It’s the Most Musical Time of the Year III

We’re in the middle of the holiday season, one unlike we’ve ever seen; hopefully, you’ve been able to navigate it to the point of deriving some semblance of enjoyment from it. We’ve seen a large spike in COVID-19 cases here in America, and are probably headed for another nationwide lockdown (I hope not) after the holidays, if the crisis gets much further out of hand. Please please PLEASE, if you’re not already taking the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of this virus, please start doing so, if not for your own sake, for the people around you.

For the final post of 2020, it’s time for my third annual musical dump of reviews; next post I’ll present my Best of 2020. Under the category of “hits and misses“, here are some albums I’ve listened to, but never reviewed for the blog; these are quick takes on the albums, not my usual long form reviews. Most are hits, and all but one of them are misses, as I missed reviewing them when they were released… Let’s go…

The nominees for the 2021 GRAMMY Awards were recently released; if you haven’t seen the list of nominees, you can see it here:

2021 GRAMMYs: Complete Nominees List |

The awards show is scheduled to be broadcast on CBS on January 31st.

So this one got by me somehow, although I’d had my eyes on it ever since it got delayed from its’ original March release date; apparently, I took my eyes off of it long enough for Alicia Keys to sneak her seventh album Alicia in on us in September… and I’m just now noticing that it came out – thanks to Target and one of the very few CD’s they still sell; this is the follow up to 2016’s HERE.

Alicia Keys “Alicia

I’ve always likened her as the female bookend to John Legend, piano playing Pop stars with enough style and moxie to keep a jaded individual such as myself interested enough to listen to them. There’s something for everybody on this one, and she has an impressive guest list here, too, including Jill Scott, Khalid, Miguel, and Snoh Aalegra, among others. The single “Underdog” is here, of course… I knew it best as a track Amazon used in a commercial… and it describes me too. I’ve been a fan of her music since the first album, and I can get with this album, too. Here’s a Reggae remix of “Underdog” that she did with Chronixx and Protoje…

One of the only bands to come out of the 90’s Alternative Rock scene that I listened to was my hometown heroes Smashing Pumpkins; through 1991’s Gist, ’93’s Siamese Dream, and ’95’s Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness, the Pumpkins could do no wrong. They fell off thereafter, in my opinion, but I wanted to check in on them to see what they were up to now. Cyr is the new album, their first in two years, and second with 3/4 of the original lineup reunited.

Smashing Pumpkins “Cyr

When I started listening to this album, the first thing that came to my mind was : who is THIS??? I know bands age, and with time, they mellow out a bit, but some of this reminded me of A Flock of Seagulls, or worse yet, a-ha! They’ve embraced electronics a lot more, and the Goth/Metal/Prog Rock less… it’s still there, and you hear glimmers of old Pumpkins, but not often enough. This isn’t what I expected from them… it’s not bad, per se, just not what I was looking for… Here is the video one of those glimmers, “Wyttch“…

Before I continue, just have to say this: Checking my list of followers recently, it seems I lost a couple of people since my previous post, probably based on my assessment of the Chris Stapleton / Black Lives Matter controversy. Here’s the thing: if you disagree with me, I’d really like to have an open dialogue with you, and we may continue to disagree thereafter, but I’ll respect your point of view (unless you’re completely out of pocket), and your right to have a point of view; I’d hope you wouldn’t unfollow the blog over a difference of opinion. Differences are what make the world an interesting place to be, as we can learn from each other. That is all…

The eighth album from Soul balladeer Raheem DeVaughn is What A Time to Be In Love; it’s a collaboration with a group called The Colleagues, who are the band behind him on this album.

Raheem Devaughn “What A Time to Be In Love

Raheem likes to mix social consciousness in with the love songs, and he’s certainly good at both. He has an obvious affinity for Marvin Gaye- in fact, I’d venture to say if Marvin were to be reincarnated for the new school, Raheem might be the result. He described the new album as being about love as a tool of deliverance from life’s ills; interspersed between the sultry bedroom songs are social expressions of loving the skin you’re in. He’s helped along by great performances by spoken word artist Raquel “Ra” Brown that are woven into the fabric of this soundtrack. This one will hit you on a couple of levels – both good… Here is a visualizer for “Mr. Midnight“…

The second album of 2020 from Eric Hilton is The Impossible Silence, which follows the June release of Infinite Everywhere, and continues the legacy of Thievery Corporation.

Eric Hilton “The Impossible Silence

As with the first album, this one shows the mellower side of the home group, as most of the tracks are mysterious-sounding, sinewy grooves. He returned the genre variety back into the music, something TC had started abandoning back with Culture of Fear, so a number of styles are represented. To my ears, this album has a slight edge over its’ predecessor, although the first album was nice- this one is really nice… Here’s the video for the title track…

Jyoti is one of several side projects of Georgia Anne Muldrow – this one is her cosmic Soul / Jazz experiment – it’s parts Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane, and others on the fringe. Mama, You Can Bet! is her third album under this moniker.

Jyoti “Mama, You Can Bet

Get ready for a bit of a headtrip with this one; in addition to those I name checked earlier, throw in some Charles Mingus, Nina Simone, and Pharoah Sanders in there, too. It’s a trip through the African diaspora, with stops throughout the Black music historical journey, made with modern technology. I love this sort of stuff, and although some people may find this one a little difficult to digest, it’s well worth the taste test… Here’s an audio clip for”Beamonable Lady Geemix“…

Here’s one that got by me, not once, but twice! The debut from Black Pumas was actually released in 2019, but it was given the Deluxe treatment, and reissued this year, with an extra disc of tracks. The duo of guitarist Adrian Quesada and singer Eric Burton were nominated at last year’s GRAMMY Awards for Best New Artist, and they received three nominations in the upcoming Awards, one for Album of the Year for this album.

Black Pumas

Their sound can be best described as the musical climate of the late 60’s/ early 70’s Soul and Rock, and is hugely effective. The Deluxe reissue includes a second disc, which includes three new tracks, some live sessions, and covers of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car“, The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby“, and Bobby Bland’s “Ain’t No Love In the Heart of the City“. The accolades are well-deserved, this is great music… Here is the video for “Colors“…

Here’s the one new album of the bunch here… I just reviewed the first volume of this series from Sturgill Simpson in my last post, and he’s back already with Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 2- the Cowboy Arms Sessions. The series, so far, is dedicated to presenting new versions of songs from his back catalog- in the case of these first two albums, they’re done in a Bluegrass string band style.

Sturgill Simpson “Cuttin’ Grass, Vol. 2 – The Cowboy Arms Sessions

There are several versions of tracks from his 2016 album I bought, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth here; the best of them is the track I posted below. The band, as I mentioned in the review of the last album, is as tight as you’d want, and overall, the album is good, but I wanna hear some NEW music from Sturgill, rather than new versions of old songs… Here is an audio clip for “Keep It Between the Lines“…

This young man came to my attention as a tip to me from my buddy Luiz Groove, recommending I check out Philly-area born, Nashville-based guitarist Devon Gilfillian; his debut album Black Hole Rainbow was released in January.

Devon Gilfillian “Black Hole Rainbow

One might be tempted to write him off as as a poor man’s Lenny Kravitz, but his style and songwriting has more depth to it than someone’s knockoff would; he’s performed his track “The Good Life” on Jimmy Kimmel’s show, and is one of the highlights of the album. The video “Unchained“, which is posted below, follows a day in the life of his brother, who was paralyzed in an auto accident when he was 17, and is an inspirational story of perseverance. This guy needs more exposure; check him out…

You had to know that I wouldn’t let an album with the name of DISCO get by me without listening to it; I was around for the original incarnation of the style, and a huge fan of it, especially the Eurodisco coming out of France and Germany. Released last month by 52 year old Aussie Kylie Minoque, she was around for the original, too (although maybe too young to remember it); with that knowledge in place, I should expect this album to be good, right?

Kylie Minoque “Disco

Well… much of this sounds like Kylie doing what she’s always done, Pop that’s danceable; there are a few moments that are close to pure Disco- “Supernova” and “I Love It” almost capture the essence of 70’s Disco. The rest? Not so much. Now I will say the album is enjoyable from a purely musical perspective…. BUT… if she truly wanted to capture the essence of Disco (especially while looking like a new school Vickie Sue Robinson on the cover), she should’ve done a Daft Punk from a couple of years ago, and dug up Giorgio Moroder, or gotten Nile Rodgers of Chic fame for production work. If you want that sound, seek the originals from back in the day; for the current Nu Disco sound, check out Satin Jackets or Poolside, among others. Here’s the video for “Magic“…

By maestrotjd

I'm a music head. A classically trained violinist/violist literate from chant to Chopin to Copland, Soul man, aging Punk, Classic rocker, Alt rocker, Church choir man, House head, Techno, Industrial guy, almost Rasta, Ska & Rock Steady baby, Junglist, Dubstep to Two-step to Chicago old school steppin', Lounge & Exotica, World Fusion, Latin & Bossa Nova dude, Jazz man from Swing to Bebop to Acid, Trip hop and Hip hop, ya don't stop, a lil bit Country, Gospel, and everything in between. These are my musings (or ramblings).

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