1993 Records To Die For Page 4

Robert Deutsch

GUYS AND DOLLS: 1992 Broadway Cast
Edward Strauss, cond. Music & lyrics by Frank Loesser
RCA Victor 09026-61317-2 (CD only). Paul Goodman, James Nichols, engs.; Jay David Saks, prod. DDD. TT: 58:56

OK, here's the deal. Put on this CD, close your eyes, and if---like the guys "standing on the corner" in another of Frank Loesser's musicals---you've got a rich imagination, you can almost see the show that's packing them in on Broadway. You've just saved yourself at least $50---double that if there are two of you. If your audio system features Class D components or better, the sound is guaranteed to be superior to what you'd hear in the theater. Guys and Dolls is a great Broadway musical; it gets a sparkling performance from some of today's best singer-actors. How can you lose?
OFFENBACH: Les Contes d'Hoffman
Plácido Domingo, Hoffman; Joan Sutherland, Olympia/Giulietta/Antonia/Stella; Gabriel Bacquier, Coppélius/Dapartutto/Dr. Miracle; Huguette Tourangeau, La Muse/Nicklausse; others. Choruses of Radio de la Suisse Romande, Pro Arte de Lausanne, Du Brassus. L'Orchestra de la Suisse Romande; Richard Bonynge
London OSA 13106 (3 LPs, nla), 417 363-2 (2 CDs). James Lock, Colin Moorfoot, engs.; John Mordler, prod. AAA/ADD. TT: 2:22:30

Perhaps because of his wife's greater fame ("Don't call me Mr. Sutherland!"), Richard Bonynge is the most underrated of opera conductors. To appreciate how good he is, just compare his Hoffman with Ozawa's recent effort (DG 427 682-2). No contest, as far as I'm concerned: Bonynge simply has a much better feel for the music. Domingo is in peak form (the voice sounding fresher than for Ozawa); Mrs. Bonynge is glorious in all three roles; and Bacquier is properly sinister as the villains. The CD set lacks some of the warmth and ambience of the LPs, but is otherwise fine.

Jack English

ROY ORBISON: The All-Time Greatest Hits
Monument W38385/W38386 (2 LPs); Vol.1, AK 44348 (CD); Vol.2, AK 44349 (CD); Vols.1 & 2, AGK 45116 (CD). Fred Foster, prod.; various engs. AAA/AAD. TT: 52:23

Country-bred, gospel-influenced, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Roy Orbison passed away four years ago. Without question, his was the greatest voice yet heard in rock. While this collection is uneven sonically and fails to include "Ooby Dooby" or "Claudette" from his Sam Phillips/Sun period, my reasons for selecting it are simple: "Oh, Pretty Woman," "Only the Lonely," "Running Scared," "Blue Angel," "Dream Baby," "Crying," "Blue Bayou," "Uptown," "Working for the Man," "Candy Man," "Falling," "Love Hurts," "Shahadaroba," "It's Over," "I'm Hurtin'," "Pretty Paper," "The Crowd," "In Dreams," "Mean Woman Blues," and, most importantly, "Leah."
PATRICK O'HEARN: Ancient Dreams
Private Music 1201 (LP), 2002-2-P (CD).Peter Baumann, prod.; Baumann, Matt Forger, Lon Neumann, engs. DDA/DDD. TT: 32:41

O'Hearn's solo debut is a recording of powerful electronic space music built up with pure, synthesized midrange tones dramatically accented by a thunderous and explosive bass. Surprisingly, this early all-digital effort has a substantial soundstage, with the ample spaciousness requisite for the genre. The driving underlying rhythms and extremely clean percussion complete the sonic picture for this hi-fi spectacular of demo-disc caliber. More important, the diversity of musical influences, coupled with a satisfying mixture of complex melodies, separate this particular recording from the vast bulk of uninspired dreck which populates this particular musical category.

Mortimer H. Frank

HAYDN: Harmoniemesse
Erna Spoorenberg, soprano; Helen Watts, contralto; Alexander Young, tenor; Joseph Rouleau, bass; Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge; Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, George Guest
London 430 162-2 (CD only). Kenneth Wilkins, eng.; Michael Bremmer, prod. ADD. TT: 69:54

Beautifully recorded in 1967 with exceptional presence and clarity (despite the resonance of a large hall), this performance has yet to be surpassed on disc. Unlike other, often more celebrated conductors, Guest displays an unflagging grasp of style, a judicious sense of pace, and an awareness of the importance of winds and brass to the music's color and harmonic daring. Dating from 1802, this setting of the Mass is Haydn's last large-scaled work, one marked by festive grandeur, tender delicacy, soaring lyricism, and prevailing drama that grows from its taut symphonic structure. In short, Guest's glorious performance is the perfect complement to one of the glories of western music. The CD is filled out with a fine account of Mozart's Vesperae de Dominica, K.321.
MOZART: Piano Concerto 22
Malcolm Bilson, fortepiano; English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner
DG 423 595-2 (CD only). Karl-August Naegler, eng.; Dr. Andreas Holschneider, prod. DDD. TT: 59:14

Here is as fine (and as finely recorded) a period-instrument release as I have ever encountered. The fortepiano is kept in proper sonic proportion so that if one raises the volume to simulate the fullness of a modern concert grand, tutti passages will shatter the eardrums. Those passages are at once brash, heroic, sharply contoured, and strongly accented, emerging with a color and point rarely encountered in other performances. Bilson, despite the limitations of his instrument, demonstrates that it can be played with timbral, rhythmic, and dynamic shadings that heighten expression and intensify the protagonist/antagonist relationship between soloist and orchestra that is central to the drama of the Classical concerto. The disc also includes the Mozart Concerto 23 in a fine (if less arresting) performance. (XII-10)

Corey Greenberg

NIRVANA: Nevermind
Sup Pop/Geffen DGC-24425 (LP), DGCD-24425 (CD). Butch Vig, Nirvana, prods.; mixed by Andy Wallace. TT: 59:22

My earlier review said all you need to know about why this trio of ugly mofos from Seattle is the first thing I feed a hi-fi rig when I want to hear what it can really do. Hardcore flannel-shirts have disowned Nirvana cuz they made it big and got a radio hit with "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and JA thinks they're too derivative, but I don't give a damn; Kurt Cobain's talkin' 'bout my generation better than anyone else in music today. And the sound (especially the LP, but the CD kicks ass too) is so good that most "in" audiophile speakers fall flat on their faces with it; try Nevermind on some Maggies or Quad ESL-63s and tell me I'm wrong. (XV-6)
Columbia ARC-38285 (LP only). James Blood Ulmer, prod.; Bill Scheniman, eng.; mastered by Joe Gastwirt. TT: 42:00

This '82 release is out of print now, but so many people hated it when it first came out that you shouldn't have much trouble finding a mint copy in used jazz bins. Scared white critics mistakenly called Ulmer the new Hendrix just cuz he wuz a wild-lookin' black man with a mighty strange gi-tar pickin' de space blues; unfortunately, Ulmer believed the hype and vanished from the scene, but not before cutting Black Rock, some of the hardest, funkiest, blackest music you'll ever hear. This is the music Miles always wished he could write: utterly humorless, older than field hollers, bristling with anger and pride and hard electric love, and the sound will take you places you may roll up your windows in a panic from. I once cleared a party at 4am with this, all except for one weird little guy who asked me to play it again, only this time louder. We remain friends to this day.