2017 Holiday Gift Guide...The Next Five

We covered the first five gift ideas last week, so here’s another five. Granted, time is running short, and relying on Amazon or another online retailer to make a delivery before December 25 is risky. That takes nothing away from the quality of these releases. You can also go to an actual record store (if you can find one) and pick these up. If that doesn't work work out don’t despair because they’re so good, they make great gifts for any occasion, any time of the year.

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Chasing Trane:
The John Coltrane Documentary

Jazz saxophonist John Coltrane was not a vintage rocker by any means, yet his impact on the rock and roll community cannot be underestimated. Just ask the Doors or Carlos Santana — both of whom have repeatedly praised Coltrane as a major influence. For those who don’t understand and want to expand their horizons, Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary may be the answer. Written and directed by John Scheinfeld, the film details the musician’s rise through the circuit, playing with Miles Davis, losing the gig because of drug use, and making a comeback after regaining his sobriety, imprinting his style, and embarking on a spiritual quest.

While the movie includes rare photos and rare film footage (family home movies, studio sessions), much of Coltrane's story is told by musicians he knew and worked with (Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Reggie Workman), as well as musicians he influenced (Common, The Doors' John Densmore, Wynton Marsalis, Carlos Santana, Wayne Shorter, Kamasi Washington), his children (Antonia, Ravi, Oran and Michelle), and admirers (President Bill Clinton and Dr. Cornel West). Even though the film has no interviews or words spoken by Coltrane himself, his reflections and writings are brought to life by actor Denzel Washington.

The film’s DVD and Blu-ray include a booklet with an essay by Scheinfeld, along with photos from the movie. The soundtrack's booklet also includes photos from the movie, plus an essay by esteemed jazz journalist Ashley Kahn, another talking head in the film. While there have been other attempts to capture the essence of John Coltrane and his music in various film treatments, Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary provides a credible account of how the man transcended his circumstances and left an indelible mark that still resonates in the hearts and minds of young and old fans around the world.

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The Concert In Hyde Park

Paul Simon

After Simon & Garfunkel split in the early 70s, Paul Simon went on to a successful solo career that carries on to this day. So, it was no surprise when he drew thousands of fans to his concert in London’s Hyde Park on July 15, 2012. There, Simon played an all-encompassing, three-hour set that included his biggest solo hits (“Kodachrome,” “Mother And Child Reunion,” “Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard,” “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover”), as well as two Simon & Garfunkel classics. Several special guests also joined Simon, including reggae singer Jimmy Cliff, guitarist Jerry Douglas, and the musicians and singers featured on the multi-platinum, award-winning Graceland album. Best of all, it was all captured on video and audio for the eventual release of The Concert In Hyde Park.

For the final show of the three-day 2012 Hard Rock Calling Festival (Soundgarden headlined the first show and Bruce Springsteen topped the lineup at the second one), Simon went all out with an outstanding band of A-list players and two dozen songs spanning his entire career. Opening with “Kodachrome,” Simon glows with confidence as he leads the ensemble through a songbook rich in harmony and musicality. As a sing of Simon’s band unparalleled musicianship, we occasionally see drummer Jim Oblon on guitar and guitarist Mark Stewart on harmonica and saxophone. Jimmy Cliff comes out to perform his songs “The Harder They Come” and “Many Rivers To Cross,” before Simon joins in for powerful renditions of Cliff’s “Vietnam” and his own “Mother And Child Reunion.”

All it takes is that famous drum shuffle to get the audience excited about “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.” And there’s discounting the flowing acoustics on “hearts And Bones.” Yet the major highlight of the whole show comes when Simon welcomes Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Hugh Masekela and other musicians who appeared on the Graceland album for a run through of nine songs from the album. Judging by the response, it’s obvious the crowd was eating up each and every note. Simon tackles “The Sound of Silence” on his own, and is then joined by Jerry Douglas, providing some tasty slide, and the rest of his band for “The Boxer.” It only makes sense the show ends with “Still Crazy After All These Years” because it doesn’t appear Paul Simon isn’t about to rest on his laurels as he continues to write, record and perform. By extension, The Concert In Hyde Park certainly puts the man’s career into proper perspective.

 

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Official Bootleg: Live In Chicago,
June 28th, 2017

King Crimson

King Crimson pump out live records almost as expeditiously as the Grateful Dead, and with the band back on the circuit and touring relentlessly, it’s no surprise, they’ve released four live albums since 2015. For 2017, Official Bootleg: Live In Chicago, June 28th, 2017, captures a show featuring an eight-piece configuration of Crimson covering a good portion of material from the 1970s, along with key tracks from the 60s, 80s, 00s, plus David Bowie’s “Heroes,” which originally included Crimson’s leader Robert Fripp originally on lead guitar.

The three-disc Radical Action To Unseat The Hold Of Monkey Mind with its seven-man lineup has many of those 70s pearls like “Picture Of A City” and “The Letters.” Live In Chicago digs deeper by adding “Cirkus” and “Lizard” (referred to as “The Lizard Suite”) from 1970’s Lizard, “Islands” from 1971’s Islands, and “Fallen Angel” from 1974’s Red. You’d think without Adrian Belew on board and Jakko Jaksyk’s voice more suited for the older songs, the set would veer away from anything Belew sang, but guess again. The troupe actually take on “Indiscipline” with Jaksyk completely changing the melody line and cadence. The song is virtually unrecognizable until you pick up on the chord progression, a splattering of incandescent drumming, and key lines like “I repeat myself when under stress.”

With so much at stake, and each show a monumental task, the set’s booklet goes to great lengths to explain the process of selecting a show for live release. After Fripp goes through the various incarnations of the band “in the form of a roughly scribed love letter,” the group’s manager David Singleton writes specifically how the Chicago show made the cut. Apparently, a performance from Vienna was being mixed for release until Fripp mentioned that “Chicago was exceptional.” For now, the Vienna show, which was from 2016, is on the back-burner, while Live In Chicago goes for broke with the “current eight-headed beast.” One spin through, and you’ll see why.

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Here's Little Richard
(Deluxe Edition)

Little Richard

At 85, Richard Penniman aka Little Richard is one of the last founding fathers of rock and roll still alive. While rumors abound that Little Richard is too old and frail to perform, he insists he still sings and stays active. Regardless, with his legacy secured and his influence undeniable, what better way to recognize the man’s genius than to revisit his debut album 60 years after its release. Here’s Little Richard was his most successful record, and the songs it spawned — “Long Tall Sally,” “Jenny, Jenny,” “Tutti Frutti,” "Ready Teddy," “Slippin' and Slidin'” and many others — are the foundation of rock and roll. A deluxe version from Craft Recordings features a remaster of the original album and a second disc of demos, alternate takes and previously unreleased material from the original sessions.

With seven hits in the R&B Top 10, and two in the Pop Top 10, Here's Little Richard is a definitive document of early rock in its most primal and rawest form. Along with the album’s 12 tracks, 22 more reveal the inner workings of each song in their formative stages or alternate states, including an early take of "Tutti Frutti," demos of "Slippin' and Slidin'" and "Miss Ann," and alternate takes of "Rip It Up" and "Reddy Teddy." Music journalist Chris Morris writes in the reissue’s liner notes that the alternate versions “reveal the blossoming of an unprecedented and wholly original talent whose first recordings broke down the categorical doors between R&B and pop.”

For Little Richard, who was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1993 Grammy Awards, and added to the NAACP Image Awards' Hall of Fame in 2002, the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003, and, the Blues Hall of Fame in 2015, a quirky, effeminate image and issues with drugs and alcohol never seemed to overshadow his impact as one of the rock’s first icons. Here's Little Richard is a sober reminder of the singer’s rightful place in history.

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Christmas With Elvis And
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Elvis Presley

The holidays wouldn’t be the same without the King, so this season RCA Records and Legacy Recordings decided to spice things up with Christmas With Elvis And The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, uniting some of Elvis Presley’s holiday classics with orchestral accompaniment recorded at Abbey Road studios in London. These new arrangements have been added to songs from Elvis’ Christmas Album (1957) and Elvis Sings The Wonderful World of Christmas (1971).

Following in the footsteps 2015’s If I Can Dream: Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and 2016’s The Wonder Of You: Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Christmas With Elvis And The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra comes in two configurations: a 13-track version and a deluxe version with four bonus tracks. Coming 60 years after Elvis' Christmas Album, the disc finds holiday classics like “White Christmas,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “Silver Bells” and “Silent Night” delivered with style and grandeur.

To hear “Blue Christmas” with the harmonies and an orchestral underlining simply redefines the ownership Presley took of the song when he first recorded it in 1957. “Santa Claus Is Back In Town” and “Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me),” written for Elvis’ Christmas Album, are equally engaging. And if you’re not moved by “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” then you might as well move to another universe. At the end of the day, I think we can all agree that everyone’s holiday needs a shot of Elvis to make it go down that much smoother.

 

~ Shawn Perry

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