2008 Records To Die For Page 8

Universal B0007444-49; 7468-70 (10 CDs). 1964–70/2007. Ira Pittelman, Gene Zacharewicz, prods.; Jeff Zaraya, remastering. ADD. TT: 7:36:03 (www.theclassic60s.com)

I couldn't resist the late-night TV pitch of Peter Noone ("Herman" of Herman's Hermits) for this 10-CD collection of hit singles from 1964 to 1970. The set focuses on one-hit wonders from Motown and the British Invasion, presumably because those artists who remain stars today would be unlikely to license their recordings to such an offering. But there isn't a single tune here that's a clunker, and the remastering is almost uniformly exquisite—which will be a shock to boomers used to hearing these tunes on AM car radios or Seeburg jukeboxes.

Anat Cohen, clarinet; Jason Lindner, piano; Omer Avital, bass; Daniel Freedman, drums, percussion; Gilad, percussion. With: Antoine Silvermann, Belinda Whitney, violin; David Creswell, viola; Danny Miller, cello.
Anzic 1301 (CD). 2007. Anat Cohen, Omer Avital, prods.; Leon Dorsey, eng. DDD? TT: 65:13

This recording is jazz saxophonist Anat Cohen's first outing on her original instrument, the clarinet. And, oh, what an original voice that is! I have never heard a clarinetist whose articulation, phrasing, and use of dynamics and portamento more closely resemble those of the human voice. Cohen's sense of melodic shaping flows like a narrative, hence the album's title. Her chamber ensemble, augmented by a string quartet, covers a wide range of Cohen originals, Brazilian and Israeli folk songs, and even a Coltrane tune.


GOLIJOV: Oceana,1 Tenebrae,2 Three Songs3
Dawn Upshaw,3 soprano; Luciana Souza,1 vocals; Soloists,1 Gwinnet Young Singers;1 Kronos Quartet & guests;2 Robert Spano,1, 3 Atlanta Symphony1, 3 & Chorus1
Deutsche Grammophon B0009069-02 (CD). 2007. Sid McLauchlan,1, 3 Judith Sherman,2 prods.; Stephan Flock,1, 3 Judith Sherman,2 engs. DDD. TT: 60:42
GOLIJOV: Ainadamar
Dawn Upshaw, soprano; Kelley O'Connor, mezzo-soprano; Jessica Rivera, soprano; Robert Spano, Atlanta Symphony, Women of the Atlanta Symphony Chorus
Deutsche Grammophon B0006429 (CD). 2006. Valerie Gross, Sid McLauchlan, prods.; Stephan Flock, Wolf-Dieter Karwatky, engs. DDD. TT: 80:15

The music of Osvaldo Golijov is a great discovery for me. The recent origins of these works, all but one composed in the last decade, should not be off-putting—Golijov is a thoroughly romantic and mostly tonal composer. His tremendous lyrical talent is clearly voiced in his works for the female voice, and expressed in styles ranging from the tango to the Yiddish lament (Three Songs). Add to that his talent at integrating emotionally communicative sound effects into the music, as most strikingly demonstrated by the use of a rifle barrage as rhythmic underpinning for the execution scene in Ainadamar. Even in his strictly instrumental music, such as the Tenebrae for strings, Golijov's melodies have a vocal quality. Beyond all such analysis, Golijov tells stories with a wide array of voices and instruments, and with the syncopation of the tango and the Latin flavor of the guitar, whether explicit or implied. This is marvelous stuff.

The sound is good but not outstanding—not in the class of what Telarc gets from the Atlanta Symphony on their SACDs. Nonetheless, the all-important voices are beautifully rendered, and there's sufficient impact from the varied percussion instruments to support the drama.

MOZART: Symphonies 19, 20, 21, 26
Adám Fischer, Danish Radio Sinfonietta
DaCapo 6.220541 (SACD/CD). 2007. John Frandsen, Karl Bjerre Skibsted, prods.; Lars C. Bruun, eng. DDD. TT: 67:55
MOZART: Violin Concertos 3, 4, 5
Marianne Thorsen, violin; Oyvind Grimse, Trondheime Solistene
2L 2L38SACD (SACD/CD twin pack). 2006. Morten Lindberg, prod., eng.; Hans Peter L'Orange, eng. DDD. TT: 79:40

In these phenomenally lovely and original performances of some of Mozart's middle-period symphonies and violin concertos, conductor Adám Fischer and the Danish Radio Sinfonietta emphasize the works' classical structures, while Oyvind Grimse and the Trondheime Solistene play with remarkable flexibility. Each reveals a truly Mozartean flare; playing them back to back, one feels that their individual personalities serve the music with fidelity. Fischer gives each symphony its due without, like Harnoncourt's more generic presentations, overdramatizing them. Violinist Marianne Thorsen, going up against Julia Fischer's ongoing Pentatone series of the Mozart concertos (and directly in No.5), finds many subtle and delightful ways to make these familiar works voyages of discovery.

The sound is excellent in both sets, but subtly different. The symphonies sound as if recorded in a small concert hall with a warm but open acoustic, which allows the balance of the strings and brass to be simultaneously contrasted and consistent. Indeed, despite the small forces and classical scoring, the perceived dynamic range is great. The concertos, on the other hand, were recorded in a small church with a more close-up sound; the venue provides its warmth more in the ambience than in the direct instrumental sound. I'm addicted to both sets.


DAN ZANES: Cool Down Time
Private Music 0100582133-2 (CD). 1995. Tchad Blake, prod., eng. AAD. TT: 40:11

Zanes headed the nervous, shaky Del Fuegos back in the days before alternative was a marketing term, but you'd never know it from this disarming, low-key affair, which loosely documents his alcoholic crash landing, recovery, transition back to the real world, and, finally, a second career as a children's entertainer. The sound of this stripped-down trio of Zanes, Mitchell Froom, and Jerry Marotta evokes glimmers of everyone from Booker T and the MG's to the Band. The soulful, bluesy grooves are solid, and Zanes handles admittedly difficult subject matter with humor ("Tested," "Rough Spot") and poignancy ("If You Live," "No Sky," "Carefully").

ABCKO 882 290-2 (SACD/CD). 1965/2002. Andrew Loog Oldham, prod.; David Hassinger, eng. AAD. TT: 28:09

It is a thing of magic to hear the moment when five individual musicians become a band: when the spark ignites, when the whip comes down. That's how Out of Our Heads feels. Not to say that the Rolling Stones hadn't shown plenty of promise on earlier singles and albums, but then they were mostly mimicking their heroes, for whom they were, out of their heads. But something happens here: It's the moment of inspiration, the point at which they take control of any song they cover, and at which Mick Jagger and Keith Richards' songwriting begins to come together. Richards said recently that the Stones didn't really nail "Satisfaction," that it took Otis Redding to finally get it right. I guess I can forgive them for the clumsiness of the hit single that changed their careers.


AMADOU & MARIAM: 1990–1995: Le meilleur des années maliennes
Mariam, vocals; Amadou, guitar
Because 3106072 (CD). 2006. Aliyu Adamu Maikano, prod.; Wilfrid Harpaille, eng. ADD? TT: 77:11

Amadou & Mariam are a blind husband-and-wife guitar-and-voice team from Mali, a country that has come to prominence as the home of some of the best and most accessible music to emerge from the African continent (cf the collaborations by Ry Cooder and Ali Farka Toure). This CD, a compilation of early recordings, contains beautiful, touching music ranging from blues to happy dance tunes. The sound quality is very variable, the original productions having been distributed on cassette, but offers a directness that I find much more appealing than the overproduced and overcompressed sound of their recent collaboration with Manu Chao, for example. (If you're looking for this on Amazon.com, they list it as "1990–1995: The Best of the African Years.")

Works for cello by J.S. Bach, Bloch, Bruch, Davidoff, Dvorák, Elgar, Mancini, Tchaikovsky, Wagner
Jan Vogler, cello; Helmut Branny, Dresdner Kapellsolisten
Sony BMG 713065 (CD). 2007. Andreas Neibrunner, prod.; Stephan Schellmann, eng. DDD. TT: 57:09

Jan Vogler is a rising star among European cellists. For this CD he has recorded some of his favorite pieces, including the opener, Elgar's Salut d'amour, Op.12; the Tchaikovsky Nocturne; and works by Bloch, Davidoff, Wagner, Bruch, Bach, and Henry Mancini—the album closes with "Moon River." Vogler gets a wonderful tone from his instrument and has obvious technical abilities, but these remain subservient to the music. My favorite piece is probably Bloch's Prayer, but Bruch's Kol Nidrei deserves special mention, too. The sound is clean and clear and allows the music to shine.