Ken Kessler

Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
If you enjoyed the gold CD edition, reviewed in March, then the LP will provide some surprises. Although The Cars were born in the analogue era, they embraced an artificial, otherworldly sound, which logic dictates might be favoured by digital. But so rich and layered were their recordings, and so distinctive the vocals, that the music lends itself equally to what should be passé technology in this context. Blessedly, The Cars were not as Fritz Lang-ian in their modernism as, say, the far-quirkier Devo, never allowing melody to be subjugated by studio wizardry, so even the proliferation of synths – which date the album – does not jar with analogue warmth.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
As this series of Nat ‘King’ Cole LPs, pressed on two 45rpm discs, concentrates on his golden era, you know what to expect: perfect sound quality, breathtaking arrangements, tasteful material and that voice. Aaah! That voice! It delivered so much, and was so inimitable that Cole could use it to make any song his own. This release from 1963, the last of a trio of LPs arranged and conducted by Gordon Jenkins, was themed with the subtitle ‘Songs of Love And Loneliness’. Cole creates the necessary mood with such completeness that you feel an ache in nearly every note.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
There have been blues prodigies in the past, young kids who defy their age with a sound conveying wisdom, experience and other abilities which suggest the passage of time. But quite how Knox managed to ingest the anima of a 60-year-old in a 17-year-old’s mind/body is part of the mystery that makes this LP so compelling. Had you heard the album before being told this, his interpretation of Willie Dixon’s ‘You Need Love’ would have you convinced the guy had been playing juke joints for decades. When you realise that he composed nearly all of the material, you’ll want to see his birth certificate.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
While the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean successfully co-opted the ‘surf’ genre by adding vocals, its inventor was Dick Dale, aka ‘King of the Surf Guitar’. Dale launched the genre with ‘Let’s Go Trippin’’ from 1961, which kicks off this set, developing a sound he forged to reflect the sensations of the sport. Along the way he directly influenced so many guitarists (eg Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen) that he’s even credited by some with inventing heavy metal. What these 28 mono tracks reveal are ingenious techniques that dazzle and frighten in equal measure 50 years on.
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.

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