Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

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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.

Cooking Vinyl COOKCD731
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

In the 38 years Mike Scott has led the Waterboys, he’s taken this Scots band in various musical directions while maintaining its distinctive identity. Scott has remained the only constant through many changes of personnel, so it’s really his musical vision that remains at its core. He injected stomping rock’n’roll into Modern Blues (2015), and on the two-disc Out of All This Blue (2017) Scott gave in to his love of R&B, blues, and soul. On Where the Action Is those strains are joined to hints of the group’s signature Celtic folk-rock.

Single Lock SL028
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

The Hurting Kind is John Paul White’s second solo outing since he and Joy Williams ended their duo, The Civil Wars, in 2014. While a few of the songs can be broadly described as Americana, most have a strong hint of the Nashville Sound of the late-1950s and early ’60s, made famous by producers Owen Bradley and Chet Atkins, whose productions of albums by such singers as Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline included strings, background vocals, and other elements that broadened country music’s popularity. Further reinforcing the impression of what seems White’s veneration of country-music traditions are the assistance on three songs here of veteran songwriters Bill Anderson and Bobby Braddock.

Blue Note B002978602
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Norah Jones has avoided the Best New Artist Grammy curse, which usually leads to obscurity. Not only has she collected more Grammys since her big win in 2003, for her debut CD, Come Away With Me (2002) -- she’s continued to record albums that chart well and receive good notices from critics. Jones has also challenged herself by appearing on recordings by a variety of other musicians, including Q-Tip, Belle and Sebastian, Irma Thomas, and Bonnie Raitt.

ECM 2614 (B0029695-02)
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

In the last 30 years guitarist Dominic Miller has played on recordings by an impressive number of musicians, including Chris Botti, Mark Hollis, and Youssou N’Dour, and from Bettye LaVette to the Chieftains. His discography shows how versatile and in demand he is, but his most enduring musical relationship has been with Sting. He’s played on all of Sting’s albums since The Soul Cages (1991), and has toured with him in support of those recordings.

New West NW6367
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Luther Dickinson, lead singer and guitarist of the North Mississippi Allstars, has also released five solo albums and appeared on countless other recordings. Solstice is credited to him and Sisters of the Strawberry Moon, a collective of singers and musicians that includes Amy Helm, Amy LaVere, Shardé Thomas, the Como Mamas, and Birds of Chicago. A few guest musicians help out to create a beautiful album of American music that touches on many genres.

Ear Music 0213592EMU (CD), 0213593EMU (LP)
Format: CD & LP

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Fool is Joe Jackson’s 21st studio album, and at first it seems somewhat unassuming, with a clever cover image that looks like something an independent artist would use for a self-released disc. Even the way Jackson recorded Fool was modest. His last album, Fast Forward (2015), was recorded in four cities with four different bands. This time, Jackson and his touring band went “Straight into the studio at the end of a tour, still on the road,” he said in a press release. “Wherever we played the last show, we would record.” Wherever turned out to be Boise, Idaho.

Guided by Voices, Inc. GBVi87
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Robert Pollard has such a formidable recorded output, as both a solo artist and as leader of Guided by Voices, that it’s easy to take him for granted. If you’ve drifted away from the band, their last four albums are reason to return. The current lineup is the strongest since the band’s peak in the mid-2000s, and this new album, Zeppelin Over China, is one of their best. The descending riff that opens the first song, “Good Morning Sir,” is familiar -- Pollard’s used it before -- but this band sounds fresh and excited to be playing it.

Merge MRG650
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Sunshine Rock is Bob Mould’s 13th solo album, and the fourth since 2012 that he’s made with bassist Jason Narducy and drummer Jon Wurster. Mould’s last two releases, Beauty & Ruin (2014) and Patch the Sky (2016), were emotionally powerful albums that documented his reactions to his parents’ deaths. Sunshine Rock is as personal, but it embraces life’s occasional joys as well as its complexities, and the slashing guitars that run through most of it make it exhilarating.

ECM 2589 6775528 (CD)
ECM 2589 (LP)
Format: CD and LP

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Drummer Andrew Cyrille’s first release as a leader for ECM, The Declaration of Musical Independence, was a powerful, challenging quartet session with guitarist Bill Frisell, keyboardist Richard Teitelbaum, and bassist Ben Street. Frisell returns for Cyrille’s newest album, Lebroba, but this time in a trio with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. The result is an album of grace and beauty that uses space and time to let the music unfold and expand.