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The FWB Vintage Records Album Roundup

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Herb Alpert

The Christmas Wish

Herb Alpert Presents

My parents were fans of trumpeter Alpert, and for many Christmases there was always a new Tijuana Brass album under the tree. This is his second Christmas album (first was in 1968), and TB has been replaced with a choir and strings. In the tradition of all those celebrity yuletide LPs I still have packed away somewhere, this one offers a mix of sacred and popular tunes. Alpert’s sound, always clear and shiny, floats above a smooth orchestral underpinning. It’s all good holiday stuff. His instrumental “Santa Baby” recording is my new favorite. I always hated those sleazy lyrics.

– Bruce Collier

Cage the Elephant

Unpeeled

RCA

There are lots of familiar tunes here, including “Whole Wide World,” which is currently getting heavy airplay. But there are plenty of others that are just as good, the sweetest of them “Rubber Ball,” with its almost whimsical instrumentals and endearing vocals. “Instant Crush” is an almost-ballad, though it’s backed up by a persistent drumbeat and some pretty lively strings. “Punchin’ Bag” jumps with a great beat that’s a hybrid of Beatles-era rock and New Alternative. Along with all of the new tracks, Unpeeled contains highly recognizable rereleased singles like “Cigarette Daydreams” and “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked,” making this one of 2017’s most worthwhile listens.

– Joni Williams

Grayson Capps

Scarlett Roses

Royal Potato Family

Capps isn’t local, but he comes through often enough that we’ve adopted him and root for him on his world tours. This is Capps and his band in fine form, relaxed and dripping with gritty southern soul.  Capps’ production choices share a kindred spirit with his live shows—vocals with room to breathe and copious amounts of heart. Grayson Capps is part of the 2018 30A Songwriters Festival lineup.

– Nikki Hedrick

Ella Fitzgerald

Live at Zardi’s

Verve

Verve’s new release has all the earmarks of classic jazz history. Fitzgerald reportedly recorded this live at Zardi’s in Los Angeles in 1956, just days before recording Verve’s first album (of Cole Porter songs). There are 21 tracks, interspersed with Ella chatting and joking with the audience and band. Her voice—modestly girlish and worldly-wise at the same time—is supple and inexhaustibly energetic. Like Sinatra, she can make a three-minute song tell you more than a three-act play. This might be the best one-volume compendium of vintage Ella available, cream of the crop. Treat yourself this Christmas.

– Bruce Collier

Smokey Robinson

Everyday Is Christmas

Amazon Music

Our greatest living songwriter (sorry, Mr. Dylan) takes on holiday favorites with pleasing results. He’s still in fine voice, and the inventive arrangements give the moldier oldies (“White Christmas,” etc.) a fresh feel. Among the guest stars here are Take 6 and Trombone Shorty, who were no doubt honored to be invited to this legend’s Christmas party.

– Chris Manson

Southern Heartburn

E Pluribus Americana

Independent

The band of recognizable Pensacola faces fuses roots, rock and Americana for a compelling debut. They further tip their hat to their influences with a strong cover of the classic Blind Willie tune ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine”…after all, what would roots music be without the spirit of the blues? If nothing else, pick up the album because it heavily features slide guitar—I’d love to have more of that on the local scene.

– Nikki Hedrick

Spearman Brewers

Another Round

Independent

Pensacola’s Spearman Brewers are back with nine Cajun-infused blues tracks thick with New Orleans cobblestone traditions and bayou blues. It’s porch-sitting, moonshine-drinking music if there ever was such a thing. Framed with acoustic instrumentation and harmonica, Another Round is a successful outing for the band. I hope we don’t hear about their “closing time” anytime soon.

– Nikki Hedrick

The Zombies

Still Got That Hunger

The End Records

British rock band The Zombies have been around since 1958. “Tell Her No” and “Time of the Season” are part of the soundtrack of my childhood. This album, released in 2015, boasts original band members Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent (who wrote or co-wrote most of the songs), with former Argent and Kinks bassist Jim Rodford, Steve Rodford and Tom Toomey rounding it out. Start with track 5 (“I Want You Back Again” from 1965) and time-travel. Then start at the beginning for more of the same—blues, rock and the occasional flight of Metal Age harmony (think Uriah Heep). The Zombies will appear at the 2018 30A Songwriters Festival.

– Bruce Collier
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