Album Reviews

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Nicholas Coleman  |  Mar 20, 2022  |  6 comments
Radiohead has re-released two of its most experimental and critically acclaimed albums, Kid A and Amnesiac remastered at half speed from the original digital files for phenomenal fidelity, in a set that includes another record of previously unreleased material from those sessions. The transfer conveys a slightly new listening experience for fans, and unique aspects are brought out in the music, making it feel like listening to an old friend for the first time.

Malachi Lui  |  Mar 16, 2022  |  8 comments
Following a snooze-inducing headlining performance (based on the recording) at the 2000 Glastonbury Festival, David Bowie and his band (guitarist Earl Slick, bassist Gail Ann Dorsey, pianist Mike Garson, drummer Sterling Campbell, and musician/producer Mark Plati) entered New York’s Sear Sound to re-record his early, mostly pre-Space Oddity catalog highlights. Bowie intended the quickly recorded result, Toy, as a surprise release, though in 2001 the financially struggling Virgin/EMI balked at the idea and eventually rejected the album altogether. For the following year’s Heathen, Bowie signed to Columbia and left uncertain Toy’s future. Leaked in 2011 and recently officially released by his estate and Parlophone, Toy now has its proper place in his studio discography. Yet, is it worthy of its legendary—and in some circles, almost mythical—status?

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 07, 2022  |  9 comments
Danish immigrant Jacob Riis’s photojournalism book “How the Other Half Lives” published in 1890 documents the squalid life in New York City’s teeming Lower East Side slums crowded with Irish, Jewish, Italian, Chinese and other newly arrived immigrants. The muckraking book made an immediate impression upon New York’s upper classes and led to many reforms.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 05, 2022  |  3 comments
Surfacing on Nonesuch with Ghost Song, a personal, highly introspective album that intersperses covers and seven originals in service of a cautionary look at love and love lost, the always unpredictable Cécile McLorin Salvant dispenses for the most part with standard jazz backing, replacing it with imaginative instrumentation and ear-catching production techniques more reminiscent of a rock album, to deliver a series of fanciful mind flights sure to delight longtime fans and win her new ones.

Malachi Lui  |  Mar 01, 2022  |  11 comments
In November 2021, Radiohead combined their “twin albums” Kid A (October 2000) and Amnesiac (May 2001) with a previously unreleased outtakes collection, Kid Amnesiae, for the highly anticipated three-disc Kid A Mnesia. Several formats are available: US and EU standard weight 3LP pressings on black (standard) and red (limited) vinyl, a similar 3CD set, a Japanese 3CD featuring Amnesiac B-sides excluded from most other Kid A Mnesia releases, a Kid Amnesiette limited edition double cassette (also featuring those Amnesiac B-sides), and the sold-out “Scarry Book.” The latter, a super deluxe 3LP package, lacks the Amnesiac B-sides but features a 36-page large-format art book and the 3 LPs on 180g cream-colored vinyl.

Michael Fremer  |  Feb 28, 2022  |  5 comments
Oscar the entertainer, Oscar the speed demon, Oscar the classicist, Oscar the sensitive listener, Oscar the composer, Oscar the nimble improvisor. All the Oscars you know and love were onstage in Helsinki's Kulttuuritalo concert hall, November 17th, 1987 along with Joe Pass, Dave Young and Martin Drew for an evening of great entertainment and music making recorded by the Finnish Broadcasting Company.

Malachi Lui  |  Feb 25, 2022  |  4 comments
Four years after his addiction-and breakup-themed magnum opus Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, Spiritualized’s J Spaceman (Jason Pierce) reemerged with the band’s fourth album, 2001’s Let It Come Down. Greeted with high anticipation—and recently reissued as the final installment in Fat Possum’s Pierce-supervised Spaceman Reissue Program—Let It Come Down is now commonly seen as the moment when Spaceman lost the plot. “It all fell apart a little bit during this period,” he admits. Two decades later, Let It Come Down stands less as a great Spiritualized record and more as a product from the bygone era of expensive recording budgets and ample studio time.

Michael Fremer  |  Feb 08, 2022  |  11 comments
First their Woodland Studio took a direct hit from the tornado that tore through Nashville March of 2020, and then came the Covid lock down.

Michael Fremer  |  Feb 02, 2022  |  18 comments
Crescent, John Coltrane’s 9th Impulse! Album, released in the summer of 1964, followed a pair of live albums (Live at Birdland and Impressions [mostly live tracks from the Vanguard dates]) and a pair of collaborations (Duke Ellington & John Coltrane, and John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman) with Ballads—a quickly recorded album of standards sandwiched in between.

Nathan Zeller  |  Jan 31, 2022  |  12 comments
We know that relationships dictate our life’s outcome. However, what isn’t obvious is the way relationships exist not only between people, but also within and beyond them. Singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey fortunately knows this well, though now more than ever she understands their utility. On Lana Del Rey’s second 2021 album, Blue Banisters, she proves that intrapersonal, environmental, and especially interpersonal relationships all teach valuable lessons promoting future wellness.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 27, 2022  |  23 comments
Listening today to this record originally released February, 1962—60 years ago—it’s difficult to understand why it created controversy so intense that Downbeat’s editor at the time invited Coltrane and Eric Dolphy to “defend” it in print. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a jazz album entry point, this live album probably wouldn’t be it—especially side two. Sixty years on, “Chasin’ The Trane” (name given by RVG who said he literally had to “chase Coltrane” on mic to capture him during the performances) might still send some running for cover (or covers, of which there’s but one on here, Hammerstein and Romberg’s beautiful “Softly As In a Morning Sunrise”).

Michael Leser Johnson  |  Jan 24, 2022  |  8 comments
Last year Deutsche Grammophon surprised me by releasing a double 45rpm pressing of American violinist Hilary Hahn’s latest album Paris. For those not familiar, Hahn is one of the violinists of our day, selling out concert dates with major symphony orchestras around the world, and releasing a slew of well received solo albums over the last 25 years. I first heard violinists singing her praises when I was a 16 year old student at Interlochen Arts Camp, and have enjoyed countless recordings by her in the years since, particularly her 2003 Bach Concertos recording with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, which has never really left my rotation since I bought it a decade ago.

Willie Luncheonette  |  Jan 08, 2022  |  31 comments
Punk rock is a subgenre of rock and roll with roots in garage rock, but it's generally faster and more aggressive than garage. Punk was a rebellion against the hippie culture's idealism and appearance. The flower children’s righteous idea of making the world a better place was met with the stark reality of the punks' world in disarray. New York, the birthplace of punk, was almost bankrupt in the early 70's and when the Sex Pistols appeared in England, unemployment was severe with well over a million people out of work. Crime and drugs were rampant in NYC; parks were littered with used syringes. England incurred inflation, oil shortages and strikes. So bell bottoms were out, replaced by tight pants and those beautiful long locks were gone, replaced by hair cut short, and even cut off as skinhead culture emerged.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 03, 2022  |  52 comments
The Blakey was cut from 96/24 files according to Chris Bellman at BG Mastering for the surmised reason: the songs were on multiple tapes and the most expeditious way to produce cutting masters was to first digitize. The annotation wasn't clear but I don't think anyone was "trying to pull a fast one"._MF). It was Beatlemania when Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers landed at Haneda Airport, New Year’s Day, 1961. Of course, The Beatles hadn’t yet happened, but neither had Blakey and his group ever been greeted in America with the rousing enthusiasm they encountered both upon landing and during the series of shows in which they performed in Japan that month.

Mark Dawes  |  Dec 31, 2021  |  5 comments
These five excellent vinyl releases from 2021 include a five LP box set and a double LP, so you really get TEN albums for the price of five! If that doesn’t make you want to read on, I give up—come on, I’m killing myself here! You’re driving me out of business! But seriously folks, on the topic of money—I buy all my own records, so please be assured that none of these are promo copies and these recommendations are my personal choices from the crop of 2021.

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