With his second album for Hi Records in collaboration with the legendary producer Willie Mitchell, Al Green cemented himself as one of the great young soul talents of the time. With the tragically premature passings of Sam Cooke in 1964 and Otis Redding in 1967, a void had to be filled within the world of soul. Born in Arkansas, Green grew up as one of ten children in a strictly religious family. In fact, his father infamously kicked him out of the house at a young age after catching him listening to Jackie Wilson records. Green was heavily drawn towards the groovy style of Wilson Pickett and the vocal prowess of Mahalia Jackson, and finally managed to find his own sound with Hi Records and Willie Mitchell who paired him up with arguably one of the greatest house bands a record company could ask for. The album kicks off with a tastefully bluesy cover of the Temptation's Can't Get Next to You which the band slow way down, allowing Al's gritty soulful voice to really take over. The record features some great hip-shaking numbers like I'm a Ram and Driving Wheel, while also displaying Green's increadible seductive vocal abilities on Tired of Being Alone, which would prove to be a indication of things to some with his next album!
Oh how we love Herbie Hancock! From his early fiery bebop to the more mainstream ballads of his later albums, to the really far out stuff and everything in between! ... But then there’s Head Hunters - an album which is just so groovy it’s infectious! Last month we brought you Miles in the Sky on which Herbie played keys, and we can certainly hear a lot of that album here. Herbie took what he learned from Miles, marinated it in funk, added a side-order of thick bass and was cookin'! Though there may only be four songs on the entire album, each one is so complex and the musicians are in such a cohesion you need multiple listens to really grasp the album in its entirety. Hancock was later quoted in relation to the album saying “I took a chance. There was always the risk that I might make some new fans, but only at the cost of losing more established ones. This was music I wanted to make, though, so the gamble was worth it."
Among jazz musicians Dave Brubeck sits within a league of his own. His playing is so distinctly recognizable - it's the sophisticated kind of cool that very few possess. Maybe it's got something to do with the California sun. While we at Vinyl Wings always strive to bring our members records they may not have heard of, and it's unlikely that Time Out is such a record, we felt you would love this beautiful audiophile edition from the folks at Music on Vinyl. What makes Time Out so special is the originality of the time signatures used by Brubeck in the tunes. The band's experiences while on a government-sponsored Cold War Tour provided the inspiration for this masterpiece. For example, the opening Blue Rondo à La Turk is written in a time signature common to Turkish folk music, something Brubeck experienced firsthand while on the tour. The entire album is a simply delightful listen from front to back and a must-have in any jazz lover's collection.
Miles in the Sky, which we in many ways regard as In a Silent Way's little brother, preceded that album by just over a year. It's the sort of transition album which certainly has its imperfections where growing pains can be heard, but nevertheless forms a crucial part of musical history and Miles's own journey - and that's precisely what we love about it. We can hear a certain nervousness and apprehension in the music, the balance between doing too much and too little at times feeling disjointed. But there certainly are jewels in these grooves - we love the vibe and feel of the opening track Stuff, in part attributed the Ron Carter opting for an electric bass rather than acoustic and Herbie introducing listeners to the Rhodes piano. A guest appearance by George Benson on Paraphernalia is certainly most welcome, and also serves as a window into Miles's attention to the growing jazz-pop movement of the time. With just four tracks the album feels like a long jam session, forming an important part of the body of work of the Second Great Quintet.
Get ready for a master class of the most hip-shaking, soul-singing, feet-tapping funkiness to have come out of New Orleans! We're of course talking about none other than The Meters. There is simply no scientific apparatus to measure the level of grooviness that this group produce! Having made a name for themselves as Allen Touissant's house band for his Sansu Enterprises label, we're super excited to bring you their second album - Struttin'! While the entire band is excellent, the foundation of this funk is the incomparable guitar of Leo Nocentelli. Each of his riffs feels like the solution to a groovy equation! Meanwhile, Ziggy Modeliste lays down the badass drum beats, opening up the floor for Art Meville to hit us with some sweet, sweet organ! Building on the success of their debut album, the gang added more vocals this time around (some whacky like on Chicken Strut, others simply groovy like on Hand Clapping Song), making it an even more awesome listen! Get ready, get groovy and enjoy!
Even at the age of 92, it feels like Tony Bennett can do no wrong. While lately he has increasingly opted for releasing duet albums, some of which have been with unexpected partners like Lady Gaga, this one with the incomparable Diana Krall remains one of our favourites. In a rare occurrence where she isn’t behind the piano, the talented Diana has instead given us lucky listeners a full display of her vocal abilities. Backed by the Grammy award-winning Bill Charlap Trio, the duo bring us a beautiful set of George & Ira Gershwin compositions - a match made in heaven! The whole album is silky-smooth, Tony and Diana have a terrific and playful chemistry, and the band are simply stellar - complementing the singers in all the right spots. Our favourite tunes on this one are the opening ‘S Wonderful, the playful Nice work if you can get it and They can’t take that away from me. In case you were looking for the perfect soundtrack for this Valentine's day - look no further, drop the needle on this beauty and enjoy!
While we do love studio albums, there's something unique and magical about live recordings. There's no chances for a second take, the dynamic between band members is felt straight away and the audience's participation just adds to the ambiance. When this all-star bebop cast gathered in Montreal in 1980, the resulting performance was simply sensational. Strangely enough, the concert didn't become a hit at the time and the tapes were locked away until very recently. Though it was recorded about 30 years after the golden age of bebop, these guys were ready to impress upon the crowd just what it was that made that music, and specifically Charlie Parker, so timeless. The evening was loaded with fiery free-running tunes like the opening Blue 'n' Boogie, and complemented so beautifully with mellow classics like Stardust. While the cast is certainly star caliber, we feel that James Moody (tenor sax and flute) absolutely steals the show. His performance on Darben the Redd Foxx (his own tune, no less) is simply sensational and a masterful display of his technique and skill.
When the first Ella and Louis album was released in 1956 Verve knew that they had a winning formula and there was no way that a second album wouldn't be back by popular demand! There is certainly a magic between these two when they perform that is hard to put into words. Yet the two performers couldn't be more different from one another - Louis' deep growling voice and at times goofy demeanor somehow fits so well with Ella's silky smooth style. The timeless Let's Call the Whole Thing off is the perfect example of what we mean! Every single tune on this album feels like a nice warm cup of soup for the ears - it's the perfect Sunday morning listen for when it's cold outside and all you want to do is curl up on the sofa and relax!
Chicago-born Donny Hathaway's career started off with Curtis Mayfield's Curtom Records in Chicago. A successful arranger and producer, he quickly moved up the ranks and became the house producer for the label. In 1969 Hathaway signed with Atco Records and started releasing material under his own name. As is the story with many geniuses though, Donny's life wasn't a straightforward one - he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia which ultimately led to his tragic death in 1979. The album you have here is one his most inspired performances and one of the greatest live albums we've ever heard! The record comprises of two separate sessions - one at The Troubadour in Hollywood and the other at The Bitter End in New York, and what's clear from both is the love and admiration the crowd has for him. The audience becomes part of the band, clapping to the funky beats and bass lines and singing along like they would in gospel church, with Donny leading the funky congregation. We don't know what the definition of Soul music really is, but we like to think that it's when music comes from the soul of the performer and is delivered straight into the soul of the listener, and that's exactly what we feel every time we spin this incredible album!