Recording of the Month

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Robert Baird Posted: Aug 15, 2004 Published: Aug 01, 2004 0 comments
K.D. LANG: Hymns of the 49th Parallel
Nonesuch 79847-2 (CD). 2004. k.d. lang, Ben Mink, prods.; David Leonard, John Morrical, engs. AAD? TT: 47:24
Performance ****½
Sonics ****
Robert Baird Posted: Aug 14, 2005 0 comments
JOHN PRINE: Fair & Square
Oh Boy OBR-034 (CD). 2005. John Prine, prod.; Gary Paczosa, prod., eng.; Thomas
Johnson, Brandon Bell, asst. engs. AAD? TT: 62:16
Performance ****½
Sonics ****½
Robert Baird Posted: Aug 12, 2006 1 comments
GRAM PARSONS: The Complete Reprise Sessions
Rhino/Reprise RS 74669 (3 CDs). 1972–73/2006. Emmylou Harris, James Austin, reissue prods.; Hugh Davies, Ed Barton, orig. engs.; Dan Hersch, Bill Inglot, remastering engs. AAD? TT: 2:01:26
Performance *****
Sonics **1/2 to ****1/2
Robert Levine Posted: Aug 11, 2007 0 comments
BEETHOVEN Piano Concertos 1 & 4
Lang Lang, piano; Christoph Eschenbach, Orchestre de Paris
Deutsche Grammophon B0008725-02 (CD). 2007. Arend Prohmann, prod.; Jrgen Bulgrin, eng. DDD. TT: 74:30
Performance ****
Sonics ****
Les Berkley Posted: Aug 14, 2008 0 comments
The Dowland Project: John Potter, tenor; John Surman, tenor & bass recorder. soprano saxophone, bass clarinet; Milos Valent, violin, viola; John Stubbs, baroque guitar, vihuela
ECM New Series 1970 (CD). 2008. Manfred Eicher, prod.; Markus Heiland, eng. DDD. TT: 77:00
Performance ***½
Sonics ****
Robert Baird Posted: Aug 14, 2009 0 comments
Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse: Dark Night of the Soul
With: Frank Black, Julian Casablancas, Vic Chesnutt, Wayne Coyne, Flaming Lips, David Lynch, Jason Lytle, James Mercer, Iggy Pop, Gruff Rhys, Suzanne Vega.
CD/download. 2009. Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse, prods., engs. AAD? TT: 43:16
Performance ****
Sonics ****
Robert Baird Posted: Aug 09, 2010 0 comments
Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden: Jasmine
Keith Jarrett, piano; Charlie Haden, double bass
ECM 2165 (CD). 2010. Manfred Eicher, exec. prod.; Keith Jarrett, prod.; Martin Pearson, eng. DDD. TT: 62:54
Performance *****
Sonics *****
Robert Baird Posted: Aug 03, 2011 0 comments
Bon Iver: Bon Iver
Jagjaguwar 52135 (CD). 2011. Justin Vernon, prod., eng.; Brian Joseph, eng.; Nate Vernon, Andy Immerman, asst. engs.; Greg Calbi, mastering. AAD. TT: 39:28
Performance ****
Sonics ****

Many, though certainly not all, musicians of most genres dream of composing, crafting, birthing a hit record—one they will forever be known for, and that will make them enough money that they'll never have to sleep on another hard floor or friend's stained couch as long as they live. Very few fulfill this dream, and those who do often don't know why or just how it happened.

Robert Levine Posted: Jul 25, 2012 Published: Aug 01, 2012 0 comments
Joplin: Treemonisha
Anita Johnson, soprano; AnnMarie Sandy, mezzo-soprano; Chauncey Packer, Robert Mack, tenors; Edward Pleasant, high baritone; Darren Stokes, Frank Ward Jr., basses; others; Paragon Ragtime Orchestra and Singers, Rick Benjamin
New World 80720-2 (2 CDs). 2012. Judith Sherman, prod., eng. DDD. TT: 99:06
Performance ****
Sonics *****

The great ragtime composer Scott Joplin had grander ambitions than just the magnificent miniatures for piano he's famous for. When he died, in 1917, he had spent much of the previous 10 years polishing and campaigning for his full-length opera, Treemonisha, the piano-vocal score for which he had published in 1911. Joplin had studied classical composition and notation with a German scholar who had happened to settle in his hometown of Texarkana, Arkansas; lore has it that Julius Weiss gave young Joplin lessons in exchange for Mrs. Joplin's services as a laundress. Treemonisha is through-composed, with sophisticated harmonies clearly influenced by European teachings, but it also incorporates early-jazz beats, proto-blues sounds, odd syncopations, occasional Victorian-type ballads, African-American folk and pop music, and moments that recall field hollers and revival meetings—in short, all of the music of the Black experience in America is represented.

Robert Baird Posted: Jul 23, 2013 Published: Aug 01, 2013 4 comments
For all those who hold dear the notion that jazz has seen its best days—that, like classical music, it now lacks star power (no more Birds, Mileses, or Coltranes on the marquees), has already said much of what it had to say, and what's left is merely esoteric noodling or soulless bop-by-rote mopping up—there is Terence Blanchard. Once the archetypal sideman, this New Orleanian contemporary of Donald Harrison and Wynton Marsalis has become a successful leader. His poise, generous spirit, and workaholic lifestyle —not to mention his instantly recognizable trumpet tone—have quietly made him one of the leading figures in today's jazz mainstream.
Robert Baird Posted: Jul 21, 2014 Published: Aug 01, 2014 0 comments
The Black Keys: Turn Blue
Nonesuch 7559795555 (LP/CD/HDtracks download). 2014. Black Keys, Danger Mouse, prods.; Kennie Takahashi, eng.; Collin Dupuis, Geoff Neal, Bill Skibbe, asst. engs.; Tchad Blake, mix. TT: 45:09
Performance ****
Sonics ****

There was a time when calling the Black Keys "sexy" would have been thought perversely stunted, given that they were a two-man, raw-as-hell, blow-me-down, frat-rock grinder that jammed and pounded and convinced everyone that their version of Tony Joe White's groove was something new and revolutionary.

Robert Baird Posted: Jul 21, 2015 1 comments
Sly and the Family Stone: Live at the Fillmore East, October 4th & 5th, 1968
Epic 88843023712 (4 CDs). 2015. Sly Stone, orig. prod.; Bob Irwin, reissue prod.; Vic Anesini, mastering. AAD? TT: 3:27:31
Performance *****
Sonics ****

The first thing you hear is not Sly Stone's keyboards or harmonica. Not Freddie Stone's guitar. Not Greg Errico's amazing drumming. Not Larry Graham's slapping bass. Not the voices of Rose Stone (also keys) and Cynthia Robinson (also trumpet). Not Jerry Martini's saxophone.

No. The first thing you hear is pure energy: the nuclear reaction of musical power that Sly and his Family Stone generated onstage on two October nights in 1968 at the Fillmore East. James Brown and his band(s) had nothing on these seven. This is prime Sly, when the band was still hungry, before the hits, before his life spun out of control, the music suffered, and the family split.

Margaret Graham Posted: Feb 09, 2015 Published: Dec 01, 1982 6 comments
COPLAND: Appalachian Spring, Rodeo, Fanfare for the Common Man
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Louis Lane, cond.
Telarc Digital DG-10078 (LP). Robert Woods, prod., Jack Renner, eng. DAA. TT: 44:11.

I predict that this Fanfare for the Common Man will suffer the same fate as the opening measures of Also Sprach Zarathustra. The impact of the opening brass and tympani is stupendous. Even when I know it is coming, I tend to leap from my chair in surprise. All audiophile copies of this disc will become grey and worn on Band One of Side One.

Audiophile impact aside, please don't neglect the other two works on this disc. Both Rodeo and Appalachian Spring receive excellent interpretations, and they too contain sufficient brass and drum to excite a jaded audiophile.

J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jun 17, 2014 Published: Dec 01, 1984 3 comments Symphony 9 in d, Op.125 ("Choral")
Berlin Staatskapelle and Rundfunkchor, Otmar Suitner, cond.; Dietrich Knothe, chorus master; Magdaléna Hajóssyová, soprano; Uta Priew, contralto; Eberhard Büchner, tenor; Manfred Schenk, bass.
Denon CD383C7-7021 (CD).

This is a positively stunning performance, abetted by one of the best-sounding orchestral recordings on CD to date.

I have long felt that the best reading of Beethoven's Ninth ever committed to records was an antique Columbia 78 set with the Vienna Philharmonic and Felix Weingartner (later released on an abominable-sounding LP: SL-165). I almost hate to day it, because the oldest idols die the hardest, but Suitner's is better! This is a monumental, consummately joyous Ninth that leaves the listener with a wonderful feeling of elation. If the orchestral playing is at times a little less than world-class and a couple of the soloists not quite up to star level, so what? This may well be the definitive Ninth on CD, both interpretively and sonically.

J. Gordon Holt Posted: Mar 18, 2014 Published: Dec 01, 1985 9 comments
rotm1285.p.pngRespighi: Church Windows
The Pacific Symphony Orchestra, Keith Clark conducting.
Reference Recordings RR-15 (LP). Tam Henderson, prod.; Keith Johnson, eng. AAA

Some years ago, Harry Pearson, editor and publisher of That Other Magazine, announced his intention to help finance production of a no-holds-barred symphonic recording. The only question was, who would produce it?

Reference Recordings' Tam Henderson assures me he did not have HP's grant in mind when he conspired with the Pacific Symphony's conductor to record "something" in the Crystal Cathedral, a huge barn of a place in Santa Ana, CA. When that hall, graced by a large, romantic-sounding pipe organ and superb acoustics, proved to be unavailable because of some legal wrangle, the idea of recording something big and romantic for orchestra and pipe organ refused to go away.


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