spent the better part of two years performing the pieces all over the world and those 27 encores have been put together as “27 Pieces.” At almost 100 minutes, the two-CD set might be tough to get through in a single sitting — unless you really love the violin — but it's an impressive accomplishment from a gifted musician.
‘Answer Only to the Sea'
Portland indie duo Dramady flirt with greatness on sophomore full-length “Answer Only to the Sea,” as Amanda Mason Wiles (bass/saxophone) and Zacery Quintin Stanley (vocals/drums/keyboards) come into their own over the course of 11 mostly enjoyable tracks. The opening salvo of “Go Home” and “Two Ghosts in One Costume” set the tone, and Dramady deliver with “Downlow,” “I Wanna Be Good” and “Deadlines.” Keep an eye on this band.
‘All the Good Times'
Starlings, TN (Chicken Ranch)
I was late to the party when it comes to Steven Stubblefield-fronted alt-country outfit Starlings, TN. My first exposure to the band was last year's remarkable “Heartache in 4/4 Time,” and I eagerly sought out their earlier records. With seventh full-length “All the Good Times,” Starlings, TN have cemented their place on my list of favorites. Utilizing a collaborative songwriting approach works wonders on this 11-track gem, with Stubblefield and his mates soaring high on “Goodtime Gal,” “Back to Magnolia,” “Hey Pretty Mama,” “All the Good Times Are Now” and “The Other Guy.” Enjoy, y'all.
‘Stay Here With Me'
Jesse Terry (self-released)
Singer/songwriter Jesse Terry emerged on last year's sophomore CD “Empty Seat on a Plane” and builds on that foundation with latest effort “Stay Here With Me.” His prolific writing skills have earned Terry a handful of prestigious songwriter awards and he's come into his own as a performer in the same vein as Ryan Adams, Mason Jennings, Ray LaMontagne and Rufus Wainwright. The title track is the perfect lid lifter and Terry shines on keepers “Rattling Cage,” “Don't Let Me Fall for You,” “Marina,” “Beekeeper” and “This Should Be Home.”
Mason Jennings (Stats & Brackets)
It's nice to know that every couple years I can count on folksy singer/songwriter Mason Jennings to deliver a first-rate album. Tenth full-length “Always Been” is no exception, though Jennings has taken a different approach on this 11-track release. The songs are more optimistic and the music surrounding his words is more hi-fi. Jennings remains a master wordsmith and engaging vocalist, and he puts those skills to good use on “Lonely Street,” “Patti and Robert,” “Dreaming,” “Number of the Sun,” “So Good,” “Wilderness” and “Brand New Old Friend.” Another gem from one of the best.
Katey Sagal (eOne)
Whether for her iconic turns as the Bundy family matriarch on “Married ... With Children” or as a tough-as-nails biker chick on “Sons of Anarchy,” Katey Sagal is best known as an actress. But she also has a couple albums to her credit and has contributed heavily to the “Sons of Anarchy” soundtracks. Latest musical endeavor “Covered” finds Sagal putting her spin on a handful of familiar tunes, plus one original composition. Sagal soars highest on songs by Tom Petty (“Free Fallin'”), Ryan Adams (“I Love You But I Don't”), Gillian Welch (“Orphan Girl”), Feist (“Secret Heart”) and Ray LaMontagne (“Roses and Cigarettes”).
One of the Boys (self-released)
Growing up in Minneapolis, Tina Schlieske was influenced by the city's male-dominated music scene. Schlieske's latest band, One of the Boys, pays homage to those influences on six-track EP “Pinned Up.” She puts an interesting female spin on songs from local icons Prince (“When Doves Cry”), Bob Dylan (“Most of the Time”), the Jayhawks (“Big Star”), Husker Du (“Makes No Sense at All”), the Replacements (“Sixteen Blue”) and Soul Asylum (“The Game”). Girl power!
‘The Complete Album Collection, Vol. One'
Bob Dylan (Columbia Legacy)
With the holidays fast approaching, here's a terrific gift for the music lover in your life. Specifically, the music lover(s) that appreciate the unparalleled greatness of Bob Dylan. “The Complete Album Collection, Vol. 1” is a colossal box set — 47 discs and a hardcover book — that includes all 41 official albums Dylan has recorded for Columbia over the past 50 years. From 1962's self-titled debut to all-time classics “The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan,” “Blonde on Blonde” and “Blood on the Tracks,” as well as late-career gems “Love and Theft” and “Modern Times,” this is a completist's dream. In addition to 35 studio titles and six live albums, there's a two-disc “Side Tracks” collection of B-sides and rarities. Money well spent.
Times Neue Roman (self-released)
With a handful of digital EPs, cassettes, 12-inch releases and even a mobile app on their résumé, experimental hip-hop duo Times Neue Roman make their proper debut with debut LP “Vehicle.” It's an intriguing 11-track collection of tunes that showcases the skills of vocalist Arowbe (Robert Bolton) and multi-instrumentalist/producer Alexander The (Alexander Punzalan Junior). Among the standouts here are the title track, “Sade Is in My Tape Deck,” “1000 Blessings,” “Late Night” and “Encounter.” The future is bright for these guys.
‘Floating Out to See'
Gringo Star (My Anxious Mouth)
I've given up on speculating why Atlanta garage rockers Gringo Starr aren't bigger ... well ... stars. Their 2008 debut “All Y'all” was great and 2011's “Count Yer Lucky Stars” even better ... yet the guys remain just under the mainstream radar. That's a shame because the talented foursome deserves a bigger audience. “Floating Out to See” is solid, but a step down from its predecessor, and finds Gringo Star exploring their psychedelic side. After a middling start with “In the Heat,” the guys hit their stride with “Going Way Out,” “Taller,” “Satisfy My Mind” and “The Start.” If you like what you hear, check out their earlier stuff. Trust me.
‘Jean Rohe & the End of the World Show'
Jean Rohe (Laundry Line)
Brooklyn-based folkie Jean Rohe cements her place on the indie scene with masterful new album “Jean Rohe & the End of the World Show.” A gathering of 11 original tunes buoyed by a nine-piece backing band/string trio, this is one of the year's pleasant surprises. Mixing folk with jazz and world beats, Rohe has cobbled together a masterpiece. Opener “Umbrella” sets the tone, and she keeps listeners enthralled through keepers “The Fisherman,” “Red Rover,” “Pacific Street,” “Water,” “New Year” and “No Work.” Highly recommended.