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Hy End, April 2010 - The Guarneri Quartet: Music by Mendelssohn, Schumann, Dvorak, Kodaly, and Dohnanyi

guarhung-small.jpg“The Guarneri String Quartet (so named because of the instruments they play - Guarneri was a rival of Stradivarius in 17th Century Italy) were for many years the “house” quartet of RCA/BMG/Sony in its various iterations over the years. They were responsible for recording a substantial chunk of the conventional string quartet repertoire. Now, 45 years after their founding, they have decided to retire, and Sony has done them proud by re-releasing a great deal of the music they recorded over their long career…”

Music Reviews - AM’s Favourite Recent Classical SACDs

Jaarvi“These 3 discs could be said to be a very broad-ranging time-capsule, a sample of 20th Century British music, ranging from the earlier in Elgar to the immediate in MacMillan and Turnage, with Vaughan Williiams and Britten in between. And covering a broad range of time, style, and musical genre along the way is Peter Maxwell-Davies’ delightful and even more dynamic An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise. This is the piece I’m playing for SACD surround demos these days, since it has everything: drama, depth, huge dynamics, dance, and even a bagpipe…”

Music Reviews - Debussy, Ravel and Ray Montford

Ravel

“It was all but inevitable that later ninetheenth-century French composers would become interested in the Symbolist poets. The Symbolists sought to duplicate in literature the effects of music by using vague images, elusive syntax, and fleeting ideas”, says Jonathan D. Kramer in liner notes for this recording. The famous Prelude was written as a musical equivalent of Mallarme’s poem, Afternoon of a Faun, while Nocturnes evolved from a violin concerto written for virtuoso and composer Eugene Ysaye that was never played…”

Music Reviews - Beethoven, Mozart & Mendelssohn on SACD

Beethoven Piano Concertos

“The piano is quite prominent in this 1974 recording, but what playing! I think I can forgive the Philips engineers for putting Stephen up front and miking the piano to be quite wide. The orchestra is well heard, with a big soundstage and good depth, typical Philips of the period. The string sound is excellent, with a nice texture on violins, violas, and cellos…”

Music Reviews - Bach, Stamitz and Richter on SACD

Bach

“This hybrid SACD features lovely playing, with quite brisk tempi throughout, and a lack of the kind of rubato and general tempo variety offered by my favourite interpreters of this music, the Chamber Orchestra of the Saare under Karl Ristenpart. It just seems a little preoccupied with momentum rather than musicality. But if you don’t know these Suites well, you�ll probably enjoy this recording with its excellent sound quality. The Ristenpart recordings may have been rereleased on CD, but mine are from LP…”

Supersounds (Fall 2003) - Classical SACD and CD

Malher Symphony #6 SACD

“This new SACD is to my ears the best Mahler recording ever. Zander’s reading has passion and impulsion, and the sound is simply amazing. The louder you play it, the better it sounds, and I didn’t have the advantage of discrete multichannel, listening through the Pioneer Elite DV-AX10, which preceded 5-channel SACD. However, I’ll take state-of-the-art 2-channel over mediocre multi any time. By the time we finally got to the “hammers of fate” in the finale, I was totally immersed in this immense symphonic conception…”

Music Reviews - The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots

The Flaming Lips:  Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

“In 1999, The Flaming Lips (Wayne Coyne, Steven Drozd, and Michael Ivins) achieved rare critical recognition following the release of their 10th album The Soft Bulletin. Hailed by rock pundits of all stripes and persuasions as both a surprise masterpiece and one of the most finely crafted pop albums of the 1990s, The Flaming Lips rocketed-out from the depths of indie-rock obscurity that had previously defined their 15 year career…”

Music Reviews - Rodney Crowell: The Houston Kid

Rodney Crowell:  The Houston Kid

“Whether these songs are autobiographical or not is really irrelevant. The stories Crowell shares on this record are told and played with such conviction that they live and breathe their own lives. Here we have an artist with a comfortable foot in the door of the country music establishment singing about a crack-addicted gigolo spreading HIV to whoever will give him enough money to get through the day. Not exactly Grand Ol’ Opry or Shania Twain cover material…”

Music Reviews - Ryan Adams: Gold

Ryan Adams:  Gold

“I have discovered where Tom Cochrane has been hiding the last little while. He’s gone to the 7 ½ floor of the Skydome Hotel, pushed aside the mini-bar and crawled inside the brain of one, Ryan Adams. He got Ron Sexsmith to crawl in there with him too, adding the exquisite song structure that ol’ Red Rider could never quite muster. The result is Gold, an impossibly good record with absolutely no Can-Con….”

Music Reviews - Kasey Chambers: Barricades and Brickwalls

Kasey Chambers: Barricades and Brickwalls

“If you get close enough to another person the two of you will often develop a secret speech pattern-a soft, sensitive tone that comes out subconsciously when you are sharing your most comfortable, precious moments. If it accidentally emerges in the presence of outsiders it sounds like baby-talk, but when it’s just the two of you it sounds perfect. Chambers sounds perfect…”

Supersounds (Fall 2001) Andrew Marshall Listens to some of the first DVD-Audio & SACD Releases

DVD Audio Logo

“After the AES Seminar in May I hunkered down with some DVDs and SACDs (I’ve been collecting the latter for over a year) and started to listen critically to both formats. Multi-channel SACD has only been demonstrated at shows, and players and discs do not yet exist for consumers, but will soon, to the dismay of those who bought 2-chennel players (myself included). DVD-Audio, meanwhile, is trying to be all things for all channels (well, 5 of them at least), and some old 70s masters are being remixed to sound fresher for the new millennium…”

Music Reviews - Lightnin’ Hopkins: Goin’ Away

“The Texas blues begin and end with Mance Lipscomb and Lightnin’ Hopkins. Both were tremendous innovators, featuring a conversational singing style and masterful guitar work. Mance was too busy sharecropping to get to the studio before he turned fifty, but Lightnin’ had already been recording for the better part of twenty years by the time he got to Goin’ Away, at the age of 51…”

Music Reviews - The Beta Band: Hot Shots II

The Beta Band:  Hot Shots II

“For most of us on this side of the Atlantic, any awareness of the Beta Band most likely starts with the film High Fidelity. In one of the film’s most memorable scenes record store owner Rob Gordon (played by John Cusak) boasts to one of his employees that he will sell several copies of a Beta Band EP in the next several minutes. Not long after “Dry the Rain” begins to flood the store, jaded, know-it-all record geeks are asking after the band and picking up copies of the EP for themselves. “It’s really good”, one of them says to Cusak, who responds with “I know”…

Music Reviews - At the Drive-in: Relationship of Command

At The Drive In

“Every once in a while an album comes along in which the listener is overwhelmed with the sensation that if there was no release for this music, the artist may have died. This notion is the very height of pretension, and I love it. The concept of rock `n roll as an explosive medium is basically a lie-the number of bands that can twist your guts and make it feel good are few and far between, and their lifespan is almost always more insect than human…”

Music Reviews - Hollow Bamboo: Ronu Majumdar, Ry Cooder and Jon Hassell

Hollow Bamboo

“If you’re a fan of what is almost certainly Water Lily’s most popular release, the Grammy winning A Meeting By The River, than this 2000 release from the small Santa Barbara label is something of a no-brainer. Similar in approach to Meeting, Hollow Bamboo pairs eastern musical masters with western ones, this time pairing Ry Cooder (guitar and Turkish Oud), Rick Cox (guitar), and Jon Hassell (trumpet) with Bamboo Flute virtuoso Ronu Majumdar, and Abhijit Banerjee on Tabla. As he did on Meeting, Ry Cooder’s son Joachim adds percussion on several tracks as well…”

Music Reviews - Ella and Oscar

Ella and Oscar

“During the 1970’s this Los Angeles based label made countless recordings with ageing jazz legends. Spin through the jazz bins at a well stocked used record store and you’ll probably find more than a few Pablos with their distinctive black and white artwork. There’s also a distinctive Pablo sound, usually characterized by excellent, albeit dry, studio damped, sonics. Some might argue that these records were on the sterile side, capturing performances by artists well past their prime, legends just going through the motions. In some cases I think that’s probably true…”

Music Reviews - Gord Downie: Coke Machine Glow

“I always thought if Gord ever made an album outside of the [Tragically] Hip machine he would go country, smoothing out the band’s rough edges. Instead he delivers a mixed bag of treats, some familiar, some fantastic, but each satisfying. The minimalist production values and understated musicianship push Downie’s vocals to the forefront, which I imagine was the point of the exercise. His lyrics have always been personal, but Coke Machine Glow feels more direct. Instead of telling stories, these songs take on the illusion of conversation…”

Grant Green - An Introduction

Grant Green:  The Complete Quartets

“Grant Green was a jazz guitarist who recorded as band leader and side man with the majority of musicians who passed through the Blue Note doors during those special years between 1960 and 1965 (see footnote below). His name appears on over one hundred albums, including thirty under his own name, making him Blue Note’s most recorded artist. Later in the sixties and early seventies he created some of the coolest and hottest rare-groove and small ensemble jazz-funk there is. Some critics even elevate him to the status of forefather of acid jazz…”

Supersounds (Fall 2000) - New Sounds From Old Tapes

Supersounds

” I’ve probably touched on this theme before in relation to great jazz recordings being reissued, but it doesn’t stop amazing me how good many of these recordings from the late 50s and early 60s sound. As a recording engineer, I’m pretty familiar with what it takes to get good sound, whether one is recording classical music, jazz, or anything else. As I’ve said to people before, Rudy Van Gelder is my recording god, because he got such great sound consistently in his New Jersey studio, and made the transition to stereo so effortlessly…”

Music Reviews - Radiohead: Kid A

Radiohead: Kid A

“When first listening to the album it is important that you hear it as a complete work, start to finish. Some songs flow immediately into others (reminiscent of ‘Dark Side of the Moon’) and your impressions of them are directly affected by the preceding song. The album just doesn’t seem to have the same emotional effect when the songs are heard in isolation…”


  Outside the Speakers

    Random Thoughts on the Music Mask
    NPR on Whether Audiophiles Still Exist
    Audiophile Grade Mics?
    CDs Sales Die, LP Sales Fly
    Some High End 'Phones from CES

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