It is often said that anyone with a recorder and a couple of microphones can record an orchestra. It's true, assuming you can get permission to do it (another story entirely). But that statement fails to address an important question: "How well?"
The rudiments of any skill can be learned from books. Practice can develop a fair level of competence. Beyond competence, however, the student is governed by his genes and/or family environment, depending on which theory of human potential you subscribe to. Whatever the reason, some practitioners of both disciplines never seem able to transcend mere competence, while others go on to become legends in their own times. John Eargle, chief recording engineer for Delos Records and producer of this fascinating recording, may or may not qualify as a legend, but he is obviously 'way past "a fair level of competence."
Sun City Girls Funeral Mariachi
Abduction ABD 045LP (LP). 2010. Alan Bishop, prod., eng.; Scott Colburn, Randall Dunn, engs. AAA. TT: 37:12
There are musicians for whom fame and fortune hold no allure, whose goal is to fulfill a more esoteric vision. Nearly 50 albums and 25 years ago, three mad punk polyglots, their brains baked by the Arizona sun, and all of them in love with the Middle EastNorth Africa axis of what, in the 1980s, was ineptly titled "world music," decided to make music without borders. With no fear of influences and no burning ambition for commercial success, they zestfully and successfully mixed comedy, noise, Zappa, Beefheart, Middle Eastern drones, jazzy horns, psychedelia in all its forms, film composer Ennio Morricone's inventive moodiness, Indonesian Gamelan mojo, lots of real and made-up languages, and, yes, some actual singing. Rougher in the beginning, the records began to sound better as time went on.
The ideal rock singer/songwriter? Someone who addresses adult issues with all the passion of adolescence (than which, believe me, there is none more monomaniacalthere's no righteous indignation like a teenager's). Someone who can sing about him- or herself and strike the universal; someone who can tell a story of what the swells call "the human condition," or of some social injustice, in terms of how it affects a single life in all that life's unique details. In this case, some musical near-illiterate like "The Beloved Entertainer," as it says on the little brass nameplate under the harlequin-painted face exploding from the golden Warner Brothers shield on the cover of SpikeThe Little Hands of Concrete himself.
Having a long career in the temporal world of indie rock, as the Posies have, has its drawbacks. Before I wrote this review, someone sent me a quote about Blood/Candy from the all-powerful world of Internet music criticism, where speed trumps knowledge. "A collection that's thankfully a world away from their largely charmless and invariably dull nineties output for Geffen."
These are two very fine discs. Both convey to perfection the full weight of Richard Strauss's opulent orchestration for Zarathustra without the slightest hint of distortion, despite the huge dynamic range both employ. Both have the measure of the venues they are recorded in: Denon's Lukaskirche actually gives the impression of an acoustically superior concert hall, and it is astonishing to discover from the insert notes that the well tuned-in and integrated organ has been post-synchronized from the Schauspielhaus, Berlin.
Telarc's disc is their first of the Vienna Philharmonic, and their first from the Musikvereinsaal. It can hardly be faulted, except perhaps for the consistent richness of its more tonally refulgent soundsome may find this oppressive. But it does reflect perfectly Previn's more emotionally charged, almost maniacal response to this score. It is the kind of music he excels in; the meditative, almost ponderous fugue giving way to the near hysteria of "The Convalescent," and reflecting real joy at the climax of the "Dance Song." Previn is living these colorful swings of emotion, and if he makes great demands of the score in doing so (just as Blomstedt does), then his intuitive balance renders this all the more convincing.
YSAE KREISLER BACH
J.S. Bach: Partita No.2, BWV 1004, Kreisler: Recitativo & Scherzo, Op.6, Ysaÿe: Sonata, Op.27 No.2
Arturo Delmoni, violin
Water Lily Acoustics WLA-WS-07 (LP), WLA-WS-07-CD (CD). Kavichandran Alexander, eng., prod. AAA/AAD. Subsequently released on CD as John Marks Records CD JMR 14G (footnote 1). TT: 48:03