Holiday Music Buying – Best of the New and Old

Now that Thanksgiving is in the rear view mirror, it’s fair to turn attention to holiday gifts.   In this era of downloads and Pandora, if you still enjoy the quaint custom of giving music to family and friends, here are some recommendations from the albums we’ve featured over the past year.

Among new albums, Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories”, Jake Bugg’s eponymous April release, and “The Colonel & The Governor” by Tommy Emmanuel and Martin Taylor are three superb choices.

Daft Punk weaves together a wide variety of influences and pulls in musicians like Omar Hakim and Nile Rodgers to add touches that can’t be synthesized.  “Random Access Memories” needs to be played a few times through to fully appreciate, but the investment of time is well worth it.

Jake Bugg’s eponymous album features a great set of songs ranging from raw rockers to soft acoustic ballads.    And Bugg is not resting on his laurels – he’s just released his second album this year, “Shangri La”.

“The Colonel & The Governor” is an exceptional instrumental jazz album from start to finish.  Two masterful musicians, complementing each other beautifully, on classic songs.

If you’d like to dig back into history and help round out a friend’s collection of classic albums, “Getz/Gilberto”, the groundbreaking Bossa Nova album, “Blue” by Joni Mitchell, and Stevie Wonder’s “Inner Visions” can’t be beat.

“Getz/Gilberto” introduced America to “The Girl from Ipanema” and many other Bossa Nova classics.  The mellow voices of Joao and Astrud Gilberto combined with Getz’s breathy sax are as intoxicating today as they were fifty years ago.

Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” includes many of her classic tunes as well as lesser known gems.  It’s a perfect album from start to finish – no filler. “River” is worth adding to your play list of sad, sentimental Christmas songs.

Stevie Wonder is – well – Stevie Wonder, and in a career of brilliance “Inner Visions” may the best of the best. The first track, “Too High”, features his trusty harmonica work and a great bass hook.

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What Do Martin Taylor, Joe Pass, Fred and Ginger, and Brian Wilson Have in Common?

Artists across generations and musical styles can always be united by great songs.  And no American songs have shown longer lasting and broader appeal than those of George and Ira Gershwin.

Last week’s post on Tommy Emmanuel also featured British jazz guitar virtuoso Martin Taylor. A quick search on YouTube uncovers Taylor’s version of the Gershwin brothers’ standard “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”. If you’d like to skip over the interview, the performance starts at 3:12.

One of Taylor’s influences is the late Joe Pass, icon of the chord/melody style of jazz guitar that Martin plays.  Enjoy Pass’ version of the same song from a 1992 performance.

The song was introduced in the 1937 movie “Shall We Dance” starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers. The clip below is a real treat.  It starts with Fred singing the song to Ginger in “Shall We Dance” and ends with them dancing to the song a dozen years later in their last movie together “The Barkleys of Broadway”.

A recent cover of this classic can be found on “Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin” released in 2010.

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Tommy Emmanuel – Guitar Legend from Down Under

Last week’s post Courtesy of Other Bloggers featured Scott McKeon, one of a half-dozen “Guitar Legends” featured on the blog  Proguitartricks.  Inspired by the guitar legend theme, for any of you not already familiar with him, meet Tommy Emmanuel.  The Australian acoustic guitar legend is known for his blistering speed but is capable of pretty much anything.

This somewhat grainy video has over 10 million YouTube views – see why.

Staples of his concert performances are Beatles medleys – no small task on solo acoustic guitar unless you’ve got Emmanuel’s chops.

Tommy can use his abilities in quiet and subtle ways too, as displayed in this performance of the jazz standard “The Nearness of You” with Martin Taylor. Emmanuel and Taylor have just released an album together featuring this tune.

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