Album Reviews

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Michael Fremer Posted: Jul 17, 2014 3 comments
Eschewing both retro and modern musical gestures, the remarkable young jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant manages here to make new and fresh an album of mostly very old songs.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Jul 11, 2014 25 comments
“Bloated Blimp”. That’s what I called the band after hearing this album for the first time. I also thought the Hindenburg disaster album cover in bad taste. But then I was in law school in 1969 and trying the straight and narrow after “widening” (not around the waist) in college.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Jul 02, 2014 38 comments
Dylan's previous album Bringing It All Back Home arguably contains the first rap song ("Subterranean Homesick Blues") and is associated with the first rock video—the one where he holds up those cue cards with some of the lyrics—but this album made Dylan a rock star. The cover photo remains iconic and enigmatic: Dylan as The Mona Lisa?

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Michael Fremer Posted: Jul 01, 2014 27 comments
On his posthumous album The Sky Is Crying, Stevie Ray Vaughan covers "Chitlins Con Carne", the opening tune on this seminal 1963 jazz/blues release. The annotation includes a quote from brother Jimmie who said that the album was "...a tribute to Stevie's heroes...." among whom was Burrell. Despite his undeserved reputation as a "note-slinger", SRV's version evokes the delicacy, nuance and open spaces found on the original.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Jun 29, 2014 13 comments
Peter, Paul and Mary brought gospel fervor to the staid folk revival of the early '60s. Though they got their live chops at Paul Colby's Bitter End, the brick wall of which serves as the cover's backdrop, it was this album that propelled them to pop music-like mainstream stardom.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Jun 27, 2014 23 comments
Why has the blues been banished from popular music? Probably because young people today don’t have the blues. For one thing they seem generally more happy and well-adjusted than previous generations—certainly in matters of sex, though recently a youngster who couldn’t get any indulged his self-pity with a mass shooting. Perhaps had he learned to sing or even listen to the blues, some soothing could have stopped him.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Jun 20, 2014 65 comments
Did you catch Train on The Howard Stern Show last week? The group performed a new, not particularly memorable single from their upcoming album and then at Howard’s request launched into a spectacular cover of “What Is And What Should Never Be” from Led Zeppelin II —an album originally released October 22nd, 1969.
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Michael Fremer Posted: Jun 11, 2014 15 comments
Let's first diffuse the price outrage. This reissue of Leonid Kogan's epic performance of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto and Meditation by The Electric Recording Company, limited to 300 copies, costs £300 or about $504.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Jun 05, 2014 1 comments
This 1957 Norman Granz-produced jazz version of the George and Ira Gershwin opera (with libretto and key lyrical contributions by DuBose Heyward) starring Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong backed by a string enriched orchestra is a treat for so many reasons.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Jun 04, 2014 9 comments
With most artists, by the time you get to the third greatest hits album you're scraping the bottom of the barrel but not with Elvis Presley. In fact, it could easily be argued that Volume 3 was the "sweet spot" among the original RCA Elvis's greatest hits releases. It's also the first from Elvis's stereo era.

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Michael Fremer Posted: May 14, 2014 4 comments
Billed in the blurb accompanying this modestly packaged LP as a new album by an up and coming jazz singer crossing over to classic country after being turned on to Leonard Cohen by Nancy Wilson (the jazz singer not half of Heart) and later falling under the influence of Dolly, Kitty and John Prine, once you hear some of the readily available downloadable tracks from this just released set you'll be hearing another strong influence not cited as one along with Joni Mitchell and Allison Krauss: Norah Jones.

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Michael Fremer Posted: May 09, 2014 9 comments
Sam Records is a one man, Paris, France-based operation began in 2011. The one man is Fred Thomas, who has self-professed interests in both jazz and photography. He also obviously is a man who cuts no corners and who believes in authenticity.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Apr 24, 2014 10 comments
In a truly just world every Jethro Tull fan would know and appreciate Rahsaan Roland Kirk but as with Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones, these things take time. If you don't know Kirk's music and you're a Tull fan you surely know his "Serenade To A Cuckoo" covered by Ian Anderson on his debut Tull album This Was.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Apr 06, 2014 8 comments
A thousand United Airlines commercials later and Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue" still sounds fresh, lavish and grand. It epitomizes New York City in its golden jazz age and with every listen opens the mind's eye to yellow incandescent lit Art Deco granite skyscrapers and the general urban dazzle of pre-WWII America. I never get tired of listening to it, the later at night the better for some reason. It could only have been written in America by an American.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Apr 04, 2014 54 comments
Given a choice of great mastering and pressing or packaging true to the original, which would you choose? Yes, I know, why not produce a definitive reissue that offers great mastering and pressing and the original triple gatefold jacket and the original limited edition booklet? But clearly that wasn't in the cards for whoever was in charge in order to bring this project to market within budget so it could be sold at a particular price point, which in this case is $39.00 for the double LP set.

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