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Playlist, June 2011

June 1, 2011

Troubadors: The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter
Documentary DVD and Bonus CD
Concord Music Group

If the Troubadour club never existed, the L.A. music scene would never have been the springboard of so many great singer-songwriters. As much a look at Carole King''s and James Taylor''s careers, the documentary features candid and comical interviews with David Crosby, Lou Adler, Steve Martin, and more. However, the secret weapon of this film is the use of rich historical footage of the ''60s, stellar in both in musical performance and imagery, and political protest and culture. A must-watch for any aspiring songcrafter.

—Craig Dalton

Depeche Mode Remixes 2: 81-11

Depeche Mode''s epic three-disc release Remixes 2: 81-11, the first project collaborated on by all five Depeche Mode members, will keep your subwoofer happy and your foot a tappin'' with both modern and classic remixes of tracks spanning DM''s three-decade career. Several of the modern interpretations, such as Röyksopp''s version of “Puppets,” are off into new sonic territory, while the standout classic versions by former bandmates Vince Clarke and Alan Wilder are a bit closer in heart and soul.
—Marsha Vdovin

Human Element Human Element
Abstract Logix

Frank Zappa once said, “Jazz isn''t dead; it just smells funny.” The same thing has been said about fusion, but in less-kind terms. Human Element recalls everything great about fusion: inspired improvisation, innovative melodies, and a boldness to expand boundaries, with none of the masturbatory excess associated with the ''70s blowhard genre. Scott Kinsey, Matthew Garrison, Gary Novak, and Arto Tunçboyacıyan fire all their jets, yet retain a light-as-a-feather approach, creating a blissful, note-filled atmosphere.
—Ken Micallef

Nigeria 70: Sweet Times: Afro-Funk, Highlife & Juju from 1970s Lagos Strut

Unlike other Strut comps that typically focus on a particular style, Nigeria 70 runs the gamut: rolling soukous from Sina Bikare and Admiral Dele Obiodun, psy-funk from Eji Oyewole, lilting AfroBeat from Ali Chukwumah & His Peace Makers International. Recorded in studios across Lagos, the production values are as diverse as the music itself, but always revealing that sweet African sound.
—Ken Micallef

Henry Wolfe Linda Vista
Undermountain Records

The debut album from singer/songwriter/musician Henry Wolfe lives somewhere between Randy Newman and the Avett Brothers. The mood is relaxed and atmospheric; his gentle voice and heartfelt lyrics are surrounded by lingering keyboard rhythms, harmonica parts that trail off distantly, bouncy guitar strumming. Wolfe (who, incidentally, is Meryl Streep''s son) often writes of dark days, but his sweet voice and musical mood evoke a feeling more like dawn unfolding—quiet, hopeful, ever brighter.
—Barbara Schultz

Sleepy Rebels Yellow Tree
Powerful Company

This NYC-based trio keeps you smiling from the first track to end, with their sunny hooks and well-balanced sister/brother harmonies. The primarily acoustic instrumentation is exceptionally well recorded, doesn''t rely on over-compression, and is mixed with tasteful use of scant effects. The driving guitars keep heads bobbing with only the occasional use of percussion or soft kick/snare. And what a delight to hear well-arranged, real acoustic strings and horns!
—Marsha Vdovin

Steve Earle I''ll Never Get Out of This World Alive
New West

The influence of producer T Bone Burnett on Steve Earle''s latest album is subtle, but it''s there: The bass rocks a little harder; songs are a little catchier; and the tempo''s a little more up, even though Earle acknowledges that mortality is the theme of this record. As always, Earle''s singular, expressive vocals are tough and beautiful, and the acoustic, strings-heavy arrangements are far more bent and complex than your average country album. Included is “This City,” which Earle wrote for the HBO series Treme, featuring horn arrangements by Allen Toussaint.
—Barbara Schultz

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