Amy under your tree
Trying to find a gift for the Amy Winehouse fan who has everything but sobriety? Just in time for the holidays, Island/Universal has thoughtfully re-released the Back To Black album in a deluxe double-disc version with eight bonus outtakes from the Dap-Kings sessions.
Along with Winehouse's bare-bones original demo for Love Is A Losing Game and ska-style covers of Sam Cooke's Cupid, the Maytals' Monkey Man and the Skatalities' You're Wondering Now, there's a beautiful slowed-down take of the Zutons' Valerie that trumps the one on Mark Ronson's Version album. Sweet.
If that's still not enough Amy, there's also the double vinyl Live & Remixed set of questionable origins that gives you eight surprisingly tight and well-recorded versions of her best-loved tunes captured in a small club setting, along with remixes of Rehab (featuring Jay-Z ), You Know I'm No Good (with Ghostface Killah ) and Hot Chip 's horribly lame Rehab retouch thrown in for completists.
Just about every city had its own version of the Beatles back in the mid-60s, and Los Shakers were it for Montevideo. But after a couple of shockingly good albums and triumphant tours of Chile, Argentina, Colombia and Peru, Uruguay's moptops were fed up with Shakermania, and brothers Hugo and Osvaldo Fattoruso split for New York to find their fortunes as studio musicians.
Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira discovered them working as Opa , the house band at the Golden Chariot club, and hired them to play on his classic Fingers (CTI) album in 1973. The Fattorusos thought they were set until Airto's golden-voiced wife, Flora Purim , was busted for pot and sent away for two years. Out of a gig, Opa recorded some home demos on a four-track TEAC in hopes of scoring a recording contract of their own.
Now released as Back Home: The Lost 1975 Sessions (Lion), the funky Rhodes-backed joints show Opa working in a similar jazz-rock fusionary area to that of Marc Moulin's Placebo, albeit with a sunny Latin vibe thanks to the percussive contributions of conga basher Pappo Atiles from Puerto Rico. It's nothing like Los Shakers, but a head-nodding burner nonetheless. www.lionproductions.org .
Daniel Johnston recital
Although Daniel Johnston writes most of his music at home on a keyboard, it's rare for him to perform on anything but an acoustic guitar. But eight years ago, he played a one-off show in Berlin for which the promoter hooked him up with a grand piano, stood back and let the spooky magic happen, as can be heard on the Why Me? (Trikont) disc.
For some reason, when Johnston puts his fingers on keys -- he hammers at the Steinway like it's a Casiotone -- it seems to bring out his darker side. So those hoping for some jaunty tunes about the redemptive power of love may be troubled by Johnston's song selection (I Hate Myself, Frustrated Artist, Death, etc), but the performances are spellbinding. Even potential disasters like a cover of Paul McCartney & Wings' Live And Let Die is completely transformed by our man into something more personal and profound than you'd think possible -- but then, Johnston's always full of surprises. www.trikont.com .