In the '80s, Windham Hill Records had a reputation for being a new age label. Windham Hill was the home of major new age artists like Liz Story and George Winston; arguably, the company was to new age what Fania was to salsa, Blue Note was to jazz, and Def Jam was to rap; in other words, it wasn't the only player but was definitely a major player. However, not every instrumentalist who recorded for Windham Hill in the '80s provided new age. Post-bop/fusion keyboardist Billy Childs was never new age, and electric bassist Michael Manring was equally jazz-oriented. Unusual Weather, his first Windham Hill release, isn't straight-ahead bop – Manring isn't pretending to be Ray Brown or Paul Chambers. It is, however, a fusion/pop-jazz effort that often underscores Manring's appreciation of the late Jaco Pastorius.
This Soul Jam release presents one of Hooker's most difficult to find albums on CD, the eponymous John Lee Hooker. It was originally released in 1962 by the Fantasy Records' subsidiary Galaxy label. The album includes a selection of hard-to-find recordings taped with his electric guitar during different sessions in the 1950s, all of them produced by Bernard Besman, the man who helped define Hooker's recorded sound, which has often relied upon heavy walking beats, boogies, and an eerie atmosphere. In addition to the original masterpiece, this remastered collector's edition also contains 8 bonus tracks from the same period.
Although pianist Hank Jones gets first billing on this two-disc set from Lone Hill Jazz, it actually contains three complete Tyree Glenn-led sessions that were originally released on LP by Roulette Records as At the Embers, At the Roundtable and At the London House in 1957, 1958 and 1961. Featuring Glenn on trombone and vibraphone running through swing and bop standards backed by a world-class rhythm section of Jones, Milt Hinton and Jo Jones, Quintet/Sextet Complete Recordings makes a fine introduction to an often over-looked and completely professional jazz player.
Thanks to its stripped-down, lean production, Vitalogy stands as Pearl Jam's most original and uncompromising album. While it isn't a concept album, Vitalogy sounds like one. Death and despair shroud the album, rendering even the explosive celebration of vinyl "Spin the Black Circle" somewhat muted. But that black cloud works to Pearl Jam's advantage, injecting a nervous tension to brittle rockers like "Last Exit" and "Not for You," and especially introspective ballads like "Corduroy" and "Better Man." In between the straight rock numbers and the searching slow songs, Pearl Jam contribute their strangest music – the mantrafunk of "Aye Davanita," the sub-Tom Waits accordion romp of "Bugs," and the chilling sonic collage "Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me." Pearl Jam are at their best when they're fighting, whether it's Ticketmaster, fame, or their own personal demons.