I’m gonna come out and say it — most years there’s at least one wonderful record I hear but cannot explain satisfactorily. In 2018, it’s Minor Empire, Uprooted (World Trip).
But pick up that CD for sure.
My ideal political and fusionist international performer. I snatched up everything I could find by him and he was a regular on the house soundtrack. I could not begin to improve on this guide to his albums, not least because I agree with nearly every point. Stinks to lose the fighters. Do a show with Joe Strummer in Paradise tonight, Rachid. He was seven years younger than me.
The last time we saw him perform was at the New England Conservatory, the same week as the Marathon Bombings. He stopped in the middle of the show to announce that one of the supreme powers of music was its ability to heal and that he was consciously setting out to do that this night.
He worked magic. We came out of the hall with soaring spirits, an enormous dark weight lifted from us. Randy Weston healed us like no other performer at an essential moment of anguish. Eternal thanks and peace.
This is your prime starting spot. Little Niles, Live at the Five Spot and (esp.) Uhuru Afrika are masterpieces. Uhuru changed my head forever in that I heard jazz as African music like never before.
Maybe no surprise, this is the second stop — which shows you how he got to my first pick. Jazz a La Bohemia and Solo, Duo & Trio feature tremendous lineups and not a weak moment of playing.
This is the less-well-known recommendation that keeps exploding and expanding with that collective soul strength. Will make you spin around the room. Play loud.
I think Tanjah was the album that introduced me to Weston, maybe from a review by Robert Palmer. I don’t know how many of his records I own — many, many, many.
My favorite African Jazz Pioneers album is Live at Montreaux Festival. The S/T debut is my second pick.
Goblin, The Ultimate Collection (Pick Up Records)
The first disc is Goblin for the Dario Argento World and it is continuously weird and wondrous and flowing — the perfect Gothic Prog. You wonder if he told them what he wanted to hear and that shaped what came out. An enveloping atmosphere with distorted sounds and faces and moods that keeps you fascinated and a little scared.
Disc two, The Other Worlds of Goblin, which is part soundtracks and part not is way, way more uneven. Good chompy tracks (“Stunt Cars”), but clots of Europrog with bad rhythm section and even a few quite corny cuts. (Never think of doing anything “C&W” again, okay guys?)
Always Love by the For Peace Band survived the serious first round of listens, which means it will be that (nowadays) great rarity, a reggae album I will keep. Bit platitudinous, bit recycled riffs and hooks, but with enough catchy inventions and surprises on vocals and instrumentals (percussion and guitar especially) and warmhearted love songs that you will want to slap it on every so often.