2019: Your musical year in review

Rudy

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We've done a variation of this in the past. At the end of the year, we look at the music that made an impression on us. Tell us about:
  • Outstanding albums, songs and/or artists you've discovered this year.
  • Anticipated new releases that came to fruition.
  • Disappointments--music you looked forward to that was a letdown instead.
Also, let us know if there is anything on the horizon you are looking forward to in the coming year.
 

Harry

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2019 started a bit slow, unless I'm forgetting something. Early on, I, and many others, were awaiting the vinyl of CARPENTERS WITH THE RPO as it was delayed an pushed back again and again. When it finally arrived, it was almost a year-old title and something of a ho-hum. I bought it in both white and black vinyl. Neither was exceptional in terms of the sound of the vinyl, so kind of a disappointment.

Herb Alpert released his OVER THE RAINBOW album this past year. It came out in September while I had many other things on the brain, and it hasn't gotten a fair shake in my listening rotation. One reason is that it's mastered too loud on CD and sounds pretty crappy to me.

The Beatles' ABBEY ROAD got a 50th anniversary release this year. They started that program with the 50th of SGT. PEPPER in 2017, and did a WHITE ALBUM in 2018, and now ABBEY ROAD in 2019. I bought the 2-or-3 disc editions. When SGT. PEPPER came out, I was eager to hear the remixes and enjoyed some of them. When the WHITE ALBUM came out, I think I listened once or twice, but was unimpressed - perhaps "tired" is the word. And I don't believe I've even given a single listen to the ABBEY ROAD remixes since picking it up, maybe just a track or two. Beatles fatigue, I believe.

Also this fall, there was a Sergio Mendes release in Japan, the early release of IN THE KEY OF JOY. This is another one that's on my list to explore further. The few things I've heard are "happy" sounding at least, even if often infused with modern artists.

With no real record stores close by, I had to find the Tamba 4 CALIFORNIA SOUL LP through alternate means. The album is growing on me the more I give it a spin.

I was initially intrigued with the Amy Grant Christmas vinyl box set, comprised of her three albums and two bonus songs on a 7" single, one of which was to be "Let The Season Take Wing", the rare cassette-only song of hers that was distributed by Target stores in the early 90s. I've come to really love that particular song, and might have sprung for the big box set, - but then I learned that the beginning of the song was edited. That being a letdown led to my decision not to buy the big box set. (At over $100 for three albums, it was a bit pricey.) Instead, I managed to find the special coke-bottle-green transparent vinyl exclusive at Cracker Barrel stores. That's my favorite of the the three Christmas albums anyway, and the vinyl sounds pretty good - better than the Carpenters vinyl.

Last, but not least, was a discovery that had resided in my LP collection for many years without any playing time. It just goes to prove that you never know what's in the grooves of any album until you play it. A forum mention of Jackie & Roy had me dig out their TIME & LOVE album on CTi that I've had since the mid 70s. That particular album has probably gotten more play from me this year than any other. I've since gotten two different versions of it on CD, one with a slight remix from the 80s on CBS, and one that's a flat transfer on Blu-spec CD from Japan.

Over the last few weeks, Christmas music, as it usually does, has gotten the most play around here, but that rarely lasts past the new year, so, with 2020 just hours away now, I will look forward to some more exploration of some of these new things that I've accumulated over the past year.

Happy New Decade everyone. (Yes, I know that officially, the new decade starts in 2021, but we've been through this before. The decade of the '20s starts on Jan 1.)
 

Bobberman

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My musical adventures have been limited to either new release CDs .downloads or artists I missed out on long ago that I stumble upon nowadays I mostly listen to my megamixes on either my computer or tablet it was a lot of labor intensive effort to compile everything I have on CD not to mention the downloads etc
 

Rudy

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Some of this year's highlights for me...

  • I discovered another Stan Getz album I had overlooked: Stan Getz with Special Guest Laurindo Almeida. It was recorded during a very busy time for Getz, having recorded this and two other of his classic Bossa albums within just a couple of weeks of each other. The sound is quite good in its high-res version, and quite honestly, I find I like this one and Jazz Samba than Getz/Gilberto both musically and in sonics. Getz's horn is just way too loud on Getz/Gilberto. Cringe-worthy, in my opinion.
  • The Cal Tjader Trio 10" LP. Eight songs, for his label debut on Fantasy back in the early 50s. A treasure! I got this both on the limited edition 10" reissue, as well as the Extremes CD which has this album plus is very last recording for Fantasy in the 70s, just prior to joining the Concord Picante label. Historically important, and a joy to listen to.
  • My exploration of Nik Bärtsch's Ronin continued, where I got deeply into the album Awase (meaning "moving together as one" in Japanese) on ECM as well an early album on Ronin Rhythm Records entitled Randori (a type of "freestyle practice" in martial arts). Where Awase is probably his most advanced work to date, Randori is early zen funk, very structured and rigid, many repetitions, hypnotic yet funky at the same time. The Continuum album was a bit more to absorb, but I'm still working on that one. I'm still waiting for him to tour with the band nearby in the US.
  • The vinyl reissues by The Cramps were well worth discovering--I now have brand new, pristine reissues on 180g colored vinyl, and Gravest Hits EP was cut at 45 RPM. These cover their IRS Records releases, including the Bad Music for Bad People album that was half compilation, half B-sides/rarities.
  • I probably mentioned enjoying the Isaac Hayes album Don't Let Go in 2018, but 2019 saw me playing that one more, and I added his other Polydor albums Horizon, And Once Again, and For the Sake of Love (which I only recently added). The Polydor records were a rebirth of his career--after his days of Shaft and Hot Buttered Soul, he had a handful of albums that really went nowhere before he changed things up and recorded outside of his own studio for Polydor. These tracks provide both a dose of danceable arrangements (some of which were hits) as well as really smooth downtempo ballads that could stretch on for nearly ten minutes with sumptuous arrangements. Great stuff!
  • A subdued but hypnotic album by ECM artist and oud player Anouar Brahem, Blue Maqams, was a nice listen. It has a Middle-Eastern flavor, but features jazz heavyweights and ECM regulars Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland and Django Bates.
  • A chance visit to the Needle Doctor room at AXPONA reacquainted me with a band I had long forgotten about--Azymuth, and the tune "Papasong" which was a mainstay on local jazz station WJZZ back in the 70s. I found the album Outobro had been reissued on 180g vinyl. Think of Brazilian funk crossed with jazz fusion a la Weather Report, and you've got Azymuth.
  • 2019 brought a new Stray Cats album, 40. Hard to believe it was almost 40 years since I first heard them. I feel the age spots bursting on my scalp as I write this.
  • Luisito Quintero. Ace percussionist who has appeared on many other Latino recordings throughout the years. His album Percussion Maddness is superb--the styles are like an updated throwback to the Latin jazz fusion of the 70s and 80s you'd find on the Fantasy/Milestone or Concord Picante labels back in that era. Not a bad track on the entire album, and a lot of fun.
  • My exploration of Bill Evans has continued onward--his catalog is really difficult to navigate, especially with the flood of mediocre releases since his death decades ago. I recently found the companion album to Moonbeams and like it quite a bit: How My Heart Sings! I found a couple of other albums, including a MOR-ish album on Verve that has two versions of Luiz Eca's "Dolphin" on it, which Evans does a beautiful, lyrical job on.
  • Tamba Trio/Tamba 4 was auspicious this year--we got the newly issued California Soul (which is more lively than the sleepy Samba Blim record and is a fun listen, despite being a bit generic-CTi sounding), and I've also picked up their debut album from the early 60s on CD. I also discovered a disc called Reencontro that from the packaging looked like a Luiz Eca album but instead was a tribute recorded by a handful of artists--they all do justice to Eca's wonderful melodies.
  • The big one this year was discovering The Mavericks--I had their Xmas album late last year, but finally dove in and discovered quite a few things. One of them being that leader Raul Malo has Cuban ancestry and, after their first couple of hit albums in Nashville, that influence started working its way into the music. Nowadays, with the Cubano angle, plus Tejano, country, vintage pop, rock, etc., (hell, even a polka--they've opened gigs with an instrumental version of "Beer Barrel Polka") they have a sound that is so uniquely theirs that one can only call it "Mavericks music." Their most recent album revisits the old classic tunes they covered back in their days prior to making records, while their upcoming 2020 album is an all-Spanish album. Their songwriting on the Hey! Merry Christmas! album is superb, especially. Only Raul and drummer Paul Deakin remain of the founding members, but ace guitarist Eddie Perez is Raul's right-hand man onstage, and long-time keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden became a permanent member when Robert Reynolds was fired several years ago due to an opioid addiction (they tried getting him to rehab a few times, but it was his soliciting fans for money that caused concern among the group).
  • Finally, I enjoyed the Three Piece Suite release from Gentle Giant--those are tracks from three of their albums that were remixed by Steven Wilson, while also providing all three albums as high-res flat transfers (which also sound superb). Their album Three Friends was something I grew up with, not fully knowing exactly what kind of music it was, but it's an impressive achievement both instrumentally and conceptually (basically a story of three childhood friends who travel through life). This release is actually referring to three of their albums, but all of the multitracks for each album were not found, so they remixed what they had on hand and released it like an extended compilation. Very nice!
 

Harry

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I was reminded in another thread that in 2019 I finally discovered a way to hear the 80s album by Chris Montez called CARTAS DE AMOR. It's a great addition to my AyM collection, even though I've only found download files on Amazon that had to be re-jiggered a bit to make them start and end properly.
 

Rudy

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I was reminded in another thread that in 2019 I finally discovered a way to hear the 80s album by Chris Montez called CARTAS DE AMOR.
For kicks, I looked it up on Qobuz. No luck, but that is a popular album title--twelve other albums share that title, and five more have variations on the title. I think I've now made my quota of useless posts for the day. 😁
 

Harry

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That's OK. Amazon has it titled CARTES DE AMOR, which translates as Love Cards, rather than Love Letters.
 

Mike Blakesley

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This was the year I "rediscovered" listening to music in the vehicle, as I had just about given up on my iPod ever working properly in my Ford F150. Then somewhere along the line (last spring, I think) a software update happened on the Ford and all of a sudden, the iPod works much better. Still not flawless, but about 1000% better than before. So now I'm listening to music again... I had pretty much switched over to comedy channels on Sirius XM (I hardly ever listen to music there, because I'm too picky about what I'm hearing while driving, and most of those stations play the same tired playlist over and over.)

All that said, I suppose my biggest "discovery" over the year was a couple of "art-rock" artists. I had set the Amazon music account at work to play the "Alan Parsons Project Station," and discovered two artists I like a lot. First was Mystery, which is a Canadian band that sounds like what you' might get if you took Pink Floyd, gave them a tenor-voiced singer and sped it up a little. A lot of their songs are long (we're talking 8 to 20 minutes) but they're full of melodic hooks. You just need to give them the time. Pretty good stuff if you like Floyd, Parsons, Rush, older Genesis, that kind of thing.

The other was Steven Wilson, who is also in a band called Porcupine Tree which I'd heard of, but never really fallen in love with. Wilson's music is more uneven and experimental than Mystery's is, and has a LOT of crazy guitar work, but he has a song called "Permanating" (from the album To The Bone) which should have been a hit single... maybe in the '80s it would have been.

I bought the aforementioned Herb Alpert album Over the Rainbow as a download.... it's the first time I've done that with a Herb album. I mostly did it because we were on vacation at the time it came out, so I thought it would be fun to listen to during the trip. I liked it OK, it wasn't overwhelmingly great, but has some good tunes. I missed looking over the cover art and credits while listening. I put together a "newest Herb Alpert material" playlist on the iPod that is really quite good.... which tells me that Herb could benefit from an editor for his albums.

The Carpenters Royal Philharmonic album was pretty good, but I wasn't blown away as I hoped to be, and it hasn't been a fixture in my machine. I liked hearing the new bridges between songs, but there were a couple of disappointments, most notably the trumpet addition to "Goodbye to Love," which I hated at first and still do. There's also the typical (for Carpenters) mistake of putting a Christmas tune smack in the middle of the proceedings, which ruins it for for me. It's made worse by the fact you can't skip over "Merry Christmas Darling" without a jarring gap in the continuous music. I've concluded that Richard Carpenter just doesn't think of MCD as a Christmas song and thus figures he can just use it anywhere it seems to fit in a compilation.

I have not heard the new Sergio Mendes yet (I ordered the deluxe CD version) but given his past couple of releases, I'm not holding my breath on loving it, but who knows?
 

Rudy

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Funny you mention Steven Wilson--he has been doing a great job remixing older albums, both in stereo and surround. Great job because he stays true to the original intentions, maybe nudging up a buried instrument every so often, but for the most part he sticks to the originals. He's done albums by Yes, Jethro Tull, XTC and others.

The artist of interest to me is Gentle Giant. I have only really gotten into one album of theirs--Three Friends, their third album, which was a concept album. When I was maybe nine or ten years old, we were given a tour of the recording studio my cousin worked at locally (GM Studios), getting to see how a tune was recorded, mixed and mastered on the lathe. (I still have that lacquer--it is Gallery's "Nice To Be With You," which they were predicting was going to be a million seller.)

Anyway, at the end, we went into a storage room with empty boxes and picked among hundreds of boxes of promo 45s. He also dug out a handful of LPs from another storage room, and Gentle Giant's Three Friends was one of them. I never quite knew what to make of it, until decades later I found that it was considered "progressive rock." (To me, all of it was just "music." 🙂 )

It was always a subdued recording. Aside from remixing Gentle Giant's later albums, Steven Wilson was able to remix four of the six tracks from Three Friends and a handful of others from their first two records--the multitracks for the rest of the tunes had gone missing over the decades.

The resulting set of remixes for those first three albums ended up on the collection called Three Piece Suite. The stereo remixes sound wonderful. But the originals don't sound too shabby either--the set also includes direct transfers from the original two-track masters, and they sound cleaner than I have ever heard them. Because these were also released in surround, the set was released on BluRay in high-res, and there is also a vinyl version of the remixed stereo tracks.

And that was a 2019 highlight for me.
 

Mr Bill

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Kind of a ho-hum year for me. I found a few CDs at the local used shops that I enjoyed (but none blew my socks off). I'm finding music on the Rounder family of labels is what's getting my attention of late, as well as special CD retrospective releases of regional genre-specific labels from around the country.

I was happy to get Herb's Over the Rainbow for Christmas and find it to be one of the more enjoyable listens of his post-A&M solo releases.

The best news musically for me was Skafish re-acquiring the rights to his debut LP, Skafish (IRS SP008),and re-releasing it on his own label, adding "Sink or Swim", the single-only b-side of "Obsessions of You" (IR-9011) as a bonus track. The mix is superb and crisp, possibly since this is its first time on CD (it was originally ONLY on vinyl -- not even a cassette). And his announcement that his second album Conversation, IRS SP70038 )as well as the second album that IRS refused will soon follow...

--Mr Bill
 

Harry

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And Mr. Bill reminds me of another 2019 find for me, the second I.R.S. album for Renaissance called TIME-LINE. I've been a Renaissance fan for decades, but mostly concentrated on their 70s output. After finding and liking CAMERA CAMERA a year or so ago, I thought I'd also give a shot to TIME-LINE and I found it quite appealing. Most fans hate the I.R.S. releases for the band, but I'm a lot more forgiving. Annie Haslam's soaring vocals do it for every time.

I picked up a vinyl copy of TIME-LINE as there are not many CDs, and the ones out there are very expensive. So I needledropped the vinyl album which had been virtually unplayed.
 

Mr Bill

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I agree, Harry... I'd never heard of Renaissance until the IRS releases and started exploring their output in reverse. Annie's vocals are probably the best out there and I'd rank her among the top ten female vocalists of all time. I'm happy that I got to see them on tour for Camera Camera while I was home on leave in Los Angeles (from gawdawful Norfolk, VA).

--Mr Bill
 

Harry

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I agree, Harry... I'd never heard of Renaissance until the IRS releases and started exploring their output in reverse.
The radio station I worked for at the time (1974-1976) quickly morphed from a high energy pop station to AOR rock (what is now "Classic Rock"). This was the height of Renaissance's popularity - but curiously very regionally in the New York to D.C. corridor, with Philadelphia being a hub of their fandom in the US. Many of their 70s tracks were played regularly on the rock stations in town, and they played there a number of times. I was fortunate to see them at the Tower Theater in my home town of Upper Darby.

I lost touch with them after their next-last album on Sire (A SONG FOR ALL SEASONS). I remember hearing about one called AZURE D'OR, but that's another one I waited to explore until retirement.
 
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