Coming Forth by Day
Cassandra Wilson has had a varied career as a collaborator, a solo vocalist and a Renaissance woman of jazz. After nine albums, beginning with her debut in 1993, Blue Light ’til Dawn, she put her indelible stamp on a variety of songs in non-jazz styles. She also has tackled jazz compositions, as she does on this revelatory tribute marking the 100th birthday of Billie Holiday. Again, Wilson finds a fresh perspective on the music of a vocalist who has been honored before. With the help of the baritone guitar of T-Bone Burnett and various string ensembles, Wilson has produced a dazzling, enchanting work.
Chaos and the Calm
James Bay is yet another young British singer-songwriter to score a number one album in the UK with this, his debut release. While some comparisons to fellow UK hit-maker Ed Sheeran are evident, Bay more closely recalls young American Idol winner Phillip Phillips and even Gavin DeGraw for pop instincts and a polished production base. The second (or third) great British music invasion marches on.
A Fool to Care
Ever since Boz Scaggs’s 2003 release But Beautiful, a collection of jazz standards, he has been making truly original music. On this release, produced by Steve Jordan, he continues exploring cutting, gritty covers of R&B, blues and other obscurities. The presence of Willie Weeks on bass raises the stakes further. Two covers in particular, “Small Town Talk” and “Whispering Pines,” stand out where they would wither in the hands of a lesser vocalist. On the latter, Lucinda Williams joins Scaggs on vocals and Bonnie Raitt sings on “Hell to Pay.”
Since Starr took a break from his career from 1983-1992, he has made albums that have either been commercially successful or have hit an artistic stride many thought he left behind. His fourth album back on Capitol features overt lyrical paeans to his Liverpool past and his Beatles days. Newfound rhythmic ideas, songs of a serious nature and support from Dave Stewart, Peter Frampton, Van Dyke Parks and Joe Walsh prove Starr has lots of music ahead of him.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Noel Gallagher’s second release since the breakup of Oasis is another excellent album. The songwriting half of the Gallagher siblings, Noel shows why his songs figured prominently in the group and why Liam was the frontman. Noel’s songs have grown more mature and the clean sound eschews the rough mix of latter day Oasis. This makes the music palatable without pandering to pop taste. While the breakup of Oasis was sad, at least it has produced two worthy off-shoots in this group.