A housing crisis is clamping down on middle-income workers—teachers like Renata Sanchez—in prosperous California
Blind Boys of Alabama
The roughest lead vocals belong to Jimmy Carter, 85, one of two surviving original members. The smoothest belong to Paul Beasley, who, when he abjures falsetto, sounds as if he belongs. The most Clarence Fountain–like belong to Ben Moore. But while Three Dog Night fans will appreciate the advantages of such microphone sharing, it’s the variety of the material (contributed by approximately 10 spiritually sympathetic songwriters or songwriting teams) and the Southern black-church instrumentation that makes the album a lively farewell if a farewell it is.
Under the Streetlight
Boyz II Men
Nathan Morris, Shawn Stockman, and Wanya Morris retain their ability to harmonize and to generate melismatic vocal glory. And, as wasn’t always the case on their 2014 album Collide, they do so without recourse to Auto-Tune. What else is new (or, rather, old): the material—heavy-rotation jukebox favorites circa the doo-wop era. If most of the songs have been done to death, here they’re done to life. And although Irma Thomas still owns “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is,” these guys sure make classy renters.
Dreamy loveliness alternates with the eerily nightmarish, fashioned from instruments common, unusual, and electronic. Meditative dreaminess combines with the eerily lovely in “Fullmoon,” which features a Paul Bowles recitation that begins, “Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well,” and ends, “How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps 20, and yet it all seems limitless.” Then, to guarantee that nothing gets lost in translation, 11 other speakers recite it in their native tongues.
Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carolos Jobim
Frank Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim
Apparently, Sinatra didn’t leave many scraps. This 50th-anniversary edition of his bossa nova album adds to the original tracks only one live medley and 11 minutes’ worth of attempts to get “The Girl from Ipanema” just right. But the original tracks deserve a fresh hearing, and not just because they beat Paul Simon to the pop-meets-world-music punch by almost 20 years. They also recall how open Sinatra remained to experimentation when he could’ve gotten away—and later that same year did—with “Somethin’ Stupid.”
Fats Domino sounded happy even when he was singing sad lyrics. Consider his 1957 B-side “What Will I Tell My Heart,” which goes “I’m trying to explain to friends, dear, / the reasons we two are apart. / I know what to tell our friends, dear, / but what can I tell my heart?” The words couldn’t be more doleful, but Domino sings them with the same sweetness that he used the year before to make sure that no one would mistake “Blueberry Hill” for a lamentation.
When Domino died in October at the age of 89, he’d been absent from the charts for over 50 years, a casualty of the British Invasion, next to which his New Orleans style of bonhomie seemed quaint. The recently released The Complete Imperial Singles (Capitol) gathers everything that he threw at the charts between 1950 and 1964. The baker’s dozen that stuck prove that the quaint sometimes have reasons that the hip don’t know. —A.O.