GOING BACK HOME
Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey (Chess)
Wilko Johnson, former guitarist of rabble-rousing 1970s British rockers Dr. Feelgood, is enjoying a bittersweet late-career surge.
Johnson's jagged playing and menacing stare helped give Dr. Feelgood's bluesy rock an infectious, raucous energy. The band was briefly a sensation and foreshadowed punk's anarchic spirit.
Then the group imploded and Johnson spent years as a cult hero, cherished by a tight coterie of fans.
Last year Johnson was diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer; vowing to rock until the end, he set out on a farewell tour.
And finally the world is taking notice. There have been sold-out shows, a slot at this summer's Glastonbury Festival and now an album with Roger Daltrey, lead singer of The Who.
Inspired by a shared love of early British rockers such as Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, Going Back Home is deliberately rough-edged and retro — even the label, Chess Records, is a heritage brand resurrected for the release.
Recorded in a week with producer Dave Eringa and Johnson's touring band, its 11 tracks include 10 Johnson compositions, from the Feelgood days through his solo career.
The title track sets the tone of robust, rocking R&B. Daltrey growls lustily over Johnson's choppy riffs and it's spiced with lashings of dirty harmonica from Steve Weston and galumphing piano from ex-Style Council keyboardist Mick Talbot.
Songs like Keep It Out of Sight and All Through the City have a swaggering energy and raw yearning. Some Kind of Hero is a meaty slice of the blues on the evergreen topic of a cheatin' woman, but the lyrical bravado is laced with British self-deprecation: "I wish I was some kind of hero."
The album's rough-hewn quality is less of an asset on a ballad like Turned 21 or a cover of Bob Dylan's Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window.
Going Back Home is not going to win awards for innovation, but it's feisty fun and a rousing testament to a distinctive figure in British rock history.
— JILL LAWLESS,
Jane Ira Bloom (Outline)
The first thing listeners notice about soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom is her gorgeous tone. But on this disc — her 15th album as a bandleader and her first devoted exclusively to ballads — there's something equally beautiful about her musical vision and interpretation.
Nine of the 14 songs are American songbook classics; the other five are Bloom originals. Many have a wayward, peaceful serenity to them while captivating listeners with a style developed by a woman renowned jazz critic Bill Milkowski has described as "a restlessly creative spirit, and a modern day role model for any aspiring musician who dares to follow his or her own vision."
Bloom, who has performed at most of New York's most prestigious concert halls, is a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, a winner of the Downbeat International Critics Poll for soprano saxophone, and a multiple winner of the Jazz Journalists Award for Soprano Sax of the Year.
— TOM HENRY
ANOTHER LONG NIGHT OUT
Brian Culbertson (BCM Entertainment)
If Another Long Night Out sounds familiar to Brian Culbertson fans, that's because it is: The disc is a remake of his debut album, Long Night Out, done in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the original record's release.
For the original, Culbertson performed on a variety of instruments and recorded on a shoestring budget in a crowded apartment while he was a 20-year-old music major at DePaul University in Chicago. This time, the keyboardist-trombonist and man of many talents is in a professional studio and, at times, is backed by a 38-piece orchestra, with contributions from many stars in the contemporary jazz-pop scene, such as Fourplay's Chuck Loeb, Jimmy Haslip, Nathan East and Will Kennedy of Yellowjackets fame, Toto's Steve Lukather, and others.
While there are times the project sounds a little more pop than contemporary jazz, it's catchy, upbeat and something that Culbertson feels got him to refocus on his contemporary jazz roots after recent forays into R & B and funk. The sound is generally fun and lively.
Another Long Night Out is Culbertson's 14th album and his sixth to debut at a No. 1 spot on the album charts.