Randy Newman - Little Criminals - Warner Bros./Rhino DVD-A R9 78349:
Listening to this great album again, and especially seeing the young Randy in the included studio video of his "Short People" recording session, made me feel very old. Seems like l977 was just a few years back. Newman was ahead of his times back then, his intent often misunderstood much like Archie Bunker's character was. Yet Short People made it the Short way to No. 2 on the Billboard Pop Singles charts. Newman has retained his fame pretty well over the years, but now that irony is in full fashion, he doesn't seem as outrageous as he did in the 70s. In fact, he's not - he writes mostly for kids now!
There's lots of other great stuff among the dozen tracks here: Kathleen (Catholicism Made Easier), the picture of urban blight titled "Baltimore," and the dark moods of "Sigmund Freud's Impersonation of Albert Einstein in America," and "In Germany Before the War." Newman actually wrote Short People in an effort to yuck things up a bit - to relieve the downbeat themes. His music has a strong roots-Americana flavor to it, almost like a pop Copland. The surround mix adds some interest and doesn't get overly exaggerated. It's not the first Randy Newman in surround I've enjoyed. There was a wonderful quad tape version of his Sail Away album with a larger orchestra than this one. But surroundedby or all up front it's a sound and sentiments not quite like anyone else. Purchase Here
- John Sunier
Kevin Mahogany - Pride and Joy (with John Faddis, trumpet/flugelhorn; James Weidman, piano; Dave Stryker, guitar; Melissa Slocum, bass; Charles Haynes, drums; Don Alias, percussion; Gregory Clark, Todd Johnson, Gerald Trottman, Peter Eldridge, vocals) - Telarc multichannel SACD-63542:
When this disc of mostly Motown classic-era standards showed up on my desk in its Redbook CD form, my initial response was near apathy -- another ho-hum vocal collection that was only confirmed by a precursory scan-thru listen of a few tracks. Yawn -- not really my cup of tea. When the multichannel SACD showed up recently, I wasn't prepared to give it the time of day -- but I guess I'm getting soft in my old age, so I popped it in for a listen. All I can say is, wow!
This is one of those recordings that, regardless of your like or relative dislike of the material, is so much fun -- you just have to listen! The joy that these musicians must have had while making this disk is just infectious -- the first track, an acapella rendering of 'Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours' grabs your attention, and you have to listen to the rest of the disk. The disk contains one other acapella selection, several selections with just voice and solo guitar, bass or piano, and the effect is striking on all. Kevin Mahogany's singing is superb throughout -- his voice is a warm, darkly sweet baritone that suits all the songs perfectly. The disk is rounded out by several ensemble pieces that in places dip below the otherwise high standards set elsewhere on this disc -- but Mahogany's singing always pulls them back up to par. 'Pride and Joy' not only references the same-named song on the disc, but obviously the feeling the musicians put into the recording.
Telarc's multichannel surround has taken what at first struck me as a rather lackluster performance, and made it fun and deeply involving -- when the vocalists sing, they're in the room with you! After the first couple of tracks, I really wanted to hear the rest of the disc! This is the kind of recording that gives those of us in the pro-SACD camp hope that the format will continue to succeed and gain acceptance on its way to becoming the norm. Hats off to Telarc -- this is how multichannel SACD should be done! Purchase Here
-- Tom Gibbs
The Coryells (with Alphonse Mouzon, percussion & Brian Torff, bass) - Chesky stereo SACD-235:
I covered this one exactly two years ago in its original 44.1 form. So this is another "here we go again, only better" situation: Larry Coryell was one of the pioneers of jazz-rock guitar and has been described as the most original guitarist since Charlie Christian. This enjoyable outing brings his two guitarist sons, Julian and Murali - one also doing some vocals - in on a variety of tunes mostly originating from the family, plus a waltz from their percussionist Alphonse Mouzon and Charlie Mingus' Goodbye Porkpie Hat. Each of the Coryells has a distinctive sound and the blend and interplay of all three is a kick both sonically and musically. Larry's own Concerto for Two Jazz Guitars and Symphony - arranged for 3 guitars, bass & percussion - is the major work kicking off the SACD. Frankly I feel the vocals are the weakest part of the album, but the infectious spirit of fun overall makes the Coryells still very worthwhile to spend some time with, especially benefitted by the enhanced transparency due to the higher resolution. Purchase Here
- John Henry
Ziroq - Silverline 288067-9 DVD-A:
If I had to liken Ziroq to another group, it would be the Gypsy Kings. The songs are full of layered percussive instruments, fancy guitar, and sweet melodies. Some of the songs are sung in Spanish while others are in English. It's easy to get into the music and move with it-I'm sure some of these songs are worthy of radio play on even the hit stations. The fidelity is fantastic, and unlike some other surround discs, the music is not overpowering in the rear speakers. Rather, it is centered mainly in the front. There are scenic still pictures of boats and sunsets (that appear to relate to the songs) that are shown while the different tracks play. The disc contains a full DD 5.1 mix if you don't have DVD-A capability as well as a 24/96 stereo track. There is a scrapbook, an interview, and music videos. The songs included are: Tierra Del Sur; Que Pena; Ziroq; Closer To Me; Contando Cachuetes; Voices; Pobre Corazon; Raina; Prisonero; Patio Del Moro; Nomad; Cerca De Mi. Purchase Here
- Brian Bloom
Jonatha Brooke Steady Pull - Bad Dog Records BDR-DV-61001 DVD-V/DVD-A:
Is it a DVD-A disc? Is it a DVD-V disc? It's both, and it is in a plastic box like a DVD-V disc, so if you didn't look close you might just have missed it. [Right. This one is sure to get misfiled with the movie DVDs at many stores. - Ed.] The DVD-A side contains slide photos or lyrics along with the music in either stereo or surround. The DVD-V side has music videos and interview footage. You can select DD5.1, DTS5.1, or DD2.0. Jonatha's been around for a while even if you haven't had a chance to catch her. Apparently, she's been performing on some of the Late Night TV shows, and she has a song for Dawson's Creek, as well as two tracks in the new Peter Pan film. This album is not under the umbrella of a big record label, and Brooke has teamed up with Bob Clearmountain for co-production of the disc. Steady Pull doesn't seem short for press in any case, and if you can't find it at the store then you can always buy it from her website.
Jonatha is a singer/songwriter but rather than comparing her to Joni Mitchell or Ani DiFranco, I'd compare her more to Sarah McLachlan. Her style is more pop oriented and the songs might be considered light rock. I think it may even be too mellow for its own good-not hard enough to be played on some stations where its listening audience may reside. I'm really not sure how much airplay (if any) the music is getting, and it seems that those who have listened to it really seem to be taken with it. You can't give a higher compliment to music than that, but it just may not be everyone's cup of tea. Check it out and see for yourself. The songs included are: Linger; How Deep Is Your Love?; Walking; Red Dress; Room In my Heart; Steady Pull; Your House; New Dress; Digging; Out of your Mind; I'll Take It From Here; Lullaby. Purchase Here
- Brian Bloom
Bruce Cockburn Anything Anytime Anywhere (singles 1979-2002) - Rounder 11661-3180-6 Stereo SACD:
When I first put this disc on, I really hadn't looked at the album title. I didn't really know much about Bruce Cockburn although he has obviously been making music for a long time. I was surprised at the quality of the songs, and that I found them almost instantly enjoyable. Some of the songs had an older feel to them (maybe 80s), and others sounded newer. So when I realized that this was a hits album, I wasn't really too surprised. The disc is largely comprised of folk rock that's upbeat and listener friendly. Some of the older material brings up memories of Bruce Hornsby, Mike + The Mechanics, Lindsey Buckingham, and Bruce Springsteen to name a few. The songs are clearly the work of a competent singer/songwriter. The disc is of very good fidelity with extremely clean guitar and percussion. Check it out! Songs included are: My Beat; Wondering Where The Lions Are; Tokyo; Rumours Of Glory; The Coldest Night Of The Year; The Trouble With Normal; Lovers In A Dangerous Time; If I Had A Rocket Launcher; Call It Democracy; Waiting For A Miracle; If A Tree Falls; A Dream Like Mine; Listen For The Laugh; Night Train; Pacing The Cage; Last Night Of The World; Anything Anytime Anywhere. Purchase Here
- Brian Bloom
Grant-Lee Phillips Mobilize - Zoë 01143-1021-6 Hybrid Stereo SACD:
The name Grant-Lee might sound familiar to you and that's because Mr. Phillips used to be part of the band Grant-Lee Buffalo. His effort here is one of alternative guitar rock combining distinctive vocal stylings reminiscent of Eric Carmen or the Hollies, but with a modern tinge. Considering the genre, if you like some of the more toned down melodies present in alternative rock today, you will find many of the tunes quite compelling and appealing. The fidelity of the recording is a cut above most mainstream records and sounds very good on SACD. Another band that I would compare the music to is the Lightning Seeds. I consider this record to be very worthwhile listening and something that I would recommend to friends who like alternative rock but haven't found anything interesting as of late. Songs included are: See America; Humankind; Love's a Mystery; Sadness Soot; We All Get A Taste; Spring Released; Lazily Drowning; Like A Lover; Mobilize; Beautiful Dreamers; Sleepless Lake; April Chimes. Purchase Here
- Brian Bloom
Amanda Marshall Everybody's Got A Story; Columbia CS86316 Stereo/Multichannel SACD (only):
I looked at the back of this disc and saw "This disc is designed for use in super audio CD players only." Two of the discs I received this month will ONLY play in SACD players, so beware. What are you supposed to do if you want to play it in the car or a portable? This is NOT the way to help make a format succeed, especially when the option for compatibility is clearly available. [Sony Music is mainly responsible for the non-hybrid discs, but a new hybrid pressing plant is underway in the U.S. which should correct the situation. Sony also lowered the list price of their SACD-only discs. = Ed.]
Don't take this the wrong way-I like Amanda Marshall, and this album is pushing new ground for her. It's an all-out assault of sound, with instruments, vocals, or harmonies that come from every direction. The album is a little hip-hop-different from the folk rock that I normally associate with Marshall. Overall, fidelity was very good with good reverberation, nice space, and a realistic tonal balance. But, for some reason, if you don't happen to have a multi-channel SACD player, on the 2-channel mix the voice is not in the center, and is off to the left. For me it made listening to it this way impossibly distracting. I can only guess that it is a foul up in recording. If you like a combination of hip-hop with rock-type instrumentation then you won't be disappointed. Songs included are: Everybody's Got A Story; The Voice Inside; The Gypsy; Colleen (I Saw Him First); Double Agent; Red Magic Marker; Sunday Morning After; Love Is My Witness; Dizzy; Brand New Beau; Marry Me; Inside The Tornado. Purchase Here
- Brian Bloom
Graham Nash Songs For Survivors - DTS Entertainment 69286-01092-9-2 DVD-A:
Graham Nash is definitely a survivor and the songs here are representative of his current attitude toward life, people, and music. It is clear that when the guys from CSN&Y go off by themselves they lose a little in the translation (possibly excluding Neil Young). This collection offers mostly lighter soft rock tunes, but with somewhat heavy lyrics. There is a little country twang on some, and others have a later 80s, early 90s feel to them. This nostalgic sound will appeal to some listeners. The songs are catchy, and none of the material is bad. The sound of the recording is very good, although, if you don't have a DVD-A player, then you will need to have a DTS-capable DVD player to enjoy the multi-channel sound-the only other audio track is PCM 2-channel. The lyrics are displayed while the songs play or you can opt for a slideshow that has about 75 different pictures total. All in all, this disc is a good package and worth checking out. The songs included are: Dirty Little Secret; Blizzard of Lies, Lost Another One, The Chelsea Hotel; I'll Be There For You; Nothing In the World; Where Love Lies Tonight; Pavanne; Liar's Nightmare; Come With Me. Purchase Here
- Brian Bloom
Toots And the Maytals In The Dark - Silverline 288070-9 DVD-A:
A nice blend of roots reggae with an air of spirituality makes this disc a winner. "Time Tough" is a great song that could be a radio hit today with its funky guitar and cool, swinging sound. All the songs are accompanied by still pictures and the song titles (like most Silverline releases). This disc is a full 5.1 mix, so you can get yourself in the party environment with all the speakers going. If you don't have DVD-A capability, you can still enjoy the 5.1 DD mix. Sonically you can't expect too much, but overall, the sound is not bad. The songs included are: Got To Be There; In The Dark; Having A Party; Time Tough; See You; Take A Look In The Mirror; Take Me Home Country Roads; Fever; Love Gonna Walk Out On Me; Revolution; 54-36; Sailing On. Purchase Here
- Brian Bloom
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