Robert Baird

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Robert Baird Posted: Jan 19, 2011 0 comments
Sun City Girls Funeral Mariachi
Abduction ABD 045LP (LP). 2010. Alan Bishop, prod., eng.; Scott Colburn, Randall Dunn, engs. AAA. TT: 37:12
Performance ****
Sonics ****

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 East–North 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.

Robert Baird Posted: Dec 29, 2011 Published: Jan 01, 2012 2 comments
Tom Waits Bad As Me
Anti- 87151-1 (LP). 2011. Tom Waits, Kathleen Brennan, prods.; Julianne Deery, prod. coord.; Karl Derfler, eng.; Zack Summer, asst. eng. ADA? TT: 44:37
Performance *****
Sonics ****½

They only come out at night. Or when recession, wars, and gridlock rule. On Bad As Me, Tom Waits's first record of new material since 2004's Real Gone, things having gone bad all over gives his uniquely American narratives a fresh resonance: "Well we bailed out all the millionaires / they got the fruit, we got the rind / and everybody's talking at the same time / everybody's talking at the same time." ("Talking at the Same Time"). But lest anyone get the idea it's all politics and no licentiousness, the next track, "Get Lost," dives deep into loopy rockabilly slap beats as two of the three stellar guitarists who dominate this album, Marc Ribot and David Hidalgo (Los Lobos), conjure a twitchily convincing froth over which Waits revels in the simpler pleasures of Wolfman Jack and "real tight sweaters."

Robert Baird Posted: Jul 19, 1998 0 comments
TOM WAITS: Beautiful Maladies
Island 314-524 519-2 (CD). 1998. Various prods., engs. AAD? TT: 74:00
Performance *****
Sonics ****?
Robert Baird Posted: Jul 14, 2002 1 comments
THE BAND: The Last Waltz
Warner Bros./Rhino Entertainment R2 78278 (4 CDs). 1978/2002. Robbie Robertson, prod.; Rob Fraboni, John Simon, co-prods.; Larry Samuels, exec. prod.; Terry Becker, Tim Kramer, Elliot Mazer, Wayne Neuendorf, Ed Anderson, Neil Brody, engs. AAD? TT: 4:10:16
Performance *****
Sonics ****?
Robert Baird Posted: Jul 10, 2004 Published: Jul 01, 2004 0 comments
CHRIS STAMEY: Travels In the South
Yep Roc 2033 (CD). 2004. Chris Stamey, Jefferson Holt, prods.; Don Dixon, Greg Elkins, prods., engs.; Tim Harper, Brian Paulson, John Plymale, Wes Lachot, Logan Matheny, Dan Korneff, engs. AAD. TT: 52:30
Performance ****
Sonics ***
Robert Baird Posted: Jul 17, 2005 0 comments
DAVID CHESKY: Area 31
The Girl from Guatemala, Flute Concerto, Violin Concerto
Wonjung Kim, soprano; Jeffrey Khaner, flute; Tom Chiu, violin; Anthony Aibel, Area 31
Chesky SACD288 (SACD/CD). 2004. David Chesky, David Eggar, prods.; Barry Wolfson, eng.; Rick Eckerle, second eng.; Nicholas Prout, mastering, editing. AAD? TT: 56:31
Performance ****½
Sonics *****
Robert Baird Posted: Jul 07, 2009 0 comments
Allen Toussaint: The Bright Mississippi
Nonesuch 480380-2 (CD). 2009. Joe Henry, prod.; Kevin Killen, eng.; Anthony Ruotolo, asst. eng. AAD? TT: 61:31
Performance ****½
Sonics ****
Robert Baird Posted: Jul 11, 2010 0 comments
Sinatra Jobim: The Complete Reprise Recordings
Concord CRE-32026 (CD). 2010. Sonny Burke, orig. prod.; Lee Herschberg, orig eng.; Hal Gaba, reissue exec. prod.; Charles Pignone, reissue prod.; Larry Walsh, reissue eng.; Dan Hersch, 24-bit remastering. AAD. TT: 58:23
Performance ****
Sonics ****
Robert Baird Posted: Jul 06, 2011 2 comments
Paul Simon: So Beautiful or So What
Hear Music HRM-32814 (CD; the LP comes with a voucher for hi-rez downloads). 2011. Paul Simon, Phil Ramone, prods.; Andy Smith, eng. AAD? TT: 38:15
Performance ****½
Sonics ***½

"Love & Blessings"? "Questions for the Angels"? It seems that Paul Simon, who will turn 70 in October, has begun to ask life's Big Questions in preparation for his own exit. Yet in this case, seeming is not reality, and at 69, Simon has returned to his polyglot musical influences (that he may or may not have heisted...but that's an argument for another day) to fashion a startlingly powerful collection of songs that successfully mix the jaunty near-danceability of his world-music adventures with serious lyrics about impending death, the vagaries of love, and, especially, the many unknowables contained in the word God.

Robert Baird Posted: Jun 28, 2012 Published: Jul 01, 2012 0 comments
Bill Evans: Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of the Gate
Bill Evans, piano; Eddie Gomez, bass; Marty Morrell, drums
Resonance HLP-2012 (2 LPs/2 CDs, HDTracks 24/44.1k download). 1968/2012. George Klabin, exec. prod., mix, sound restoration; Zev Feldman, prod.; Fran Gala, mix, sound restoration, mastering. ADA/ADD. TT: 49:12/40:50
Performance *****
Sonics * to ***

Complain if you will, analog lovers, about the evils of digital technology, but in one area there isn't a whiff of argument: the esoteric pursuit of rescuing live recordings with marginal sound. Without question, manipulating ones and zeros has cleaned up a lot of nearly unlistenable bootlegs. This bit of buried treasure, while never unlistenable, has been rendered in sound that is, at times, very good. The two-star sonics rating, which may seem shocking for a "Recording of the Month," is an average—while the sound quality rates a single star in the opening, it's nearly up to four stars by Disc 2. The long-ago sounds of these two live sets of the Bill Evans trio playing mostly standards, recorded in a long-gone Greenwich Village club, Top of the Gate (it was literally above the better-known Village Gate jazz club), are, if not the holy grail, then a very gilded cup.

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