1995 Records To Die For Page 12
JAMES McMURTRY: Too Long in the Wasteland
Columbia CK 45229 (CD only). Ross Hogarth, eng.; John Mellencamp, prod. AAD. TT: 44:47
If the last name is familiar, it's because dad is author Larry McMurtry (The Last Picture Show, Lonesome Dove)---of interest only because Mac fils has inherited Mac pere's penetrating knack for nailing American life to the wall in disarmingly simple language. Small-town vignettes are delivered in dead-pan Lou Reed style, and brilliantly supported by Mellencamp's production (his true talent) and the creative drumming of Kenny Aronoff. Wasteland is sui generis---too big to be confined by categories, much like the Texas that birthed it. And I first heard it at Stereophile's San Francisco Hi-Fi Show, so you know it must sound terrific.
PAUL MOTIAN: Motian in Tokyo
Paul Motian, drums; Bill Frisell, guitar; Joe Lovano, sax
JMT 849 154-2 (CD only). Ron Saint Germain, eng.; Stefan Winter! , prod. DDD. TT: 54:56
As close to the epitome of pure musical expression as anything I've ever heard, and unabashedly, unselfconsciously spiritual. Ten years of playing together have molded Motian's eccentric, authoritative drumming, Frisell's ambient, witty guitar, and Lovano's earthy tenor into more than a well-oiled music machine. Their ability to meld their well-defined individual voices into a seamless whole without compromise is a paradigm for human interaction. They mean every note, and, thanks to Saint Germain, you hear every one up-close and personal, as they negotiate the twists and turns of Motian's unusual but accessible compositions. (XV-10)
SONNY ROLLINS: Saxophone Colossus
Sonny Rollins, tenor sax; Tommy Flanagan, piano; Doug Watkins, bass; Max Roach, drums
Fantasy/OJC-291 (LP; CD available). Rudy van Gelder, eng. ADA (1987 digital remastering). TT: 39:47
Rollins is my favorite texor saxophonist. His playing here is very accessible, melodic, inventive, and just downright beautiful, as is that of the rest of this quartet. I thought about recommending Rollins's Way Out West, but that's too obvious. Even Saxophone Colossus is one of those records about which I can hardly write even a mere 100 words. I mean, it's a classic; if you're remotely interested in jazz, you probably own this record already. What else can I say, except Go out and buy it if you don't know it yet?
Oh yeah, the sound: one of Rudy van Gelder's better efforts. 'Nuff said.
CAL TJADER: Concert by the Sea
Cal Tjader, vibes; Paul Horn, alto sax; Lonnie Hewitt, piano; Al McKibbon, bass; Willie Bobo, drums; Mongo Santamaria, percussion
Fantasy 8038 (LP). AAA.
Also available on Monterey Concerts, Prestige P-24026 (2 CDs).
Recorded vibraphone is a torture test for any hi-fi system---especially record players. To a certain extent, you could use this album as a test record, especially for the cartridge: deep, powerful acoustic bass mixed with piano and vibes. Or Afro-Cuban percussion plus flute. Quite good resolution on the applause bits (this is a live recording from Monterey). If there are any mechanical weaknesses in your cartridge, boy, will they be obvious with this record.
Of course, the music is what really counts. Good-time, upbeat, swinging, joyful, but never shallow---this is one of my favorite tonics after a hard day's work.
RAVEL: Valse nobles et sentimentales; Alborada del gracioso
Fritz Reiner, Chicago Symphony
Classic SC-3222 (LP). Lewis Layton, eng.; Richard Mohr, prod. AAA. TT: 43:21
MUSSORGSKY/RAVEL: Pictures at an Exhibition
Fritz Reiner, Chicago Symphony
Classic LSC-2201 (LP). Lewis Layton, eng.; Richard Mohr, prod. AAA. TT: 33:00
Practically any two of the Classic Records reissues from RCA's Living Stereo collection might have qualified as easily as these two. The project as a whole challenges those who assume the obsolescence of vinyl, and certainly challenges the finest achievements of the earnest BMG staffers who have been preserving these recordings on CD.
The Debussy/Ravel album is one of the earliest, short-lived, rare, and underrated of the group. Although the selections have been available on CD since 1989, they have yet to receive the Living Stereo CD treatment from BMG itself; so this LP is something of a scoop.
It's incredible ! to hear, on vinyl from 30-year-old sources, a sound which has the full weight, authority, and security we associate with CD, wedded to those reach-out-and-feel textures, and the environmental effects we associate with vinyl. This certainly applies to Pictures at an Exhibition, but I differ with Carl Baugher's characterization of BMG's Living Stereo CD version as "a fax copy of an original manuscript"---an unnecessarily invidious overstatement. But when all is said and done, those with turntables and an interest in early stereo will not be disappointed in the results obtained by Classic Records. (XVII-10)