The Fifth Element #63 Page 4

The good news is that "So Do I" is a really wonderful, evocative track. The bad news is that the rest of the CD is mostly dross. Bleeding-pony-tail, hard-left political propaganda. Moore must be the last person on the planet who thinks of Fidel Castro as a humanitarian. I wonder if Moore knows how Castro's regime treated and treats homosexuals? Prison and torture, mostly. (Improper Conduct, a documentary about the Cuban concentration camps—yes, concentration camps—for gays, won the Best Documentary Audience Award at the 1984 San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.) So: I report, you decide. Is it worth it paying a premium price for an out-of-print CD with only one worthwhile track on it? Your choice.

Oh yes. The Alexandrias were pretty impressive. And addictive (footnote 1).

Irrational, But Efficacious!
Now is as good a time as any to report my total bafflement at Ayre Acoustics' Irrational, But Efficacious! System Enhancement Disc, Version 1.2, available from vendors such as Music Direct for about $20 plus shipping.

I played "So Do I" on the system I will report on next time, Vivid Audio's B-1 loudspeakers ($15,000/pair and fabulous!) driven by Ayre's entry-level AX-7 integrated amplifier and CX-7 CD player. I then played the Ayre disc's one-minute "Short Glide Tone," then played "So Do I" again. I have not had a good night's sleep since.

I am flabbergasted. I heard a lower noise floor. Things were quieter and smoother: less metallic/electronicky, with better microdynamics, and just overall more listenable. I had a greater sense of the flexion of the pick in the attacks on guitar strings, if that makes sense. I am aware that Art Dudley's reaction in July 2009 was 180° apart from mine. But at least he heard something.

Everyone I have played this demo for has been floored, and three have since bought the CD. JA is coming at the end of the week to measure the Vivid B-1s in-room. I will do the demo for him, and he will, I'm sure, let you know about it. My advice: Buy Ayre's Irrational, But Efficacious! from a vendor who will provide a money-back guarantee even after you've opened it, and try it out. (Music Direct will accept returns, they tell me.)

More Great CDs
First is a CD from French vocal group Accentus, whose vocal transcriptions include their wild adaptation of the Adagietto from Mahler's Symphony 5 that I raved about in June 2009 (2 CDs, NaÔve V 5151). This disc combines their performance of the rediscovered 1893 original version of Fauré's Requiem with a knockout performance of his Cantique de Jean Racine (Naïve V 5137).

To hear Fauré's familiar Requiem in its original conception is like going from a 1950s massed-forces Messiah to a historically informed performance. That the singers are presumably all native speakers of French can only help, and the lovely Cantique, accompanied by full orchestra, is a wonderful program-closer. Still, the best performance I ever heard live (the all-male King's College Choir) was with organ accompaniment only (a CD of this version is available as DG Panorama 469 268-2).

And now for something completely different. A Holy Grail of the Messiaen discography has been newly rerecorded: FÍte des Belles Eaux, for Ondes Martenot sextet (CD, ATMAClassique ACD2 2621). The Ondes Martenot, an early analog tube synthesizer of sorts, is most famously still heard in Messiaen's TurangalÓla-Symphonie. Like all such early electronic instruments, it can play only one note at a time, so a sextet is required to play chords. Again, you will "get" it or you won't. A wonderful bonus is an authorized transcription of the first movement of Ravel's String Quartet for Ondes Martenot sextet. Check out the informative video.

Vinyl Cheesecake
Finally, a book for those more hormonally than culturally oriented, perhaps. Vixens of Vinyl: The Alluring Ladies of Vintage Album Covers is Benjamin Darling's tribute to said ladies (Chronicle Books, 2001; hardcover, $14.95). It's good, mostly clean fun—a little naughty, but not porn-like, like some other such efforts. The list price is reasonable, and though it's now out of print, many copies are offered at reduced prices on eBay,, and For the LP collector on your gift list.


Footnote 1: We will be publishing a feature on this system in the January 2011 issue.—Ed.

JasonVSerinus's picture

In John Marks' otherwise excellent column, he repeats misinformation about Cuba's policy toward and treatment of homosexuals. Based on a 26-year old film, he makes a totally unsupportable and untrue statement - that the present-day Castro regime imprisons and tortures homosexuals. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Official Cuban policy is totally supportive of lesbians, gays, and transgenders. Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro and head of Cuba's National Sex Education Center, has spearheaded a huge campaign among the populace about the need to treat lesbians and gays as equals. There was even an officially sanctioned gay rights march in Havana in 2009. Transgenders (some of whom are homosexual) are not only afforded the same free medical care as everyone else, but can also receive gender reassignment surgery after two years of counseling and preparation.

Cuba's former President, Fidel Castro, publicly apologized last summer for the repression of homosexuals in the early days of the Cuban revolution, and called it "a great injustice." It was. But that was before the 1993 Cuban film, Strawberry and Chocolate, and the documentary In the Wrong Body instigated a nationwide discussion of historic attitudes toward homosexuals and the need for change. Although Cuba has yet to sanction same-sex marriage, same sex civil union legislation is currently being debated in the Cuban parliament. All things considered, Cuba's official policy toward homosexuals is light years ahead of state policy in many parts of the world.