Album Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Oct 20, 2020  |  22 comments
Lang Lang, a certified classical music "superstar" much loved by audiences for his performances of the romantic repertoire and detested by the cognoscenti and critics for being overly dramatic and self-indulgent, waited until age 38 to release a fully realized recording of Bach's mathematically certified "Goldberg Variations"—a piece definitely at odds with his romantic "sweet spot" and one he says he mastered—at least technically—20 years ago, though he performed it for a teacher at age 17 from memory.

Nathan Zeller  |  Oct 11, 2020  |  7 comments
We find ourselves during the ongoing pandemic abstaining from pleasurable activities like hanging out on the street. Listening to the 1970’s power pop group Big Star will one day help ease the way back to that once taken for granted lifestyle.

Discovering older musical acts like Big Star is for a child of the 21st century like me mostly a matter of pure luck. I happened upon Big Star’s song “Thirteen” on an episode of “That ‘70’s Show” airing on Netflix. That tune, a captivating piece of tender musical perfection, led me to discover Big Star the group and boy, am I thankful for that!

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 09, 2020  |  30 comments
Another murder most foul to revisit. Where were you on December 8th 1980 when the terrible news broke that John Lennon had been assassinated? A girlfriend and I were having dinner with Chuck and Nancy (not Schumer and Pelosi) and with Arnold and Maria (yes, Schwarzenegger and Shriver).

Malachi Lui  |  Oct 02, 2020  |  29 comments
(Review Explosion is a recurring AnalogPlanet feature covering recent releases for which we either don’t have sufficient time to fully explore, or that are not worthy of it. Curated by AnalogPlanet contributing editor Malachi Lui, Review Explosion focuses on the previous few months’ new releases.)

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 29, 2020  |  10 comments
As I reached my home the other day after an early morning run a neighbor pulled over in his car and asked how I was doing. I said, “great, under the Covid-19 circumstances”. Noting my Biden/Harris lawn sign he said “The Democrats have been taken over by the progressives. Doesn’t that bother you?” I said “No, I’m fairly progressive myself. The GOP has been taken over by Trump, who isn’t sure he’ll hand over the reins of power if he loses the election, doesn’t that bother you?”

Ty Webb  |  Sep 28, 2020  |  2 comments
In this, the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birthday, Yarlung Records offers a recording worthy of the master, a delectation from the Janaki String Trio that was originally recorded in 2006 in Zipper Hall. The sonics are as inviting as the playing.

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 18, 2020  |  35 comments
The big Bob Dylan knocks are that he’s a serial plagiarist, a user, a manipulator and most damning of all that he’s “inauthentic”. Joni Mitchell is reputed to have said about Bob “….he’s borrowed his voice from old hillbillies. He’s got a lot of borrowed things. He’s not a great guitar player. He’s invented a character to deliver his songs. It’s a mask of sorts”.

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 17, 2020  |  4 comments
There’s no better time than now to release a live performance of Civil War era “lifeline” spirituals dedicated to Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave herself, who is best known as an “Underground Railroad” organizer personally responsible for smuggling to freedom hundreds of slaves, first to the North and then after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 that allowed the recapture of freed slaves in non-slave states, to Canada.

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 09, 2020  |  13 comments
Miles Davis's second collaboration with arranger/orchestrator Gil Evans (and the first recorded in stereo) is arguably the duo's best effort—a majestic, moody re-working of George Gershwin's classic folk opera recorded in three summer of 1958 sessions at Columbia's 30th street studios.

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 03, 2020  |  10 comments
This agreeable set of standards sung by Louis Armstrong backed by the Oscar Peterson Quartet, then consisting of Herb Ellis, Ray Brown and Louis Bellson recorded at the then new Capitol Studios, L.A. in 1957 but not released in stereo until 1959, was a follow-up of sorts to the highly successful Norman Granz-produced Ella & Louis (Verve MGV-4003) recorded August of 1956.

Like this set, there Armstrong and Fitzgerald were backed by the Oscar Peterson Quartet, but with Buddy Rich drumming instead of Louis Bellson.

Malachi Lui  |  Aug 31, 2020  |  19 comments
This year for Record Store Day, I joined the Music Millennium line at 5:40 AM. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, they let 10 customers inside the store at once, and enforced social distancing in line. When the sun rose around 6:00, owner Terry Currier handed out tickets corresponding to our spots in line, with specific time slots to arrive back later and shop. I left and arrived back at 8:15, ultimately going over my expected budget and buying 10 records. I’m still processing the Bowie, Tyler, Clipping, and Ron Carter releases (another RSD-themed Review Explosion of those coming soon), but below are reviews of my other pickups (I also bought a copy of Angel Olsen’s latest album Whole New Mess for a general Vinyl Review Explosion).

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 27, 2020  |  10 comments
While you wait for that soon to be released Coltrane Ballads reissue, do yourself a favor and pick up tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath’s worthy final recording. The younger brother of MJQ bassist Percy Heath passed away at age 93 January 19th, 2020 at home in Loganville, Ga.

Heath was as well-known as a composer and arranger as he was as a performer. He began as an alto saxophonist, emulating Charlie Parker but soon switched to tenor to get out from under Bird’s plumage.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 25, 2020  |  8 comments
Last year, producer Lee Townsend brought guitar-great Bill Frisell’s trio, fresh off the road and shortly after concluding two weeks at The Village Vanguard where almost 60 years ago another famous trio made an indelible record or two, into Tucker Martine’s Portland, Oregon studio for three days of recording.

The result is a first for Frisell—a trio recording with long time accompanists, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Rudy Royston that is simultaneously densely packed with musical ideas and yet throughout, window wide open to the spaces between the notes.

Evan Toth  |  Jul 30, 2020  |  5 comments
This year, Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks’ 1994 project, Orange Crate Art, turns 25 years old. To celebrate, Omnivore Records has reissued and remastered the album and brought attention and care to a somewhat disremembered historical artifact created by two musical luminaries. Of note, Omnivore’s campaign is the first time this album has been released on vinyl.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 28, 2020  |  13 comments
This previously unreleased March 9th 1959 session recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s Hackensack home studio is a “must have” for Blue Note “completists”, especially for those with an affinity for car and plane crash videos. If you are just getting into the rich Blue Note catalog, your money is best spent elsewhere as this session, despite the stellar group, often sounds listless and forced. Grooves get glossed over in favor of speed.

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