My playlist was featured in the entertainment section of the now defunct Kamloops Daily News.
Other than when I’m listening to radio or streamed music, I tend to listen to full CDs/LPs rather than mixed playlists. Most of my favourites are live recordings. They have passion and energy that can’t be captured in a studio. The following albums get regular play. Seven of these albums are live. Two are Canadian. The majority are instrumental or have extended instrumental sections. They are listed in no particular order.
Below is a brief review of each of the albums. Please feel welcome to add your comments. I will find them interesting.
SANTANA – SACRED FIRE
I have over thirty Santana albums. This 1993 live recording from Mexico City captures what I believe to be the best Santana lineup of musicians in the band’s 45 years of existence. The musicians are comfortable and tight with each other; they know how to make the whole band sound great. The concert features some of Santana’s greatest hits including Black Magic Woman and Oye Como Va as well as lesser known, but no less passionate, numbers.
JASMINE – KEITH JARRETT/CHARLIE HADEN
This is a musically lean recording; piano and bass only. Most of the numbers have a quiet introspective feel to them. You can put this album on and half-listen while you relax or you can listen intensely and find nuance and sensitivity in the playing.
SMOKIN’ AT THE HALF NOTE – WYNTON KELLY TRIO/WES MONTGOMERY
Pat Metheny has said this is the best jazz album ever. That’s a bold statement, but even if you don’t agree it would be hard to dismiss this energy-driven live recording. It is well titled. The musicians are smokin’ and there are no weak tracks. It must have been an incredible experience to have been in the audience that night.
LIVE AT THE QUICK – BELA FLECK AND THE FLECKTONES
Only Bela Fleck could take a banjo, steel drum and Tuvan throat singing and combine them to create something that is interesting, sophisticated, musical and artfully integrated. Everything sounds like it belongs together with no feeling that it is forced or patched together. This live recording is also available as a concert DVD.
BABYLON BY BUS – BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS
I picked this album as a favourite, but it could have been anything and everything by Bob Marley. This live recording has a deep infectious pulse provided by a large band and backing vocalists. Turn up the volume.
ROAD RAGAS – HARRY MANX LIVE
Harry Manx’s smooth vocals and mesmerizing rhythms are everywhere on this album. He does an excellent job of covering blues standards by Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and BB King but his own material us just as good. I never get tired of this album.
MAKE A JAZZ NOISE HERE – FRANK ZAPPA
This is a double disc live recording featuring one of Frank Zappa’s best lineups of musicians. The tracks are an eclectic mix of rock, jazz and classical interpretations. Some of the political and cultural satirical lyrics are stuck in time, but the music is rock solid. There are several extended tracks of extraordinary top-notch instrumental music. I have a stack of Frank Zappa albums and this one gets played the most (followed closely by One Size Fits All and The Grand Wazoo which are both excellent studio recordings).
LIVE IN GDANSK – DAVID GILMORE
Not every musician from an all-time top band can succeed as a solo artist. This live recording at the Gdansk shipyards shows that David Gilmour’s music is as strong as it was with Pink Floyd. The concert includes Floyd highlights such as Time, Shine On You Crazy Diamond and Wish You Were Here. Gilmour’s more recent solo material stands well next to them. His signature guitar sound is as rich as ever.
FREEDOM SOUND – JAZZ CRUSADERS
This is jazz for the heart; not the head. It grooves with uncomplicated catchy swing and blues influences. It’s jazz for people who think they don’t like jazz.
BIG RUDE JAKE – BIG RUDE JAKE
Toronto performer Big Rude Jake is an excellent songwriter. His performances include spoken word and many of his lyrics can stand alone without the music. If you like the lyrics of Tom Waits, Lyle Lovett and Bob Dylan you will probably like Big Rude Jake. The music is a mix of swing and blues played with high energy and an engaging feel for time.