The James Hunter Six —
Minute By Minute (Fantasy)
A blue-eyed singer in the vein of British predecessors Mick Hucknell, Steve Winwood and Rod Stewart, James Hunter is also a double-threat whose warm croon is matched by crisp and tasty guitar playing. Returning from a five-year hiatus that saw the 2011 death of his wife Jacqueline from cancer, Hunter has somehow rebounded to arguably make the best album of his nearly three-decade career. In teaming up with Daptone co-founder Gabriel Roth, the former Van Morrison sideman has found a producer/engineer who complements his overall sound. Hunter’s singing style has a rich tone and range that encompasses the relaxed suaveness of Sam Cooke and excited yelp of James Brown, which translates well on Minute By Minute’s dozen self-penned songs.
Even though Sly Stone is best known to music fans through a handful of hit songs that are standards on oldies radio, the fact is, this Denton, TX, native was a game changer. Not only did he lead a multi-racial co-ed band at a time when most rock bands were predominantly made of white male members, but Stone was a multiple creative threat — singer/songwriter/producer/all-around visionary. By virtue of the doors he kicked down in the music industry and pop culture, his immensely talented acolyte Prince was able to walk through and take everything to the next level. This 4-CD set does an excellent job burnishing the man and his group’s legacy in the year of his 70th birthday by way of 77 chronologically arrayed tracks that include 17 previously unreleased recordings. Capping it all off are excellently written liner notes by authorized Sly & the Family Stone biographer Jeff Kaliss and exquisite track-by-track annotations featuring insights from numerous people involved with the group, up to and including original band members Greg Errico, Larry Graham, Jerry Martini, Cynthia Robinson and Sly Stone himself.
(Caroline Records) —Lodi
NJ’s gift to the world, The Misfits was not only the launching pad for founding member Glenn Danzig, but the group spawned its own genre — horror punk — which not unlike Alice Cooper, was influenced by horror films and similar themes. While the original, Danzig-led lineup of the band only existed from 1977 to 1983, The Misfits later regrouped in 1995 sans Danzig and after legal battles over creative and performance rights. The band’s first six years yielded four full-length albums, but over time, archival releases and reissues released since then left plenty to be desired due to spotty quality. That is until the release of this appropriately coffin-shaped 4-CD compilation that came out in 1996.
If there’s any one man qualified to bring forth an album chock full of doo wop songs, that would be Aaron Neville. Blessed with the voice of an angel, the New Orleans native has always professed his love of the genre citing Pookie Hudson of the Spaniels as an idol. Neville’s sole recorded nod to those songs of yesteryear was the 1986 EP Orchid in the Storm. That is until he went into the studio with producers Don Was and Keith Richards and emerged with these dozen songs. Smooth as silk but never slick, Neville slips into a bossa-nova-flavored medley of “This Magic Moment/True Love,” a soulful reading of Curtis Mayfield’s “Gypsy Woman” and a stripped-down but no less effective version of the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby.” Other artists given the Neville treatment include Hank Ballard (“Work With Me Annie” featuring inspired Hammond B-3 playing by brother Art Neville), The Drifters (a harmony-soaked “Ruby Baby” and equally effective “Money Honey”), Thurston Harris (a crackling “Little Bitty Pretty One”) and the Jive Five (the falsetto-kissed title track). My True Story winds up being a labor of love that is far more of the latter than the former.
Twenty years ago, the first Sweet Relief benefit album was released as a means of helping singer-songwriter Victoria Williams pay escalating bills relating to her treatment for multiple sclerosis. Not only did it spawn a sequel for the late Vic Chesnutt (Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation), but the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, which maintains a fund for musicians in financial need and oftentimes requiring medical care. Given that most artists can’t afford health insurance, it’s a very real problem in the music world. This current installment was spearheaded by Sheldon Gomberg, owner of L.A.’s Carriage House Studios and a Sweet Relief beneficiary himself. Using a backup band featuring members of Elvis Costello’s Attractions (Pete Thomas)and Imposters (Davey Faragher), the assorted artists here picked songs based around a loose theme related to help or need.
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