2023: My Year in Music

2023: My Year in Music

Written by Rudy Radelic

Looking back at 2023, I realized it was a fairly good year for me musically. I don’t buy many new recordings, but I caught up on some reissues from the past few years, picked up some new reissues released in 2023, and found a couple of new recordings this year despite not following most of the current music being released.

For my favorite new release of 2023, Peter Gabriel slowly unfolded his new album i/o over the course of the year, beginning in January, releasing a new “Bright Side” mix on each full moon, and a “Dark Side” mix with each new moon. After 12 moon cycles, he had released the entire album, and as of December 2023 the entire package was available for purchase on CD, Blu-ray Audio, and vinyl. Rather than have a single official album, he released Bright Side and Dark Side versions, and the In-Side Mixes (originally exclusive to his subscription on Bandcamp) are available only on the Blu-ray version.

Musically, it is a treat for Gabriel’s fans, who have waited 21 years since his previous album Up was released. Where Up was often dark and heavy, i/o Is perhaps a bit more hopeful and upbeat, a reflection on mortality, rebirth, and how our input and output (I/O) makes us part the world around us (“stuff coming out, stuff going in, I'm just a part of everything”).

In other new releases, one of my favorite groove jazz groups, Four80East, offered up their tasty new album Gonna Be Alright. There wasn’t much new on the Mavericks front, another of my favorite bands, other than Raul Malo’s solo instrumental album Say Less, which features a few tracks with the full Mavericks lineup. I didn’t yet pick up Brian Setzer’s latest record, The Devil Always Collects, but did give a listen to the self-titled album by a group called The Barnestormers, an “international” studio band featuring among them the band’s namesake Jimmy Barnes on vocals (Australia), Jools Holland (UK) on piano, and Stray Cats drummer Slim Jim Phantom (USA).

It’s not that I’m against new and recent recordings, but in a life where I have a backlog of older music to explore, it’s hard to fit a lot of new music into the schedule! One of my projects this year was doing a deep dive into the CTI Records catalog (Creed Taylor’s record label), and I’ve found several favorites among the nearly 100 albums I have documented so far on the CTI, Kudu, and Salvation labels.

That leads to my most listened to album this year: Idris Muhammad’s Power of Soul. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea (especially if they enjoy jazz, but see Bob James in the credits), but it has turned into a “comfort food” album for me. It has an all-star cast including the keyboards and arrangements of Bob James, and solos by Grover Washington, Jr.; Randy Brecker; Joe Beck; and a handful of other familiar names. It features Muhammad’s solid drum groove woven through a set of tracks that are compelling yet easygoing. A good chill-out album, in other words. The sound is clear as a bell on the high-res download, and the Music on Vinyl pressing is similarly excellent.


Another favorite this year and perhaps the second most played is Gambler’s Life by Johnny “Hammond” Smith. A dense and sometimes chaotic album, it is squarely in the soul jazz groove, featuring production and appearances by the Mizell Brothers (Larry and Fonce). It took me several listens to finally “get” the entire record, but it’s a keeper, mixing elements of funk and soul with a touch of jazz. Johnny Hammond forgoes his usual Hammond B3 organ for a Fender Rhodes stage piano, giving his music an entirely different groove. I’m fortunate to have found a high-res download of this, as clean original vinyl is difficult and/or expensive to locate.


I’ve enjoyed a handful of the Blue Note Records reissues this year. My favorite of the batch is Electric Byrd by Donald Byrd. What is notable about this release is that the record was mastered and pressed at Third Man Pressing in Detroit, Michigan, in the Blue Note 313 Series (313 being Detroit’s area code, the artists in the series all Detroit-based). In addition to being sold in black and “Blue Note blue” vinyl versions, there are two additional colored “eclipse” pressings limited to 313 copies each – one is black/yellow (Third Man’s official colors) and the other blue/white (Blue Note’s colors), both available only at the Third Man store (the former) or the official Blue Note store (the latter).

I find the music fascinating, an album styled by the influence of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, but more melodic and varied at times. Thanks to the participation of percussionist Airto Moreira, his track “Xibaba” is almost reminiscent of his work with the first version of Return to Forever. Warren Defever’s mastering brings out the nuances well. A worthwhile addition to the collection!



Donald Byrd, Electric Byrd, Blue Note 313 series black and yellow pressing. Courtesy of Rudy Radelic.


Other 2023 remasters I purchased this year on vinyl include the following:

  • Tito Puente: Mambo Diablo (Craft Recordings Latino/Concord Jazz Picante)
  • Bill Evans: Sunday at the Village Vanguard (Craft Recordings/OJC)
  • Bill Evans: Waltz for Debby (Craft Recordings)
  • Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd: Jazz Samba (Verve Acoustic Sounds series)
  • Wynton Kelly Trio/Wes Montgomery: Smokin' at the Half Note (Verve Acoustic Sounds series)
  • Art Pepper: Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section (Contemporary Records Acoustic Sounds series)
  • Dave Brubeck Quartet: Time Further Out (Impex Records, a surprise I discovered at AXPONA last year)



Dave Brubeck Quartet, Time Further Out, album cover.



I am happy to say that the pressing quality and mastering on all of these titles is top-notch, and in addition to the numerous 2021 and 2022 Blue Note reissues I purchased this year in the Classic Vinyl and Tone Poet series (all remastered by Kevin Gray), it was a very good year for vinyl at Casa Rudy.


Finally, I can’t conclude a year-end review without mentioning some of my used record scores. I typically buy most of my used vinyl through Discogs, as I can locate exact versions of what I’m looking for, and often find what I want in sealed condition. Yet I had an opportunity to visit some used record stores on a road trip in late July, picking up 26 titles between four different stores, one in Boulder, Colorado (Paradise Found Records), and the other three in Colorado Springs (Earth Pig Records, Tiger Records, and Independent Records, which, unfortunately, was having a going-out-of-business sale, but still had a substantial selection to choose from). Most of the records cleaned up quite well, and only a couple were too worn to keep.

Despite my good luck at the record stores, my top vinyl find of the year was Horace Silver’s The Stylings of Silver, which I found a 1970s reissue copy of for a very fair price. Anyone buying older Blue Note vinyl knows the insane prices some of these titles fetch, so my copy for less than $25 (which is an excellent player) was quite a treat. One of my favorite of Silver’s albums, Silver’s Serenade, is being released on a Tone Poet reissue this coming April, and I would rather pay $35-ish for a new record than take chances on multiple used $35 copies.

That wraps up my 2023 in new (to me) music. I hope yours was just as fruitful. Let us know in the comments what tickled your ear in 2023!

Back to Copper home page