Bill Schletzer of Plymouth:
1 Boz Scaggs, “Out of the Blue.” A new release with his gritty croon over a nice, fairly funky selection of covers and new tunes.
2 Grateful Dead, “Anthem of the Sun” reissue. It’s the 50th anniversary reissue with two great mixes coming out of the mists of time and a mandatory live disc, without which no Dead reissue would be complete.
3 John Coltrane, “Both Directions at Once.” It’s a “lost” studio double-disc dose of his classic quartet from 1963, with echoes of “My Favorite Things,” “Chasin’ the Trane” and “A Love Supreme.” Well-recorded Coltrane, what could be better?
Jon Bream of the Star Tribune:
1 William Bell, the Dakota. At 79, the Stax stalwart proved to be the consummate soul man. During his two long sets, he had ageless energy, a top-notch band, compelling stories and terrific songs. And he was a passionate singer and skilled showman.
2 Academy of Prince, High School for Recording Arts. Put together by the nonprofit Purple Playground, this inaugural weeklong program taught middle-schoolers about Prince, the Minneapolis Sound and songwriting. The students wrote and recorded original songs, with help in the studio from Purple pros Bobby Z, Matt Fink and Jellybean Johnson. The songs were quite impressive. Can’t wait for the downloads.
3 Jerry Jeff Walker, Minnesota Zoo. The veteran cosmic cowboy’s voice was harsh (he battled throat cancer last year), but his spirit, humor and storytelling couldn’t be denied. Highlight: a new tune about his gratitude for being able to carry on. He’s going to call it “The Encore.”