Ken Kessler

Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
Not one but two recent biopics of John Lennon have taxed the patience of the hardcore, but the consensus is that this beats BBC4’s Lennon Naked hands down, despite Christopher Eccleston’s uncanny, note-perfect, award-worthy portrayal in the latter. This covers Lennon’s pre-Hamburg youth, so the two form a natural pairing (or a chronological trilogy, with Backbeat in the middle), but the depth and sensitivity of this entry strikes the viewer as somehow more authentic. All three suffer the sort of anachronistic details that will have the fanboys’ knickers in a twist, and they also beg the real need for fictional accounts of events so recent, but this one is perhaps worth a viewing for its cinematic value. Sound Quality: 83% .
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
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.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
Yes, a mono SACD, as if to remind us that it’s sound quality rather than multichannel capability which keeps this much under-appreciated format alive. Although this is hardly the best-sounding recording Charles ever issued, musically it’s one of his milestones, showing absolute mastery of yet another genre. Instead of re-interpreting hoary old chestnuts, Charles recorded seven originals to complement five standards, showing that he could not only sing the blues, he could also write them. The sound is uptown, not rural, suggesting that he could have carved out as big a career in the blues – had he so desired – as Bobby Bland, Jimmy Witherspoon or any of the other more urbane practitioners.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
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.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
After a run of smash hit LPs, the Doobies had no trouble maintaining a winning streak in 1976 because this, their sixth release, was also their first with the man who would kick everything up a notch and strengthen its sound in a highly distinctive manner: vocalist Michael McDonald. There were always signs that the group had hidden blue-eyed soul leanings and MM’s presence, along with that of another Steely Dan refugee, Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter, ensured that the increasing levels of sophistication would render the band an AOR/FM staple. Classy, and not as far removed from ’Dan as you might imagine, in case you’ve always hungered for more from that outfit. Sound Quality: 87% .
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
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.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
Mayfield was one of the very first soul artists to imbue his songs with serious political content. And this self-produced, solo debut from 1970 melded contemporary soul and R&B with production values rarely glimpsed before, resulting in Mayfield’s immediate elevation to the front rank. Overshadowed by masterpieces from Isaac Hayes, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye from the same period, Curtis expanded on the ground-breaking work he’d created with the Impressions in the previous decade. Sounding dated only in that it lacks the abrasiveness of the post-rap era, Curtis succeeds instead because of its intensity, beauty, intelligence and grandeur.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 07, 2010  |  0 comments
A trend I have no complaints about is that of live CDs which come with a DVD of the same concert, viz. McCartney in NYC, Steve Stills, etc. As I first saw King and Taylor together nearly 40 years ago, this set brought a lump to my throat: for baby boomers, there’s no more comfortable pair of slippers. They’re simply the gentlest, warmest pair of singer-songwriters imaginable, they clearly adore each other, and they deliver a combined self-penned 15 classics.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 07, 2010  |  0 comments
Americans are now able to buy this enthralling Blu-ray, just hitting UK cinemas. Enthralling? The saga of an all-girl rock band from the 1970s who were sold initially and primarily for their post-pubescent sex appeal? As it turned out, they rocked as hard as the boys, giving us the magnificent Joan (‘I Love Rock’n’Roll’) Jett in the process. Apparently, this slickly-made film has gone down well with Cherie Currie, on whose reminiscences it is based, while Jett and the rest of the Runaways shouldn’t be too unhappy with it: as biopics go, it’s easily on a par with the young John Lennon movie, Nowhere Boy. Beyond the Hollywood teen angst, they really, truly could rock.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 07, 2010  |  0 comments
Because their first two albums were so spectacular, nothing the Band released after them seemed to possess quite the same level of musical magic. But this, their seventh release, following a lengthy gap after the so-so Moondog Matinee, was a genuine return to form. Two tracks in particular, ‘Ophelia’ and ‘Acadian Driftwood’, were so purely Band-ish that they could have nestled comfortably with the masterpieces that made up their eponymous sophomore release. Sonically, it’s slicker-sounding than its predecessors, the Band recording for the first time with 24 tracks.

Pages

X