Recording of the Month

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Robert Levine  |  Sep 19, 2017  |  2 comments
Eriks Ešenvalds: The Doors of Heaven
The First Tears, Rivers of Light, A Drop in the Ocean, Passion and Resurrection
Dr. Ethan Sperry, Portland State Chamber Choir; various instrumentalists
Naxos 8.579008 (CD). 2017. Erick Lichte, prod.; John Atkinson, Doug Tourtelot, engs. DDD. TT: 58:52
Performance ****
Sonics *****

Latvian composer Eriks Ešenvalds has been making quite a name for himself in choral music. He teeters gingerly between consonance and dissonance, and varies intimate whisperings, the strength of forces—sometimes a solo soprano over the chorus; sometimes a solo vocal quartet; sometimes exquisite, silky smooth legato singing by the entire chorus—with wise, spare use of instruments.

Robert Baird  |  Sep 12, 2017  |  3 comments
Doc and Merle Watson: Bear's Sonic Journals, Never the Same Way Once: Live at the Boarding House May 1974
Owsley Stanley Foundation (7 CDs). 2017. Hawk, exec prod.; Starfinder Stanley, Jeffrey Norman, Pete Bell, project coordinators; Owsley Stanley, orig. eng.; Jeffrey Norman, CD mastering, tape archivist; John Chester, Jaime Howarth, digital transfers. ADD? TT: 5:33:17
Performance *****
Sonics *****

The late Owsley "Bear" Stanley spent his life raising consciousness. Whether it was mixing up jars of LSD, building his famous Wall of Sound PA system for the Grateful Dead, or supervising the creation of an incredible library of live recordings, Bear Stanley was after a certain purity, a higher level of quality, epiphanies.

Margaret Graham, J. Gordon Holt  |  Sep 05, 2017  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1978  |  5 comments
Bill Berry and His Ellington All-Stars: For Duke
Works by Duke Ellington
Bill Berry, cornet; Ray Brown, bass; Frankie Capp, drums; Scott Hamilton, tenor sax; Nat Pierce, piano; Marshal Royal, alto sax; Britt Woodman, trombone.
M&K Real-Time RT-101 (direct-to-disc LP).

This is to-date the best direct-to-disc recording I have heard. For once I can't complain about the high end being shrill or hard. The balances are excellent and the performances superior, with each member of the group getting his chance to show off. Marshal Royal's saxophone solos must be heard to be believed, Everyone present is obviously having a good time making music, which is the way it always ought to be but often isn't.

Margaret Graham  |  Aug 30, 2017  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1979  |  0 comments
Michael Newman—Classical Guitarist
Sheffield Lab 10 (LP). Lincoln Mayorga, prod.; Doug Sax, eng., prod.

Mr. Newman's program comprises Bach's "Chaconne" from the Violin Partita No.2 in d, Albeniz's Torre Bermeja, Turina's Fandanquillo, and Eduardo Sainz de la Maza's Campanas del Alba. This is simply gorgeous. The most perfect guitar recording to date. BUY IT!!!!Margaret Graham

Margaret Graham, J. Gordon Holt  |  Aug 29, 2017  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1979  |  1 comments
Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture (Op.49), Capriccio Italien (Op.45 ), "Cossack Dance" from Mazeppa (LP), plus Marche slav, Op.31, Polonaise and Waltz from Eugene Onegin , Op.24, Festival Coronation March (CD).
Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Kiev Symphony Chorus; Children's Choir of Greater Cincinnati, Erich Kunzel cond.
Telarc Digital DG-10041 (LP, CD-80041 (CD). 1979 (LP), 1984 (CD). Edited at Soundstream, Inc. Robert Woods, prod.; Jack Renner, eng. DAA (LP), DDD (CD). TT: 35:19 (LP), 60:23 (CD).

I must say I'm getting a bit bored with the 1812 Overture, but as long as there are audiophiles, it will be recorded due to the stringent demands it can make upon one's playback system. This version produced by Telarc is going to be hard to beat. The cannon fire is unbelievable.

Robert Baird  |  Aug 17, 2017  |  1 comments
DeJohnette, Grenadier, Medeski, Scofield: Hudson
John Scofield, electric guitar; Larry Grenadier, bass; John Medeski, keyboards; Jack DeJohnette, drums.
Motema CD-228 (CD). 2017. Hudson, prods.; Scott Petito, eng.; Beth Reineke, asst. eng. DDD TT: 69:92
Performance ****½
Sonics ****½

Sometimes, a successful recording is not about the material, the studio, the producer, or even the players involved. Sometimes, it's about a shared feeling that grows among the players and conjures a groove. Grooves can be hard to find, especially among accomplished players recording together for the first time who have styles, ideas, and egos of their own. But once achieved, this invisible bond, this feeling of being in sync, should sound easy—as if there's nothing to it. It's this sort of natural, authentic pace and feeling that makes Hudson, the first recording from the quartet of Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, John Medeski, and John Scofield, such a success.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Aug 10, 2017  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1980  |  2 comments
TCHAIKOVSKY: Capriccio Italien
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Capriccio Espagnol

Boston Pops conducted by Arthur Fiedler.
Crystal Clear CCS-7003 (Direct-cut LP). Ed Wodenjak, prod.; Bert Whyte, eng.; George Piros, Richard Simpson, Stan Ricker, mastering; John Meyer, special equipment; John Curl, console design.

One of Crystal Clear's earlier releases (1978), this has very distant, directionally vague sound, but the sound (stupendous by standards of only a few years ago) cannot stand in the way of two of the most exciting performances of these potboilers that have ever been committed to disc.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Aug 08, 2017  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1980  |  6 comments
MOUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition, Night on Bald Mountain
Cleveland Orchestra, Lorin Maazel, cond.
Telarc 80042 (LP). Recorded at Masonic Auditorium, Cleveland, OH. Edited at Soundstream, Inc. Mastered at JVC Cutting Center. Robert Woods, prod.; Jack Renner, eng.; Stan Ricker, mastering eng. DAA.

This is unquestionably the best recording Telarc has done to date. It is almost impossible to fault. If I were to pick nits, I would complain about a slight lack of air in the strings. The rest is, simply, superlatives!

Margaret Graham  |  Aug 01, 2017  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1980  |  2 comments
Lincoln Hayorga and Amanda McBroom: Growing Up In Hollywood Town
Lincoln Hayorga and Amanda McBroom
Sheffield LAB-13 (LP).

This is a gorgeous recording. And would you believe, it's multi-miked? Sheffield's first since 1975, according to the notes. Ms. McBroom has that purity of intonation that once distinguished Julie Andrews' voice. This, plus a predominantly-string backup orchestra delivers a rich, warm sound. Each of the songs here is a gem in its own right, and the collaboration of McBroom and Mayorga creates moments here that are magical. My favorite is the song entitled "Amanda," with its frontier flavor and unadorned lyrics, followed by Mayorga's'waltz, "Wistful Lady."

Robert Baird  |  Jul 25, 2017  |  9 comments
The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: Anniversary Edition
Parlophone/EMI PCS 7027 0602557455328 (4 CDs, 1 BD, 1 DVD). 1967/1987/2009/2017. Giles Martin, prod.; Sam Okell, mix; Jeff Jones, exec. prod.; Jonathan Clyde, Guy Hayden, project prods.; Matt Mysko, Greg McAllister, mix assts.; Miles Showell, Sean Magee, mastering; Matthew Cocker, transfer eng.; James Clarke, audio restoration. ADD? TT: 3:23:11 (CDs only)
Performance *****
Sonics *****

Even VIP visitors to Abbey Road studios are allowed to only peer down a dimly lit hallway to the vault where the Beatles tapes, arguably the UK's most valuable crown jewels, are meticulously stored. Given the value of the band's recorded legacy, it was only a matter of time before even Macca, who over the years has made cryptic and patently false statements about scraping the bottom of the barrel, would get behind new stereo mixes and the long-awaited official release of alternates and outtakes. While the three double-CD volumes of Anthology contained some of this material—and bootlegs had the rest—the release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: Anniversary Edition is a welcome and wonderful conglomeration of music and information, old and new, about this landmark recording.

Robert Levine  |  Jul 13, 2017  |  3 comments
Rachmaninoff: Piano Sonata 2, Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Six Moments Musicaux
Evelina Vorontsova, piano
STH Quality Classics CD1416092 (CD). 2017. Paul Steverink, Boudwijn Zwart, prods.; Jaco van Houselt, eng. DDD. TT: 74:42
Performance ****½
Sonics *****

This is Russian-Dutch pianist Evelina Vorontsova's second recording; the first was in 2002. Born in 1972, she took fourth prize in the Rachmaninoff Competition at 18, and second prize at the International Franz Liszt Piano Competition two years later; in 2006, she won second prize in the International Piano and Orchestra Competition in Cantù, Italy (at which there was no first prize awarded). Judging from this CD and its very challenging program, she is a remarkable talent; one wonders why she is not more famous and signed to a major label.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Jul 06, 2017  |  First Published: Nov 01, 1981  |  0 comments
Bernie Krause: Citadels of Mystery
Mobile Fidelity MFSL 1-505 (LP).

This is a very hyped, contrived recording, but then nobody ever pretended that this kind of musical construction was supposed to approximate the sound of a live performance. The strings are quite steely on this but, in all other respects, the recording is is stupendous—unctuously rich, smooth and limpidly clear, with some awesomely taut low end and cuttingly crisp percussion sounds.

Robert Baird  |  Jun 13, 2017  |  3 comments
Taj Mahal & Keb' Mo': TajMo
Concord CRE00432 (LP). 2017. Taj Mahal, Keb' Mo', prods.; Zach Allen, John Caldwell, Alex Jarvis, Jesse Nichols, Casey Wasner, engs.; Ross Hogarth, mix; Richard Dodd, mastering; Bernie Grundman, vinyl mastering. AAA? TT: 45:20
Performance ****
Sonics ****

The blues, that wonderful basis of so much American popular music, has for many listeners grown a bit stale and old-fashioned. It's not much of a draw outside bar bands, and other than Alligator Records, most of the biggest blues labels have folded or gone dormant. Losing many of the music's first- and second-generation practitioners hasn't helped.

Robert Baird  |  May 16, 2017  |  2 comments
Dominic Miller: Silent Light
Dominic Miller, guitar; Miles Bould, percussion
ECM 2518 (CD). 2017. Manfred Eicher, prod.; Jan Erik Kongshaug, eng. DDD? TT: 41:06
Performance *****
Sonics *****

It was a pairing that seemed right from the very start: ECM's founder, Manfred Eicher, a man renowned for having an unmatched ear for talent and exacting sound-engineering skills; and guitarist Dominic Miller, an internationalist who was born in Argentina, raised in Racine, Wisconsin, and now lives in Provence, France, and who's spent more than 20 years playing and writing with Sting. Along the way, Miller has been a hired guitar slinger with everyone from the Pretenders and Chris Botti to Rod Stewart and Plácido Domingo. He's made 13 solo records, has recorded the music of J.S. Bach on guitar, and says his favorite album is Deep Purple's Made in Japan.

Robert Baird  |  Apr 20, 2017  |  1 comments
The Flying Burrito Brothers: The Gilded Palace of Sin
A&M/Intervention SP 4175 (LP). 1969/2017. Larry Marks, prod.; Henry Lewy, prod., eng.; Kevin Gray, remastering. AAA. TT: 35:24
Performance *****
Sonics ****½

The International Submarine Band, the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and finally, just Gram Parsons. He was a Snively on his mother's side, scion of a vast citrus-growing fortune. A trust-fund baby who, unlike most of the struggling musicians he hung out with, could go to a bank and withdraw large amounts of cash. When he was 12, two days before Christmas, his father killed himself. Seven years later, on the day he graduated from high school, his mother finally drank herself to death. He lasted one semester at Harvard before becoming a denizen of Los Angeles, and eventually a powerful force in the Sunset Strip music scene.

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