Pushing the Envelope 2011 Favorite Recordings – Part 1

2Jan

Pushing the Envelope 2011 Favorite Recordings – Part 1

Considering the rigors of being a middle-aged grad student, I’m not surprised that a lot of my picks were closer to my personal listening palette, a bit more prog, percussive, and minimal.  A number of these releases were like comfort food for my addled brain.

Morgan Agren / Henry Kaiser / Trey Gunn                     Invisible Rays                        7d Media  http://www.7media.com

- Wow!  A year’s end surprise, to say the least!  Three guys I wouldn’t have thought of to be playing together in one place. Avant-prog improvs, both brief and extended, with each player bringing his A game.

Jakko Jakszyk, Mel Collins, & Robert Fripp                      Scarcity of Miracles             Discipline Global Mobile http://www.dgmlive.com/

- Two King Crimson alumni (Fripp & Collins) and one once removed (21st Century Schizoid Band which featured Jakszyk and Collins) unite to create a fascinating fusion of Fripp’s searing leads and washes of sound, Collins dynamic and lyrical reed work, along with Jakszyk’s gorgeous multi-tracked vocals and guitar work. Beautiful to listen to though a bit homogenous in tone by album’s end.  Still, highly recommended.

The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra                                        All Out of Peaches               New Folk Records http://www.galacticcowboyorchestra.com

- Prog-fusion is not dead, to say the least.  Kind of Mahavishnu meets the Dixie Dregs.

Agents of Mercy                                                                  The Black Forest                   Foxtrot Music http://www.agentsofmercy.com

- The label name’s Genesis reference should give you a hint where these Swedish prog guys are coming from.  Led by TheFlower King’s Roine Stoldt, Agents of Mercy harken back to that classic progressive sound with dynamic guitar work reinforced with that great melloton and analog synths sound courtesy of keyboard players, Nad Sylvan and Lalle Larsson.

Peter Gabriel                                                                        New Blood                             Real World/Virgin http://petergabriel.com/newblood/

- A representative sample of PG’s catalog recontextualized via new and original vocals coupled with new orchestral arrangements, brilliantly adding greater gravitas to both the music and the lyrics.