1995 Records To Die For Page 14

Steven Stone

TORI AMOS: Under the Pink
Atlantic 82567-2 9 (CD), East/West 7567-82567-1 (German LP). Tori Amos, Eric Rosse, prods.; John Beverly Jones, Paul McKenna, Eric Rosse, Kevin Killen, Ross Cullum, mix; Bob Ludwig, LP mastering. ADD/ADA. TT: 56:52

Tori Amos's second solo release proves that she's certainly more than a one-shot phenomenon. State-of-the-art production values coupled with material and arrangements that reveal deeper layers of meaning and beauty on repeated listenings make this release just the sort of thing you need if stranded on a desert isle, or taking off on an extensive jaunt into third-world wilderness.

My favorites on this spinning movable feast are "Pretty Good Year," "The Waitress," and "Past the Mission." The LP, with its grainless liquid midrange and three-dimensional, stand-your-hair-on-end pyrotechnics, makes a powerful argument for the sonic superiority of vinyl. (XVII-4)

PATTY LARKIN: Angels Running
High Street 10318-2 (CD). Ben Wisch, Jon Leventhal, prods.; Ben Wisch, Chris Theis, Roger Moutenot, mix eng.; Ted Jensen, mastering. DDD. TT: 44:02

This is the third release on High Street records for this veteran Cape Cod-based singer/songwriter. Not only does Larkin write heart-breaking songs like "I Told Him My Dog Wouldn't Run," but she's also a superb finger-style guitarist. Listen to "Banish Misfortune/Open Hand" and tell me her picking doesn't equal Bert Jansch's or John Renbourne's.

Production values are as good as any megabuck release from the big boys. Guitars sound natural, and the mix is spacious with excellent inner detail. Arrangements are fully fleshed out without being overstuffed. Sidefolk like John Leventhal and Mary Chapin Carpenter keep the level of musicianship on a stellar plane. If you don't latch onto this gem, it's your misfortune.

Steve Stoner

NRBQ: Message for the Mess Age
Rhino/Forward R2 71427 (CD). Terry Adams, Joey Spampinato, prods.; Chris Anderson, George Cowan, Tom Mark, Todd Levine, Tod Vas, engs. AAD? TT: 42:34

On any given day, you'll find this disc in one of my two home systems, plus a copy on cassette in the Toyota. These guys write some of the best pop'n'rock this side of the pond; it's a damn shame that, after spending the majority of his musical career (20 years plus) with the band, Al Anderson departed shortly after this release. Having listened to Message at least once a week since it came out, I'm convinced it's the Q's best effort ever. (XVII-5)

ELTON JOHN: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
MCA2-10003 (2 LPs), Polydor 821 747-2 (CD). Gus Dudgeon, prod.; David Hentschel, eng. AAA/AAD? TT: 76:19

Back in '73, this twofer from the real Piano Man at his unquestioned best showed me that there was more to rock music than four-on-the-floor timekeeping and a heavy bottom end. From the haunting opening of "Funeral for a Friend (Love Lies Bleeding)" to the final harmonies of "Harmony" ("Grey Seal" and the nostalgic "Roy Rogers" are two of too many favorites to list here), Goodbye takes me on a musical roller-coaster ride every time I hear it. The band never sounded tighter, John's playing and singing never better (hats off to Bernie Taupin for the killer lyrics). Twenty years later, no album smooths out my frazzled nerves after a hard day at Stereophile's Accounts Receivables desk like GYBR. It's beautiful.

Michael Ullman

Analogue Productions 008 (LP/CD). Roy DuNann, eng.; Lester Koenig, prod.; Doug Sax, remastering. AAA/AAD. TT: 43:29
Contemporary Fantasy OJC-337 (CD). Roy DuNann, eng.; Lester Koenig, prod. AAD. TT: 70:48

My first choice for a Sonny Rollins album would be either Saxophone Colossus or Plus Four, both on Fantasy. Saxophone Colossus has Tommy Flanagan and Max Roach playing "St. Thomas"---the most inspiriting of Rollins's calypsos---as well as the classic blues "Blue Seven." Plus Four has Clifford Brown in several of his sublime performances. But both are mono. Hence, Way Out West---beautifully remastered and pressed by Analogue Productions, and featuring Rollins in a laconic mood on "I'm an Old Cowhand" and other sometimes dubious material redeemed by his wit, intelligence, and unbounded musicality. The Contemporary issue doesn't quite have the lively sound of the AP CD, but it does have three long alternate takes. (XV-11, XVII-2)

BILL EVANS: Waltz for Debby
Analogue Productions 009 (LP/CD). David Jones, eng.; Orrin Keepnews, prod.; Doug Sax, remastering. AAA/AAD. TT: 38:33

Ever since I received it, the Waltz for Debby LP pressed by Analogue Productions has been the record with which I demonstrate my turntable. Especially on the LP, but on the CD as well, the recording is sublime---you hear the warmth and percussive force of Evans's playing, the plink of LaFaro's bass, and Motian's exquisite cymbal work better than on any other recording. The music is sublime, the title cut as well as the touching, sophisticated ballad "My Foolish Heart." Heartbreaking indeed---even if we didn't know that LaFaro was killed in an accident soon after this live date. (XVII-9)