RATM’s Second Coming Will Hopefully Continue In The Coming Years

Courtesy: Fantasy Records

The end is near!  The end of the year that is.  The end of 2017 is only 48 hours away at the time of this post.  With time quickly ticking away, there is still a lot of work for this critic to do with year-ender lists.  Considering this, we’ll get right into it with one last list for the year’s new albums in the form of the year’s top new albums overall.  This list was perhaps the most difficult of all for this critic to assemble.  That is because of the amount of top quality material released across the musical universe this year.  From punk to pop to jazz, world, rock and more, there were a lot of great records released over the past year.  Keeping this in mind, coming up with this was no easy chore, to say the least.  It was finally accomplished, though, and includes titles from the worlds of rocks, jazz, country and even world music.

Leading off this year’s best new album — in this critic’s ears and mind — is Ala.Ni’s debut album You & I.  This record is a beautiful work that despite being marketed as jazz, could just as easily fit into any adult contemporary pop radio station’s rotation.  Also included in this year’s finale are new releases from country music superstar Chris Stapleton, New Orleans-based singer/songwriter Marc Broussard, emo-punk band Young Fox’s new album and much more.

As with every previous list, this list features this critic’s Top 10 choices as well as five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15 titles.  Without any further ado, here for you is Phil’s Picks 2017 Top 10 New Albums.

PHIL’S PICKS 2017 TOP 10 NEW ALBUMS

  1. Prophets of Rage — Prophets of Rage
  2. Ala.Ni — You & I
  3. Jazzmeia Horn — A Social Call
  4. Diana Panton — Solstice/Equinox
  5. Fer Isella — Art of the Possible
  6. Nova Collective — The Further Side
  7. Scale The Summit — In A World of Fear
  8. Mike Mangioni & The Kin — But I’ve Seen The Stars
  9. John 5 & The Creatures — Season of the Witch
  10. Dishwalla — Juniper Road
  11. Project 86 — Sheep Among Wolves
  12. Chris Stapleton — From A Room Vol. 2
  13. Young Fox — Sky Beats Gold
  14. Gary Numan — Savage (Songs From A Broken World)
  15. Marc Broussard — Easy To Love

That’s it, folks.  As noted, this was not an easy list to assemble by any means.  Trying to determine which albums likely would have a certain amount of longevity through through musical and lyrical messages was a tough task.  One cannot ignore the fact that what with the nation’s current political climate, the second coming of Rage Against The Machine was one of this year’s most important and standout efforts.  In the same breath, the gentility and beauty offered by Ala.Ni, Jazzmeia Horn and Diana Panton makes their albums certain to stay in peoples’ minds and ears.  Fer Isella’s new album, while instrumental is like the soundtrack to any major Hollywood drama such as Bridges of Madison County and other similar movies.

The jazz fusion feel of Nova Collective’s debut record and the prog rock of Scale The Summit’s latest record stand out just as much.  Mike Mangioni & The Kin may stay under the radar, but that’s just fine with this critic.  The group’s new album is a great independent offering.  Dishwalla’s new album is a wonderful return for the band while John 5 & the Creatures’ new album is yet another example of how truly talented the guitarist truly is and that he made the right decision leaving Marilyn Manson’s band.

It is easy to go on and on about every album noted here.  Regardless of the band’s fame, the fact of the matter stands that each album listed here is one that this critic feels is impacting and important for the given act and for the music community in whole.  That being the case, this list stands as this critic’s best new albums of 2017.  Now with all of the music stuff out of the way, it’s on to a handful of DVD/BD titles including best new box sets for families and for grown-ups, best new DVDs/BDs for families, and even best new documentaries.  So stay tuned for all of that!

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International Collective’s Joint Album Tops Phil’s Picks’ 2017 Top 10 New World Music Albums List

Courtesy: World Circuit

World Music, it seems, is one of the most under appreciated genres in the vast universe of music.  That at least seems to be the case among American audiences.  Hopefully this critic is wrong in that interpretation.  Yet, when one looks at the fact that most World Music is relegated to public radio stations instead of having any major mainstream presence, one can’t help but think that it is not one of the most commercially accepted genres.  Ironically, those who give World Music a chance will find that it is in fact quite the interesting realm, as has been proven again by this year’s new field of World Music offerings.

This year has seen a wide array of interesting new World Music albums.  From South America to Africa to the Middle East and even to Spain, the World Music Realm has produced albums from around the globe that deserve at least one listen if not more.  Topping this year’s list of the best new World Music offerings is Ladilikan, the most recent recording from Mali-based Trio Da Kali.  Joining the group on the new album is the famed American string group Kronos Quartet.  The arrangements created by this collective are works that simply must be heard to be fully appreciated.  Also included in this year’s list are new compilations from Putumayo World Music featuring Italian and Cuban selections alongside Argentinian artist Fer Isella’s new album The Art of the Possible among others.

As with every one of this critic’s previous lists, this collection features this critic’s Top 10 Best New Albums in their category, with five additional honorable mention titles.  That brings the count to 15 total.  Without any further ado, here for you is Phil’s Picks’ 2017 Top 10 New World Music albums.

  1. Trio Da Kali & Kronos Quartet — Ladilikan
  2. Red Baraat — Bhangra Pirates
  3. Music Action Ensemble — Foundation
  4. Fer Isella — The Art of the Possible
  5. Synthesize The Soul — Astro-Atlantic Hypnotica From The Cape Verde Islands 1973 – 1988
  6. Las Cafeteras — Tastes Like L.A.
  7. Putumayo World Music Presents — Cuba! Cuba!
  8. Putumayo World Music Presents — Classic Italia
  9. Battle of Santiago — La Migra
  10. Ani Cordero — Querido Mundo
  11. Jenny & The Mexicats — Open Sea
  12. Delia Derbyshire Appreciation Society — Delia Derbyshire Appreciation Society
  13. Free Radicals — Outside The Comfort Zone
  14. Tamikrest — Kidal
  15. Tinariwen — Elwan

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Ala.Ni’s Debut LP Proves To Be A Solid Offering On Phil’s Picks’ 2017 Top 10 New Jazz & Blues Albums List

Courtesy: Missing Piece Records

2017 has been a good year fans of jazz and the blues.  From more established acts such as Diana Krall, Charlie Watts, Trombone Shorty and Diana Panton to new yet equally promising acts such as Ala.Ni, Nova Collective and others, both genres, which despite their musical differences are still related to one another, have turned out a mass of enjoyable (and in some cases surprisingly) impressive albums.  Ala.Ni’s debut album You & I is one of those surprising releases.  It also tops this critic’s list of the year’s top new Jazz & Blues albums.  Also on this year’s list is Argentine musician Fer Isella’s latest LP The Art of The Possible, new offerings from Putumayo and Music Action Ensemble’s new album Foundation among others.

This year was not an easy one to choose top records.  Charlie Watts, who is known just as much for his jazz work as for his work with his band mates in The Rolling Stones, released quite the impressive new offering this year in Charlie Watts Meets The Danish Radio Big Band. Taj Mahal and Keb Mo partnered for the simply titled TajMo.  Even veteran blues man John Mayall is still going strong.  He released his new album Talk About That this year, too.  Back on the jazz side, Charles Lloyd and his new group of fellow musicians released their own standout offering in the form of Passin’ Thru.  Even here, there is so much to say.  Simply put, coming up with a final list for this year’s new jazz and blues albums was not easy because of the level of talent exhibited across the board.  So no dishonor was meant to any act on this year’s list.   

As is the case with each Phil’s Picks list, this list features the Top 10 Albums on the list and five additional honorable mention titles.  Enough rambling.  Without any further ado, here for you is Phil’s Picks’ 2017 Top 10 New Jazz & Blues Albums.

PHIL’S PICKS 2017 TOP 10 NEW JAZZ & BLUES ALBUMS

  1. Ala.Ni — You & I
  2. Jazzmeia Horn — A Social Call
  3. Diana Panton — Solstice/Equinox
  4. Charlie Watts — Charlie Watts Meets The Danish Radio Big Band
  5. Taj Mahal & Keb Mo — TajMo
  6. Charles Lloyd New Quartet — Passin’ Thru
  7. Diana Krall — Turn Up The Quiet
  8. Charnett Moffett — Music From Our Soul
  9. Fer Isella — The Art of the Possible
  10. Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band — Lay It On Down
  11. Courtney Pine — Black Notes From The Deep
  12. Trombone Shorty — Parking Lot Symphony
  13. Music Action Ensemble — Foundation
  14. John Mayall — Talk About That
  15. Jimmy Greene — FlowersBeautiful Life, Vol. 2

Again, this was NOT an easy list to assemble.  This critic still feels rough coming to terms with the list.  That is because so many great jazz and blues records were released this year including new material from Elvin Bishop and so many others.  Even with that in mind, the list noted here is this critic’s final choice for this year’s top new jazz and blues albums.  Now with this list completed, there is still plenty more to go including the year’s top new Rap/Hip-hop albums, reggae albums, rock and hard rock albums as well as the year’s top albums overall.  There are also a bunch of categories for DVDs and Blu-rays including box sets for families and for older audiences, new live DVDs and Blu-rays, etc.  So stay tuned!

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‘The Art Of The Possible’ Proves True Art Is Possible Even In Its Simplest Form

Courtesy: Limbo Music/Metamusic

Big things often can and do come in small packages.  Everyone has said or heard that adage (or some variant thereof) plenty of time throughout life.  It is an adage that means exactly what it states.  Something doesn’t have to be big to be “big.”  Musician/producer Fer Isella’s brand new full-length studio recording The Art of the Possible is proof positive that sometimes, big things truly can and do come in small packages.  Officially released in stores and online today, this Argentine’s nine-song album is an effort that is excellence in its simplest form as is evidenced in the songs themselves.  This will be discussed shortly.  The songs’ arrangements support that statement just as much as the songs themselves.  The record’s sequencing is a fine accent point to the album, too.  When it is considered along with the simplicity of the album’s songs and their arrangements, the whole of the album proves to be one of this year’s biggest and best surprises.

Fer Isella’s latest full-length studio recording The Art of the Possible is a work that shows great art is possible even when the smallest, simplest approach is taken in creating said art.  That is made clear in part through the nine songs presented in this pleasantly surprising new offering from the Argentine artist/producer.  The piano-driven songs presented here are fully instrumental works.  There are no vocals. There is no overdubbing.  There is nothing but Isella, a piano and a room.  Suffice it to say that this minimalist approach led to the creation of a group of heartfelt songs that will touch listeners more deeply than even the most saccharine sweet songs ever created both mainstream and otherwise.  This is proven clearly in the songs composed for Isella’s family—‘Dan,’ ‘Sof’ and ‘Cin’—just as much as in ‘Pendulum,’ ‘Conversation’ and the album’s other works.  Each song evokes a different emotion and tells a different story, with the end result being listeners’ ensured continued engagement.  Of course that engagement is only assured because of the time and thought put into the songs’ arrangements.

The arrangements that are presented throughout this record show great thought and consideration in each work.  The time and effort put into each arrangement creates a different musical tapestry in each work.  From perhaps two people walking and talking in an early fall mountain setting in the album’s opener ‘Conversation’ to someone perhaps sitting and wishing for that special someone alone in a park in ‘Desire’ to something far more frantic in ‘Pendulum,’ and plenty of other musical mattes, the pictures that Isella paints through his songs are certain to be different for every listener. These interpretations are only those of this critic. That aside, Isella’s clear ability to paint such vivid pictures through his simple arrangements (which at times feel like they could be used for some major big budget drama’s soundtrack) and evoke such deep emotion in the process shows once more the importance of the album’s arrangements.  It shows from start to finish that arrangements don’t have to be big productions in order to be themselves big.  Keeping this in mind, the show why the simplicity in the songs’ arrangements is just as important to this record’s success as the simplicity in Isella’s approach to the songs themselves.  Even with this in mind, the songs’ arrangements are collectively just one more way in which TAOTP impresses.  Its sequencing serves to make it impressive just as much as its arrangements and its songs.

The sequencing of TAOTP plays its own part in the album’s enjoyment because it shows, too, a certain amount of thought and consideration.  Over the course of the album’s first three songs, Isella keeps the album’s energy relatively gentle and smooth while still managing to evoke, again, so many different emotions through each work’s arrangement.  That energy audibly changes even more as he takes listeners through two of the album’s three songs that pay tribute to his family—‘Dan’ and ‘Sof.’  The energy exuded in ‘Dan’ is slightly higher than that of the album’s first three songs, yet is still controlled for lack of better wording.  In the same breath, ‘Sof’ is the polar opposite of ‘Dan.’ It somewhat continues the musical theme presented in ‘Dan,’ yet is so much more reserved than that song. It echoes the gentility exhibited in the album’s first three songs.  ‘Pendulum’ switches things up yet again with its energy of someone confused and almost frantic in his or her mindset about something.  That change of pace from the energies in the song’s predecessors is certain yet again to keep listeners engaged.  The record’s last three compositions—‘Cin,’ ‘Story’ and ‘Farewell’—pull the record’s energy back once more, depositing listeners gently on the same shore from whence they were lifted in the album’s opener, leaving them feeling wholly fulfilled.  That emotion, when considered with the other emotions generated throughout the rest of the album, reminds listeners once again of the time and thought obviously put into the album’s sequencing.  That effort, when considered along with the effort put into the album’s songs and their arrangements, creates an album that in whole is one of the year’s biggest musical surprises; a record that is in this critic’s view, one of the year’s best new album’s overall. It shows that true art is possible even with the simplest approach.  More information on The Art of the Possible is available online now at http://www.ferisella.com.

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