Ken Kessler

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.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
This LP’s rarity value alone commands attention: Topham was the Yardbirds’ founder guitarist, who had to leave the band because he was only 15. By 1969, at the age of 22, he delivered this solo LP, a long-forgotten take on the blues, far removed from the Yardbirds. Despite its Blue Horizon pedigree, it’s not of the Brit Blues school per se and is a stylistic mish-mash, more akin to Andrew Loog Oldham’s covers of the Stones’ canon, but its worth to Yardbirds hard-core is unparalleled. If you could find a mint original, you’d have to part with £100+.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
There’s no end to the astonishingly good albums that the psychedelic era produced, which were overshadowed by the genre’s giants. Although Fever Tree’s origins are Texan, the group sounds like it could have been part of Boston’s ‘Bosstown’ sound or from New York’s artier element, with its heavy orchestration and baroque touches. And while their eponymous debut from ’68 features fascinating originals, like the hit ‘San Francisco Girls (Return of the Native)’, what’s more intriguing are interpretations of the Beatles’ ‘Day Tripper/We can Work it Out’ and Neil Young’s ‘Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing’. Another great find for hard-up collectors from Sundazed.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
Christmas in July! Here, in glorious mono – but of course – is what many regard as the greatest rock ’n’ roll Christmas LP of all time: Phil Spector’s deliriously joyful showcase for his Philles Records stable of pop maestri, from 1963. You get the Ronettes, the Crystals, Darlene Love and Bob B Soxx and the Blue Jeans, backed by one of the finest assemblies of session players ever to enter a studio: the amazing Wrecking Crew, with Leon Russell, Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono in its ranks. The package offers 13 Christmas pop standards, and it’s unlikely you’ll ever hear a more uplifting take of ‘White Christmas’. The Wall of Sound rules, beyond prison walls.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
Humble Pie embodies a genre yet to find a name, the division of ‘stadium rock’ that seemed to consist entirely of ex-pat British bands who did better in the USA than they ever could back home. Amusingly, as Smokin’ – their biggest-seller – shows, they were simply feeding back to America what Yanks rockers invented: southern-fried HM boogie, only now with an Essex twang. But when the line-up included ex-Small Faces frontman Steve Marriott, one of the best hard-rock vocalists ever, the results were miles away from the pedestrian. Marriott’s mod roots are evident, with covers of ‘Road Runner’ and ‘C’mon Everybody’, but elevated to a tougher, harder level.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
Interesting re-packaging of the US version of Hendrix’s debut, but not absolutely necessary if you bought this 17-track expanded release in 1997. This adds only cooler packaging and a 17-minute DVD of engineer Eddie Kramer and three now-departed figures – Hendrix’s one-time manager, Chas Chandler, and the members of the Experience, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding – talking about the recording sessions. But if you don’t own any Hendrix, this is the best place to start: it’s an utterly incendiary album bursting with invention, the blueprint for psychedelia, jazz-rock and so much more. An ear-opener then, a touchstone now for every guitarist since.

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