• SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • 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)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh History and Autoformer Technology (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - NAD Viso HP50 Headphones (May 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - GoldenEar Technology's Anechoic Chamber (May 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - PSB's M4U 4 Earphones (April 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - GoldenEar Technology's Triton Two+ and Three+ Loudspeakers (March 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- KEF's LS50 (February 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Monitor Audio's Platinum II Series (January 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Pryma 0|1 Headphones (December 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- KEF's Blade Two Loudspeaker (November 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- KEF and the Uni-Q (October 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Monitor Audio Acoustics & Aesthetics (August 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- PSB's Imagine T3 Loudspeaker (June 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Hegel's H160 Integrated Amplifier-DAC (April 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- MartinLogan's Neolith Loudspeaker (February 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Prestige Series (December 2014)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Vivid Audio's Giya Series (October 2014)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Totem Acoustic's Torrent Technology (August 2014)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Axiom Audio's M100 v4 Loudspeaker (May 2014)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Muraudio's Domain Omni Series (March 2014)

Planes, Trains and EricEagle Vision EV306849
Format: DVD

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

 

It is hard to think of a guitarist whose appeal is as broad as Eric Clapton’s, or one who has done well in so many styles. He has played blues with John Mayall, Southern soul with Delaney and Bonnie, and hard, blues-based rock with Cream. He is a generous enough player to share recording space with Duane Allman, on Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, under the moniker Derek and the Dominos. He has recorded a series of immensely popular albums that are sometimes too reserved for those of us who admire his most fiery playing, but he has written a lot of hits and sold more records than any guitarist I can think of.

As Planes, Trains and Eric demonstrates, Clapton’s popularity is international. The DVD chronicles his 2014 tour of Asia and the Middle East, and includes interviews with him and members of his band. Clapton’s February performance in Tokyo was his 200th in Japan in the 40 years he has toured there, and the suggestion that, nearing 70, he will probably be on the road less often gives his visit there poignancy.

Popular ProblemsColumbia 88875014292
Format: CD

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

 

Popular Problems is Leonard Cohen’s 13th studio album, and in many ways is reminiscent of its predecessor, Old Ideas (2012).The accompaniment is somewhat relaxed, the lyrics are those of a man nearing the end of his journey, and they’re delivered in the same dry combination of singing and recitation. The backing singers, women with young and vibrant voices, again add notes of humor and sexiness to the arrangements. Yet Popular Problems doesn’t feel like a repeat of Old Ideas. A more pronounced blues strain runs through it, and Cohen never coasts or falls back on, well, old ideas.

We Go HomeRezolute Music REZ008
Format: CD

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

 

Because of their parents’ connections, the children of famous musicians have advantages over the rest of us, including a better shot at becoming artists themselves. Sometimes, though, expectations are so high it is hard for them to establish a career that is not in the shadow of their parents. Jakob Dylan has been treated well by critics, but there is still a suspicion that while he may be a good songwriter, he is just not his dad.

TrilogyConcord CJA-35685-02
Format: CD (3)

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

 

One of the benefits of being an established musician is that early retirement can’t be forced on you. As long as people still fill concert halls or buy recordings, musicians can keep going. Some players continue to do vital work even late in their careers. Ahmad Jamal is making recordings that are as exciting and challenging as ever. Chick Corea, at 73, is a youngster compared to the 84-year-old Jamal, but at an age when most of us will be thinking about moving to Florida, he’s doing some of his best work.

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.