• 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)

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.

Dizzy HeightsLester LRNF0011CD
Format: CD

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

 

In the 12 years since Neil Finn released his last solo disc, One Nil (US title: One All), he’s done a recording with his brother Tim, Everyone Is Here (2004), and two with Crowded House: Time on Earth (2007) and Intriguer (2010). In 2012 he cowrote and performed “Song of the Lonely Mountain,” the end-titles song for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and in 2013 he found time to collaborate with the great Australian songwriter Paul Kelly on Goin’ Your Way. Finn is a pop craftsman, a gifted melodist, and an expressive singer who handles ballads and rockers with equal skill. Longtime fans will hear those qualities in Dizzy Heights, but the disc contains quite a few surprises.

Teeth DreamsWashington Square/Razor & Tie 79301-83515-2
Format: CD

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

 

One of my friends dismisses the Hold Steady as “a kind of baroque Bruce Springsteen.” That’s probably why I like them. Early Bruce fans like me cherish his first two albums for their unabashed romanticism and long-form storytelling, and the Hold Steady must have listened to them as much as I have. They also appear to have been influenced by Graham Parker’s records with the Rumour. Parker, like all cynics, is at heart a disappointed romantic, but with the Rumour he buried his anger in snarling guitars and a great rock’n’roll voice.

Blank ProjectSmalltown Supersound STS248
Format: CD

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

 

Even Neneh Cherry’s fans might be surprised by the unusual sound of her new disc, Blank Project, although anyone who’s followed her career, with its many experimental turns, may not be too shocked by how avant-garde she is here. As versatile and surprising as her own work has been, her other musical projects have often strayed even further from the mainstream. Her trip-hop group cirKus, which she formed in 2006, included elements of electronica, but with Blank Project she moves fully into that genre.

Morning PhaseCapitol B001983901
Format: LP

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

 

Although Beck hasn’t recorded an album of new music since 2008’s Modern Guilt, he hasn’t been goofing off. He’s produced recordings by Thurston Moore and Charlotte Gainsbourg, co-produced and contributed to Rework: Philip Glass Remixed, and played on several discs by other musicians. In late 2012 he released a portfolio of sheet music -- new songs in written notation for others to perform. His website shows a firm grasp of how useful current technology can be to a musician, and on it he hosts Record Club, which brings musicians together to reinterpret an existing work by another artist and post the results online.

Internal SoundsOutside Music 23339-9087-2
Format: CD

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

 

The Sadies formed in 1994, in Toronto, and it says something about the music business that a band this good isn’t better known in the US. Two of the members, Dallas and Travis Good, are nephews of Brian and Larry Good, of the well-regarded Canadian country group the Good Brothers. Country music forms a part of the band’s sound, but they’re so versatile that they can play blues and garage rock with the same skill and conviction. They’ve played and recorded with blues singer Andre Williams, and with John Doe of X (Country Club, 2009), but are perhaps best known for their work with Neko Case.

Rickie Lee JonesMobile Fidelity Sound Lab MFSL 1-392
Format: LP

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

 

I first saw and heard Rickie Lee Jones on Saturday Night Live, in April 1979, when an appearance on that show could make a musician’s career. Her eponymously titled debut album had been released only a few weeks before, and that night she became a sensation. “Chuck E.’s  in Love,” one of the songs she performed that evening, went on to hit No.4 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and her album sold over two million copies. Her music had hints of jazz, R&B, folk, and Tin Pan Alley, and Rickie Lee Jones was the beginning of a recording career that would be marked by quality and unpredictability.