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Album Reviews
Michael Fremer Nov 01, 2007 0 comments

Natalie Merchant’s first solo outing after leaving 10,000 Maniacs, issued in 1995, was among her finest records. For those who may have found her earlier work overblown and precious, the understated, acoustic setting, provided by a trio of then relative unknowns, proved ideal for a set of introspective set pieces dealing with issues of loss, jealousy, escape, sacrifice, loneliness, stardom and martyrdom delivered with cozy intimacy. No wonder it became a big seller.

Album Reviews
Michael Nov 01, 2007 0 comments

I can’t get enough of these Candid reissues from Pure Pleasure. The original label was short-lived and the distribution limited. Candid was originally a subsidiary of Archie Bleyer’s Cadence Records (Bleyer had an unlikely ‘50’s hit single with “Hernando’s Hideaway” from the Broadway hit “Damn Yankees” and scored big with The Everly Brothers). The label was sold to pop crooner Andy Williams, a seemingly unlikely customer, who reissued some of both Cadence and Candid titles on his label Barnaby, distributed by Columbia Records.

Album Reviews
Michael Fremer Nov 01, 2007 0 comments

Chronically undervalued and unappreciated in America, The Pretty Things, like The Kinks, The Rolling Stones and so many other British Invasion bands began life as a blues based rock outfit, churning out short, raunchy, Bo Diddley-influenced numbers as this American debut demonstrates, and later veering off into uncharted musical waters. In the case of The Pretty Things, even their name is Bo Diddley derived. Unlike some Brit bands, these guys were anything but pretty in the beginning. They got prettier as time passed.

Album Reviews
Michael Fremer Nov 01, 2007 0 comments

The arranger Gil Evans was on a roll when this cool, yet raucous big band set of standards was recorded in New York City back in 1958. The California native and big band veteran had already arranged Miles Davis’ Miles Ahead and the cool and deep Porgy and Bess. Featured soloist Cannonball Adderley’s Blue Note classic Somethin’ Else had also hit big by then (okay, it was really a Miles Davis album, but Cannonball’s playing heated up Miles’s cool show).

Album Reviews
Michael Fremer Nov 01, 2007 1 comments

Don Sebesky’s glib big band charts for “California Dreaming” and for a few other tunes on this 1966 Creed Taylor Production may exude almost comical “action television series” theme music swagger (I’m thinking “Mannix”), yet Wes Montgomery’s physical daring and sense of lyrical beauty quickly overcome any reservations you might have about being seen enjoying a blatantly commercial enterprise like this.

Album Reviews
Michael Fremer Nov 01, 2007 0 comments

Tony Bennett recorded a live album with Count Basie and his orchestra in Philadelphia that was issued in 1959 by Columbia Records (In Person! Tony Bennett, Count Basie and His Orchestra CS 8104 “6 eye”). In 1961 Peggy Lee released a live album on Capitol recorded at Basin Street East in New York City.

Album Reviews
Michael Fremer Nov 01, 2007 0 comments

French minimalist acoustic musician Colleen has established an unlikely strong international cult following in the wake of releasing four full-length albums, three of which were available in limited edition vinyl.

Album Reviews
Michael Fremer Nov 01, 2007 0 comments

Look: if you don’t like The Sweet, Humble Pie, Deep Purple, Neil and Crazy Horse, T-Rex and of course Led Zep and boogie rock generally, Jack White’s brand of retro-crunchrock isn’t going to be to your liking, but if that kind of stuff appeals to you and considerations of modernity don’t apply to your musical meanderings, this record will hit the spot. And how long has it been since that spot’s been hit?

Album Reviews
Michael Fremer Nov 01, 2007 0 comments

Spoon’s been at it for more than a decade (their first major label CD, the outstanding A Series of Sneaks) was issued by Elektra in 1998, after which the label promptly dropped them), yet after all of this time, when they played New York’s Roseland recently, front man Britt Daniel announced that this relatively small former dance hall, with a capacity of around 3500 (standing room only) was the largest headlining concert the band had played.

Phono Preamp Reviews
Michael Fremer Oct 08, 2007 Published: Mar 07, 2007 0 comments
Simaudio's Moon LP5.3 MM/MC phono preamplifier ($1400) is silly good! It has single-ended RCA inputs and both single-ended and true balanced-differential outputs. It also offers a wide range of adjustments for gain (54, 60, and 66dB), resistive loading (10, 100, 470, 1k, and 47k ohms), and capacitive loading (0, 100, and 470pF), all accomplished via a series of internally mounted jumper banks. You can even choose RIAA or IEC equalization. Removing the top plate to get to the adjustments reveals boards filled with high-quality parts for the well-isolated power-supply and signal-handling circuits.