New albums that sound great are increasingly rare, so when I find noteworthy efforts I'm happy to share the news.
The goal here is to highlight new stuff--or at least music recorded mostly in our century--so there's no need to include Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" or Steely Dan's "Aja." I assume you already know the best music from decades past; I'm trying to spread the word about the best new music over a range of styles, with something for every taste.
For more music that sounds great, check out my "How to make your speakers sound better: Play better-sounding music" blog from earlier this year. And I'll cover five more titles in my next blog.
Feel free to chime in with your music suggestions in the comments section.
Willie Nelson, "Country Music"
Willie Nelson sings country music, and that's pretty much all you need to know. Song selection never falters, but "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down" is stunningly beautiful, thanks to the no-frills, utterly honest sound of Nelson's vocals and guitar. "Country Music" was recorded in Nashville, Tenn., and produced by T Bone Burnett. This record is an understated gem, so what you get is just the sound of Nelson, surrounded by his pick of great pickers. What's not to like?
"This Is The Blues," Volumes 1 through 4
Oh man, this is a stellar blues collection. Guitar gods Jeff Beck, Rory Gallagher, John Lee Hooker, etc., mingle among merely awesome players, and the recording dates are all over the place, but the music and sonic quality are consistently exceptional. The thing that really makes this collection shine is the freshness and vitality of the performances; these mostly British blues players will set you free. The four CDs are sold separately, and I'd recommend starting with Volume 3. Peter Green's nasty "Crawlin' King Snake" kicks things off in style, and Savoy Brown's "Little Red Rooster" ain't too shabby!
Puente Celeste, "Nama"
"Nama" is very much an audiophile's recording, so it doesn't sound like a recording, it sounds like real, live music. Puente Celeste hails from Argentina, and I have to say that "Nama" is more soulful, adventurous, and playful than a stereotypical World Music record. And since it's an audiophile record, "Nama" was recorded "live," without compression, overdubs, or processing of any kind. I have an advance pressing of "Nama," which will soon be available on the record label's Web site.
Barbra Streisand, "One Night Only"
This is more than a little weird for me--I can't say I've ever listened to a Streisand record before--but I love this new one. Recorded in 2009 live at the Village Vanguard, her voice is in great shape, and she's having a grand time with her quartet. The sound in the legendary jazz showplace is very close, and yet you feel like you're in the club. The CD comes with a DVD, which also sounds wonderful. A Blu-ray is available as well.
Lynne covers Dusty Springfield's greatest hits and makes them her own. Produced by the great Phil Ramone, the record is stripped-down and utterly direct. Lynne lays back and just lets the tunes unfold gracefully, so there's a slow-motion stillness to the arrangements that disarms the listener. When you feel Lynne's quiet power, it's goosebump city. I have the LP, which really does have a very analog sound to it, something I can't say about most new vinyl releases.