Ken Kessler

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Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
Practitioners of Zydeco – the black, bluesy, more rocking cousin to swampy Cajun music – serve a select audience, for the genre rarely produces crossover hits. But if you get bitten by the bug, it’s irresistible. Major Handy is one of Zydeco’s younger, more active performers, born in the heart of the Louisiana region that gave birth to the sound, and a veteran who played with Rockin’ Dopsie. Chad Kassem’s crew has captured the swing and the feel of the genre, while showcasing an instrument that’s key to Zydeco but hardly an audiophile staple: the accordion.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
As has been de rigueur of late, Swiss-born Beat Kaestli has joined Tony Bennett, Rod Stewart, Michael Bublé and others releasing ‘American Songbook’ sessions. Kaestli, though, has resisted the more obvious A-list songs and opted for ‘slightly-less-covered’ masterworks, including ‘My Romance’, ‘Day In Day Out’ and other tunes that are familiar rather than done to death. Backed by a superb quintet and recorded at St Peter’s Episcopal Church, NY, with David Chesky at the controls, it’s a perfect showcase for SACD surround, which seems to be enjoying a renaissance. Kaestli’s emphasis is jazzier than the norm, a refreshing break from Sinatra wannabees.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
Like a pair of favourite slippers, a Livingston Taylor CD is a blue-chip cert if you want to relax. OK, so the audiophile equivalent of comfort food might not seem challenging, but his easy-going balladry is delicious – not least because Taylor called on members of Alison Krauss’ band Union Station to enhance it with a thread of bluegrass. As it was recorded in Tennessee, you can subtitle this his ‘Country Album’. Other guests include Steve Gadd, one of the greatest drummers in rock, country giant Vince Gill and Leland Sklar, bassist par excellence.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
Although most would credit Sly & the Family Stone or Funkadelic’s empire for inventing acid-dripping, hard funk, back in ’69, the super-smooth Temptations were getting spacey, too. Sharp suits metamorphosed into the kind of garb that Elvis Presley would copy for his Vegas era, and track times would extend beyond the AM-friendly norm of Motown. While fans may have been taken aback by the wicked title track, the Temps had already shown an experimental streak with ‘I Know I’m Losing You’. And we certainly owe thanks to this LP for the later ‘Psychedelic Shack’, and of course, the immortal ‘Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone’.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
A heartbreaker, as it’s the sole LP from one of the finest of the wave of mid-1960s US bands who wished they were the Beatles. Like the equally fragile Left Banke (yes, that’s how they spelled it) with their leader Michael Brown, this group boasted a song-writing genius in Emitt Rhodes, and gave off a whiff of ‘Sunny Afternoon’, Kinksian Englishness that permeated the whole LP. While ‘You’re A Very Lovely Woman’ is equally well remembered, their biggest hit – ‘Live’ – had the kind of catchiness that made songs like the La’s ‘There She Goes’ so memorable. Yes, it was that good.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
A renowned gig with Satchmo celebrating his 60th birthday at one of the world’s greatest jazzfests, backed by Billy Kyle (piano), Barney Bigard (clarinet), Trummy Young (trombone), Mort Herbert (bass), Danny Barcelona (drums) and Velma Middleton sharing the vocals – if you can’t locate the CD, the silky, wider-than-Rhode Island stereo will qualify this download the best $10 you ever spent on New Orleans sizzle. Classic material – ‘Tiger Rag’, ‘Mack The Knife’, ‘St. Louis Blues’, a brace of tunes from High Society, ‘Stompin’ At The Savoy’, culminating in ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ and ‘Happy Birthday, Louis!’. ‘Utterly joyous’ is the only way to describe it.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
Like the title says, this is part of APO’s astonishing direct-to-disc series, but for me, it’s also the culmination of a decade-long plea for this label to record the R&B legend. It’s here I must declare personal involvement: I wrote the liner notes, explaining how it came about. Chad Kassem’s efforts have resulted in a delicious live session which justifies my nagging. Tate reaches down to the soles of his shoes to deliver exquisite takes of two trademark songs from his classic Verve LP, ‘Look At Granny Run Run’ and ‘Ain’t Nobody Home’, plus four others.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
Talk about a breakthrough: by 1973 with this, album number three, the Doobies had metamorphosed from a quasi-boogie/rock outfit, looking like Allman Brothers wannabees, into a slick Left Coast outfit able to segue country rock into blue-eyed soul. This particular set, possibly a career best, alternated hard rockers with rootsy ballads, handing us enough AOR masterpieces to ensure permanent rotation on American FM wavebands: ‘Natural Thing’, ‘Long Train Runnin’’, the immortal ‘China Grove’ and the lush title track… Most bands would kill to produce something this accomplished. And this SACD let’s you hear just how gorgeous it all was. Sound Quality: 88% .
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
Less than year since Michael Jackson’s passing, armed as we are with 40 years’ worth of 20/20 hindsight, it’s hard to be objective about this, their second LP. For those – like me – who couldn’t stand their teeth-jarring precocity, beaten only in the saccharine stakes by their contemporaries, the too-clean-to-be-real Osmonds, it was simply Motown For Kids. But on reflection, this is so polished, irresistible and, it must be admitted, funky, that one must subjugate any preference for the Temps and admit that it’s as catchy as a dose of the clap in Magaluf. Most eerily, the tracks beyond the title hit sound – sophistication-wise – like they’re sung by a 35-year-old.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
It simply doesn’t get any better than this if you’re a Motown addict. This LP from ’67 contains a half-dozen gems, eg, ‘Bernadette’, that are forever associated with the ’Tops, plus a couple of covers they made their own: ‘Walk Away Renee’ and ‘If I Were A Carpenter’. With 20/20 hindsight, considering that The Monkees have been reassessed and found not to be the infra dig swill that snobs once deemed them to be, we learn here just how appealing was the material they chose: the ’Tops cover two of their hits, turning ‘Last Train To Clarksville’ and ‘I’m A Believer’ into almost-credible Motown stompers. Reach Out is the quintessence of the group’s and the label’s sound.

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