Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Republic B0030192-02
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

On October 1, 1969, James Brown performed with his band at the Bell Auditorium, in Augusta, Georgia, the city in which he spent much of his childhood. Brown’s time in the state’s second largest city was troubled, to say the least, but by 1969 he was a huge international star, and the city claimed him proudly. He was going to record his show there for release that December, but his plans changed, and instead he released Ain’t It Funky, a compilation of mostly instrumental tracks recorded between 1966 and 1969.

dBpm DBPM-010-20-LP (LP), DBPM-010-20-CD (CD)
Formats: LP and CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

I was three songs into my second playing of Ode to Joy, Wilco’s 11th album, when I realized that drummer Glenn Kotche wasn’t using cymbals anywhere. He plays drums and other percussion, but no ride or crash cymbal, no hi-hat to fill in time or sound. That doesn’t keep him from providing a rhythmic foundation for these songs, even as he helps them flow and adds texture -- much as jazz drummer Paul Motian did on many of his recordings.

ATO AT00505
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

Singer and guitarist Brittany Howard is best known as the lead singer of the Alabama Shakes, and for her side project and alter ego Thunderbitch. Although the Shakes are steeped in Southern soul, their second album pulled in other influences, including funk and 1960s psychedelia. Thunderbitch is searing garage rock. But Jaime, Howard’s first solo outing under her own name, is harder to classify. While rooted in the well-established genres of funk and neo-soul, it has an exhilarating immediacy.

ECM 2654
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Although saxophonist Joe Lovano has appeared on a number of ECM recordings since the early 1980s, Trio Tapestry, from earlier this year, was his first release as leader for the label. On his own recordings, Lovano is probably best known as a post-bop player with a solid, unerring sense of swing. Trio Tapestry was a move in a slightly different direction -- Lovano’s 11 compositions were atmospheric and contemplative without descending into background music. He was aided greatly by his accompanists, pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Carmen Castaldi.

Warner Bros. 093624900658
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

The Flaming Lips’ 15th studio album, King’s Mouth: Music and Songs, is part of a larger work that includes a book and an art installation, the songs being part of a unifying narrative. The overarching concepts of Flaming Lips albums are usually more evoked than spelled out, and while the whimsical fairytale on which King’s Mouth is based helps embody the album’s themes, it’s the layers of sound in the music and Wayne Coyne’s emotionally charged singing that convey the album’s felt meaning.

Rune Grammofon RCD2207
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Even after listening to and collecting records for a few decades, I’m still on the lookout for new music worth hearing and telling others about. To that end, I read music publications and new-release announcements, looking for recommendations. The Norwegian trio Elephant9 isn’t really new -- they’ve been together since 2006 -- but when I read descriptions of their music that compared it to Soft Machine, a genre-crossing British prog-rock band of the late 1960s that’s among my favorites, I wanted to hear them.

Rhino R2 591470
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Estimates vary, but it seems that some 400,000 people showed up in Bethel, New York, for the Woodstock Music & Art Fair: An Aquarian Exposition in White Lake, N.Y. -- 3 Days of Peace & Music, which ran from Friday, August 15, 1969, into the morning of Monday, August 18. Something close to that number were unable to attend at all, due to traffic jams caused by the festival. In 1969, there was no social media. Rolling Stone magazine had begun publication two summers before and was not yet widely distributed on newsstands. FM rock radio, which leaned toward playing unedited album cuts and even full albums, was only a couple of years old and broadcast in only a few markets.

Verve B0030218-02
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Love Will Find a Way, Philip Bailey’s 12th solo album, is his first since 2002, but in the intervening 17 years he hasn’t been coasting. He’s made four albums with Earth, Wind & Fire, the group he’s led since the late Maurice White retired from touring in 1996. Love Will Find a Way is his third straight album to lean strongly toward jazz, and this time around he’s enlisted the help of younger musicians, including arranger, composer, and keyboardist Robert Glasper, and saxophonist Kamasi Washington. He’s also helped out by older players, such as pianists Chick Corea and Kenny Barron, and bassist Christian McBride.

Concord CRE00926
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
****

I can’t think of another guitarist of the classic-rock era who’s recorded more unremarkable albums than Carlos Santana. After a run of great to very good LPs from the late 1960s through the late 1970s, things began to thin out with Inner Secrets (1978). Santana albums became dull, with perhaps only one or two decent tracks each. Bright spots, such as the Carlos Santana solo albums Havana Moon (1983) and Blues for Salvador (1987), were rare.

Columbia 19075941972
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

According to a note on his website, Bruce Springsteen’s new album, Western Stars, was inspired by “the Southern California pop records of the late ’60s and early ’70s.” Echoes of Glen Campbell’s late-’60s hits “Wichita Lineman” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” both by songwriter Jimmy Webb and both recorded in Hollywood, run through the album, along with Burt Bacharach’s productions of that period. Many Springsteen records have had layers of instrumental detail, but Western Stars is, by any measure, his most lavish.