Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

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Phenix Phonograph
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

A few months ago, a young friend posted a comment on Facebook that said Peter Frampton had taken one gimmick and made a career out of it. When I asked him what that gimmick was, he couldn’t really explain it, but he clearly meant the talk box Frampton used in his solo in “Do You Feel Like We Do,” known best in the live version from Frampton Comes Alive! (1976). An attentive listener would have picked up that the solo showed Frampton’s formidable skills as a guitarist.

Blue Note 61898
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

Don Was, president of Blue Note Records, has been helping keep the label current by signing young musicians such as the pianist Robert Glasper. He’s also been keeping its history alive by bringing on musicians who are well established. In some cases, they have prior history with the label. Charles Lloyd, who released two discs on Blue Note in the last two years, had a brief association with the label in the 1980s. Dr. Lonnie Smith recorded four LPs for Blue Note in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and in 1995 the label released a 1970 Smith recording from its archives, Live at Club Mozambique.

Dry Wood Music 001
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

I liked the cover of Wild Stab, the debut album by The I Don’t Cares -- it reminded me of something a mid-1960s garage band might have released on a regional label. I did a little research, and it turns out the album is a collaboration between Paul Westerberg and Juliana Hatfield, who has admired Westerberg’s songwriting since his days with the Replacements. The CD, released on Westerberg’s own Dry Wood Music label, lists no information. The liner notes inform us that “lack of factual info & pics courtesy of dry wood records [sic] who insist on making people use their imagination.”

Eagle Vision EVB335309
Format: Blu-Ray

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Picture Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Elvis Costello has been recording for nearly 40 years, which makes him even more venerable and established than the rock acts he and other punk and new wave musicians were rebelling against in the late 1970s. Since then, he’s cast his musical net wide, recording more than 25 pop albums notable for their stylistic variety and consistency of quality, and showing a willingness to venture into more ambitious territory. He co-composed and recorded a song cycle with the Brodsky String Quartet (The Juliet Letters, 1993), and composed and orchestrated a ballet score (Il Sogno, 2004).

Eagle Vision EVB335159
Format: Blu-ray

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Picture Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Irish blues guitarist Rory Gallagher was never the big star in the US that he could have been, largely because he didn’t spend much time touring here. He was as good a blues player as some of his better-known contemporaries -- so good that he was the guitarist on The London Muddy Waters Sessions, from 1972. Aside from the leader, he’s the best thing on that album.

S-Curve Records 7315500429
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

The booklet for Tom Jones’s new disc, Long Lost Suitcase, is filled with pictures of the singer, from his childhood to his years as a hitmaker in the 1960s. The disc was released in conjunction with Jones’s autobiography, Over the Top and Back, and its songs encompass the many styles of music that have influenced him.

Blue Note B0023668-01
Format: LP

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Blue Note’s web page for its vinyl initiative, which began in March 2014, includes this hopeful statement from label president Don Was: “Although this program begins in celebration of Blue Note’s 75th Anniversary, our catalog runs so deep that we will faithfully be reissuing five albums a month for many years to come!” While I certainly hope this will turn out to be true, as I write this review in mid-December 2015, I don’t see any listings for releases after November 20. Since LP sales for 2014 totaled 14 million, there’s reason for the label to continue mining its deep catalog for more vinyl.

Legacy/Sony Music 88875150542
Format: CD

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

When I was 12, two friends and I decided to start a rock’n’roll band. I had a cheap Woolworth guitar, my friend Brad played his brother’s set of Rogers drums, and his neighbor Kevin played a powder-blue Sekova hollow-body guitar. We didn’t have a bass player. The first song we learned had three chords. At that moment we joined kids around the world who, in the mid-to-late ’60s, were filling their parents’ basements and garages with the sound of “Gloria.”

Provogue PRO 7463 5
Format: CD/DVD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Picture Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

When I caught Robert Cray in concert about ten years ago, he played a very good, very professional show that somehow fell just short of being memorable. When I saw him last spring, he played a show that I’d rank among the best I’ve seen. At both events he was in good voice, his guitar playing was outstanding, and his band was on point. The difference was that indefinable quality that lifts a performance or a record from the level of routine into the category of special.

Warner Music Canada 2-052349
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
****

Blue Rodeo has been around for 30 years now, and while a large US audience seems to elude them, they’re enormously popular in their native Canada. Their command of folk, country, and rock is so acute that US fans of alt-country should have flocked to them. But in the end, all that matters is that this band has an extensive catalog of great music and a reputation as a potent live act.