1994 Records To Die For Page 13

Allen St. John

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle
Columbia JC/CK 32432 (LP/CD). Mike Appel, Jim Cretecos, prods.; Louis Lahav, eng. AAA/AAD. TT: 46:50

Channeling Van Morrison and Eddie Floyd as much as Elvis, a 24-year-old Springsteen entered 914 Studios in the Summer of '73 to record his second album, not knowing if he'd get the chance to make a third. He emerged with one of the most densely populated, fullest albums ever committed to tape. Springsteen's tragicomic tales about Spanish Johnny, the Singing Junkman, and a cast of thousands are set to audaciously eclectic jazz-, soul-, and funk-influenced arrangements that stretch but never break. All this and reference-quality tuba, too. Give much of the credit to pianist David Sancious, the classically trained Monk fan who gave the E Street Band its name. Not as fully realized as the records that would come later, The Wild, the Innocent... captures the ragged, delirious energy that results only when an artist's reach just exceeds his grasp.

VICTORIA WILLIAMS: Swing the Statue!
Rough Trade US50 (LP/CD). Michael Blair, Victoria Williams, prods.; Kevin Smith, eng. AAA/AAD. TT: 45:30

Swing the Statue! may be the happiest album I know. Whether she's singing about pre-adolescent experiments with controlled dangerous substances, finding the Holy Spirit in the subway, or just looking at the moon, Williams imbues her songs with a sense of wonder that's downright infectious. The whimsical production is perfectly appropriate: Blair and Smith assemble a widescreen aural montage of chirping crickets, closing doors, and dial tones that's reminiscent of Van Dyke Parks at his best. Joyful, funny, and wise---a record that Flannery O'Connor would have loved.

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT: Three Years, Five Months, Two Days in the Life of...
Chrysalis CDP21929 (CD). Speech, prod.; Matt Still, eng. AAD. TT: 62:02
Slash 26786-2 (CD). Mitchell Froom, Los Lobos, prods.; Tchad Blake, eng. AAD. TT: 52:34

RL won't let me spend another 10,000 words telling you why these two sonic blockbusters are also pop milestones. So read my reviews, or just go out and buy them. (XVI-5,XV-11)

STEELY DAN: Pretzel Logic
MCA MCAD-31165 (CD), ABCD808 (LP). Gary Katz, prod.; Roger Nichols, eng. AAD/AAA. TT: 34:03

This "newly remastered" CD with subtly different graphics (but the same catalog number) sounds three generations better than the old silver disc, and at least a generation and a half better than my R2D4 LP reissue. A sonic bargain for nine bucks. (XV-2);

KATE & ANNA McGARRIGLE: Kate & Anna McGarrigle
Carthage LP4401 (LP), Hannibal HNCD 4401 (CD). Joe Boyd, Greg Prestopino prods.; John Wood, eng. AAA/AAD. TT: 35:47

The best-sounding record I own is finally out on CD. This Disc For Which To Perish sounds as lush as the fine Carthage LP reissue, even if it's not quite up to the standards of my transcendentally wonderful early Warners pressing. (XIV-1,XV-2)

Steven Stone

MAC MacANALLY: Live and Learn
MCA MCAD-10543 (CD only). Tony Brown, Mac MacAnally, prods.; Chuck Ainlay, Alan Shulman, Mac MacAnally, engs. DDD. TT: 40:32

Mac MacAnally, a good ol' boy who writes great tunes with enough hooks and bridges to span the Great Salt Lake, has been around forever. If we lived in a fair world, he'd be as big a star as that bald, pudgy dude with the cowboy hat---Garth "Don't Buy Used CDs" Brooks. If "Only Passing Through" (about our transitory nature) or "Trouble with Diamonds" (about the limited value of gems) don't get you, "Somewhere Nice Forever" is sure to grab your heart and squeeze---if it doesn't, you're dead and your body just doesn't know it yet.

EMMA KIRKBY: Olympia's Lament
Arias by Claudio Monteverdi and Sigismondo D'India
Emma Kirkby, soprano; Anthony Rooley, chitarrone
Elektra 79125-1 (LP), -2 (CD). Martin Compton, prod.; Antony Howell, eng. AAA/AAD. TT: 46:25

I love Emma Kirkby---too bad she's married to Anthony Rooley. My dark, secret fantasy is to kidnap her and force her to sing for me whenever I want. But since I'm not into anti-social acts, this recording will have to do. It does very nicely indeed. Beautiful material and lovely sonics make this recording a definite R2D4 for anyone but the Beavis and Butt-head crowd. The opening selection, "Quel Sguardo Sdegosetto," is just too beautiful for words.

MICHAEL RUFF: Speaking in Melodies
Sheffield Lab CD-35 (CD only). Clair Marlo, prod.; George Massenburg, Nathaniel Kunkel, Gavin Lurssen, Rail Rotgut, engs. DDD. TT: 60:07

If Stevie Wonder was a visually unimpaired, pretty, long-haired white boy, he'd be Michael Ruff---that's the sort of beautiful blue-eyed soul you'll find on Speaking in Melodies. I first heard Michael live at the 1993 Winter CES, where he performed with his wife, Nadia, at a party hosted by Sheffield Lab. He nearly broke my heart right there on the spot. Clair Marlo and George Massenburg have created a masterpiece that, for pure sonic excellence, equals any pop disc ever made. One of my five main reference CDs. Buy it, or you're a deaf fool.

Reprise 26315-2 (CD only). David Briggs, Neil Young, prods.; John Hanlon, eng.; DDD. TT: 62:44

If you saw Neil Young nearly blow Pearl Jam off the stage at this year's MTV music video awards show, then you have an inkling of ol' curmudgeonly Neil's rock'n'roll power. This disc delivers the feedback-laden goods loud and nasty---just the way you like it. Geezer-rock rules. (Corey, eat your heart out.) Great life-like sound that rivals even the MC-5's classic Kick Out the Jams for high-energy, down'n'dirty, rock'n'roll fun. Track 3 is my favorite---sounds great at 105dB. (XIV-2)

KBCO: Recorded Live in Studio C, Vols.1-3
KBCO-C-1, 2, 3 (3 CDs). Scott Arbough, Doug Clifton, Tom Koetting, prods.; Arbough, Tom Meir, Koetting, engs. ADD. TT: 3:11:38

This series of limited-edition CDs---created by Boulder radio station KBCO as a charity fund-raising vehicle---features great performances by a variety of artists including James Taylor, Chris Whitley, Roger McGuinn, Crash Test Dummies, Bruce Cockburn, Tori Amos, Julian Lennon, Indigo Girls, Matthew Sweet, Shawn Colvin, John Gorka, Michael Penn, Jim Messina, and Richard Thompson. All performances were done in a tiny room at the radio station. To get a copy if you're not in the Denver area, see Guy Lemcoe's article on Colorado Vinyl in Stereophile, Vol.16 No.2, p.81, and let your fingers do the walking.

Steve Stoner
As a first-time R2D4 contributor, I found myself really challenged to come up with these selections, especially since RL told me my Bob Wills collection was eligible only if I had the original 78rpm direct-to-disc recordings---in stereo. Yeah, right. Anyway, after much thought, perseverance, and fortitude (aka Wild Turkey 101, Camel Filters, and Miller Hi-Life), I came up with some all-time favorites. But asking me a question like this is like asking me who my dream date would be---too many choices, too little time, and in this case, too little room. Oh well, you take what the boss upstairs gives you (not that boss---I mean RL) and go with it.
AC/DC: Live
Atco 92226-2 (Collector's Edition, 2 CDs only). Bruce Fairbain, prod.; Ken Lomas, eng. AAD? TT: 2:12:01

Brian Johnson's Drano-drenched vocals, Angus Young's omnipresent speed riffs, and a rhythm section that won't quit make this album indispensable if you're in the mood for balls-to-the-walls, headbanging rock'n'roll. AC/DC is one of the loudest, most musically accurate rock bands on the road today. Combine this precision with the raw energy jumping from the tracks (my transport hasn't been the same), and you have some of the best partying on record. AC/DC Live is a must-have for those who like to rock and rock hard.
Columbia FC/CK 37930 (LP/CD). Dave Edmunds, prod.; Aldo Bocca, Carey Taylor, engs. AAA/AAD. TT: 33:42

A couple of years after the break-up of his and Nick Lowe's band Rockpile, Dave Edmunds went back into the studio with a new batch of musicians and got busy. The result? One of the smoothest-rockin', fun albums around. From the opening chords of Springsteen's "From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)" to Chuck Berry's "Dear Dad" and everything in between (check out NRBQ's "Me and the Boys"), Edmunds takes control and doesn't let go until he's done. Mighty fine sound, too. Geraint Watkins's great keyboard work and Dick Hanson's and John "Irish" Earle's killer horns complement Edmunds's guitar all the way down the line. Every time I finish listening to this record, I wonder why Edmunds recruited Jeff Lynne to produce his next couple of efforts.

Warner Bros. BSK-3010 (LP), W2-3010 (CD). Fleetwood Mac, prods.; Richard Dashut, Ken Caillat, engs. AAA/AAD. TT: 40:05

A fine offering from one of England's (via California) oldest bands, this album mixes a generous blend of pop and rock that appeals to both sexes: women like it because it's "listenable" (ie, it's easy on the ears), men like it because most of the songs are borderline "romantic" without being mushy. It's a shame President Bill had to choose "Don't Stop" as his campaign song---kinda makes me feel old. Rumours still sounds to me like a greatest hits collection; I prefer it to the "official" Mac hits set released a few years back. Best song? "Go Your Own Way" wins by a mile. Why? Because it rocks!

TOY MATINEE: Toy Matinee
Reprise 26235-2 (CD only). Patrick Leonard, prod.; Bill Bottrell, eng. AAD. TT: 45:56

During our divorce, my ex and I argued over who would get this disc. She ending up taking it back to Dallas with her, but not before I ordered myself another copy. Toy Matinee is Kevin Gilbert and Patrick Leonard---I don't know anything more about them except that this 1990 release is filled with sad, thought-provoking music. Singing of heartbreak ("Things She Said''), ecology ("Last Plane Out''), and amusing tributes ("Turn It On, Salvadore''), these guys prove that music doesn't necessarily have to rock to deliver. This is their only release. What happened to 'em?

THE WHO: Who's Next
Decca 79182 (LP), MCA MCAD 37217 (CD). The Who, Glyn Johns, prods.; Glyn Johns, eng. AAA/AAD. TT: 43:26

The Who at their absolute peak---they should've disbanded after this release and left well enough alone. This album rocks from the word go and doesn't stop until the final power chord of "Won't Get Fooled Again''---with some nice surprises in between. The innovative use of the then-new ARP synthesizer and the late, great Keith Moon at his drumming best make this album one of my all-time favorites---more than 20 years later, it still knocks my socks off. I can't believe it hasn't made it to R2D4 until now.