Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Kiri Te Kanawa, Andrew Davis
"Strauss: Four Last Songs" (Vinyl)

I must confess to a lack of knowledge of the symphonic art song.  Whether it be Strauss or Mahler or Wagner, these late-romantic German composers who advocated for a "more is more" mentality often grate on my nerves.

I fully suspect, however, that this is because I have never been in the midst of a truly great orchestra performing these works.  At that moment, music such as these ceases to be a labor of intonation and balance and becomes truly transcendent.  I'm still waiting for my time in the sun.

It is great to have one of her generation's greatest sopranos singing.  There are many famous singers whom don't care for terribly, but the color in Ms. Kanawa's voice is powerful without becoming fatiguing.  Maybe she's like that in person too. Maybe.
Boulez, New York Philharmonic
"Falla: The Three-Cornered Hat" (Vinyl)

Manuel de Falla is best known for a couple of orchestral works that endure in the symphonic literature.  One of them is the suite that Falla himself compiled from music he wrote for his ballet, "The Three-Cornered Hat."

Sergei Diaghilev (of the Ballet Russes) championed the ballet and this recording by Pierre Boulez and the New York Philharmonic is the unconventional full ballet-length recording.  While there are moments that make less sense, there is a fair amount of beautiful music that didn't make it into the orchestral suite.
Artur Rubinstein 
"Chopin: Preludes op. 28" (Vinyl)

Written in 1838, Chopin's twenty-four opus 28 "Preludes" are considered amongst the greatest of his works for solo piano.  Granted, he wrote a lot of greatest works for solo piano, so it is hard for this string player to differentiate a polonaise from a mazurka.

Artur Rubinstein was to the piano in the 20th century what Heifetz was to the violin.  A superstar during his life, he enjoyed a celebrity status for good reason.

Reviewed here earlier, his recording of Brahms' violin sonatas with Henryk Szeryng are my favorite recording of those works.

This is a beautiful shaded dog RCA Victor that shouts all of the tell-tale signs of golden age recording (now that I've learned what I'm looking for.)
Frank Sinatra
"All the Way" (Vinyl)

Released in 1961, this album showed a record label's ability to capitalize on an in-demand artist like Sinatra from an early age.

This entire album is made up of b-sides from previously released singles.   This is kind of shocking, especially when you realize that songs like "All the Way," and "Witchcraft," were originally b-sides!

Other songs, like "High Hopes" and "Old McDonald Had a Farm" are quirky and out of place, but Nelson Riddle's arrangements keep the good times flowin', no matter the tune.

The fit and finish of this album aren't as good as many of Sinatra's Capitol releases.  I couldn't find Riddle's involvement until the almighty internet told me; it's not printed anywhere on the jacket.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jo Jones Trio
"Jo Jones Trio" (Vinyl)

This might be the only Everest jazz recording I'll ever find.  Just like their classical counterparts, not many survive in playable condition to today, and the jazz catalog was certainly put into the hands of more enthusiastic listeners than someone interested in Sibelius' second symphony.

This recording was released in 1958 and is one of the noisiest, dirtiest records I've ever put on my table.  I just couldn't help myself.

The quality of the recording is there; the drums sound particularly present and vibrant.
From the golden age of jazz to my hi-fi in 2012.  It's amazing what endures.
Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble
"Couldn't Stand the Weather" (Vinyl)

SRV has entered the Great Hall of rock n' roll legend. And it's not purely for his untimely death. During his lifetime momentum was garnered as one of the most inventive and influential guitarists of his generation.  Since his death in 1990 countless guitarists have cited him as an inspiration, copying, imitating and emulating him.

This 1984 album has some of his most classic tracks on it, including the title track, "Scuttle Buttin'" and his cover of Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile."

I'm not always in the mood for Stevie Ray Vaughan, but it is foolish (if not impossible) to acknowledge his importance for guitar-driven rock'n roll during a decade when everyone else was turning New Wave.

Itzhak Perlman, Samuel Sanders
"Perlman plays Fritz Kreisler" (Vinyl)

The first of three albums that would be released on Angel/EMI, this is Perlman the romantic showing off with a list of compositions by the renowned 19th century violinist, Fritz Kreisler.
Known today more for his compositions, Kreisler is still in heavy rotation amongst the violinists, primarily because of champions like Perlman that canonized the tradition of using Kreisler as an encore during recitals.

The image is from an EMI Classics re-issue on CD - I have a vinyl copy released on Angel from a few years earlier...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Nigel Kennedy
"Vivaldi: The Four Seasons" (CD)

Released in 1989, this is a multi-platinum selling recording of classical music's one of famous works.  For a classical album, the word platinum is quite a mountain to have climbed.

Kennedy's approach to these concertos is not very consistent with period performance; rather, he treats these works like a virtuosic springboard to dazzle and amaze.  He uses his own cadenzas which are mostly atmospheric and wander in and out of harmonic relevance.
It is their intention to dazzle, but in a generation of such renewed interest in period performance, to hear something so blatantly contrary is eye-brow raising.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Casals, Stern, Hess
"Brahms: Piano Trio no. 1" (Vinyl)

Wrapped in an indistinct packaging, these recordings from Casals' Prades Festival are always treatises on mid-century chamber music perfomances, but they're easily overlooked.  I'm not sure what Columbia's strategy was in putting these recordings out in such unremarkable (albeit matching) sleeves.

The recording technology in this era isn't great, but like any great musician, you are able to hear through the recording to hear the performance that Isaac Stern, Pablo Casals and Myra Hess deliver.
A Claymation Christmas Celebration (Vinyl)

A CBS television special in 1987, I think I saw this program once and it stuck in my mind.  Both the dinosaur emcees and the California Raisins, but also the choir of the bells made quite an impression.

This soundtrack loses a lot as the visuals are non-existent. It would be fantastic to see this TV special again.

Happy Thanksgiving - back from a weekend away...

The Menahan Street Band
"The Crossing" (Vinyl)

The Menahan crew was one of the most appealing acts you'd never heard of a few years ago.  Jay-Z, ESPN and Cee Lo (to name a few) were all sampling the title track from their 2008 debut.  The infectious horn lick was an easy sell for universal audiences.  Then, Menahan kinda dropped back beneath the surface.
Charles Bradley, a re-incarnated soul godfather burst onto the scene in 2010 with his debut "No Time for Dreaming" and the Daptone folks decided to pair the Menahan Street Band as Bradley's backing and touring ensemble.   Since then the boys probably haven't gotten a whole lot of sleep as Charles Bradley's appeal has seen world-wide fame.

Thankfully, Menahan found the time to get back to the Dunham/Daptone studios and record their sophomore offering, 2012's "The Crossing."  While it's still spinning on its maiden voyage, I already feel a more dense tapestry being woven; instead of merely horns, bass and drums blasting along, Menahan has let strings, organ and effect-laden guitars into the clubhouse for this foray.   The result is a more complex, grown-up flavor.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile, Stuart Duncan
"The Goat Rodeo Sessions" (CD)

In 1999 Edgar Meyer released "Short Trip Home," an album of his unique blend of jazz and bluegrass music with Mike Marshall, Sam Bush and the classical superstar Joshua Bell.  In my mind, for this new generation of genre-bending acoustic musicians, "Short Trip" and 1996's "Appalachian Waltz" were high-water marks that benefited from a combination of virtuosity, song-writing and mass appeal.

Ever since then all of the musicians involved have busied themselves with other projects (Nickel Creek,  the Silk Road Ensemble) but have consistently found time to record together.  None of these projects really got very high above the horizon (for a myriad of reasons, I'm sure) until now.  "Goat Rodeo" (2011) is a return to the kind of star-powered virtuosic pyromania that proves irresistible to music-lovers, regardless of their pedigree. It is doubtless that this album will be recalled fondly in the upcoming rewards season.
Dr. John
"Locked Down" (Vinyl)

Dr. John is not new to the game.  He started recording session work in the 50's, and in the 70's became known for his own zydeco blend of jazz, funk, blues, rock, boogie and a partridge in a pear tree.

This marks the Doc's debut on Nonesuch and his first teaming up with the Black Keys' guitarist Dan Auerbach as producer and co-writer for some of the tunes.  From time to time you can hear Dan's distinctive guitar stylings poking its head through the texture.

This is my first real exposure to Dr. John.  I've already listened to this album a handful of times on the mp3 player, but I just acquired the album to hold in my hands, so now it can go up here.
I intend on looking for more music from Dr. John.  This stuff is crazy voodoo madness.  But considering Jim Henson based the Muppet Dr. Teeth on Dr. John, that makes sense.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Edgar Winter Group
"They Only Come Out at Night" (Vinyl)

This was the third album released by Edgar Winter (and company.)  This was Winter's biggest album, the album going double-platinum and yielding a couple of the band's biggest hits ("Frankenstein" and "Free Ride.")

You gotta hand it to Winter for embracing his albinism and using it to help further the glam rock persona that has definitely created one of the most weirdly iconic album covers in rock n' roll history.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Happy first year anniversary!
I've actually been at this for a year.  That's insane.
Nov. 16, 2012 - 333 albums blogged.  Below my average, but I won't be hard on myself.

Here's to another year!

In celebration, we spin my all-time favorite rock n' roll album from the past decade:

The White Stripes
"Elephant" (Vinyl + CD)

This album was in the right place at the right time for me.  My musical and personal journeys intersected perfectly with the release of 2002's "Elephant," the Stripes' fourth album.  Buoyed by the strength of break-out singles like "Seven Nation Army," "Elephant" reminded a generation of music-listeners that rock 'n roll was very real and very alive.

This will always be one of the greatest for me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ashkenazy, Perlman & Harrell
"Beethoven: 'Archduke' Trio" (Vinyl)

In the piano trio literature, there can be few more famous than the "Archduke."  Other names might get thrown out like "Dumky" (Dvorak) or Schubert's two towering compositions in the genre, but Beethoven set a benchmark for whatever area he touched, and the piano trio is no exception.

I wonder how hard it was convince these three to wear matching turtlenecks on the cover of the album?
The Black Keys
"The Big Come Up" (Vinyl + CD)

The 2002 debut by Akron duo the Black Keys was the beginning of a career that I'm not sure even Dan & Pat saw coming.  Currently nominated for Grammys, regular air play on Mtv...and this is where it all started.

The first four albums from the Keys followed a simple but effective recipe: grungy blues, minimal fuss.  It is these albums (from 'Come Up' through 'Magic Potion') that rode a wave of blues-based garage rock that the Keys (and the White Stripes, the Strokes, the Vines) helped start.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Jackie Gleason
"The Gentle Touch" (Vinyl)

In addition to being one of his generation's most successful, sought-after comedic actors, Jackie Gleason managed to find time to produce a series of all-instrumental easy listening albums that served as...well, baby-makin' music before there was such a thing as baby-makin' music.

The arrangements, performances and production are all top-notch. Just the sort of thing you'd put on the Grundig hi-fi and shake a few martinis to while you're waiting for the Carlyles to arrive.  American personified, ala Dick van Dyke.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Mars Volta
"Amputechture" (CD)

The Mars Volta's third album, released in 2006 was Jon Theodore's final appearance with the prog-rockers.  Already on this album a feel there was a signaled change from the hurled velocity of their previous albums.

The engaging thing about the Volta (for me) was always their stop-on-a-dime sense of rhythm and tempo, falling (seemingly) haphazardly from one blistering self-destruction to the next.  This album loses a lot of that focus and intent.  It was the last album I paid the group much attention.
The Sugarman 3
"What the World Needs Now" (Vinyl)

Another Dap-Tone release, the Sugarman 3 have released three albums on the Brooklyn-based label.

This was released in 2012 and features the unusual line-up of organ, saxophone and drums holding the funky beats that sound like they should've been on the early seasons of the Cosby Show.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The B-52's
"Wild Planet" (Vinyl)

Released in 1980, the sophomore album was regarded as a successful follow-up to their self-titled debut (reviewed here earlier.)

The B-52's traveled to the Bahamas to record this album; I'm not sure if that was convenient for the producers who wanted to lounge about on the beaches, or, for some more cosmically weird reason, the caribbean helped to nurture the bee-hived retro-rockers.  The world may never know.
Quartetto Italiano
"Beethoven: op. 130, 'Grosse Fugue' op. 133"(Vinyl)

The Quartetto Italiano (or, it could be surmised, "the Italian Quartet") was founded in 1945 and disbanded in 1980.   This recording was made with their second violist, Piero Farulli, who served from 1947 - 1977, unquestionably the longest-serving violist of the three they employed.

I know of the Quartetto Italiano because of their extensive recording on the Philips label which has been very good in keeping their back catalog available on multi-CD sets (aka: the complete Brahms quintets)

Friday, November 09, 2012

Paray, Detroit Symphony
"Suppe: Overtures" (Vinyl)

The Austrian-born Franz von Suppe was known for his operettas during his lifetime, but since then, I must confess I've only heard of him because of a couple of his overtures. Most notably, the "Light Calvary Overture" and "Poet and Peasant" overtures.

This is a monophonic pressing on the Mercury label; usually I'm fan of the recordings of this ilk, but there's something about the high registers of the orchestra that feel squashed somehow.  It gets tiring to listen to.

The Detroit Symphony sounds great on this record; their ensemble is notable and the Viennese waltz-esque marches that Suppe was fond in breaking into are carried along at a good clip, violinists and all.
Rostropovich, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
"Haydn: The Cello Concertos" (Vinyl)

My format is screwed up.  I don't know why.  Occasionally just decides to have freak outs.  It's cute.

One of the 20th century's greatest cellists, (made all the more infamous by the Soviet block that prevented the free travel of so many great musicians) Rostropovich may be amongst the most prolific musicians of his era, performing, recording and conducting over a span exceeding fifty years.   He died in 2007 at the age of 80.  The mythos left behind is probably only exceeded this generation by Pablo Casals.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Leinsdorf, Boston Symphony 
"Beethoven: "Eroica" Symphony no. 3" (Vinyl)

This is an old-school shaded dog, mono pressing RCA dynagroove.

Of Beethoven's symphonies, his third ("heroic," not "erotic") symphony surely clambers for the title of most-recorded work along side his ever-popular fifth and monumental ninth.

The third was the first Beethoven symphony I ever played and I still feel like such a child at understanding it's significance.  I love it because Beethoven symphonies may be my favorite symphonic literature of all time, but I know that I'll be learning to appreciate over a lifetime the genius, beauty and ingenuity of Beethoven's "Eroica" symphony.
Mahalia Jackson
"Come on Children, Let's Sing" (Vinyl)

Fortunate to find this on a Columbia six-eye.

The "Queen of Gospel" was born and raised in New Orleans and spent most of her life known only to negro audiences in the deep southern Baptist churches.  But talent has a way of finding its way to the top, and sooner rather than later she was performing nationally, mostly through Baptist churches, and it was this same faith that would not allow Mahalia to sing in bars, clubs or theatres.

This album, (1960, I believe) comes soon after Duke Ellington successfully pleaded with Ms. Jackson to record with his orchestra on his album "Black, Brown & Beige."

I let Mahalia's own words sum up her attitude towards her music:

"I sing God's music because it makes me feel free," Jackson once said about her choice of gospel, adding, "It gives me hope. With the blues, when you finish, you still have the blues."

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth, Kim Novak
"Pal Joey: Soundtrack" (Vinyl)

The 1957 film adaptation of Roger & Hart's broadway musical "Pal Joey" (where Sinatra took over the role played on broadway by Gene Kelly) was a big hit, netting Sinatra a Golden Globe award and being nominated for several Academy Awards.

The songs penned by Roger & Hart for this film yielded a couple of tunes that have become standards in the American song book; "Bewitched," "My Funny Valentine" and "The Lady is a Tramp" all started with this musical.
Little Richard
"Original Rock & Roll" (Vinyl)

Back in the golden age of Rock n' Roll, it wasn't common for an artist to release a full-length LP.  45 rpm singles were the soup du jour, whether they were headed to the radio station, the juke box or the teeny-bopper's basement hi-fi.

To compile an album of Little Richard's music isn't hard, (he certainly had enough hits to fill both sides of this record) but it's important to remember that there really won't be any "original" LP to be found of this music.    This particular example is a Canadian pressing.  Some basic internet searches show that this same album was released in different world markets with different art work.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Mark Knopfler
"Sailing to Philadelphia" (CD)

Part of me wants to believe that I'm just not quite old enough to really appreciate Mr. Knopfler.
I enjoy his work with Dire Straits.  I enjoy his dulcet baritone.  I enjoy his guitar pickin'.

Part of me just can't help but feel that this album (released in 2000) is a very mature collection of songs by a veteran songwriter/performer that no longer feels the need to write songs that anyone else will like. This works in my favor half the time.  The other, half I'm quite bored.

There are guest vocals by the likes of James Taylor and Van Morrison, but really I just want to get to the closing track, "Sands of Nevada."
Talking Heads
"Speaking in Tongues" (CD)

Speaking of David Byrne (see previous post) I realized I forgot to include this album in the list even though I listened to it a couple weeks ago.

Released in 1983, its fair to call this the Heads' biggest main-stream hit.  Containing the song "Burning Down the House," it proved to be the group's highest song in the U.S.
It was also in the subsequent tour for "Tongues" that the famous concert-movie "Stop Making Sense" was filmed.

David Byrne & St. Vincent
"Love This Giant" (Vinyl)

I'm not sure how a label promotes a project like this:
Former Talking Heads frontman and indie songstress record album with every spare brass player they can find.

I don't really care.  I love both the Talking Heads and St. Vincent, so this was a pretty easy sell.
The opening track (and lead-off single) "Who" is a microcosm of what I expected: great production, quirky arrangements and Byrne's distinctive vocal harmonies.

The rest of the album doesn't feel quite as clearly organized, but I have a feeling if I just listen to this one for a while I'll fall in love.
John Williams, London Symphony Orchestra
"The Empire Strikes Back: Original Soundtrack" (Vinyl)

Orchestral musicians owe John Williams a bittersweet thank-you.
His scores for films like "Star Wars," "Jaws" and the "Indiana Jones" saga (practically) single-handedly enshrined a symphonic orchestral score as one of the core elements of a Hollywood blockbuster.

As a result, orchestras all across the country are obligated to do annual performances of Williams' scores.  These concerts will be eternally popular and provide a boost in ticket sales that most orchestras badly need. In fact, I see a reality blooming where musicians might excel in specialized performance areas like Brahms. Or Hans Zimmer.

To separate this score from the film is hard; the film practically plays along in my head while I'm listening.  That being said, it's fun, dramatic music performed by a truly great ensemble.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Fernando Ortega
"The Shadow of Your Wings" (CD)

It's been 5+ years since my short multi-city tour playing backup for Mr. Ortega. Playing this CD this morning gave me a chance to reminisce about my whiff of the glamorous life of a touring musician.

Mr. Ortega is living proof that a recipe doesn't have to be complex to be effective.  Particularly when dealing with Christian music.  I like the description he uses on the cover: "hymns and sacred songs."
These aren't worship choruses.  Nor are they pop ballads with screeching guitar.  They are a collection of songs by a man and his piano.
Every once in a while we're joined by a few instrumentals (including the Turtle Island String Quartet) but for the most part this album was conceived and executed as an intimate portrait.  The album's mix feels like Fernando is sitting in the room, as opposed to on stage with his accompanying ensemble.
The Raconteurs
"Consolers of the Lonely" (CD)

I must admit, amongst all of Jack White's projects (the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, the Dead Weather and solo projects flying every direction) the Raconteurs have had the hardest sell with me.

After learning of the close friendship White had with fellow Detroit songster Brendan Benson (well before the Raconteurs were conceived) I had purchased one of Mr. Benson's albums ("The Alternative to Love") which I appreciated greatly for what it was: finely crafted pop songs.  When the Raconteurs' first album came out, (after the initial gushing) I decided that the 50/50 approach that Jack and Brendan took towards collaborative song-writing did not serve them well.  Their second album ("Consolers") came out in 2008 and showed a much more cohesive blend of the two contrasting artists' style.

Still, even when a spark threatened to ignite a flame, some musical turn tamps out any hope.
Its difficult for me to put my finger on it precisely, but I suspect that there would be better music being made if Brendan Benson and Jack White both played in each others' bands, but left the songwriting to one or the other.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Emerson String Quartet
"Ives: Quartet nos. 1 & 2, Barber: Quartet" (CD)

My other recording of Charles Ives' string quartets no. 1 & 2; additional necessary listening for work. Conveniently, it falls in line with the mission of this project.

The Emerson are still going strong, although they are just going through their first personnel change in nearly 30 years of playing, they have proven themselves to be an enduring mold of a successful string quartet. Their predecessors enjoyed superstar status, their offspring embrace new, "unorthodox" forms of music-making to carve niches; Emerson has the distinguished privilege of standing between these two generations.

Now be quiet; I'm trying to absorb some Ives...
Tokyo String Quartet
"Brahms: The Complete String Quartets" (CD)

The record label Vox has long been associated with a budget-conscious catalog and (decades ago) with releasing many obscure period and contemporary works that could find no home in the traditional labels.

Today Vox is still alive today operating under the same philosphy although it has extended its reach with the release of previously available recordings in updated packaging at low prices.

This particular 2-CD set is available for under $11 from Amazon and yet features performances by one of the great string quartets of the last forty years.  In 2012 the Tokyo Quartet is on a farewell tour as the last remaining original members enter retirement.  The Quartet will hang up their bows in early 2013.
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
"Dap-Dippin' with the Dap-Kings" (Vinyl)

In the same way that 2011's "Soul Time!" was a revue of SJDK's early days as the funky house band for Dap-Tone records, "Dap-Dippin'" shows a funk/soul revival band that was yet to be discovered by...anyone, really.

Their energy is infectious.  Their tunes are sweet. Their band is tight.
I am amazed to say that I opened this LP for the first time today.  It's been sitting on my shelf for at least three years.  Shame.
The Pixies
"Best of: Wave of Mutilation"(Vinyl)

Originally released in 2004, this best-of compilation found its way onto vinyl and into a record store in South Dakota by 2011.  That's when I purchased it.

Now yes, I was already familiar with the Pixies (I believe I already owned a copy of "Surfer Rosa") but I sensed there was more to plumb from the depths of this band.

It really is a good compilation; having since acquired most of the Pixies' seminal albums, I've decided there is plenty in their output that I don't need.  If inquired, I think I would push inquisitive minds towards two albums.  1988's "Surfer Rosa" (which I still think is brilliant) and this best-of collection.
The Guarneri Quartet
"Haydn: String Quartets op. 77" (Vinyl)

My interest in Haydn's string quartets has enjoyed a brief renaissance as my quartet prepares one of his op. 76 quartets for performance next week.

For most of my time playing, Haydn has been relegated to "sight-reading" and fun for the first violinist only.  While this is true of the volumes of early works that Haydn wrote, in his later years (op. 72, 76, 77) Haydn had demonstrated the sort of musical evolution that maturity brings, building an architecture around all four instruments equally, relying on each role far more than he had earlier in his life.  The late Haydns should be regarded alongside prime examples of Mozart's writing and Beethoven's op. 18.

The Guarneri Quartet, legends in their lifetime, released this album on RCA in 1978.  Its far from the most carefully constructed quartet recording I've heard, but you can still hear the magic present in this amazing quartet.
Louis Armstrong
"Town Hall Concert Plus" (Vinyl)

Your influence must be pretty large if Time Magazine will name you one of "100 Most Important People."  That's since time began, mind you, not just 100 most important Americans.  So Mr. Armstrong pulled a position alongside Genghis Kahn and Johannes Kepler.  Well done.

This live recording was made April 24, 1947 - which is the "Town Hall" portion of the recording.  The other six songs on this record were selected from Louis' catalog as ambassadors of his prodigious output.

I think it's impossible to listen to this music and remain in a gloomy mood.  There is nothing but joy and sunshine when the tunes are up.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Perlman & Ashkenazy
"Beethoven: Violin Sonatas vol. 1" (Vinyl)

If you're going to release an album of standard war horse repertoire, you'd better be sure you're capable.
Thankfully, Vladamir Ashkenazy and Itzhak Perlman show us why they are titans of their generation.

Fiery, passionate and yet always in control, Perlman's incomparable tone finds an ideal mate in Ashkenazy's handling of Beethoven's piano parts.

This is volume one and contains the ninth sonata ("Kreutzer") and no. 2 in A major.
It is labeled correctly as "Beethoven Sonatas for Violin and Piano" for the piano is as much a part of the storytelling as the violin.
Edgar Winter & White Trash
"Edgar Winter's White Trash" (Vinyl)

The albino front man with some of the most memorable album covers of the 1970's was just getting his feet under him with his second album. Released in 1971, it was his first album with the backing group known as White Trash.

A mixture of rock, blues, R&B, there was never a more blue-eyed soul singer than in Mr. Winter.

The copy I have was owned by a radio station and has a giant label on the cover from Epic Records insuring that everyone knows this copy was not for re-sale.  Hopefully this no longer applies forty years later.
The Percy Faith Strings
"Exotic Strings" (Vinyl)

In a former existence, I was a member of a strolling string ensemble that walked around serenading high-ranking political and military personnel, romancing them during their occasional high-falootin' nights out.  
It was the behavior of a relic of a bygone age.

Percy Faith's age, actually. In the 50's and 60's strolling string ensembles were all the rage.  I don't know why, but they were.

The arrangements here are all luscious and warm; Percy Faith's name is well known and remembered for his "pop" orchestral arrangements.  If it weren't for my history with this sub-genre of music I might be able to enjoy its kitschy charm.  As it is, my skin is crawling.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Simon & Garfunkel
"Soundtrack: The Graduate" (Vinyl)

If Simon and Garfunkel needed any help becoming more eponymous   with the 1960's, being integral to the face of Mike Nichols' landmark film "The Graduate" was the push they needed.

Mrs. Robinson is probably one of the duo's biggest hits, but the film also found use for a couple of other S&G hits: "Sounds of Silence" and "Scarborough Fair" find their way onto this record.

I view "The Graduate" as a template for the sort of disenfranchisement that many youngsters felt during the 1960's and the beginning of a more avante garde filmhouse style of filmmaking that was carried through the 1970's by the like of Scorsese.
These same filmmakers will lament the arrival of blockbuster "entertainment" films that detract from the wholesome "art" of their work, but I think it merits an examination to see if the values they espouse were worth preserving in the first place.
Gyorgy Sandor
"Bartok: Mikrokosmos vols. 5 & 6" (Vinyl)

Bartok wrote his six-volume "Mikrokosmos" as a piano method for teaching everything from note length to dynamics.  Books one and two are intended for beginning students while books five and six (this album) are intended for professional performances.

I have three albums which Mr. Sandor recorded in 1960's.  Released on Columbia records, these are all beautiful six-eye records; the recordings themselves are all top shelf quality.

Oscar Peterson & Nelson Riddle
"Oscar Peterson & Nelson Riddle" (Vinyl)

If you can get over the clever titling of this album, you may be shocked to learn that this album is the Oscar Peterson Trio playing with Nelson Riddle orchestral arrangements. (Gaaasp!)

Not necessarily the most barn-burning of jazz recordings, my guess is Mr. Riddle's presence was an attempt to bridge a gap between the true jazz lovers and easy listening hi-fi cocktail partying audiences that knew Riddle from backing Sinatra, et al.

I found a decent copy of an original Verve pressing of this record. Back in the day (1963?) someone paid an entire two dollars for this album.