2015’s Top New Albums Come From Across The Musical Universe

The countdown is near, folks. And with the end of the year nearly here, the end of Phil’s Picks’ year-enders is officially here. We have finally come down to the last of this year’s “Best Of” lists. To close out this year’s group of year-enders we come full circle and finish where we started; back in the music world. To close out 2015, Phil’s Picks offers up its list of the year’s top new albums overall. This list was anything but easy to compile. That is because the top 10 albums and five honorable mention titles really represent so many galaxies within the musical universe. There’s some blues in this list courtesy of The Rev.Shawn Amos in this list. Salvador Santana, Carlos Santana’s son is also on this list, along with Pimps of Joytime and Fort Knox Five representing the rap and hip-hop galaxies. George Strait, The King of Country himself, is also here as are Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. Even jazz great Terence Blanchard gets a nod as do Joe Satriani and electro-rock duo NYVES. There are others included here. And they are noted in the list below. Being that each album comes from a different part of the musical universe, figuring each album’s place in this list was what really made assembling this list so tough. The ability of listeners to take in the album without skipping tracks was taken into account as was each album’s production values and combined lyrical and musical content. That goes back to the albums’ ability to keep listeners fully engaged from start to finish. So no offense was meant to any act in its placement on this list. EVERY one of the albums included in this list was far more than deserving of being included in this list. That taken into consideration the following is the final list of this year’s top overall albums from Phil’s Picks. And as always, the top 10 albums make up the main body of the list while the bottom five each receive honorable mention. Without any further ado here for your reading pleasure dear readers, is the Phil’s Picks 2015 Top 10 New Albums. Happy New Year!

PHIL’S PICKS 2015 TOP 10 NEW ALBUMS

1. BOARDWALK EMPIRE: BOARDWALK EMPIRE VOLUME 3

2. JUDITH HALL: BACK IN TIME

3. SALVADOR SANTANA: FANTASY REALITY

4. GEORGE STRAIT: COLD BEER CONVERSATION

5. WILLIE NELSON & MERLE HAGGARD: DJANGO & JIMMIE

6. SCALE THE SUMMIT: V

7. JOE SATRIANI: SHOCKWAVE SUPERNOVA

8. BLACKBERRY SMOKE: HOLDING ALL THE ROSES

9. FORT KNOX FIVE: PRESSURIZE THE CABIN

10. PIMPS OF JOYTIME: JUKESTONE PARADISE

11. NYVES: ANXIETY

12. DELTA RAE: AFTER IT ALL

13. THE REV. SHAWN AMOS: THE REV. SHAWN AMOS LOVES YOU

14. SUGARCANE JANE: DIRT ROAD’S END

15. TERENCE BLANCHARD: BREATHLESS

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Blanchard’s New Album Will Leave Listeners Breathless

Courtesy:  Blue Note Records

Courtesy: Blue Note Records

Famed trumpet player Terence Blanchard has seemingly done it all since first becoming a household name some thirty-five years ago with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra. He has remained one of the most influential musicians in the music industry throughout that time. He has also composed and arranged some of the most beloved songs that music lovers and moviegoers have ever heard. He has also become a well-respected educator. Considering this, one would think that Blanchard would be happy doing everything that he does. Apparently he is not one to rest easily on his laurels, having released countless studio recordings and movie soundtracks throughout his career. This past May, Blanchard added to his already extensive catalogue of recordings when he released his latest studio effort Breathless. Released May 26th via Blue Note Records, Breathless is an aptly titled record. That is because it will in fact leave listeners breathless with awe with its thirteen total tracks. The songs that make up the body of the record will leave audiences so in awe primarily because of their diversity. Blanchard doesn’t stick solely to the realm of jazz in this album. Rather he expands out into other musical avenues throughout the course of the record, presenting pieces that audiences of all tastes will appreciate. The structure of the songs is also of note. That is especially the case in regards to the more jazz and fusion oriented pieces. The attention to detail in regards to those songs’ structures will keep listeners entirely engaged even despite the length of some of said compositions. Last but not least worth noting of Breathless that makes it an aptly titled album is the sequencing of the album’s songs. Just as much attention was paid to the general effect of the album in its sequencing as to the creation of the songs themselves. That element, when set alongside the structure of the songs, and their diverse nature, completes the album and shows in full why Breathless will indeed leave listeners breathless in the best possible way.

Terence Blanchard’s latest full-length studio release Breathless is an aptly titled album. As noted already, that is because it will in fact leave listeners breathless in the best possible way. The main way in which it leaves audiences so in awe is in its selection of songs. Throughout the course of the album’s thirteen tracks, Blanchard and his fellow musicians–Oscar Seaton (drums), Donald Ramsey (bass), Charles Altura (guitar), Fabian Almazan (keyboards, electronics), and P.J. Morton (vocals)–do not stick solely to one style of music. Blanchard’s jazz roots are there in the form of the Miles Davis-esque ‘See Me As I Am’ and the more smooth jazz style ‘Everglades.’ ‘Shutting Down’ exhibits blatant R&B sounds, and ‘Compared to What,’ the album’s opener, exhibits a clear funk style vibe. There is even a song in ‘Cosmic Warrior’ that could be argued to have something of a rock influence. That obviously doesn’t even cover all of the songs featured throughout the course of the album’s seventy-eight minute run time. Along with everything else already noted, Blanchard and company have also included a pair of semi-spoken word pieces of sorts in the form of ‘Samadhi’ and the album’s title track. Those wanting something with a little more energy will enjoy the fusion style of ‘Confident Selflessness.’ If all of that isn’t enough, the funk/hip hop hybrid sound of ‘Soldiers’ will impress listeners. That sound combines with that of the other noted songs and that of the compositions not noted to display a variety of sounds that will impress listeners of all ages and in turn keep said listeners engaged from start to finish. That variety is within itself plenty of reason for listeners of all ages to take in Breathless. In giving it a chance, those listeners that do will agree that such a swath of sounds in itself will leave them breathless and in awe. It is just the tip of the iceberg in what makes Breathless such an aptly titled record, too. The structure of many of the songs is just as certain to leave listeners breathless.

The diverse range of sounds displayed throughout the course of Breathless’ thirteen tracks is within itself certain to leave listeners breathless and in awe by the time the record ends. Of course as key as this is to the record’s enjoyment, the structure of the songs is just as important to note. ‘Everglades,’ the album’s third track is proof positive of the importance of the songs’ structures. ‘Everglades’ runs a total of fourteen minutes and thirty-four seconds. For many listeners, that may seem like a rather long run time. However those that allow themselves to be immersed in the song will hear for themselves just why the song’s structure is so important in relation to its run time. The song is split clearly into a definitive ABC pattern over the course of its run time. Throughout the course of those three sections, the song doesn’t just switch from one section to the next. Rather it evolves as it progresses, starting softly and growing until it reaches its climax roughly halfway through. From there, it switches very quickly, gradually descending in intensity straight through to the song’s closing seconds. The song’s balance as it rises and falls makes its fourteen-minute plus run time feel much less. Simply put, it makes that run time feel like little more than a background note for lack of better wording.

The well thought out structure of ‘Everglades’ is within itself solid proof of the importance of the overall structure of Breathless’ songs in its enjoyment. It’s just one example of the importance of the songs’ structure in the record’s overall impact. ‘See Me As I Am,’ the album’s second song is another example of the importance of song structure to the album’s enjoyment. This song is in part a direct throwback to Miles Davis’ legendary album Kind of Blue thanks to Blanchard’s smooth work on the trumpet alongside the talents of his band mates. The song comes in at nearly nine minutes (8:53 to be exact). Yet its structure (its arrangement) makes that run time just as inconsequential as that of ‘Everglades.’ Its arrangement encourages listeners to close their eyes and take in the music. Those listeners that do take it in will note how time seems to simply slip by as the song progresses. That is again thanks to the attention paid to the song’s structure as it was being composed and performed. Understanding this, audiences will once again agree why the structure (arrangement) of the songs is just as pivotal to leaving listeners breathless and in awe by the album’s end as the diversity of the songs themselves.

‘Everglades’ and ‘See Me As I Am’ are both solid examples of why the arrangements, or structures, of Breathless’ songs are so important to the album’s enjoyment overall. ‘Compared To What’ is one more example of the importance of the structure of the songs in the bigger picture of the album’s enjoyment. At five minutes and forty-nine seconds, it is not the album’s shortest song. Nor is it the album’s longest. But it does exceed the standard three to five-minute run time of most mainstream songs. Audiences will note in regards to this song’s arrangement that it keeps the energy flowing from start to finish. At no one point from start to finish does it let up. Its sustained energy makes it a perfect choice to open the album and an equally solid lead-in to the more reserved sound of ‘See Me As I Am’ before the rest of the album progresses. Speaking of the rest of the album, this composition is just one more of so many included in Breathless that could be used to exemplify the importance of the songs’ structure in the enjoyment of the record in whole. The structure of those other songs together with that of the pieces noted here shows in whole why together with the choice of songs, Breathless will leave listeners breathless and in total awe of the talents of Blanchard and his band mates.

The structure, or arrangement, of each of Breathless’ songs taken into consideration along with the choice of songs featured throughout the record show clearly why this record will leave listeners breathless in the best way possible. While both elements together play an important, collective role in the success and enjoyment of Breathless, they are not all that should be noted in that success and enjoyment. The sequencing of the songs is noteworthy, too. Listeners will note that from its high-energy opener to the laid back grooves of its title track to the deeper, and at times heavier sound of ‘Cosmic Warrior’ to the gentle tones of the album’s closer ‘Midnight,’ the sequencing of each of the album’s songs proves quite important in its own right to the enjoyment and success of this standout album. The energy level of each song in relation to the other makes the album’s near eighty-minute run time pass by in the best way possible, leaving. By the end, listeners will feel completely satisfied knowing that they have just heard an album that once again will leave them breathless in the best way possible.

Terence Blanchard’s latest full-length LP is a surprisingly enjoyable new release. From start to finish, the thirteen-track record shows in a number of ways just what makes it such an enjoyable collection of songs. The ways in which it does so include: its diverse selection of songs, the structure, or arrangement of said songs, and the overall sequencing of those songs. All three elements prove to be of equal importance in the enjoyment of this album. Collectively, they prove with the fullest clarity why Breathless will leave listeners breathless in the best way possible. Breathless is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from Blue Note Records’ online store at http://bluenote.shop.bravadousa.com/Product.aspx?cp=60921&pc=BGCDBU37. More information on Breathless is available now online along with all of the latest news and more from Terence Blanchard at:

Website: http://www.terenceblanchard.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TerenceBlanchardJazz

Twitter: http://twitter.com/T_Blanchard

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