Recanto, by Gal Costa
Recanto, by Gal Costa

Peter Margasak, Reader music critic, is obsessed with…

Gal Costa, Recanto The grand dame of tropicalia shakes off mainstream samba and bossa nova to deliver a starkly minimal, deeply introspective masterpiece. All of the songs were written by Caetano Veloso, who produced the album with his son Moreno. The arrangements are radical in their sparseness, with support from Rio instrumentalists including Kassin, Pedro Sá, and Duplexx. Costa’s voice is less agile than it once was, but what it’s lost in flexibility it’s gained in warmth and intimacy.

Misha Mengelberg/Piet Noordijk Quartet, Journey A remarkable live date from 1966 by one of the greatest Dutch jazz groups—essentially the band that supported Eric Dolphy on Last Date (1964). Pianist and coleader Mengelberg and drummer Han Bennink brilliantly subvert the postbop model, and it’s no surprise that early the following year they quit the band because, as the pianist explained, “There is little point in continuing to do what you are already able to do.” The group includes Noordijk on alto sax and Rob Langereis on bass, with the great American trumpeter Ted Curson sitting in for two of the five tracks. It’s a superb, fleeting moment in the history of Dutch jazz.

The Neats, The Neats Last fall I made a CD mix of great Boston bands from the 80s. It was an amazing decade for regional rock—Mission of Burma, Dangerous Birds, Turbines, the Flies, and countless more—but none of them is burned into my consciousness like the Neats. The band’s first EP and this eponymous album are perfect slices of proto-indie rock that borrowed 60s garage-rock tropes and made them sound totally contemporary, passionate, and real. Nearly three decades later this stuff still kills.

He asks…

Beach Boys complete <i>Smile</i> sessions
Beach Boys complete Smile sessions

Rick Wojcik, owner, Dusty Groove, what he’s obsessed with. His answers are…

The early albums of Rod Stewart One of those marvelous musical blind spots—something you ignore for years, then stumble into at just the right time and with just the right attitude. It’s probably my age that kept me away, having been a kid when “Tonight’s the Night” and “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” topped the charts. But these earlier records are incredible—a blend of the rich, righteous energy that Stewart had with the Faces and rootsier acoustic instrumentation. These records get at the power Stewart had before falling into a mass of cliches.

Beach Boys complete Smile sessions Yes, it’s been around for years—put out on later Beach Boys albums, revived and rerecorded by Brian Wilson, praised ad nauseam by generations of critics. But somehow, all these years later, the real Smile is still downright amazing. There’s a darkness that’s missing from later versions of the tracks and from the recent Wilson rerecording: noise and tension that makes even the big hits sound very strange in the context of the original track list and mixes—a testament to the record’s unreleasability back in the 60s.

Marshall McLuhan, The Medium Is the Message An amazing document of a time when people took some chances in the record-making process. The record features the writings of Marshall McLuhan set amid a cacophony of sounds. It has a crashing, collage style that runs amok on two side-long tracks, and clearly would never, ever, in any way, shape, or form come close to getting on the charts in the late 60s. Yet Columbia still spent time and money putting the thing together and some of the record-buying public actually purchased the set. Even more amazing, the album’s recently been reissued on CD in a lovely deluxe package.

He asks…

<i>Last Call</i>, by Daniel Okrent
Last Call, by Daniel Okrent

Doug Arnold, buyer, Dusty Groove, what he’s obsessed with. His answers are…

Jim Ford, Harlan County This album knocked me flat out when I heard it for the first time last year. Jim Ford mashed up country soul and funky rock so exuberantly and with such bug-eyed manic energy, without undercutting the soul. The title track makes rural poverty and despair sound like great fun. It’s astonishing.

Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition I picked this up during a long layover in Louisville’s airport. The gift shop was full of Maker’s Mark knickknacks, so it seemed appropriate reading. Okrent is all about the political and culture effects, and he doesn’t go deep into the art and music. Still, as a mid-20th-century-music obsessive, I took from this book a much greater understanding of how the speakeasy culture of this period made the music I love possible. It desegregated the races and sexes . . . and sufficiently boozed everyone up enough to enjoy singing, playing, and dancing together.

Yo Gabba Gabba! I’m a dad. Like all other aging hipster douche dads, I do my best to brainwash my daughter to love the music I do. Enter Yo Gabba Gabba! Mark Mothersbaugh teaches my kid to draw. She beatboxes with Biz Markie. She’s seen the Biz live three times—in just four years of life. This is indispensable.