Since I posted the best of 2014 with the conviction that my choices couldn’t be bettered I can safely say that I was proved right,to my taste anyway.
However, it would be wrong to say that the albums covered there were the only ones worth checking out. There are quite rightly some “honourable mentions” worth bringing to your attention.
First up is an album I have listened to a lot since grabbing my copy on November. I was lucky enough to catch Bill Frisell twice in 2014. Both shows were very different. The first precipitating the first walkout in many a year by Mrs.Monkey (it wasn’t her thing)and the second being a most enjoyable show at the London Jazz Festival. (I enjoyed both shows, by the way.)
The album promoted at the London show was Bill’s latest “Guitar in the Space Age”, a rendering of several ’60’s hits that sprang from the years of hope and wonder from the early years of space travel. Here are new arrangements, but not straying too far from the melody, of “Telstar”, “Turn,Turn,Turn” , “Rumble”, “The Pipeline” and The Kinks’ “Tired of Waiting” amongst others. It seems lame to describe a jazz album, especially one from Bill Frisell, as “charming” but that is what it is – and, frankly, that is what it probably is meant to be. Charming it may be but on reflection and persistent listening to these catchy melodies I am struck by the passion and love that has gone into this collection. It really is a 21st Century reworking of tunes from a time of hope and dreams of bright futures. Perhaps it is because we know what happens to the dream that it becomes a charming reflection and not a proclamation of new hope. Alas – great work though, Bill.
Natalie Merchant – “Natalie Merchant”..
Merchant’s solo album of 2014 is also a reflective album in so many ways. An album of the “p’s” ….. Personal, political and pain. Sparse arrangements underlay catchy melodies with lyrics torn from the heart. I was inspired to buy this album after seeing the stunning performance on “Later…with Jools Holland”. Before reading on, enjoy this …..
Blessed with a unique sound, Natalie Merchant can wring a tear from the sternest,stoicist of stoics if she so chooses. You will feel every emotion but that is where the pleasure is. Perhaps a masochistic joy but a joy nonetheless.
And finally, for those who can remember the days when CS&N tore up the Rock Rule Book and started singing great harmonies 2014 was the year David Crosby released his first solo album in so long it became a feature in itself. Twenty years have passed and Croz is now getting on a bit. He’s maybe older and wiser, somewhat calmer perhaps, but he’s still creating.
Another distinctive voice, another distinctive musician. “Croz” boasts guest appearances from Leland Sklar, Mark Knopfler and Branford Marsalis. Tinged with a little jazziness, the musicianship, as you would imagine, is excellent. There is still the old David Crosby feel to much of what is here – there is still a little ’70’s-ness about it too – but what the heck ! David Crosby produces his own music and comes with all the baggage that a life in music can bring. I admit I was worried. Twenty years for heaven’s sake. But fear not dear reader, this is good stuff you will enjoy getting into.