Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010
Despite my instinct to reject Valerie Anne Poxleitner, aka Lights, because of the overtly religious content of so many of her songs, this Canuck electro-singer-songwriter has won me over on purely musical grounds. Her synth structures are gorgeous, if derivative, and her voice has hints of Kate Bush that make even her frequent use of auto-tuned vocals acceptable. (Actually, if I’m honest, I have no problem at all with auto-tune, so long as it’s used as a musical tool rather than as a repair kit). What I like most about The Listening is its fresh, innocent and disarming simplicity, like the very earliest electro-pop albums back in the late ’70s and early ’80s.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010
Since I saw JT on this particular tour, maybe I’m prejudiced, but, damn! this performance is a textbook example of how to charm an audience. Despite the size of the venue, and the clearly stoned crowd, it could have been an intimate coffee shop gig. The sound is clear as a bell, and every one of the 14 tracks is so familiar (to elder baby boomers) that they’re bound to bring tear to eye. Taylor remains the pinnacle of singer-songwriter bliss, particularly for those who favour the unplugged, not-entirely-maudlin sort, as far removed from Leonard Cohen or Nick Drake as the range of human emotions allows.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 09, 2010
Yes, an LP of the CD I’ve been boring you with for six years. While probably a digital original, the album lends itself beautifully to the analogue medium because it’s just so damned rich: perfectly-recorded piano; fluid guitar, Dobro and bass; Keb’ Mo’s textured vocals. This was his ‘covers album’, the bluesman choosing nine peace ’n’ love folk and rock classics, mainly from the 1960s, like ‘Get Together’, ‘Imagine’ and ‘For What It’s Worth’. They serve as a statement that’s as relevant in 2010 as when the songs were new.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010
For those in need of some distaff R&B amidst the incredible male performers captured live by Chad Kassem & Co, Texan songstress Greenleaf and her band Blue Mercy exhibit precisely the kind of fire and grit that exemplifies the great blues and (southern) soul belters of the 1960s and 1970s. Greenleaf acknowledges gospel inspiration and cites Koko Taylor and Aretha Franklin amongst her muses, so you can expect and do receive earthy, powerful interpretations of five tracks that suffer no sonic restraint. If the modernity of the recording’s crystal clarity jars with what is a genre of elderly vintage, think of this as you would a b/w movie filmed in high-def. This is shake your booty stuff.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
It’s odd to find Sony, in promoting its young Classical Brit award-winning violinist, issuing recordings made as long ago as December 2007. And the resonant Potton Hall acoustic doesn’t add sweetness to the high register of Liebeck’s Guadagnini instrument – although he’s somewhat favoured in the balance, at forte the piano sounds lunge forward. There’s no doubting his sincerity and engagement with the music but, as with their earlier Dvořák sonatas on Sony (coupled with a lacklustre production of the Violin Concerto), it’s the highly developed artistry of pianist Katya Apekisheva that holds the attention more. Sound Quality: 65% .
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
After long pursuit of their separate careers, the three Heath Brothers first played under that name in 1975. Percy Heath, the MJQ’s revered bass player, died in 2005, and so the younger brothers, saxophonist Jimmy and drummer Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath, dedicated Endurance to his memory. With the youthful Jeb Patton on piano and David Wong on bass they get things moving on the restless chords of ‘Changes’. Later, an evocative ‘Autumn In New York’ seems to waltz gently in 4/4, and then Jimmy is beautifully reflective in ‘Ballad From Leadership Suite’, which he wrote for the inauguration of a Howard University president in 1996.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010
Ms Ross, exactly 80 years old on the day that I’m writing this, is one of the UK’s best-kept secrets: jazz aficionados who know their onions appreciate that she is one of the best interpreters of standards in the business, so this set from World Pacific back in 1959 – featuring Zoot Sims on sax – ranks with any ‘Great American Songbook’ you can imagine. The stance here differs from her more famous work as part of Lambert, Hicks & Ross, the crack sextet (with a touch of big-band class provided by Mel Lewis on drums) accenting her vocals with uncanny precision. It may be a half-century old, but it can teach a few tricks to today’s crop of wannabees. Mesmerising.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
Daniel Harding stresses what he sees as Orff’s ‘monumentality’ – perhaps this prompted timings outstretching the composer-approved Jochum recording (same orchestra, 1968) by over 5m. It takes the fun out of a piece to which, in any case, the ‘law of diminishing returns’ applies. Orchestral precision is exceptional, however. The singing is best at the top of the scale: fine boys’ and women’s voices, a boyish soloist; the ‘roasted swan’ (Bunz) is arguably the finest yet, but Gerhaher’s sensitive work sounds monochrome and the men dry in this live recording.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
Of course, Vasily Petrenko is far too young to have lived through the Stalinist repressions which informed interpreters like Sanderling, Barshai or Mravinsky but to say that he pitches in is an understatement. I do feel the third movement could have had even greater force at a reduced tempo, but for overall tension this surpasses previous RLPO instalments in this Naxos series. Antiphonal exchanges in the second scherzo are rhythmically precise and the various solos throughout have real quality. And Petrenko obviously has the skill of gearing a complete performance to a climactic point – in this case the final coda, those flickering embers which leave no easy resolution.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010
Sundazed continues to plough a furrow that only a few other reissue labels dare, that of all-but-forgotten psychedelia. This time they’ve unearthed an ultra-obscure album by a band that might have been little more than a footnote, for once having included Elliott Randall in its ranks. But they produced one of those deliriously gloomy/druggy, proto-Goth sets that mix freakish originals with unusual covers: Love’s ‘Signed DC’, Dylan’s ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ and even a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins track. The mix shows their eclecticism, but the best aspect of Creation – unlike too much from this genre which deserves to be forgotten – is that the music is terrific.