Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Blue Note Records B003327702
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

It’s tempting to assume jazz organist Dr. Lonnie Smith’s return to Blue Note Records in 2016 with Evolution meant he was enjoying a late-career rebirth. In fact, Smith has recorded steadily and consistently since the mid-1960s, when he was a member of guitarist George Benson’s group. His credits include 29 albums as leader and countless other appearances on recordings by other musicians, including saxophonist Lou Donaldson, a fellow Blue Note alum.

BFM Jazz 621 834 676 2
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Drummer Steve Gadd has played on so many records, in so many genres of music, that his discography seems to run on forever. To say he’s been in demand over the years is an understatement. He’s also led his own bands; one of these, Steve Gadd Band, is composed largely of musicians who, like him, were members of James Taylor’s touring group. That lineup’s fourth release, Steve Gadd Band (2018), won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.

Sony Music/Legacy Recordings 19439839452
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

Willie Nelson’s 2018 tribute to Frank Sinatra, My Way, showed his affection for the singer’s work, but on the 11 songs Nelson chose to cover he avoided simply retracing the Chairman of the Board’s footsteps. “Summer Wind” had its own relaxed charm, “It Was a Very Good Year” showed a different shade of melancholy from Sinatra’s, and “My Way” was a summing-up that avoided the swagger that marred Sinatra’s own take on the song (it’s one of the few Sinatra numbers I’ve never liked).

In response to my recent love letter to integrated amplifiers, I received some interesting feedback that came in the form of a question: isn’t there some contradiction in the fact that I use integrated amps almost exclusively in my dedicated two-channel system while relying on separates in my main home-theater system? Why not use an A/V receiver in my media room instead of an A/V preamp and multichannel amp if I’m so enamored with one-box solutions?

Omnivore Recordings OV-408
Format: 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC download

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Matthew Sweet has carried the power-pop banner high ever since his breakthrough third album, Girlfriend (1991), making tuneful, guitar-driven records that sometimes show as much appreciation for bands like Hüsker Dü as they do the glories of AM rock radio. Some of his albums, such as 100% Fun (1995) and Blue Sky on Mars (1997), contain their share of loud, overdriven guitars, but others, like In Reverse (1999), make overt references to the lush ’60s pop production styles of the Beach Boys and the Beatles.

Arts & Crafts Productions AC195CD
Format: 2 CDs

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Gord Downie’s solo album Introduce Yerself was released in October 2017, just ten days after the death of the iconic frontman and creative genius of The Tragically Hip. I assumed we had heard his final album, but Downie’s brothers later revealed that additional recordings were being prepared for release, and now we have Away Is Mine. Downie and Skydiggers guitarist Josh Finlayson, who had played on several of Downie’s previous solo recordings, cowrote the music for Away Is Mine and Downie wrote the lyrics.

Capitol Records B003285202
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Paul McCartney says his new album, McCartney III, was “made in rockdown.” He likes the sentiment so much he uses the pun twice in the booklet that accompanies the CD. Too cute, perhaps, and less clever than he thinks, but part of McCartney’s appeal is that he occasionally lapses into silliness. He recorded this disc, the third album in his long career featuring him alone on all vocals and instruments, during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it leans more toward the rustic charm of McCartney (1970) than the more heavily produced McCartney II (1980).

Mercury Nashville Records B0032689-02
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

The title of Chris Stapleton’s new disc, Starting Over, suggests a new musical direction, but the 14 tracks on the album stay close to the singer’s roots in country, rock, and soul. His three previous discs established Stapleton’s commitment to his musical heritage, and Starting Over reaffirms his ability to handle a variety of genres easily and naturally.

Easy Eye Sound/Dead Oceans DOC220
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Aaron Frazer was the drummer and co-vocalist for the soul-revival band Durand Jones & The Indications before going out on his own last year. Dan Auerbach, the guitarist from the Black Keys, heard Frazer’s falsetto on “Is It Any Wonder?,” a track from the Indications’ first album, and got in touch with him about recording a solo album. Auerbach brought Frazer to his Easy Eye Sound Studio in Nashville and assembled a batch of country and soul musicians to help him record his debut.

Concord Records CRE01393
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

Elvis Costello’s 31st studio album, Hey Clockface, comprises 14 tracks that the songwriter recorded in three cities: Helsinki, Paris, and New York. He used different sets of musicians in Paris and New York, and played all the instruments on the three songs recorded in Helsinki. The album takes in the many styles he’s embraced over his career, from new wave rock to sophisticated pop, jazz, and other, more experimental genres, but he pulls the disparate elements together into a pleasing and cohesive whole.