Archive for November, 2007

The Ten Best Albums of 2007

November 27, 2007

Yes, these best of lists are arbitrary, subjective, pointless… Nevertheless, here’s what we’ve slapped together for CMJ and now for you:

Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba/Segu Blue (Out Here Records)

Tinariwen/Aman Iman Water Is Life (World Village)

Mayra Andrade (above)/Navega (RCA Victor Europe)

VA/Rebel Music vol 2 (Trojan)

Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective/Wátina (Cumbancha)

Toumani Diabate’s Symmetric Orchestra/Boulevard de l’Independance (Nonesuch)

Céu/Céu (Six Degrees)

Sara Tavares/Balancê (Times Square Records)

Maria Rita/Samba Meu (Wea International)

VA/The Very Best Of Ethiopiques (Union Square)

Despite our tendency towards cynicism there continues to be a stream of outstanding music flowing from around the world. One does have to do a little digging sometimes. (PS: Pick # 11 could easily sit in the top ten: Concha Buika/Mi Niña Lola (DRO).) (PPS: The new Orchestra Baobab CD from World Circuit has yet to drop in the US… based on what we’ve heard, it would be a shoo-in for this year’s list.)

Sawdust and Tinsel

November 26, 2007

At long last available on DVD in the US, Sawdust and Tinsel is a fond favorite dating back to that Ingmar Bergman class I took at UW many years ago. While it doesn’t quite hold up to the glorified memories I had of it (Bergman’s typical 50’s era clash of comedy and humiliation seems a bit clumsier than I’d remembered) it’s still a wonderful example of the great one moving beyond his moralistic 40’s melodramas into full fledged artiness. The dingy circus milieu and mismatched couples predates La Strada by a year or so and Harriet Anderson is sensational as always. We still patiently await a high-end Criterion release of Bergman’s neglected The Magician.

The Very Best of Ethiopiques

November 25, 2007

At 23 discs and counting, the Ethiopiques series is a towering edifice of great Ethiopian jazz and soul from the 70s. The British label Union Square has helpully assembled this essential 2 CD distillation. Classics by Mulatu Astatqé and Mahmoud Ahmed sit comfortably alongside lesser known works and it all flows beautifully.

Fallen Angel

November 20, 2007

Otto Preminger’s 1945 stab at noir falls apart before its ending but the first hour or so is classic mid 40’s hard boiled American cynicism with great lighting. Dana Andrews in particular impresses with a sentiment-free portrayal of a fast thinking con man who is fatefully beguiled by the coffee shop siren inhabited by Linda Darnell. His stiletto-hatted figure cuts through the small town California setting like an amoral future ghost with nothing to lose but the moment at hand.

Woman In The Moon

November 20, 2007

Fritz Lang’s batty space melodrama from 1929 takes 5 intrepid travellers to the moon in search of… gold! Following his previous stunner Metropolis, Woman In The Moon is a late blast of Lang’s unfettered visual genius before his more restrained but not less brilliant Hollywood period. A special salute to the actor Fritz Rasp who brings a unique ferocity to his role as the treacherous, shape-shifting Walt Turner.

Tinariwen at the Cedar 11/16/07

November 18, 2007

Electric Touareg music came to the Cedar Friday night for the second time in a year. The sound these sub Saharan warriors make is mesmerizing and powerful. Here’s a clip of them at Africa Calling in the UK in 2005.

Tora Teje

November 10, 2007

Three cheers for the Swedish actress whose sophistication and wit carry the day in the chaste 1920 romantic comedy Erotikon. Part of the challenge for movie directors working with great stage actors in the silent era was to scale down the broadness of their acting style to fit the cooler medium of cinema. Tora Teje gracefully brings her stage powers down to a naturalized level that allows her to be an electric and thoroughly modern character.

CD stack

November 10, 2007

What is currently piled up near the CD player? Among other things, these CDs:

Tinariwen Aman Iman (World Village)
(appearing at the Cedar on Friday November 16)

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings 100 Days & 100 Nights (Dap-Tone)
(at First Avenue on Friday November 16 – will I make it to both shows? I’m going to try.)

Chano Pozo box set (Tumbao Cuban Classics)

Five Corners Quintet Chasin’ The Jazz Gone By (Ricky Tick)

The World Of Nat King Cole (Capitol)

apresentamos nosso Cassiano (Odeon Brazil)

Baile Funk 1 + 2 (Brazilian Beat Brooklyn)

Haul And Pull Up Selecta (Trojan)

James Brown Complete Singles volumes 1-3 (Hip-O)

Buena Vista Social Club (World Circuit)
(check out the use of El Cuarto De Tula in the sensational new John Turturro film Romance and Cigarettes.)

Down In A Tenement Yard: Love And Sufferation In The Ghetto 1973-1980 (Trojan)

Best Of Anne Peebles The Hi Records Years (Hi)

Lucinda Williams Sweet Old World (Elektra)

Olivia Ruiz La Femme Chocolat (Polydor)

Segu Blue

November 3, 2007

I’ve already started putting together a best albums of 2007 list and it’s very possible that the best album of the year is Segu Blue by Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba. Over the past few years I’ve become a fervent fan of contemporary music from Mali. How many great artists have arisen from there: Ali Farka Toure, Toumani Diabate, Oumou Sangare, Amadou and Mariam, Tinariwen, Lobi Traore, Zani Diabate… And now the ngoni player Bassekou Kouyate who has played with Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate steps forward with a stunningly beautiful album. Check Out Here’s Segu Blue web page for sound samples.