1998 Records To Die For Page 12

Steve Stolder

FIRESIGN THEATRE: Shoes for Industry!
Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman, Phil Proctor, voices
Columbia/Legacy C2K 52736 (2 CDs). 1993. Firesign Theatre, orig. prods.; Bob Irwin, compilation prod. AAD. TT: 2:33:40

Take some remarkably prescient plotting (1974's Everything You Know is Wrong works as a parody of today's paranormal craze) and add absurdist wordplay ("May I take your hat and goat, sir?"). Factor in a fertile social and political milieu courtesy of always-good-for-a-yuck Richard Nixon. (Like our erstwhile president, Firesign began campaigning in late '67 and by '74 were truly hysterical, albeit in a profoundly puzzling manner.) Voila! The Firesign Theater, the only comedy group that took full advantage of the recording studio and the long-play record. (They aspired to be the Beatles of comedy, but it was the Beatles of "Revolution 9," not "Love Me Do.") Here is the fundamental overview of humorists who made mirth "with your mind in mind."
BUDDY HOLLY: The Buddy Holly Collection: 50 Classic Recordings
MCA MCAD2-10883 (2 CDs). 1993. Norman Petty, Owen Bradley, Bob Thiele, Dick Jacobs, orig. prods.; Andy McKaie, compilation prod. AAD? TT: 107:00

Buddy Holly appeared, burned like a flare for a year and a half, and disappeared, leaving behind nothing that wasn't heartfelt. When I listen to "Peggy Sue," "Well All Right," "Words of Love," and, most especially, "Everyday" (voice, acoustic guitar, bass, celesta, knee-slaps...perfect!), I marvel at the lyrical openness, the taste and restraint of the music. Those are qualities generally learned over time---which, of course, was in short supply for Holly, who died five months into his 22nd year. Buddy Holly isn't generally thought of as a sage, but you can learn a lot from these songs.

Steven Stone

SHAWN COLVIN: A Few Small Repairs
Columbia CK 67119 (CD). 1996. Jon Leventhal, prod., eng.; Joe Blaney, Mark Plati, engs. DDD? TT: 51:26

A Few Small Repairs answers the question, What will Shawn Colvin be when she grows up? This collection of tough new tunes is all about being a grownup in the real world. Most are co-written by producer Jon Leventhal, who also contributes guitar, keyboards, and bass. This disc isn't a friendly folky potpourri, but a forceful, in-your-face pop mix. It's full of keyboard washes, horns, strings, percussion, and multitracked vocals, in addition to Colvin's Lowden acoustic guitar. It sounds like God. Just like the protagonist on "Sunny Came Home," this album grabs you "with a vengeance." Killer stuff.
Lava 82991-2 (CD). 1997. Brad Jones, prod., eng.; Robin Eaton, prod.; Elijah Shaw, Dom Maita, engs. DDD? TT: 46:04

Jill Sobule is an original---her music doesn't fit into an easy category for station managers, promo reps, and DJs to pigeonhole. The best way to describe her music is as adult cynical pop. She combines catchy melodies with sardonic lyrics and blends them together in technologically complex arrangements. Her last release contained the minor hit "I Kissed a Girl." In Sobule's words, "It was the stupidest thing on the album." Happy Town has nothing as facile or obvious. Perhaps that's why it's been such a commercial stiff. The sound is superb, as befits an R2D4 nominee.

John Swenson

THE RADIATORS: Songs from the Ancient Furnace
Columbia Legacy CK 65061 (CD). 1997. Rodney Mills, Joe Hardy, Jim Dickinson, The Radiators, prods.; various engs.; AAD. TT: 57:37

New Orleans' venerable rock band The Radiators celebrate their 20th anniversary in 1998. With a book of more than 2000 songs, mostly brimming from the philosophic visions of Ed Volker (aka Zeke Fishhead), the band offers enough variation to provide chronic fans with a lifetime of new experiences.

Songs . . . is a cram session covering some of the band's best and most accessible work, including the near-hit "Doctor Doctor," the glorious rhumba "Like Dreamers Do," the wonderful melody of "Little Paradise," the power groove of "Let the Red Wine Flow," and the whimsical "Join the Circus." A glimpse of the band's rhythmically intense live performances closes things out on "Love is a Tangle."

$1000 CAR: Big Shot
CHJ/Greedom CHJ-1012 (CD). 1997. $1000 Car, prods.; Mike Mayeux, eng. AAD? TT: 43:32

This crackling debut was the most joyous rock'n'roll record released in 1997. A reunion between ex-Neptunes Jake Flack and Steve Watson, $1000 Car evokes memories of Rockpile with short, tightly structured songs that rock with abject abandon. The record reflects the healthy interaction between the New Orleans and Austin, Texas music scenes, with Peter Holsapple of the Continental Drifters sitting in on keyboards and mandolin, and Derek Hudson from the Iguanas playing saxophones. The Flack/Stern collaboration "What a Way to Live" is a terrific statement of purpose, and Watson's "Take a Little for Yourself," also recorded by the Austin-based Schwaggart, is an anthem for the 1990s.

Sam Tellig

J.S. BACH: Oboe Concertos, BWV 1053, 1055, 1056, 1059, 1060
Christian Hommel, oboe, oboe d'amore; Lisa Stewart, violin; Cologne Chamber Orchestra, Helmut Müller-Brühl
Naxos 8.554169 (CD). 1996. Uwe Walter, prod.; Gabriele Albert, eng. DDD. TT: 68:33

Naxos, natch. Why pay $15 or more for a CD when Naxos has such R2D4s in their catalog for $6, or $5 on sale? Helmut Müller-Brühl and the Cologne Chamber Orchestra are giving us an excellent complete Haydn Symphonies cycle on the same label---check those out, too (17 volumes so far). But this collection of five Bach oboe concertos is a special gem. Oboist Christian Hommel studied under the famous Heinz Holliger, and he's superb---the second, Larghetto movement of BWV 1055 is almost heart-rending. "Very sad music," said Marina. "But beautiful." Then, a few moments and one movement later, she changed her mind: "Not so sad at all."

Precisely. Wistful, perhaps. The Allegro and Presto movements flow with graceful, unhurried ease---and elegance. The recording, made in the concert studio of Deutschland Radio, is all one could ask for, even at full price---immediate and clear. You can hardly lose with any Naxos recording---if it looks interesting, just buy it. But do seek out this one.

DELIUS: Orchestral Works
Florida Suite, Over the Hills and Far Away, Idylle Printemps, La Quadrone, Scherzo, Final Scene from Koanga
David Lloyd-Jones, English Northern Philharmonia
Naxos 8.553535 (CD). 1995. Paul Myers, prod.; Dave Harries, eng. DDD. TT: 79:05

In 1887, British-born composer Frederick Delius left England for Florida to run a plantation of orange groves---his father's idea. But Delius showed more interest in music, and eventually returned to Europe to study at the Leipzig Conservatory, where, under the influence and friendship of Edvard Grieg, he composed Florida Suite. The work receives a splendid performance here---lush, impressionistic, dreamlike, with suitably atmospheric performances by the English Northern Philharmonia under David Lloyd-Jones. Just listen to the oboe solo in the first movement, "Daybreak." The music seems to emerge from the landscape itself. The third movement, "Sunset---Near the Plantation," has clear echoes of Grieg. The recording, made at Leeds Town Hall, is at once clear and spacious. Even people who don't normally like classical music will love this disc. Ideal mood music.