Druid celebrated their 40th anniversary by tearing Shakespeare’s Henriad quartet apart, and showing how the themes of the bard never age, but are with us still. Marty Rea’s Richard 11 is one of the greatest theatrical inventions of the age.
Black Lives Matter
In the year of BLM, four great records articulated the themes of the protest movement:
D’Angelo & The Vanguard: Black Messiah
You wait 14 years for a D’Angelo record, and then he drops a bomb like this just on the cusp of Christmas. Pretty perfect.
Kendrick Lamarr: To Pimp a Butterfly
Butterfly is a masterpiece everywhichway, as Kendrick and his incredible band define the zeitgeist.
Rhiannon Giddens: Tomorrow is My Turn
This is both a musical masterclass, and one of the most significant pieces of feminist musicology ever recorded. Ms Giddens is the brightest star on the block, and makes Beyoncé look like Taylor Swift. Play it once, and you will play it all year. Might just be the best production job T-Bone Burnett has ever done.
Kamasi Washington: The Epic
Los Angeles gets a jazz scene, at last! Every musician on Kamasi’s 3-cd masterwork is the real deal.
Music for 18 Musicians, Ensemble Signal
Brad Lubman and his team delivered the most precise, tense and emotional rendering of Steve Reich’s masterpiece. If you only own the ECM original, do take a listen to the freshness and clarity of what Ensemble Signal achieve.
Van Morrison: Live in San Francisco
Yes, it’s an old record, but we only discovered it this year, as Van turned 70. It’s as good as Van’s classic live album, “It’s Too late To Stop Now”, which is saying that it’s as good as it gets.
Bob Dylan: The Cutting Edge, The Bootleg Series, Vol. 12
Does anyone need 14 versions of “Like A Rolling Stone”? What a silly question: of course we do.
Moufang/Czamanski: Live in Seattle
100 minutes of improvised techno from David Moufang and Jordan Czamanski. It sounds impossible, but it’s just impossibly inspired.