Jackie Ryan – Listen Here

I haven’t listened to much over-the-air radio for the past ten years, and even Internet radio is starting to bore me (I’m not talking about you, Martini In The Morning.)

So I’ve set up my own streaming jukebox – from a shelf on the workbench, I can listen to my own growing list of tunes, complete with news on the hour.  (Link opens an audio file.)

So – new look for the new year – for each review, I’ll be listing which tracks get added to the personal streaming station – to which I’m able to listen anywhere in the world my travels take me, or at least anywhere with a connection.

Jackie Ryan - Listen HereJackie Ryan – Listen Here (Open Art)
Released – January 22, 2013

An eclectic collection of tunes, at turns bluesy, then gospel, then straight-ahead jazz, this one is more like a showcase Jackie Ryan’s many talents.

And they’re all top-notch.

Ms. Ryan’s career started in the blues and gospel genres, and she’s clearly most at home there in this offering.  The opening lines to “Accentuate The Positive” ring with the authority of someone who’s spent more than a little time attending church fundamentally, and it’s one of my favorites from this disc.

Jackie RyanShe’s picked up some great west-coast backing musicians along the way, led by John Clayton on bass and his son, Gerald, on piano.  Gilbert Castellanos is on trumpet, Graham Dechter on guitar, Obed Calvaire on drums and Rickey Woodard on saxophone.  Nice thing about the group is that while everyone gets their share of the solos, they never go on too long, and they’re always in support of Ms. Ryan.

Ms. Ryan gets it.  She’s blessed with a powerful voice and a unique style that defies comparisons to any other singer.  In a varied collection such as this, one is bound to have favorites, but they’re all representative of a woman who’s at the top of her game.

Highly recommended.

Favorites added to the playlist - “The Gypsy In My Soul,” along with “Accentuate The Positive” and “How Little We Know (How Little It Matters).”

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I’m still bumming over Patti Page’s death.  And while “Tennessee Waltz” was never a favorite of mine, it was far and away her biggest hit, #1 on the Billboard Magazine Pop Singles chart for 13 weeks in 1950.

From that era, then – here is a remarkably well-preserved video of Ms. Page performing her biggest hit.

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Patti Page: 1927-2013

Patti Page

Patti Page – a superstar by any definition – died  in an Encinitas, California, nursing home yesterday (New Year’s Day) according to her manager.

She was 85.

Miss Page sold more than 100 million records in her recording career, which saw her place records into Billboard’s “Hot 100″ from the late 40s to 1970.  Her last top-ten hit was “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” from the movie of the same name in 1965.

“Tennessee Waltz” was her biggest – the last song to sell more than one million copies of sheet music.  I got really tired of playing it on the piano when I was a child – it’s probably the only tune I can play on the piano.

So forgive me for picking something else – from her 1955 television program sponsored by Oldsmobile.

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Remembering Fontella Bass

Fontella Bass, whose 1965 hit, “Rescue Me,” topped the R&B charts, and reached #4 on Billboard’s “Hot 100,” died last night in St. Louis.  She was 72, and her death was attributed to complications from a heart attack three weeks ago.

This is from a “Shindig” appearance on ABC:


Ms. Bass co-wrote the song, which has been covered by a number of artists since.

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Wave Mechanics Union – Further To Fly

If it was a vinyl album, I would have worn it out by now. I’m talking about Wave Mechanics Union‘s first disc, Second Season, best described as a jazz take on some of the iconic progressive rock music from thirty or forty years back. I don’t often take reviews to a level beyond a simple recommendation, but I’ve purchased a number of copies, and thrust them into the hands of friends.

“I don’t care what kind of music you like,” I tell them. “You must listen to this.”

Here we go, again.


Wave Mechanics Union – Further to Fly
(HX Music)

Released – November 5, 2012

The group is irregular – a “recording project band” – made up of nearly 30 contributing musicians, mostly from the Indianapolis area, with arrangers (mainly Ryan Fraley and Ralph Johnson) who do a lot of commercial projects for “paying clients.” While all parts of this remarkable unit work breathtakingly well, for me it’s vocalist Lydia McAdams that draws it all together, more than just the cherry on top.

The material for this second recording is a little off the beaten path, even if the names are immediately recognizable. Case in point – the title tune, an obscure track from a forgettable Paul Simon album, if there is such a thing. 1990’s follow to the “Graceland” album, “The Rhythm Of The Saints,” which one reviewer called not so much art as “…an anthropology lesson.”

As I go back and listen to Paul Simon’s version, this one is better, much better.

Jon Anderson from the iconic progressive band “Yes” is involved with his favorite from the band’s repitoire – “It Will Be A Good Day (The River),” which has become one of my favorites from this disc. Thomas Dolby – most famous for the 1983 novelty tune, “She Blinded Me With Science,” also wrote “The Ability To Swing,” covered here – and to my ear, worthy of radio play most anywhere.

If the first album got my attention through the marquee quality of the titles, this one is earning my devotion by making me respect the craftsmanship of the music.

And that brings me to Lydia McAdams. A radiator of sensuality, a vocal trip down the Pacific Coast Highway at sunset, careening through the curves at a hundred miles per hour. This is the soundtrack you hear as the helicopter follows the convertible.  She not only teases the emotion out of this material, much of it emotionless to my ear in its original state – but leaves me yearning for the next track, whatever it is. She’s singing Google searches? I’m in.

Plus, she uses really cool words like “grimoire.” Oh, go look it up.

That voice with which she’s been blessed adds the soul to these lush and finely-honed tracks that spring from the side streets, and it’s that voice that demands that I listen. As good as this material and the orchestra are (and the arrangements rock swing), without Ms. McAdams, it would all be very lush production music, suitable as bumpers on the six o’clock news.

But only the top-rated six o’clock news.

I cannot recommend this recording highly enough. Go. Buy. Listen. Now.

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I make no apologies for neglecting the blog here. I do have a day job, and a kid to put through music school.

And so I work.

For the past three months, it’s been a constant back-and-forth to Asia. I’ve been on the road so long my friend, and if you came along…

Oops. Sorry.

I gambled 30 bucks (!) on a disc in a Surabaya music shop a couple of weeks ago. And while I’m always bummed to discover I could have bought the same thing on iTunes for under ten bucks, I always justify the experience by saying things like, “Well, yeah. But then I wouldn’t have the story to tell about shopping in a Surabaya music shop.”

Is a disc by Chie Ayado worth 30 bucks? Not unless you want the story to go along with it. Is it worth $8.28 at iTunes? You betcha.

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