1994 Records To Die For Page 9

Ken Kessler

BIG DADDY: Sgt. Pepper's
Rhino R2 70371 (CD only). Big Daddy, Harold Bronson, Rochard Foos, prods.; Bob Wayne, Damon De Grignon, engs.; Mark Waldreo, Bob Wayne, mastering. ADD. TT: 36:32

Lehnert said, "Ken---lighten up!" So here goes: A re-recording of the entire Sgt. Pepper's LP as if it were a course in early rock'n'roll and '50s pop. Would you believe a perfect impression of Johnny Mathis doing "With a Little Help from My Friends''? How about "A Day in the Life" performed as a Buddy Holly song? Sonically a gas---this is one of the funniest spoofs I've heard since the last Iron Maiden album. What? That wasn't a spoof?

RUN C&W: Into the Twangy-First Century
MCA MCAD-10727 (CD only). Bernie Leadon, Vince Melamed, Jim Photoglo, Russell Smith, prods.; Greg Kane, eng. AAD. TT: 31:37

Lighten up? Here I go again: a re-recording of much of the best '60s soul, as if it were standard fare at the Grand Ol' Opry. Or, as Run C&W would put it: rhythm'n'bluegrass. I shouldn't have been surprised, because one friend pointed out that C&W is soul music for rednecks. Pickin'n'grinnin' versions of "My Girl," "Sweet Soul Music," "Hold On, I'm Comin'," and others---they actually work. Remember: Ray Charles and Solomon Burke recorded country albums with straight faces. Sonically a gas---this is one of the funniest spoofs I've heard since the last Bjork effort. What? That wasn't a spoof either?

Igor Kipnis

RAVEL: Orchestral Music
La valse, La vallée des cloches (orch. Grainger), Tzigane, Ma Mère l'oye Suite, Jeux d'eau (orch. Viacava), Cinq mélodies populaires grecques, Boléro, Rapsodie espagnole, Le gibet (orch. Goossens), L'Enfant et les Sortilèges: Five O'Clock Foxtrot (orch. Palmer), Piano Concerto in G, Pavane pour und infante défunte, Pièce en forme de habanera (orch. Hoérée), Daphnis et Chloé Suite No.2
Stephanie Chase, violin; Sally Burgess, mezzo; Gwendolyn Mok, piano; Han de Vries, oboe; Philharmonia, Geoffrey Simon
CALA CACD 1004/05 (2 CDs only). Tom Handley, prod.; Nicholas Parker, eng. DDD. TT: 2:29:13

Though far from a complete edition of Ravel's orchestral works, this intriguing selection includes settings of several piano works that the composer never orchestrated: the highly atmospheric Le Gibet from Gaspard de la Nuit by Eugene Goossens, or La Vallée des cloches from Miroirs, with its striking gamelan effects by Percy Grainger. These alone make the two discs essential for the Ravelian who has everything; but the beautifully reproduced orchestral playing is equally recommendable for its lush color, brilliance, and stylish effect. The solo performances are also recommended---none more so than violinist Stephanie Chase's virtuosic Tzigane.

VLADIMIR HOROWITZ: The Complete Masterwork Recordings, 1962-1973
Vladimir Horowitz, piano
Vol.I: The Studio Recordings 1962-1963 (Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Scarlatti, Scriabin, Schubert, Schumann)
Vol.II: The Celebrated Scarlatti Recordings
Vol.III: The Historic Return: Carnegie Hall 1965; The 1966 Concerts (Bach-Busoni, Chopin, Debussy, Haydn, Liszt, Mozart, Moszkowski, Schumann, Scriabin)
Vol.IV: The Legendary 1968 TV Concert (Chopin, Scarlatti, Schumann, Scriabin, Bizet-Horowitz)
Vol.V: A Baroque & Classical Recital (Bach-Busoni, Scarlatti, Haydn, Clementi, Beethoven)
Vol.VI: Beethoven
Vol.VII: Early Romantics (Chopin, Schumann)
Vol.VIII: The Romantic & Impressionistic Era (Schubert, Liszt, Debussy, Mendelssohn)
Vol.IX: Late Russian Romantics (Scriabin, Medtner, Rachmaninoff)
Sony Classical SX13K 53456 (13 CDs). Arthur Fierro, Louise de la Fuente, Bejun Mehta, Grace K. Row, Thomas Z. Shepard, remixing prods.; Ken Abeling, Charles Harbutt, Miguel Kertsman, Rob Rapley, remixing engs.; Thomas Frost, exec. prod. ADD. TT: 13:20:01

After recording for HMV and its affiliate, RCA Victor, for 34 years, Vladimir Horowitz shifted allegiances to Columbia in 1962. He remained there 11 years, and was accorded some of the very best piano reproduction of his career, as well as the opportunity to set down a wide variety of his repertoire. Everything in this 20-bit-refurbished, sensibly reprogrammed compilation has been available before, save for two new "live" items by Debussy: the Pour les arpèges composés Étude and the Book II Prélude, La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune. Horowitz's piano has seldom sounded better.

Richard Lehnert

Too Pure/Indigo/Island 162-555 001-2 (CD). Head, PJ Harvey, Robert Ellis, prods.; Head, eng. AAD. TT: 40:06

Surprise, surprise. Polly Jean Harvey's debut album---which sounds even better in its UK vinyl incarnation---continues to serve as my standard for judging passion and commitment of singing and songwriting; rhythmic sophistication, minimalism, and intelligence; and recorded rock sound---this is the sound of a live band in a dead room. It's also---and whether despite, because of, or beside the point of Harvey's musical genius or lack of same, I'll never know---the most convincing, harrowing blues album I've ever heard...except for Harvey's own 4-Track Demos, which would be listed here were it not for its honest but awful sound. The most intelligent and uncompromising record ever made about the intractable contradictions of being human, female, wronged, and starved for love. Must be heard to be believed. Must then be heard again. (XVI-3)

WAGNER: Parsifal
Siegfried Jerusalem, Parsifal; Matthias Hölle, Gurnemanz; Waltraud Meier, Kundry; José van Dam, Amfortas; Günter von Kannen, Klingsor; John Tomlinson, Titurel; Berlin PO, Daniel Barenboim
Teldec 9031-74448-2 (4 CDs only). DDD. Helmut Mühle, prod.; Jean Chatauret, eng. TT: 4:16:35

In what is becoming the second great age of Wagner recordings, this is one of the finest. Barenboim has a special insight into this most mysterious of Wagner's scores and texts that we haven't heard since Knappertsbusch at his most empathic. Barenboim surrenders entirely to the work's dark spirituality while eschewing any hint of the religious---his devotion is to the dynamic of the soul's evolution as embodied in music, and not, as is so often the case, to an embalming reverence for the work itself (or, worse, its composer). The BPO plays transcendantly, Teldec's sound is lushly radiant without a hint of digital harshness (you can "hear the walls''), and the cast is close to the cream of the current crop: Jerusalem a feisty and vulnerable Parsifal, Hölle a fully rounded Gurnemanz, and Meier in the finest of her many recorded Kundrys. More than four hours' worth of very special moments in excellent sound. (XV-4)