Evidence for a real resurgence of interest in vinyl is at big box retailers -- online and in brick-and-mortars: they are stocking turntables again. They vary in price and quality from mid-level items to budget portables, from heavyweight DJ battlers to portable USB units that hook up to a computer without a preamp and convert vinyl to MP3 or CD. There are more catalog titles -- both classic and obscure -- as well as new (mostly) indie titles coming out weekly; they are available on the internet and at discriminating (again, mostly indie) shops -- including the LPs whose covers adorn the top of this post. There are more titles coming every week. Good-quality domestic pressings are inexpensive for the most part (somewhere between nine and 12 dollars). Audiophile ones -- 150 grams or better -- are more expensive but still affordable when you consider the list price for CDs. We'll get to a few new and reissued titles each week to let you know what's out there. Here are a few reissues that catch both the eyes and ears.
Sabu's Jazz Espagnole is the classic Latin jazz date led by the great percussionist Sabu Martinez in 1961. A furiously intense and thoroughly musical date, it is both a proper introduction to Latin jazz and a fitting summation on the genre for the 1950s, yet points in the direction it would move toward in the '60s. Check this sample of Horace Silver's "Nica's Dream" as re-tooled by Sabu and company.
Motown session guitarist and all around funkmeister Dennis Coffey issued this killer slice of licorice pizza after the success of the musical Hair in the early 1970s. There are a couple of covers of the more famous tunes on the soundtrack from -- "Let the Sunshine In," "Aquarius" -- but they've been literally transformed into funky psychedelicized screamers. Recorded in 1968 and originally issued on the Maverick label (no relation to the imprint Madonna once owned), it features his hometown mainman Lyman Woodard on organ and his regular unit knocking down additional covers of "Hey Jude" and "It's Your Thing" (issued as a single and retitled "It's Your Thang"), and a slew of other "thang"-related orignals -- "Iceberg's Thang," "Electric Thang," etc. It's a killer set of all-killer, no-filler grooviness with screaming fuzz guitar, popping drum breaks, and an all-around vibe that shines with greasy groove throughout.
Lou Reed's mighty Transformer needs little introduction as a true rock classic. With it's signature "Walk on the Wild Side" and the truly beautiful "Satellite of Love," an unrecognized anthem for the glam era, and the lilting "Perfect Day," it went miles beyond his self-titled -- but still great -- debut; it pushed the boundaries of his time with the Velvet Underground toward something idiosyncratically iconoclastic and would establish him firmly as a solo performer.
Thinking of Home was tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley's final album for Blue Note Records. It features a compelling and unusual band for the leader, with Woody Shaw on trumpet, pianist Cedar Walton, guitarist Eddie Diehl, Leroy Williams on drums, Mickey Bass on bass, and Leroy Williams on drums. The music here takes a different path than the reliably hip, soulful hard-bop dates Mobley recorded from the 1950s on. The album features two really extended tracks, such as the ten-minute-plus opener "Suite" that brings in his deep soul cry but is also modally adventurous with some spiritual soul jazz overtones. The same goes for the 13-minute "Justine." (Here's a sample.)There are some tough groove moments here as well. This record isn't talked about much, but it deserves a new hearing.
That Enter the Dragon was the original big-daddy kung-fu flick is not debatable. Bruce Lee's almost supernatural moves and gravity-defying kicks are still truly amazing to watch in the 21st century. Fewer people, however, talk about this phenomenal score composed by Lalo Schifrin. Taking what he understood to be Chinese folk themes, and inserting them into tough, lean, and mean bass-and-drum grooves, spacey wah-wah'd electric guitars; and, of course, punchy, blasting, funky horn charts with strings. (Check this sample of "The Big Battle.") It not only accompanied the film but moved its narrative along at a breathtaking pace and stands alone as a piece of music.