• SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)

Hypnotic EyeReprise Records 543243-2
Format: CD

Musical Performance ****
Sound Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

 

It is easy to take Tom Petty for granted. His 13 studio albums with the Heartbreakers, along with his three solo releases, are remarkable for their consistency; he sometimes makes it seem too easy. Like John Mellencamp, he has the ability to write a hit song with seemingly little effort, and at first listen, his recordings can have a workmanlike quality to them. But, coming back to them reveals depth and attention to detail, as well as real emotional commitment.

A Meeting of MindsCellar Live CL070113
Format: CD

Musical Performance ****1/2
Sound Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

 

I’ve been following jazz guitarist Sheryl Bailey since I reviewed her second album, Reunion of Souls, in 2001. I’ve since reviewed three other discs by her, and wrote a feature in 2005. Bailey’s newest, A Meeting of Minds, has been out a few months, and I’m ashamed to admit that its release snuck by me -- I try to keep an eye on what’s going on with her.

Live at Montreux 2013Eagle Vision EV306789
Format: DVD

Musical Performance ***1/2
Sound Quality ***
Picture Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

 

ZZ Top’s approach to blues rock has varied little in more than 45 years, even with the addition of hi-tech electronics in the 1980s (well, what was then hi-tech): Take a simple boogie blues riff, add a straightforward beat, and hammer away. Their best records, including Tres Hombres (1973) and Degüello (1979), had good songwriting and a sense of humor. The band never pretended to be blues purists, and guitarist Billy Gibbons played with enough flash to keep things interesting.

Live at Montreux 2013, available on DVD and BD, documents the band’s 90-minute show at the venerable jazz festival. The set list deftly mixes the big hits with tracks only hardcore fans will know. The sound is big, too. Frank Beard’s snare drum is explosive, and Gibbons’s overdriven guitar sounds as if it’s pouring out of a hundred Marshall amps -- as it very well may have been.

StockholmCaroline 2537786688
Format: CD

Musical Performance ***1/2
Sound Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

 

Chrissie Hynde has kept the Pretenders going for more than 30 years, but she and drummer Martin Chambers have been the band’s only consistent members. Stockholm is billed as Hynde’s first solo album, but at least three Pretenders albums -- Get Close (1986), Packed! (1990), and Break Up the Concrete (2008) -- have her as the only constant, with other musicians providing support. For Stockholm, Hynde brought in Björn Yttling, of the Swedish pop band Peter Björn and John, to produce, and he co-wrote nine of the disc’s 11 tracks.

Common GroundYep Roc YEP-2384
Format: CD

Musical Performance ****
Sound Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

 

After the Blasters split up in 1986, guitarist and co-leader Dave Alvin went on to a successful, critically acclaimed solo career; he now has 15 albums to his credit. His brother Phil recorded two solo albums, Un “Sung Stories” (1986) and County Fair 2000 (1994), and earned a master’s degree in mathematics and artificial intelligence. He’s kept the Blasters going, off and on, since Dave left, and as recently as 2012 the band released a CD, Fun on Saturday Night.

Fountain of YouthPeak/Entertainment One EOM-CD-9374
Format: CD

Musical Performance ***
Sound Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***

 

In the liner notes to Fountain of Youth, guitarist Russ Freeman calls the album “the Rippingtons’ Guitar Heaven CD. My main goals here were to feature as many guitars from my collection as possible, to introduce dynamics into the songs by changing the density of instrumentation, and to feature solo instruments whenever possible.” Guitarists will get a charge out of the illustrations of the guitars and other stringed instruments Freeman used, especially a rosewood-finished Fender Telecaster.

Super Duper Alice CooperEagle Vision EV306599
Format: DVD

Musical Performance ****
Sound Quality ***1/2
Picture Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

 

It’s easy to forget just how shocking Alice Cooper was to parents and church leaders 40 years ago, but even now, the concert footage in Super Duper Alice Cooper is a reminder of how outrageously offensive the band was to polite society. They brought rock theatrics to a new level of sophistication and influenced other performers, especially Marilyn Manson. The glam rock of the 1970s that brought Mott the Hoople and David Bowie to prominence is hard to imagine without Cooper’s androgynous attire and makeup.

Turn BlueNonesuch 542300-2
Format: CD

Musical Performance ****
Sound Quality **
Overall Enjoyment ***

 

If the pink-and-blue Day-Glo patterns on the Digipak of the Black Keys’ Turn Blue don’t bring back the psychedelic era for you, you probably weren’t there the first time around. But if you know the music of the time, Dan Auerbach’s jagged, fuzz-driven guitar solo in “Weight of Love” should remind you of the Jefferson Airplane or Quicksilver Messenger Service. Turn Blue is another step away from the DIY garage-band sound that characterized the Keys’ early discs, and it’s even more polished and musically varied than their last outing, El Camino.

In My SoulProvogue PRD 7436 2
Format: CD

Musical Performance ****
Sound Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

 

As soon as guitarist Robert Cray strikes the low note and two-chord vamp that introduces his driving version of Otis Redding’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” you know you’re hearing a musician who’s back in the game. Cray has made a lot of great albums in the more than 30 years he’s been recording, but some of his releases of the early 2000s had a workmanlike quality: solid, but sounding like the work of an artist who’d settled into the comforts of an established career. In My Soul has the creative drive and freshness of his best work.

Gord Downie, the Sadies, and the Conquering SunArts & Crafts AC090
Format: CD

Musical Performance ***1/2
Sound Quality **1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

 

When I read the title of Gord Downie, the Sadies, and the Conquering Sun, I thought maybe Downie had decided to collaborate with two bands -- but it’s just him and the Sadies here, perhaps joining forces with the sun. Wordplay and, on occasion, misdirection are not unusual for Downie, whose lyrics, both in his solo projects and in his work with the Tragically Hip, are unusually allusive and literate. The lyrics on this album are as smart as any Downie has written, and the music has as much electricity as the Hip’s best records do.