Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
Few would claim that Duke’s 1960s Reprise albums contained his finest work, but four of them add up to lot of music. His great soloists wallow in the catchy melodies of Mary Poppins while Ellington ’65 and ’66 cover the hits of the day, sounding fresher now than the new takes of other leaders’ swing classics that make up Will The Big Bands Ever Come Back?. The fifth disc has Ellington’s tunes but not his whole band, on a 1963 small-group album for Atlantic with violinists Stephane Grappelly, Ray Nance and Svend Asmussen. Travelling the world and recording his own music on RCA, Ellington did so much in the 1960s that these recordings seem little more than a sidelight on his genius, but they’re still wonderful.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010
Although ‘progressive rock’ remains a smug oxymoron, Yes were the least aggravating of all the snots who smarmed their way across the music firmament from the late-1960s onward. This was their third, the 1971 set that proved to be a massive breakthrough, setting the stage for their masterpiece, Fragile. It’s all here: virtuoso playing, airy harmonies, the sub-Tolkien/post-2001 mystical mumbo-jumbo. To play a track called ‘Starship Trooper’ with a straight face… who am I to deem a few million fans devoid of taste? But if my remarks on prog-rock seem harsh, never forget that we have to thank it for this: the backlash to the genre was punk.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010
Like a pair of favourite slippers, a Livingston Taylor CD is a blue-chip cert if you want to relax. OK, so the audiophile equivalent of comfort food might not seem challenging, but his easy-going balladry is delicious – not least because Taylor called on members of Alison Krauss’ band Union Station to enhance it with a thread of bluegrass. As it was recorded in Tennessee, you can subtitle this his ‘Country Album’. Other guests include Steve Gadd, one of the greatest drummers in rock, country giant Vince Gill and Leland Sklar, bassist par excellence.
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.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
Memorable Dvořák Sevenths we have had from Kubelík, Schmidt-Isserstedt, Monteux, Rowicki and (Sir Colin) Davis. I am not sure that Ivan Fischer’s ousts any of theirs but he’s always an interesting, individual conductor (visit the Berliner Philharmoniker website to see him in Haydn) and there’s enormous warmth in this DSD recording. But what makes this SACD significant is the way he brings to life the five-movement Suite: analogous to Brahms’s two Serenades – that is, delightful music neglected in favour of the symphonies. Ex-Philips, the Budapest Dvořák Symphonies 8 and 9 SACD coupling is now on Channel Classics.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010
Arguably the finest album of standards he ever delivered – the opener is ‘When I Fall In Love’, for goodness sake – this stunner sounds so good that Analogue Productions has released it on both 2x45rpm vinyl (to be reviewed soon) and SACD. But not just any SACD: its layers are set up so you can enjoy it in mono, stereo, three-channel and, if your processor has worthy rear-channel extraction, in surround. However you choose to play it, the sound is so silky and natural that you’ll use this as a demo disc. Of course, this is first and foremost about the music.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 08, 2010
This sparkling Motown homage should come as no surprise to anyone who remembers that Collins’ first UK No1 was his 1982 cover of The Supremes’ ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’. It’s more a question of why he left it so long. For the most part, he’s chosen to faithfully recreate the sound and arrangements of 18 ’60s classics, even drafting in members of Motown’s revered Funk Brothers session crew to get it spot-on. Even so, the voice is unmistakeably Collins, and his passion for the material is unmistakable in the effervescent zip of every track.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 08, 2010
By the time your average band gets around to celebrating its 20th anniversary, they’ve usually slowed down and are headed out to pasture. Ireland’s Saw Doctors, thankfully, have never been your average band, so their seventh studio album is, if anything, more vibrantly tuneful than ever. The core of the band remains intact but the arrival of powerful new drummer Eimhin Cradock has significantly upped their energy levels and his contributions as a songwriter beautifully complement those of founder members Davy Carton and Leo Moran. Shamelessly sentimental, unrepentantly traditional, The Saw Doctors also remain kick-ass rockers and tunesmiths extraordinaire.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010
After last month’s Nowhere Boy, a sequel (with Backbeat in-between) in the life of John Lennon. This BBC effort caused controversy, everyone acknowledging Eccleston’s remarkable performance, with some bitching that he’s too old for the part. Nonsense! He looks more like Lennon than any other actor who’d played him before. More pertinent is the way the story plays fast and loose with the facts, featuring more of Lennon’s errant father than actually may have happened.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 08, 2010
I fondly remember the thrill of hearing the band’s eponymous 1976 debut album, so I wished for something a little more exciting from their first reunion in eight years. Petty has attempted to get back to his roots by writing a bunch of blues and r’n’b flavoured songs but, although things start well with the punchy ‘Jefferson Jericho Blues’, a drift towards pastiche sets in fast and there’s a lack of energy that no amount of laidback finesse can replace. ‘Candy’, for example, is entertaining but insubstantial, just another reworking of the venerable Memphis riff with Petty overdoing his down home vocal. More passion and a little less journeyman cool would be welcome here.