Album Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Aug 01, 2003  |  1 comments

The monophonic master tape of this 1958 Prestige session recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s Hackensack home studio has probably had more tape head contact over the past few years than it had for the first 30 plus years of its life. Along with this 2 LP set and SACD, there’s a 180g Acoustic Sounds LP still in print, there was a 1998 JVC XRCD reissue, a 1993 DCC Compact Classics gold CD, a standard CD, a 20 bit mastered edition, a Japanese 20 bit “LP sleeve” edition and probably a few others as well. Do a search on and you’ll find a confusing jumble of Soultrane editions priced from $6.49 to $49.00 (the out of print DCC Compact Classics gold CD), none of which are identified in adequate detail. As you’d expect, www.acousticsounds does a better job of identifying this recording’s many iterations.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 01, 2003  |  0 comments

In his 35 year recording career with Fairport Convention, with ex-wife Linda, and on his own, Richard Thompson has made some great records and some that were ill-conceived and didn’t work, but none, in my opinion, that could be declared complete failures. Thompson’s guitar always pulled him through the weaker episodes, even as the team of Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake often sabotaged his sound during the late ‘80s/early ‘90s with their overproduction, studio tricks and other superflous sonic thickets. That’s just my opinion, and for all I know, Thompson loved that stuff. Maybe you’re a long-time fan who stayed away during that period, despite some superb songwriting and performances: 1991’s Rumor and Sigh (Capitol EST 2142 LP) for instance, which included the mischievous “I Feel So Good,” and the transcendent “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.”

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 01, 2003  |  1 comments

A cold-steel stoic intensity inhabits the faces of Canadian folksingers Ian Tyson and Sylvia Fricker on the cover of their 1965 Vanguard album Northern Journey. The photo’s low light and blue cast amplify the title’s message. Combine the front cover with the scholarly ethno-musicalogical liner notes you’ll find on the back—perhaps a reflexive reaction to the commercialization of folk music back then and an attempt to separate Ian and Sylvia from many trite, packaged folk acts of the time—and you have an almost forbiddingly chilly surface.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 01, 2003  |  1 comments

The good news is that playing before an audience, Alison Krauss and her crack back-up band Union Station can replicate the Bluegrass/pop fireworks—instrumentally and vocally—that they set off in the studio. That’s the bad news too, as whatever interplay there was between the group and the audience has been excised, and the arrangements and performances shed little new light on the mostly familiar tunes. That’s just fine by the fans, judging by the raucous, appreciative audience reaction at this concert, recorded at the Louisville Palace, in Louisville Kentucky, April 29th and 30th, 2002 while the group toured in support of New Favorite (Rounder 11661-0485 hybrid multi-channel SACD/Diverse Vinyl DIV001LP 180g LP). The fans at home obviously approved as well, as the album quickly went Platinum. One track, the familiar “Down to the River to Pray,” was recorded live on the “Austin City Limits” television program.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 01, 2003  |  0 comments

Ry's son Joachim started stringing tracks together last year attempting to create a cohesive picture of his father's soundtrack work- one which would sound like more than just a series of unconnected cues. Ry liked what he heard and this long overdue project was born. The two CD set contains highlights from most of Cooder's soundtracks: Paris Texas, Alamo Bay, The Border, Blue City, Crossroads, Johnny Handsome, The Long Riders, Blue City, Trespass, Geronimo: An American Legend, and the unreleased Southern Comfort and Streets of Fire.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 01, 2003  |  1 comments

The concert pianist Christopher O’Riley says Radiohead has been “the music in my head,” since he discovered OK Computer back in 1997. Because Radiohead’s music isn’t formally published, O’Riley took it upon himself to create transcriptions so he could play heavily embellished versions of the group’s themes for himself and then as station-break filler for From the Top the public radio show he hosts that spotlights young musicians. He later performed a longer set of Radiohead tunes on NPR’s Performance Todayand the band’s fan base responded positively, which set in motion the process that resulted in this album.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 01, 2003  |  1 comments

One of the most underrated of all ‘60s bands, the puppy-dog earnest The Lovin’ Spoonful sounds better and better as the 20th Century fades from view. This was their 3rd album, issued late in 1966 and the first containing all originals, many of which are stamped indelibly into the brains of Baby Boomers. The band combined folk, rock, jugband, country and of course, the influence of The Beatles.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 29, 2003  |  1 comments

Song Cycle dominates the Van Dyke Parks discography the way "Citizen Kane" overshadows Orson Welles' cinematic output. That simply cannot be denied, though Welles created other outstanding films- "The Magnificent Ambersons" and "Touch Of Evil" for example.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 22, 2003  |  0 comments

Friday afternoons around 4PM, after a hard week’s schooling back in 1968, my roommates and I at Cornell University engaged in a particular ritual: one of us would go into the garage behind our rented house and retrieve our well-hidden pot “stash.” The most skilled roller amongst the 4 of us would produce a doobie, and then we’d smoke away our tensions while listening to? Charles Lloyd’s Forest Flower (Atlantic SD 1473), recorded live at the 1966 Monterrey Jazz Festival.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 22, 2003  |  0 comments

It is difficult to grasp the date this session was recorded: December of 1956. That makes it almost 50 years old. Yet the music is as utterly fresh and full of surprises and good humor as it was in 1956. And the sound remains vibrant and full bodied as well; the highs extended and crisp, the transients sharp and clean. In fact, this double 45rpm set positively kills the Riverside original in every way: I know, because I’ve owned a copy since the mid ‘60s. During my first year at Cornell in 1964, either Riverside was going out of business or needed some quick cash, because the book store had what seemed like the entire Riverside catalog on sale for $1.98. I bought as many as I could afford.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 01, 2003  |  0 comments

For once, all of the hype is justified: Kathleen Edwards is a genuine, fully formed musical force. Failer, her debut, delivers everything one could want from a record except great sound, but that one failing will not interfere with the pleasures to be derived from this 10-song gem recorded on a shoe-string budget. The 24-year-old Canadian mid-tempo rocker/singer/songwriter has been compared to Lucinda Williams, but Neil Young backed by Crazy Horse is more apt in my book.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 01, 2003  |  0 comments

While this much-loved Blue Note lists Adderley as the group leader, this pick-up session--recorded in 1958, just before Kind of Blue--sounds, for the most part, as if Miles Davis is in control: or at least that his sensibilities at the time had deeply influenced Adderley's musical thinking. With Hank Jones on piano and the rhythm section of Sam Jones and Art Blakey, whoever is in charge leads the group through a set of three standards ("Autumn Leaves," "Love For Sale," and "Dancing in the Dark") and two originals (Nat Adderley's funky "One For Daddy-O" and Davis' own "Somethin' Else").

Michael Fremer  |  May 28, 2003  |  0 comments

This odd scenic detour on Herbie Hancock's career path is well worth visiting 36 years later, both because of the intrinsic value of the music he created for the movie and because it resonates so effectively with the current interest in the "swinging '60s" popularized by (and sent-up in) the Austin Powers flicks--though on a far more cerebral plane than Powers could ever hope to reach. These culturally repressed and repackaged, often dead-ended times make looking back at Blow-Up--the movie--all the more alluring for its promise of excitement, sexual liberation, and a progressive changing of the socio-sexual guard.

Michael Fremer  |  May 26, 2003  |  0 comments

I've always wondered whether Otis Redding's Live in Europe, newly reissued on vinyl by Sundazed, was actually recorded in Europe. Frankly, I doubt it. The liner notes quote Redding reviews from Paris and the various cities in the UK, but they also refer to a Stax-Volt review featuring many artists, none of whom were given an album's worth of stage time, that's a guarantee. The audience here sounds as if it is predominantly Southern black Americans, and it's not racist to say you can tell the race and nationality of the woman who screams at Otis, "Sing 'Good to Me,' baby!" And the opening announcer sounds generically white-bread American (Little Feat's announcer on Waiting For Columbus copped this dude's riff). Maybe he was part of Redding's traveling entourage, but I doubt that too. Not that it matters where this supercharged performance took place.

Michael Fremer  |  May 26, 2003  |  5 comments

Sound quality aside, the very fact that this album has been reissued by Rhino on vinyl (anonymously mastered at Capitol from the original analog tapes) is astounding. More than a dozen years ago, Rhino begin a limp-wristed "Save the LP" campaign. Predictably, it went down in flames and the company issued a 12-inch package of Rhino catalog items called (I Guess We Didn't) Save the LP containing a three-CD set in a 12-by-12 slide-out insert. Cute.