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Lullabies by Dave Brubeck: Brubeck, who died in 2012, made this solo-piano recording 10 years ago. And it lives up (or down, as the case may be) to its name. The familiar melodies (“Over the Rainbow,” “Danny Boy,” “Summertime,” “There’s No Place Like Home,” “Brahms Lullaby” twice), simple arrangements, and gentleness—an unexpected quality coming from a pianist whose detractors often derided him for “heavy-handedness”—makes it ideal drifting-off-to-dreamland music, especially for babies and toddlers. So what’s in it for adults? Five Brubeck originals that would’ve made a dandy EP and the gentlest of which (“Going to Sleep,” “Softly, William, Softly,” “Koto Song”) are well worth staying awake for.
Good Luck With Whatever by Dawes: To be clear, Taylor Goldsmith is not a Christian. “I’m not getting into heaven, and I don’t believe in hell,” he sings in “None of My Business.” And in “Between the Zero and the One” he consults the tarot. He is, however, a keen observer of both his fellow man and himself, particularly when it comes to the temptation to outsource one’s sense of self-worth. Faith healers, fame, cell phones, TV, perpetual youth—all of them come up wanting. What doesn’t is the country-rock sprezzatura with which Dawes helps the medicine go down. Even if Goldsmith hadn’t used the word “desperado” in “Me Especially,” the Eagles would be proud. And maybe jealous.
Blessings by Aled Jones: The Welsh tenor Aled Jones has the type of vocal tone that’s often described as “golden.” Pure and ductile yet with no aspirations either to pop or to opera (looking at you, Andrea Bocelli and Jim Nabors), it’s why the marketing genre known as “classical crossover” exists. It’s also proof that not everything labeled as such is a mere shadow of something more substantial. Every detail of the recording, from the track selection and the orchestra to the guest vocalists (the Priests, Susan Boyle, Libera, Sami Yusuf, a recording of Jones himself as a boy soprano) and the guest reciters (Judi Dench, Brian Blessed, the D-Day veteran Harry Billinge), contributes to a sense of benediction.
Good Luck, Seeker by the Waterboys: To be clear, Mike Scott is not a Christian. He not only comes out in the title cut for occultist Dion Fortune but even includes the mailing address of her “esoteric” organization in the lyrics (which, for maximum clarity, he recites rather than sings). He is, however, open to Christian influence: “The Golden Work” (which, for minimum clarity, he sings through a vocoder) borrows enough from the Arthurian poetry of Charles Williams to merit the Inkling a composer credit. And, musically, Scott’s refusal to discriminate yields a bumper crop of catchy surprises. Techno, R&B, folk, pop—plus the best (only?) songs ever about Van Morrison (“The Soul Singer”) and Dennis Hopper (“Dennis Hopper”).
Time Outtakes (Brubeck Editions) is a recently discovered collection of alternate takes from the sessions that produced Time Out, the 1959 album by the Paul Desmond, Gene Wright, Joe Morello iteration of the Dave Brubeck Quartet that featured the smash single “Take Five”/“Blue Rondo à la Turk” and that even now remains one of the bestselling jazz albums ever. It accumulated a quarter of its sales, however, within the first four years of its release, a statistic that testifies to its gradually diminishing appeal as less-buttoned-down jazz styles have come to define authenticity and genius.
In this context, Time Outtakes’ seven tracks (eight if you count the botched-take montage “Band Banter”) feel more like footnotes than like a secret history. “Blue Rondo,” for instance, although two minutes longer than on Time Out, sounds pretty much the same. Still, it’s interesting to hear a “Take Five” in which Brubeck sits out the drum solo, allowing Morello two minutes and 40 seconds of long-overdue spotlight. —A.O.
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