1996 Records To Die For Page 4

Allen St. John

LYLE LOVETT: I Love Everybody
Curb/MCA MCAD-10808 (CD). Lyle Lovett, Billy Williams, prods.; Nathaniel Kunkel, Gil Morales, engs. AAD. TT: 53:04
The all-acoustic arrangements may be as lovely as Julia Roberts' smile, but don't be fooled. The songs on I Love Everybody are as disturbing as Lyle Lovett's hair. Stop humming along to "Creeps Like Me" long enough to really listen to the lyrics. If your skin doesn't crawl just a little, you'll never babysit my dog. Lovett's novella set to music is populated with sleazy pick-up artists, jealous lovers, and full-blown weirdos, each one only a twist of the DNA away from posing a danger to himself or others. Scary? Yes. Compelling? Definitely. The absolutely impeccable sound is better than reference quality; I can't imagine a system so crappy it'd make this one sound bad. (XVII-12)
MARTI JONES: Any Kind of Lie
BNG 2040-2-R. Don Dixon, prod., eng.; Mark Williams, eng. TT: 39:37
Get past the cheesecake cover photo that would embarrass Liza Minelli and you'll discover an album of practically perfect pop. While Jones and producer/husband Don Dixon aren't known as first-rank songwriters, Any Kind of Lie tackles the hard work of staying together with style and wit: "All the trash and the flies on the beaches of Cleveland / Know they couldn't stop me if I knew you were mine." But it's Dixon's production that's really to die for. Every instrument, every flourish is there for a reason. And his audiophile tendencies show through with a soundstage as broad as Intro to Western Civ., yet as focused as a Zeiss lens. Multimiked rock doesn't get any better than this.

Jonathan Scull

SIRI'S SVALE BAND: Blackbird
Siri Beathe Gellein, vocals; John Pal Inderberg, alto & baritone sax, vocals; Bjorn Alterhaug, acoustic bass; Odd Magne Gridseth, acoustic & electric bass; Carl Haakon Waadeland, drums, percussion
Sonor SON CD 2001 (CD). Siri's Svale Band, prods.; Roger Valstad, prod. TT: 53:21
Available from Ars Jörg Kessler, Germany, Tel: (49) 40 82 55 67, Fax (49) 40 82 58 97.

"Svale" carries a double meaning in Norwegian: "swallow," as in the bird, and "cool," as in jazz. The group does a mix of old favorites and less familiar works, but it's track 2 that puts me away---Cole Porter's "Love For Sale"---a unique and wonderful take on this old warhorse. The band features a unique instrumentation: two bass players reinforce and complement each other rhythmically and timbrally (there are no traditional chordal or harmonic instruments), and acoustic and electronic percussion are blended together with melodic improvisation on sax. Siri's terrific vocals tie it all together. Totally svale, if you ask me! The disc is spectacularly recorded, and "Love" is a real woofer workout.
FRANK SINATRA & DUKE ELLINGTON: Francis A. & Edward K.
Frank Sinatra, vocals; The Ellington Orchestra: Harry Carney, Russell Procope, Johnny Hodges, Jimmy Hamilton, Paul Gonsalves, saxes; Sam Woodyard, drums; Rev. Cootie Williams, "Growl" trumpet; Cat Anderson, "high" trumpet; Jimmy Hamilton, clarinet; Johnny Hodges, soul alto; Paul Gonsalves, tenor "uplift"; Lawrence Brown, trombone
Reprise FS 1024 (LP), 1024-2 (CD). Sonny Burke, prod.; Lee Herschberg, eng. TT: 35

From Stan Cornyn's liner notes describing the last day of the session: "Duke...strolling through the door, six feet plus, dressed with wry urbanity...Sinatra, wearing a vest, green and gold paisley, tie at 3/4 mast...At the piano, Duke's eyes...sad, but wisely sad...They hear back their music. Sinatra's eyes, when his song is happening, they also happen. And Duke, during playback, strutting. Playback finished, they turn to one another. 'Elegant record, Francis.' 'Always glad to hear about that kind of! carrying on, Edward.' "
Enormous recorded acoustic, an illuminated, palpable, and confident Sinatra, restrained yet exuberant Billy May arrangements---truly a record to die for. Find it---it's out there. I promise you a little bit of analog heaven.

Richard Schneider

FRITZ REINER: Vienna
Johann Strauss Jr.,: Morning Papers, Emperor Waltz, On the Beautiful Blue Danube, Vienna Blood,* Roses from the South,* Treasure Waltz,* Thunder and Lightning.* Josef Strauss: Village Swallows. Richard Strauss (arr. Reiner): Waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier. Weber (arr. Berlioz): Invitation to the Dance
Fritz Reiner, Chicago Symphony
RCA 68160-2 (CD only). Richard Mohr, prod.; Lewis Layton, eng. ADD. TT: 77:20
STRAUSS WALTZES
Includes the above asterisked titles, plus:Johann Strauss, Jr.: Artist's Life.Josef Strauss.: My Life is Love and Laughter.
Fritz Reiner, Chicago Symphony
Classic Records/RCA LSC-2500 (LP only). Richard Mohr, prod.; Lewis Layton, eng. AAA. TT: 39:55

Between RCA's Living Stereo CD and Classic Records' vinyl revival, we have all of the Strauss waltzes recorded by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony. (Artist's Life and My Life is Love and Laughter will turn up on a later RCA CD.) This is the last word on Viennese waltz style---only Carlos Kleiber can gaze into the eye of Fritz and live.

Classic's vinyl reveals the bass drum in Thunder and Lightning to be stage right with the low brass and the basses, not stage left with the timpani, cymbals, and other percussion as assumed from conventional deployment. Although apparent on the CD as well, it seems more startlingly obvious on the new vinyl. Classic relegates the original to a sentimental curio, though it no doubt remains a sound investment. The CD may not be the original oil in the gallery, but it is a reproduction of the highest quality for which no apology is necessary.


PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto 3*
SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto

Elektra 61113-2 (CD). Bob Rock, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, prods.; Randy Staub, Mike Tacci, engs. TT: 62:39Van Cliburn; Fritz Reiner, Walter Hendl,* Chicago Symphony
RCA 62691-2 (CD only). Richard Mohr, prod.; Lewis Layton, eng. ADD. TT: 60:40

Although the Schumann is all well and good, this CD is the 1960 Prokofiev recording, a performance that marks a high point in Van Cliburn's career. The size and placement of the piano in relation to the orchestra, the size and placement of the entire performing group on the stage and in the hall, the seemingly unrestricted dynamic range, and the clarity and beauty of the sound all combine to make this one of the greatest piano concerto recordings ever made. Then there's the considerable contribution of Walter Hendl, a Reiner protegée, a major talent who slipped through the cracks on his way and fame to glory. It's no small matter that Prokofiev had composed Concerto 3 for the CSO 30 years earlier; they play it as if they own it.
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