Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

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.

Columbia/Legacy 88985454672
Format: 2 CDs

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Of all the many phases of Bob Dylan’s career, his turn to charismatic Christianity in the late 1970s was the most puzzling and controversial, to fans and music critics alike. Dave Marsh, in The New Rolling Stone Record Guide (1983), wrote of Slow Train Coming (1979), the first album professing Dylan’s new faith, that the singer-songwriter “seemed to be using religion to front some new found right-wing political views.”

Mercury Nashville B0027408-02
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Chris Stapleton has written six No.1 hits for other singers, and more than 150 of his songs have appeared on albums by musicians as diverse as Adele, George Strait, and Tim McGraw. Stapleton is no Music City hack but a skilled singer, songwriter, and guitarist whose knowledge and command of Southern music idioms runs deep. Last year’s From a Room: Volume 1 owed as much to Gregg Allman as to George Jones, and was well played and refreshingly unslick. The Country Music Association awarded it Album of the Year.

Sour Mash/Caroline JDNCCD27-2567067405
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Given that he was the principal songwriter for Oasis, it’s not surprising that the first two albums from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds were well crafted and tuneful. The group’s eponymous 2011 debut and its 2015 follow-up, Chasing Yesterday, were accessible and filled with hooks, while sounding different enough from Oasis to stand on their own. At times, Gallagher’s solo albums have felt somewhat reserved, as if he wanted to explore other facets of pop without returning to ground he’d already covered with Oasis.

ABKCO/Polydor B0027711-02
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

“Long before ‘The Greatest Rock ’n’ Roll Band in the World’ became a reality,” Richard Havers writes in his liner note for the Rolling Stones’ On Air, “this was a band playing the music they loved so much -- Blues, R&B, and even Country music.” The deluxe two-disc set includes 32 tracks from broadcasts the Stones made for BBC Radio between 1963 and 1965. (A single-disc version comprises 18 tracks.) At the end of that time, they were more than a band with an uncanny command of American music -- they were making music as exciting and as transformative as the records that had inspired them.

A&C Productions A+C144
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

On October 17, 2017, Gord Downie, lead singer of The Tragically Hip, died at the age of 53. Three days later, Canada’s CTV broadcast Long Time Running, a documentary of the band’s final tour. In 2016 Downie had learned that he had inoperable brain cancer, and the band quickly scheduled 15 shows for July and August. One of the most moving sections of the film shows Downie before each show, hugging and lightly kissing on the lips each of his fellow band members and the crew. It was his way of showing them how much he loved them, and how important they were to him.

ECM 2534
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

I first heard of English jazz musician Django Bates when he was a member of Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, in which he played keyboards, English horn, and trumpet. Bates was with Earthworks from 1986 until 1993, but during that period also made recordings with the British big band Loose Tubes and as leader of Human Chain. His extensive discography since then includes appearances on ECM as a sideman; The Study of Touch is his first recording for the label as a leader.

Constellation CST126
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

Godspeed You! Black Emperor is a Montreal-based musical collective, established in 1994, that has to its credit six studio albums and an EP. The group’s press releases give their music a strong political context, and their newest album, Luciferian Towers, is no exception. The new album’s webpage includes descriptions of the ideas behind each of its four tracks as well as a list of demands, the latter including a request that “the expert fuckers who broke this world never get to speak again.” Regardless of which side you’re on, anyone with a knowledge of recent political history can support that statement.