Looking back at this year, I can only be happy that Wandering Lion is in its third year of existence and that I have been putting out some exciting stuff on a regular basis. Even more so seeing the responses I receive from a small but very dedicated bunch of readers that have motivated me to reinvent myself time and time again. I must admit that during the first few months of 2023 I hit a bit of a rough patch, questioning my motives at some point of keeping this blog alive altogether. Personally, I was never in it to become some sort of authority on music and draw readers by the thousands but somehow the effort I was putting in felt out of balance with what I got out of it.
During that time somehow writing became more of a burden than a joy. After some consideration, I decided to let go of keeping myself to a minimal number of posts per month. The whole point was to share the things I was passionate about and they come and go naturally. Also, the fact that writing a text which takes about ten minutes to read takes me roughly a day worth of researching, writing, editing and building until I’m satisfied enough to eventually publish. Cutting myself some slack in this regard was the first step of getting that annoying monkey off my back.
The second step was already initiated in 2022 with the introduction of the “now playing” page. In this way I was able to share just short of twenty albums during 2023 alone and it felt hugely successful in helping me to find joy once again sharing the music I love. The now playing page hasn’t just enabled me to share these albums which otherwise was impossible to pull off, but also gave me the room to work on some more in-depth features. One of which I’m particularly pleased with. The feature about record shopping in Rotterdam and Schiedam have taken a huge effort from me doing research online, physically visiting all the stores on the list, writing and editing, and in the end pulling it all together to have an interesting piece on record shopping in Rotterdam and to lesser extent Schiedam. In my humble opinion it is at least the most comprehensive and up to date article about record shopping in Rotterdam having read nearly all the existing articles floating the world wide web.
Hopefully the now playing page hasn’t gone unnoticed and it provided you with at least one or two albums that you played repeatedly throughout the year. If so, drop a message in the comment section and let me know what album(s) got you excited in 2023. If not, than this might perhaps offer a second chance as the fifth album on the page normally vanishes with each new entry and is no longer available for you to read. With that in mind, I thought it would be nice to bundle ten albums from the now playing page that had most impact on me to close 2023 with. Below you can find the list in no specific order next to a playlist containing all ten albums. Thank you for your continued support!
Lost in a dream within a dream, gazing at the beauty all around not knowing where the music will lead you to and not knowing when it will end. There’s also no need to as being lost has never felt so good, floating between space and time. Sissoko on Kora, Segal on Cello, Parisien on Sax, and Peirani on Accordion say goodbye to their former selves as they become one entity making Les Égarés feel like one gorgeous stream of music.
Educating myself with the Blues is already bearing fruit as I recently came across Olu Dara 1998’s release From Natchez To New York. Released in a time when most connoisseurs consider the Blues to be no more, there’s no denying that Natchez To New York has a lot going for it including a stellar guest appearance from son and platinum selling rapper Nas. Have a taste of green banana’s, strawberry and a side of okra.
If a guitar was able to speak about matters of the heart we would all linger on every chord but until that time we have the brothers Gutiérrez. Taking the time for every chord to take it’s place in the minimalistic arrangements that speaks in volume by saying nothing. An absolute gem from Easy Eye Sound.
Ancestorz (Rootz Of Jungle) by Congo Natty is a very daring project but somehow they managed to strike a perfect balance, like walking a chord in total control, giving these rapid breakbeats deeper meaning. The music is interspersed with Jazzy intermezzo’s, tribal chants, indigenous instrumentals and shards of spoken word reflecting the current status in the world. From the musical bedding to the lyrics by all the guest artists this is a labour of love and needs to be heard.
I was so taken by Midnight Rockers, that I wasn’t ready yet to let go and continue its journey into the depths where reverb and echo bend even the strongest frequency to its will. It took a couple of sessions before Midnight Scorchers began to unveil the subtleties created by a stellar assemble of musicians that otherwise remain somewhat buried. On some tracks like “Come After Midnight” that means the gorgeous Cello gets more air to breath while on others Horace Andy is joined by MC’s Daddy Freddy and Lone Ranger to keep in tune with the dancehall.
Reimagining an album that many would hail as one of the best Reggae releases in the last 20 years must have weighed down on the shoulders of French producer and dub mixologist Martin Nathan alias Brain Damage. He doesn’t leave anything on the table and turns these nine fabled tracks inside-out, adding snippets left from the original recording session, recomposing vocals, adding new arrangements to catch you off guard at every turn. Dreaming from an Iron Gate is a mind bending trip for all who remember Hebron Gate all to well and perhaps even more so for those who don’t.
I haven’t been so enthusiastic about a Lee Fields album since the release of the pre-Daptone era Funk anthem named Let’s Get A Groove On. It will only take time before people realize the that Sentimental Fool is one of the last remnants in a long line of big true Soul singers and acknowledge it’s place among the great. Glorious and compelling, just a phenomenal record back to back and for that you can call me a sentimental old fool.
Like crash landing an actual magic rocket ship right in your back garden, Cosmic Shuffling is bursting with energy on their debut. Bringing you some Swiss made Rock Steady recorded with analogue equipment, ribbon mics, and a tape recorder blowing dust of a genre that remains as addictive as ever. The lyrics “who’s that cat in that funky hat” might as well refer to Roberto Sanchez who once again takes reign of the mixing board for this stunning debut.
Even though O Yinne! omits a definite stand-out track like “Mam Yinne Wa” was for it’s predecessor it is much more varied than their debut. Deep psychedelic grooves like “This Is Bolga!” alternate with slow burners like “Yinne Te Yelle Be” and nothing in between sounds quite the same. A well received debut album is always difficult to follow-up but to me Alogte Oho and his Sounds of Joy improved their FraFra Gospel based formula and are here to stay.
Alvin Youngblood Hart’s Territory knows no boundaries, doesn’t deal with genrefication, and sure as hell doesn’t stick with what is expected of a Blues prodigy. There’s a lot written about Territory supposedly lacking any consistency in gluing together Western Swing, Blues, Ragtime, Rock and Ska or even having the audacity to claim more than what conventional Blues listeners are able to digest in one go. To me, Territory is a breath of fresh air and I experience the lack of any clear conceptualization, if ever you can speak of this, as pure bliss.
If you prefer to listen to all albums in one go or shuffle between the individual tracks you can find the playlist containing all ten albums that were featured on the now playing page below.