1995 Records To Die For Page 8

Geary Kaczorowski

BUTTHOLE SURFERS: Independent Worm Saloon
Capitol 98798-2 (CD). John Paul Jones, Butthole Surfers, prods.; Pat McCarthy, eng. TT: 62:21
The cream of an already wonderful oeuvre. It's all here: the twisted banjo tunes, the sonic riff-rockers, the humor inherent in songs with titles like "Dog Inside Your Body." Vocalist Gibby Haynes is at his howlingly sarcastic best, and the band behind him plays every smarmy note to the hilt. Paul Leary's guitar has never sounded scarier or more pleasing as he piles on the solos, and King Coffey's drumming is topnotch, fill-oriented, sloppy fun. This record even contains, dare I say it, a Butthole Surfer hit single: "Who Was in My Room Last Night?" You can't do much better than this for serious-minded dementia.

MILES DAVIS: Bitches Brew
Miles Davis, trumpet; Wayne Shorter, soprano sax; Bennie Maupin, bass clarinet; John McLaughlin, electric guitar; Chick Corea, Larry Young, Joe Zawinul, electric piano; Dave Holland, acoustic bass; Harvey Brooks, Fender bass; Jim Riley, percussion; Charles Alias, Jack DeJohnette, Lenny White, drums
Columbia G2K 40577 (2 CDs only). Teo Macero, prod. AAD? TT: 93:43

This is the pinnacle of the fusion movement---no one's done it better. Miles was at the height of his creative genius when he assembled this unit of musicians who have all gone on to starring roles of their own, if nothing quite so glorious. Here, Miles's leadership and overall musical smarts pushed them to perform as they never had before. Each thrusting note from Miles's horn, each response from the principle players, is an exercise in precision. There's a special quality to this album that made listening to jazz---hell, listening to music---never quite the same.

Igor Kipnis

MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition(original piano version); Pictures at an Exhibition (Orch. Ravel)
CHOPIN: Etude in F, Op.25 No.3; Waltz in a, Op.34 No.2

Byron Janis, piano; Antal Dorati, Minneapolis Symphony
Mercury Living Presence 434 346-2 (CD only). Andrew Nicholas, CD mastering eng.; Wilma Cozart, prod. ADD. TT: 66:02

Janis's Pictures, a stunning performance with a wonderful succession of characterful moods, ranks alongside those of Richter and Horowitz, but is far better recorded. It was taken from a 1961 tape that should have received a catalog number while waiting for coupling material but didn't---and was hence misfiled, only now being issued for the first time. Both it and the excellently played Minneapolis orchestral version of 1959, with its full bass and colorfully captured timbres, sound extremely realistic and vivid, the orchestral Pictures in particular having far better imaging than the majority of present-dayy recordings. Don't miss this one.

SHURA CHERKASSKY: Live, Vol.3---Encores
Paderewski: Menuet cèlébre, Op.14 No.1; Tchaikovsky-Nagel: None but the lonely heart; Chopin: Waltz in e, Op.Posth.; Rachmaninoff: Polka de VR; Elégie; Shostakovich: Polka from The Age of Gold; Scriabin: Etude in c#, Op.2 No.1; Balakirev: Islamey; Cherkassky: Prèlude Pathètique; Sinding: The Rustle of Spring; Albéniz-Godowsky: Tango in D, Op.165 No.2; Mozart: Rondo alla turca; Debussy: Arabesque No.1; Rebikov: Christmas Tree; Moszkowski: Liebeswalzer in A-Flat, Op.57 No.5; Sibelius: Romance in D-Flat, Op.24 No.9
Shura Cherkassky, piano
London 433 651-2 (CD only). Nigel Gayler, eng.; Misha Donat, David Byers, Richard Butt, Robert Layton, prods. ADD, DDD. TT: 53:12

Cherkassky's choice of encores, taken from concerts in Great Britain between 1979 and 1991, reveals several old chestnuts as well as lesser-known items, suc! h as the Sibelius Romance. The pianist's elegant, multi-colored way with this material just has to delight the ear---any ear. Light-fingered one moment (Rachmaninoff's Polka), thundering the next (Balakirev), he absolutely exudes charm. Even his Shostakovich, with its impish humor, is never self-conscious. The piano pickup, although from ten different locales, is quite similar throughout, not at all clattery or overly close-up---a very realistic and successful sonic portrait of a major personality.

Richard Lehnert

GREG BROWN: The Poet Game
Red House RHR CD 68 (CD). Greg Brown, Bo Ramsey, Bob Feldman, prods.; Tom Tucker, eng. ADD. TT: 53:05
If you ever feel so bad that the only thing that'll help is feeling even worse before you start feeling better, then The Poet Game is for you. These are some of the bravest, most literate, intelligent, musical, harrowing---and tuneful---songs I've ever heard, minimally arranged for yer basic two-guitar/B-3/bass/drums folk-rock combo and sung by Brown in his inimitable deep, foggy voice. Brown built up to this one through nine earlier albums over more than a decade, and it's a keeper. For those dark nights of the soul when you need to know that at least one other human being has felt as hopeless as you do and survived to tell these cold-comfort tales. Sound is wonderfully spacious, dark, liquid, with great warm bass. Sobering. (XVIII-1)

TERRY EVANS: Blues for Thought
Pointblank/Charisma/Virgin 39064 2 (CD only). Ry Cooder, prod.; Mark Ettel, eng. AAD? TT: 49:18

JA and I named Blues for Thought "Recording of the Month" last August, but I wonder if maybe I wasn't just a wee bit stinting in my praise. This CD (Pointblank hadn't released an LP at time of writing) has it all: great singing, great songs, great playing, great arrangements, and astonishingly vivid recording quality (the space! those drums! that voice!)---all done with nary a Stereophile-totin' audiophile within earshot. Evans wields his immense, deep voice in gutsy, powerhouse singing of frightening commitment. His heart is just as big, and his appetites for justice ("Get Your Lies Straight") and sensuality ("Natcha Bone Lover") are equally omnivorous. Producer Ry Cooder, himself no slouch in the authenticity department, plays slide and arranges throughout (yup, Keltner and Oldham are aboard). A perfect record, and a true and important one. (XVII-8)