Cene’s Staff Picks

Magazine - Real LifeMagazineReal Life (CD 4870)

When the Buzzcocks broke up, Pete Shelley gravitated towards the bright electronic future, while partner Howard Devoto laid the gloomy, arty groundwork for the post-punk movement with Magazine.

After a pair of influential singles – including their dramatic debut, “Shot By Both Sides” b/w “My Mind Ain’t So Open” – they dropped their first full-length, Real Life, filled with angular guitars and ominous, swirling synths. It the high-energy of punk without the frenetic speed; a forward-looking sound that portents a cold, impersonal future. Classic start to finish.


Chris Connor - Warm Cool: The Atlantic YearsChris ConnorWarm Cool: The Atlantic Years (CD 2026)

Of all the cool jazz singers to come out of Stan Kenton’s band, Chris Connor was the coolest. She had a gift for making even the most complicated phrasings sound understated and natural. I just love her.

This 2-disc collection, curated by Atlantic producer Joel Dorn and Connor herself, pulls from the period 1956-1962, when she recorded a dozen or so albums for Atlantic. It includes beautiful standards like “All the Things You Are,” “These Foolish Things,” and “Misty,” as well as lesser-known gems like “When the Wind Was Green” and “Lilac Wine.”


Danny Gatton's Redneck Jazz ExplosionDanny GattonRedneck Jazz Explosion (CD 2053)

Local guitar legend, Gatton, with a crack band featuring pedal steel hero, Buddy Emmons performing live in 1978 at the Cellar Door here in D.C.

Gatton and Emmons trade off blistering licks almost telepathically, anchored by the rhythm section of Steve Wolf (b) and Scott Taylor (d). They burn through Brother Jack McDuff‘s “Rock Candy” and Horace Silver‘s “Opus de Funk,” and bring a rich, vaguely country-tinged sound to Rimsky-Korsakov‘s “Song of India” (based off of a Dorsey Brothers arrangement).

A must-hear performance for jazz guitar fans, and a great introduction to this shoulda-been-huge picker.


Black Flag - DamagedBlack FlagDamaged (CD 2903)

When it came out in 1981, MCA refused to distribute the album on the grounds that it was “anti-parent” and ” past the point of good taste.” I can’t think of a better reason to recommend it.

Black Flag was already semi-legendary for their festering, feel-bad hardcore sound, relentless touring, and shows that induced police riots up and down the West Coast. With Damaged they came as close as they ever did to capturing that energy on record. The line-up was as close to definitive as possible for a group whose membership changed roughly every few months: mastermind Greg Ginn on lead guitar, former vocalist Dez Cadena moving back to a supporting guitar role, Charles Dukowski on bass, Robo on drums, and new vocalist Henry Rollins – a young D.C. ice cream shop attendant, hardcore musician, and Black Flag superfan, who was asked to join the group after jumping in to sing “Clocked In” during a New York performance.

Damaged contains indisputable punk classics like “Rise Above,” “TV Party,” and “Police Story.” Turn it up all the way, spray paint your walls, and get angry.


Carlos Gardel - The King of Tango, Vol. 1Carlos GardelThe King of Tango, Vol.1 & 2 (CD 6312CD 6313)

The undisputed King of Tango and world-renowned star of stage and screen, Carlos Gardel was a superstar in Latin America, and helped popularize tango throughout the world. Upon learning of his death in a plane crash in 1935, young women across Argentina who had never even met him attempted suicide. Such was the power of his voice and charisma . . .

. . .

. . . or so this one guy told me. At any rate, it’s too good a story to check up on.

These two volumes cover the mid-to-late periods of his career, from 1927 to 1935, and feature Nimbus’ typically high quality transfers from the original 78rpm discs. Though be warned: these are old recordings, and they definitely sound old. Like cracking open a walnut, you’ll have to get past the crackles and thin sound in order to dig into the delicious Gardel inside.