I've been on a music tear lately, picking up an album or two a week. Here are my latest:
Jenni Muldaur - "Dearest Darlin'"
Although my soul and R&B collection isn't the most extensive, there is just something about the voice of old school or neo-soul female R&B singers that just fits. I think it is genre where the ladies lead the way. Jenni Muldaur is one of those women who hit the mark with me. She has an awesome old school voice, as showcases it perfectly throughout "Dearest Darlin'".
"Dearest Darlin'" is a collection of soul and R&B covers mostly from the 50s and 60s. Muldaur covers some of the biggest names in the genre, from Bo Diddley to James Brown, as well as some rare antiques such as a 1934 field holler recorded by Alan Lomax. With the extensive range of content, Muldaur raises the bar quite high, but still nails it. I was really impressed.
Spinal Tap - "Back From The Dead"
The greatest band in the history of music history has returned. "Back From The Dead" is not only a collection of songs from the Spinal Tap movie, but also a few new songs, as well as a few "re-mixes", including a funky rendition of the classic "Sex Farm".
Another great reason to actually buy Spinal Tap instead of downloading their greatness is the included DVD. The DVD is absolutely awesome. Over an hour of the band talking about each song on the DVD. Hilarious.
Street Sweeper Social Club - self-titled
I like far-out riffs of ex-Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello. I like the political rhymes of Boots Riley of The Coup. So naturally I like this album. Although this definitely a solid buy, I do have a few comments:
1) It would have been amazing to have a few Zach De La Rocha cameos.
2) Boots Riley's voice sounds more fitting to funk or rap backbeats.
3) This album is another 1+1 does not equal 2 venture (see Blackout! 2). Close, but not quite. Morello fits perfectly and there are some great anthems, but I think Boots holds back a bit and doesn't get as descriptive as he does on The Coup albums.
Leela James - "Let's Do It Again"
(Ok, Leela James's new album came out in March, but I just bought it, so it's new to me.)
Back in 2005, I used to play Leela James's first album, "Change is Gonna Come", all the time. It was funky, soulful, and one of the best albums of that year. Then Leela James disappeared. I heard absolutely nothing about her.
Four years later, Ms. James finally released her second album, "Let's Do It Again". Like Jenni Muldaur, Leela James does an album full of soul and R&B covers. I don't want to say I am not impressed, because this is a very good album, but I expected more. Where are the new songs? Where is the new material that would spring Ms. James into the mainstream?
Wu-Tang Clan - "Wu-Tang Chamber Music"
This album should have probably been called "The RZA Presents ...". Although listed as a Wu-Tang album, it's really not. First of all, it doesn't have Method Man, the GZA, or Masta Killa on it (three of my favorite MCs, by the way). Second, it is more of an EP than a full-length album. There are few too many short philosophical narratives interspersed between the songs. Although interesting, these short RZA bytes take a bit away from the flow of the album.
Despite its shortfalls, "Chamber Music" is great. In making the album RZA recorded live music to blend with the beats and give the album a very "live" sound. This new Wu sound works best with Wu veterans Inspectah Deck and Ghostface, as they tear up their verses on each of the songs they are on. Guest stars Sean Price, Sadat X, Masta Ace, Havoc, and others also work well. Overall, there is not a bad song on the album, it is just too short. Hopefully Chamber Music is an appetizer, a precursor for a new full-length Wu-Tang album.