Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

SoundStage! TV

Expert

InSight

Shorts

On This Site

Perro Verde/Fantasy FAN00235
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

The Prodigal Son, Ry Cooder’s 17th solo studio recording (not counting his many film scores), is his first such outing since Election Special (2012), and the first since Chávez Ravine (2005) that doesn’t overtly address political themes. While on his last five albums Cooder was the primary composer, on The Prodigal Son he returns to his role as interpreter of songs from America’s past. The emphasis is on old blues and country gospel, but Cooder also includes three of his own compositions that fit well with the vintage tunes he’s chosen.

Grant Green: “Funk in France: From Paris to Antibes (1969-1970)”

Resonance/INA HCD2033
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality (disc 1)
***1/2

Sound Quality (disc 2)
**1/2

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Grant Green: “Slick! Live at Oil Can Harry’s”

Resonance HCD2034
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
***

Grant Green (1935-1979), like his near contemporary Wes Montgomery (1923-1968), died while still in his 40s, and like Montgomery’s, Green’s later recordings are sometimes scorned by jazz purists. While toward the end of his life Montgomery leaned in the direction of easy listening, Green played funk. Beginning in 1969, when he returned to Blue Note after a few years with other labels, Green’s jazz showed the influence of then-current soul musicians James Brown and the Meters, both of whose compositions he covered that year on Carryin’ On.

Planet Mu/Timesig TIMESIG008CD
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

In 2016, Daniel Lanois used his pedal steel guitar as the basis for Goodbye to Language, a series of ambient compositions that recalled Brian Eno and Harold Budd, two composers he’s worked with. His collaborator on that album was Rocco DeLuca, who played lap steel. The complex, layered compositions revealed new sounds and evoked new emotions with each hearing. Tracks that had at first seemed contemplative and calming later opened the way to deeper, sometimes darker territory.

Geffen B0028266
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

“At the end of the tour, in early April [1968], the Who recorded their show at the Fillmore East,” Dave Marsh writes in Before I Get Old, still the definitive history of the band. “The tape of the Fillmore East concert is extraordinary,” he continued; “a remarkable burst of sustained energy.” Unfortunately, when the Who listened to the tapes, enough flaws jumped out that they decided not to release them. Nonetheless, over the years, bootlegs of those New York City concerts of April 5 and 6, 1968, enhanced the band’s reputation as a powerful live act.

Matador OLE-1123-2 LC 11552
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

The 15 tracks of Belle and Sebastian’s latest release were originally issued on three five-song EPs titled How to Solve Our Human Problems, Pts. 1-3. Does that make this latest edition a coherent album or a compilation? After the first listen, I found that the music made sense either way, though on repeated hearing I found myself pausing after each quintet of songs. At 70 minutes, How to Solve Our Human Problems is a lot to absorb; listening to these songs in three groups of five each gives this listener more space and time in which to digest them, and has let some tracks that at first sounded like filler come into their own.

4AD LTD 4AD0035CD
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

The Breeders reunited in 2013 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of their second and best-known album, Last Splash, and soon decided to record music for a new album, their fifth. All Nerve took a few more years to complete, but the same lineup that appeared on Last Splash has produced a record that embodies the qualities that made them unique. The strangely likeable, almost hummable melodies and hooks are slight reminders of Kim Deal’s other band, the Pixies, but the Breeders use dissonance and buzz-saw guitars in ways that set them apart from everyone else.

Columbia 88985476052
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden formed a band in 2002, while attending Wesleyan University, in Connecticut. They called it the Management, but because another group was already using that name, they changed it to MGMT. Both men are multi-instrumentalists, but they’ve used additional musicians in the studio and on tour since their second album, Congratulations (2010).

Yep Roc YEP-2556
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

Songwriter, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Grant-Lee Phillips’s ninth solo LP is a reaction to the current climate of American politics and culture, but it’s not shrill or hysterical. Even at its angriest, Widdershins is full of wit and a sense of shared responsibility, both for our current predicament and for what we might need to do about it. It’s also tuneful and skillfully played.

March 2018

Daptone DAP-051
Format: monaural CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

James Hunter made some albums and EPs as Howlin’ Wilf in the late 1980s before making . .  . believe what I say, his first recording under his own name, in 1996. Whatever It Takes is his seventh album with the James Hunter Six, and his second for Daptone Records, a label founded to handle just such a devoted carrier of the soul-music torch. The English singer has a natural feel for the music, and sings it in the sophisticated manner of a Sam Cooke or Marvin Gaye. He’s also a formidable guitarist and bandleader whose sextet plays his songs with understated skill.

Blue Note B002780402
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Organist Dr. Lonnie Smith returned to Blue Note Records in 2016 with Evolution, an entertaining and intelligent slice of soul jazz that was one of my favorite discs of that year. He’s back again on Blue Note, and this time producer Don Was recorded him live with his trio at the Jazz Standard, in New York. The show was a celebration of Smith’s 75th birthday, and this seven-song set illustrates the organist’s versatility and the timelessness -- the freshness, even -- of the kind of music he’s been playing for so long.