My Favorite Things: The Top 9 Releases of 2019

My Top 9 releases of 2019 and only a five word comment about each. More to come!
Reissues/From the Vault:
Alice Clark ‘Alice Clark’: Essential soul you’ll regret skipping
Frank Zappa ‘Zappa in New York’ 40th Anniversary 5CD Deluxe Edition: Best live Zappa since Roxy
Van Morrison ‘The Healing Game’ 3 CD Deluxe Edition: Best archival release of 2019
Frank Marino ‘Live at the Agora’ Blu Ray/DVD: Guitar hero transcends guitar heroes
Various Artists ‘J Jazz Volume 2: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1983’: This ain’t your grandad’s jazz.
New Releases:
Chrissie Hynde ‘Value Bone Woe’: Unexpected jazz greatness Pretenders-style
Joel Ross ‘KingMaker’: Gen Z makes vibraphones cool
Muriel Grossmann ‘Reverence’: Spiritual grooves meet polyrhythmic dreams
Umphrey’s McGee ‘Hall of Fame 2018’: Scaring pop fans since 1998

Umphrey’s McGee Hall of Fame 2018

Why are @umphreysmcgee the most relentlessly exciting, improv-oriented rock band out there? Easy: they’re masterful players, clever songwriters and extraordinary improvisers who draw from both a wide array of influences, and deep bench of covers. In other words, one’s attention tends not to waver at an Umphrey’s McGee concert…go see them and you’ll see what I mean. But if a gig is not in your immediate future, this collection highlights roughly 4.5 hours of top shelf moments from the ~85 gigs the band did in 2018, as chosen by online fan voting and band input. The annual Hall of Fame release—now in its ninth year—is a deep dive into what makes a night with Umphrey’s McGee special. The tracks run the gamut from groovy dance throw-downs to soaring tension/release workouts with the kind of instrumental high wire acts that reduce aspiring air guitarists to dislocated fingers and broken dreams. Hard to pick a highlight among highlights but I am drawn to “Wizard Burial Ground”—a full contact instrumental cage match between Dream Theater, Yes and Deep Purple that should be the fight song for the Slytherin Quidditch team. Then there’s the demented rave-up of “Phil’s Farm” which evolves into an intricate soul stew with on-the-fly instrumental *AND* lyrical interplay that’s pretty much the reason why people drive long distances to go see this band night after night. The aesthetics of this years vinyl are sharp—that lurid red vinyl almost pulsates on the platter