1996 Records To Die For Page 10

Beth Jacques

THE KINKS: Everybody's in Showbiz
Rhino R2 70935. Ray Davies, prod.; Mike Hobak, eng. (studio tracks). ADD. TT: 71:20
Whether the impetus has been alcohol, schizophrenia, or English mysticism, the Kinks' Ray Davies has always functioned as a one-man British answer to the Sierra Club, flashing on the carefully observed time and place of the (sort of) everyday. Go for this perfectly realized bookend pair and get a studio LP, which details how a working rock act prepares for one more working day, then get caught up in the act---maybe booze-soaked, maybe perfectly performed. ('Fess up, David Lee Roth, who learned it all from "Baby Face.") Re-experience, too, the most radiant track in all contemporary pop, "Celluloid Heroes." Originally a two-LP set, Rhino's single-CD reissue is digitally remastered and remixed. Points for that.

Green Linnet GLCD 4007 (CD). John Santos, prod.; Rob Holland, eng; John Santos, Ro! b Holland, Guillermo Cespedes, mix. TT: 52:39

Masters of the Afro-Cuban form "son," the expanded Cespedes family (originally a trio, now a 12-piece, including an Anglo lady trombonist from Chicago) turns the Bay Area's long-jealously guarded local dance party into a national living treasure: a fusion of marvelously shake-your-behind music, fiendish polyrhythms, ensemble emphasis, and Yoruban secular folklore. "Discovered" and commissioned four years ago by the Redwood Cultural Work and The Rockefeller Foundation to set the poetry of legendary Cuban poet Nicholas Fuillen to music, today Conjunto Cespedes' second release has copped nearly every Latin music award going. No wonder: musical co-director and Afro-Cuban Lucumi priestess Gladys (Bobi) Cespedes is the Kathleen Ferrier of Akpwon, and the breadth, generosity, and precision of the lyrics, the melodies, and the compassion of the writing make Conjunto Cespedes citizens of the world. El son es lo mas sublime para el alm! a divertir.

J. Gordon Holt

SAINT-SAËNS: Piano Concerto 2
FRANCK: Symphonic Variations

Artur Rubinstein, piano; Alfred Wallenstein, Symphony of the Air
Classic Records/RCA Living Stereo LSC-2234 (LP only). AAA. TT: 46:22

Recorded here at the height of his career, Rubinstein plays with the spontaneity and élan of a live performance. All that's missing is the applause.

Despite its early-1960s vintage, this is one of the best-sounding of the superb Classic Records' Living Stereo reissues, with deep, solid bass,(2) open, silky highs, and more dynamic range than I thought it possible to get on tape without noise reduction.

(2) Scuttlebutt has it that Classic Records' symphonic releases have very heavy, loose low end. This is a bass canard! If you experience this, it's not the recording's fault, it's your system's. Because of their wide dynamic range, average recorded levels on these discs are lower than usual, and raising the volume to correct for it can uncover acoustic feedback problems you never thought you had. That's what screws up the bass. Solution: ! Improve your loudspeaker/turntable isolation. (XVI-6)

THE ROYAL BALLET: Gala Performances
Suites from The Nutcracker, La Boutique, Coppelia, Giselle, Swan Lake, Carnaval, Sleeping Beauty, Les Sylphides
Ernest Ansermet, Royal Opera House Orchestra, Covent Garden
Classic Records/RCA Living Stereo LDS-6065 (2 LPs). AAA. TT: 89:22

What makes this two-record set of suites from eight of the most popular ballet scores so special is the stunning sound, and the freshness and "rightness" of the performances. Mastered by English Decca, which was already experimenting with their multi-microphone "tree," the recording is suaver than RCA's three-mike Living Stereo recordings, but because the tape was left on during the breaks between numbers, the small sounds of turning pages and squeaking chairs give these a sense of immediacy missing from the RCAs.

This is light listening of the best kind, and both these LPs are sorry reminders of what two major recording companies could do before they hired marketers. (XVIII-6)

Robert Hesson

DEBUSSY: String Quartet in g
RAVEL: String Quartet in F

Quartetto Italiano
Philips 835 361 AY (LP). AAA. TT: 68:33

When I first heard these works played by the Quartetto Italiano, it was a revelation. Some may claim that the interpretations are over-Romanticized, but you're unlikely to hear performances that are more poignant. These players reveal a spiritual depth to the works that is simply unprecedented in my experience, and the recording quality achieves similar excellence. Both the performances and the sound are vibrantly alive and deeply affecting. This recording is also available on a Philips Silver Line CD (420 894-2), but I have not heard it.

REVUELTAS: Night of the Mayas
With: Homenaje a Federico García Lorca, Sensemaya, Ocho X Radio, Toccata, Alcanfas, Planos
Eduardo Mata, New Philharmonia Orchestra; David Atherton, London Sinfonietta; Luis Herrera de la Fuente, Orquesta Sinfónica de Jalapa
Catalyst 62672-2 (CD only). Charles Gerhardt, Andrew Kazdin, prods.; Kenneth Wilkinson, Samuel Ovilla Sárate, eng.; Karl Hereim, remastering; Tim Page, executive prod. ADD. TT: 69:28

Manic, compulsive, and enigmatic, these compositions by Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940) are at times frightening in their intensity. A veteran of the Spanish Civil War, mental hospitals, and alcoholism, Revueltas lived life full-tilt and composed music the same way. From its hypnotic Nachtmusik to its puckish wit to its rhythmic orgies, this music is sure to command your attention and win your heart. We're fortunate to have it presented in such spirited performances and rich sound quality. The first five works listed a! bove, produced by Charles Gerhardt, are especially impressive for their realistic tone colors and 3-D soundstage.