Nuggets of Water

COLIN BLUNSTONE

One Year

A genuine lost classic from 1971 — full of feathery, jazz-inflected vocals and sublime melodies — from the dejected Zombies vocalist after he had resigned himself to life behind a desk at an insurance office. "She Loves the Way They Love Her" picks up precisely where Blunstone’s disassembled ensemble left off, with weaving boogie-woogie and an angelic chorus that dips its wings in soul’s waters. Utterly gorgeous string arrangements by Chris Gunning and occasionally Tony Visconti, plenty of production help from ex-bandmates Rod Argent and Chris White, and Blunstone’s limpid songwriting make One Year necessary listening for pop romantics. And the chamber elegy "Misty Roses," the up-on-the-downbeat "Caroline Goodbye," and the impressionistic "Smokey Day" — driven skyward by intertwined vocals from the three ex-Zombies — are bound to besot those who swoon over Odessey and Oracle, Nick Drake, and other assorted instances of beauty and sadness. (Kimberly Chun)

ANNE BRIGGS

The Time Has Come

Mythologized among British folk vocalists like Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson, depicted as something of an enfant sauvage of the ’60s folk scene in Joe Boyd’s memoir White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s, and valorized by indies like PG Six and Isobel Campbell, Anne Briggs put down so little recorded music that it’s hardly any wonder she’s nearly disappeared into the dirt and mists of remote Scotland, where she’s said to be currently sequestered. But this, her last, exquisite album (1971), embellished with little more than and acoustic guitar and the occasional bouzouki, shows what the fuss was about, as Briggs wraps her pure, unpretentious pipes round the original title track — also recorded by her partner in music and lifestyle, Bert Jansch, as well as Alan Price and Pentangle — and "Wishing Well," her dark take, cowritten with Jansch, on the seduced and abandoned leitmotif of "Blackwater Side." Traditional English folk songs rarely get as mesmerizing as her ghostly version of "Standing on the Shore." (Chun)

ELAINE BROWN

Seize the Time

Polemical music has the potential to either go down in the songbooks and history tomes as an artifact linked forever with a critical place and time or fail miserably, stumbling over its grandiose ambitions (e.g., the many anti–George W. Bush CDs of recent vintage filed in ye olde circular file). The music on the powerful Seize the Time hasn’t yet taken its place next to "This Land Is Your Land," but it does offer an invaluable snapshot from the front lines of the black power movement. Elaine Brown’s robust delivery of odes penned for fallen Black Panther brethren, the party’s national anthem, and entreaties to continue the struggle finds handsome, tempered accompaniment at the hands of jazz pianist Horace Tapscott. A moving, amazingly graceful document. (Chun)

GIOVANNI FUSCO

Music for Michelangelo Antonioni

Nino Rota’s ornate Federico Fellini tunes have gotten the deluxe reissue treatment, Goblin’s spook sounds have been revived as often as Suspiria‘s Elaina Marcos, and Ennio Morricone sections in record stores are rightfully enormous. Even Pino Donaggio’s scores have had worthy second lives. But until now Giovanni Fusco’s subtler work for a director who avoided music whenever possible, Michelangelo Antonioni, has been easiest to find on DVD. Dominated by the flute flights from 1959’s L’Avventura, this collection closes with Fusco’s casino rockabilly and protoambient contributions to 1964’s Red Desert. A pioneering work in terms of its blurring of diegetic and nondiegetic sound, that film is also the great prototype for Todd Haynes’s Safe, in which malaise-ridden Antonioni muse Monica Vitti utters the great line "My hair hurts." (Johnny Ray Huston)

GILBERTO GIL

Gilberto Gil

A letter of exile from London in the wake of months of unjust imprisonment imposed by the Brazilian government, this English-language recording possesses a warmth and sensitivity one wouldn’t expect from someone who’d been through Gil’s trials. But Gil rarely made a show of his anger, usually expressing it through pointed spoken or written words or musical metaphor. A sublime example here of the last is the cover of Blind Faith’s "Can’t Find My Way Home," on which the Tropicalista leader’s voice is pure, refreshing, and vibrant while singing words of solitude and alienation. Elsewhere, his pop folk makes time for Volkswagen blues, shampoo chats, mushroom trips, and existential thoughts about Kodak moments. (Huston)

FRED NEIL

Fred Neil

A lightly sparkling hoot, "Everybody’s Talkin’ " — made famous by Harry Nilsson when Fred Neil refused to rerecord it for Midnight Cowboy — may be the biggest commercial hit on this album, but the first track, "The Dolphins," is the real, pulsating heart of this wonderful disc. The narcotic serenade to those lucky enough to escape into the wild yonder was memorably nicked for the last season of The Sopranos and encapsulates this Piscean songwriter’s lifelong identification with the sea creatures. The flighty Neil needed to be gentled into the studio by producer Nik Venet and harbored among friendly foils to produce this remarkably organic, mostly live recording, which brought out the best blues-folk writing from the rarely bottled artist. (Chun)

NICO

Desertshore

Aside from her femme fatalism with the Velvet Underground, Nico might be best known musically for the one-of-a-kind Teutonic Californian frisson of her pairing with Jackson Browne on 1967’s Chelsea Girl. But the VU’s John Cale was her right-hand man for most of her career, right on through to the practically postmortem version of "My Funny Valentine" on 1985’s Camera Obscura. This 1970 collaboration includes the layered psychedelia of the title track (on which spoken interludes add extra layers in a manner many indie rockers have imitated), the ballad "Afraid" (addressed narcissistically to herself or forebodingly to her son, Ari?), and of course the one and only "Janitor of Lunacy," which mopped the floors for generations of goths to come. Two tracks here were featured in La Cicatrice Intérieure, a film by Philippe Garrel. (Huston)

JACK PALANCE

Palance

Sauntering the line between camp and cool with winking menace, the Shane star takes his opportunity to coin a few memorable countryisms in the absurdist, Marty Robbins–esque "The Meanest Guy That Ever Lived." "I ruled like a king and they / All did my thing / ‘Cause the foot was in the other / Shoe, shoe, shoe / ‘Cause the foot was in the other shoe," Palance sing-snarls, laying into those "shoe"s like a deranged Shangri-la with rabies. Aided and abetted by lush production from ex–Hank Williams bassist and Nashville publishing czar Buddy Killen, Palance gets to really sink his actorly teeth into the juicy, who’s-sorry-now melodrama of Dottie West’s "Hannah." (Chun)

THE SOFT MACHINE

The Soft Machine

Volume Two

Albums so wide and deep they threaten to engulf you with their sheer twists, teetering turns, and utter invention. Drummer Robert Wyatt’s frisky fills gets equal time alongside organist Michael Ratledge and bassist Kevin Ayres on the high-chair-rattling "Joy of a Toy" and the toy-piano-tricked-out "So Boot If at All" on the raw-edged eponymous debut, which must have sounded like a tripindicular aural telegram from the outer edges of the universe when it rolled forth in late 1968. Thanks to the departure of Ayres and the arrival of onetime roadie Hugh Hopper, Volume Two gets off the pop leash and takes an exhilarating yet elegant romp through the wide-open fields of fusion. (Chun)