current listening 08/11/12

+ Herbie Hancock: Maiden Voyage (1965) – Over 45 years on, Maiden Voyage remains the jewel of Hancock’s 1960s Blue Note catalogue. The personnel replicates the Miles Davis Quintet of the previous year (with the newly departed George Coleman returning on sax and Freddie Hubbard in for Davis), but the music is an original mix of jagged bop (Eye of the Hurricane) and serene lyricism (the title tune). It remains a lovely listen.

+ Pink Floyd: A Saucerful of Secrets (1968) – The torch is passed here from Syd Barrett to David Gilmour as Pink Floyd settles into the lineup that would last through the making of The Wall. Secrets sounds somewhat dated in its overtly psychedelic slant. But that’s half the fun. Gilmour and Roger Waters, even then, were the figureheads. But Richard Wright’s keyboard colors give Secrets its texture, mystery and, ultimately, allure.

+ Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Year of the Horse (1997) – Granted, Year of the Horse was the third live album in as many decades to team Young with his longstanding garage rock troupe Crazy Horse. And, yes, some of the repertoire spills over from the previous concert records. But the playing here is outrageous, whether it is through the funereal reading of Human Highway or the electric bludgeoning of Slipaway. A brutal gem.

+ Fairport Convention: Babbacombe Lee (1971) – A tip to the seminal British folk-rock band’s annual summer festival, which takes places this weekend. Babbacombe Lee tells the story of an Englishman, convicted of murder, who survives multiple attempts of execution by hanging. The tale is almost Dickensian. But the music, full of dramatic harmonies and traditional-meets-progressive interplay, is all Fairport.

+ Various Artists: The Harder They Come (2002/1972) – Still can’t stop listening to reggae star Jimmy Cliff’s outstanding comeback album, Rebirth. The record also pushed me to rediscover the 2002 reissue of The Harder They Come. Often mistaken for a Cliff album, this soundtrack-and-more set is actually a reggae primer with invigorating rhythms by The Maytals, Desmond Dekkar and a youthful Cliff at his mightiest.

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