LATEST ADDITIONS

Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
Having recorded the concertos and complete piano solo works, Zoltán Kocsis continues to be the torch-bearer for Bartók’s music. And with his native orchestra everything sounds thoroughly idiomatic (whereas, for instance, fellow-Hungarian Solti’s Bartók had a personalised gloss) and full of gusto. The Hungaroton production offers clear separation and a wide soundstage, though this is accompanied by slight stridency in the Divertimento finale. The hapless drunkard in the fourth of the transcribed Hungarian Sketches should make listeners smile.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010
There’s a strong case for regarding this as EC’s best album – if not of his entire career, which is too varied and complex, then surely of his early years. The magic ingredient was the arrival of the band that would accompany him through his strongest period, his most sympathetic backing of all: the butt-kicking Attractions, who injected enough adrenalin into these Nick Lowe-produced sessions to yield an embarrassment of riches – ‘Pump It Up’, ‘Radio Radio’, ‘Lipstick Vogue’ and eight more acidic tracks. It’s ignoble to suggest that Costello was maturing: he arrived fully formed and in no need of assistance. It was like giving a great F1 driver a faster car.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
The Helsinki conductor, after ten years with the CBSO, has returned to his Nordic roots with appointments with the Finnish Radio SO and in Stockholm. These Schumann live performances, 2008/’09, equal the finest on disc: ie, Szell, Sawallisch. The orchestra sounds ‘right’ in scale and tone for this composer, playing beautifully for Orama, who brings euphoric brilliance to the ‘Spring’ Symphony’s scherzo and ideal pacing throughout the noble Second, with its returning motifs and (rather like the Allegretto in Beethoven’s Seventh) delightful little counterpoint section in the slow movement. The sound is natural, and one can only hope Symphonies 3 and 4 will appear.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
This retrospective – with Britten’s Four Sea Interludes, Young Person’s Guide in two versions; Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture, Falstaff and Symphony 2; and Walton’s Symphony 1 – is almost entirely sourced from 1956 Westminster/Nixa stereo tapes. The one exception, an alternative YPG without narration, is taken from LP; the mono has Boult narrating. There’s a huge difference between the Walton here and Somm’s transfer from an inferior Pye LP reissue [HFN May ’10] – you’d hardly dream it was the same performance. Sound from the Walthamstow Hall is extraordinarily vivid and the Elgar Falstaff and Second Symphony are musically superb.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010
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.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
Between 1961 and 1971, Britain’s best-loved poet became Britain’s most hated jazz critic, at least by other critics. In his Telegraph reviews, Philip Larkin was to Coltrane, Ornette and Miles what Brian Sewell is to Hirst, Emin and Serota. Filling the first two discs here is a treasury of Armstrong, Bechet, Condon and so on, the 78s Larkin loved, if not necessarily the artists’ best works. The third and fourth CDs collate items he reviewed and actually liked, mainly reissues.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
This offers a very different kind of listening experience from the classic Mercury Firebird with LSO/Dorati. There both sound and performance are upfront, confrontational (albeit exciting); Nelsons goes in for subtlety with soft playing that’s almost inaudible – the subject-matter is unmistakable with the ‘fluttery’ textures he achieves. The sound has an altogether more natural concert hall perspective too. Evidently performed with a very large chorus, the Symphony makes a complete contrast: taking us away from Stravinsky’s colourful Diaghilev period to a 1930 Koussevitzky commission with Latin texts and austere orchestration.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010
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.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
Probably Europe’s most sought-after bassist, Jasper Høiby has an authority and impact that grabs your attention and holds it. Here his trio Phronesis are heard live at The Forge in London, but with a different drummer: regular Anton Eger couldn’t make the dates, so Høiby drafted in American Mark Guiliana, with spectacular results. From the start, in the opening ‘Blue Inspiration’, Guiliana and the very fine pianist Ivo Neame push each other to greater heights around the sonorous pivot of a simple repeated bass figure. Then, typically, Høiby opens out and the piece blossoms into new shapes.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010
Not that I needed reminding that the J Geils Band was one of the best live acts I’d ever enjoyed, this nearly two-hour long set from the Monkey Island period is the 200-proof, real deal. Frontman Peter Wolf demonstrated the showmanship that enabled him to work an audience; harpmeister Magic Dick and axemaster Geils were on top form; and the remainder of the band constituted the tightest rhythm section north of Memphis. They ran through their most famous material, including a raunchy take on the Supremes’ ‘Where Did Our Love Go’, while a peppering of instrumentals leave no doubt this was the best house party/bar band ever. Sound Quality: 80% .

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