• SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh History and Autoformer Technology (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - NAD Viso HP50 Headphones (May 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - GoldenEar Technology's Anechoic Chamber (May 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - PSB's M4U 4 Earphones (April 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - GoldenEar Technology's Triton Two+ and Three+ Loudspeakers (March 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- KEF's LS50 (February 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Monitor Audio's Platinum II Series (January 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Pryma 0|1 Headphones (December 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- KEF's Blade Two Loudspeaker (November 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- KEF and the Uni-Q (October 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Monitor Audio Acoustics & Aesthetics (August 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- PSB's Imagine T3 Loudspeaker (June 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Hegel's H160 Integrated Amplifier-DAC (April 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- MartinLogan's Neolith Loudspeaker (February 2015)

Father's ChildrenVocalion CDSML 8488
Format: CD

Musical Performance ***1/2
Sound Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

 

British fans of soul music are determinedly devoted to music that American record labels often let go out of print, and dogged in their rediscoveries of obscure musicians whom even Americans didn't support the first time around. And subgenres of British soul fandom abound. The rare groove scene began in the early 1980s with British DJ Norman Jay, and soon spread to the US. Soul fans in both countries championed and searched for records by little-known '70s funk bands that got chewed up in the major-label grinder. The operative word is rare -- the more obscure the band or singer, the better.

CoexistXL/Young Turks YT 080CD
Format: CD

Musical Performance ****
Sound Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

 

Preferring to download singles in lieu of full albums, the digital generation’s greatest shortcoming may be its lack of patience, a characteristic born of the instantaneous gratification afforded by broadband Internet. This has led to a great deal of popular modern music being terrible: abject garbage that relies on a tried-and-true formula of Pro Tools software, a particular BPM tool, and a catchy harmony. And the word lyrics hardly seems an appropriate description for much of the verbal drivel that blasts from pop and hip-hop radio stations.

Look Out Now!Racecarlotta RACE 003
Format: CD

Musical Performance ***1/2
Sound Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

 

Steve Gadd’s formidable chops and unerring sense of time have made him a first-call session drummer since the 1970s. For his new band, the Gaddabouts, he enlisted the services of three other musicians with impressive credentials. Andy Fairweather Low has played with Eric Clapton and Roger Waters, among others, and Pino Palladino, who also toured with Clapton (as did Gadd), was Pete Townshend and Roger Daltry’s first choice for the Who’s bass spot when John Entwistle died.

Easy Star All-StarsEasy Star ES-1034
Format: CD

Musical Performance ****
Sound Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

 

For nearly a decade, the Easy Star All-Stars have been carving a creative niche for themselves, revisioning classic albums by Pink Floyd, Radiohead, and the Beatles into dubbed-out tributes redone with reggae flair. Taking on the daunting task of paying proper respect to some of the greatest albums of all time, the group’s past work includes Dub Side of the Moon (2003), Radiodread (2006), and Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band (2009). With their latest effort, Easy Star’s Thrillah, the group tackles the best-selling album of all time: Michael Jackson’s masterpiece, Thriller.

The Mothership ReturnsEagle ER202572
Format: CD, DVD

Musical Performance ****1/2
Sound Quality ***1/2
Picture Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

 

Return to Forever, the jazz-rock fusion group Chick Corea established in 1972, has been through several personnel changes over the last 40 years, but its most popular lineup featured Corea on various keyboards, Al Di Meola on guitar, Stanley Clarke on bass, and Lenny White on drums. That group folded in 1976, but reunited in 2008 for a tour and a live two-CD set, Returns. In 2011, Corea, Clarke, and White formed what they’re calling Return to Forever IV, with guitarist Frank Gambale and the venerable French jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. The Mothership Returns is a three-disc set (two CDs, one DVD) culled from the group’s 2011 tour.

Mike SternHeads Up HUI-33186-02
Format: CD

Musical Performance ***1/2
Sound Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

 

Jazz guitarist Mike Stern is probably known best for his stints with Miles Davis in the 1980s, but he’s also played with Blood, Sweat & Tears, Billy Cobham, Jaco Pastorius, and Michael Brecker. That’s a typical résumé for a musician who didn’t immediately jump into leadership or stardom, and it’s the sort of background that breeds versatility. Stern’s new disc, All Over the Place, is his 15th, and the title might be a nod to the variety of compositions and settings Stern has given himself to stretch out in. He’s brought in a broad spectrum of jazz musicians to help develop the 11 compositions here, all by Stern, and each brings a key element to one or more of the tunes. The surprise is that a disc made up of so many combinations of musicians and styles hangs together so consistently.

The Best of Sam CookeSony Music/Analogue Productions CAPP 2625 SA
Format: Hybrid SACD

Musical Performance ****1/2
Sound Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

 

Sam Cooke is a significant figure in American culture and music: a singer whose effortlessly smooth and beautiful voice had just enough edge in it to help introduce soul music to white American kids in the late 1950s and on into the ’60s. His posthumously released single "A Change Is Gonna Come," which hit No.31 in 1965, was an early anthem of the civil rights movement, and Cooke himself came to embody the hopes, aspirations, and tragedies of African-American life. He had a profound influence on such later soul singers as Solomon Burke and Otis Redding, as well as on rock singers. Van Morrison, Rod Stewart, Cat Stevens, and the Band covered his songs, and Bruce Springsteen’s "Mary’s Place" is an homage to Cooke’s "Meet Me at Mary’s Place."

Radio Music SocietyHeads Up HUI 33626-00
Format: CD

Musical Performance ****
Sound Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

 

Esperanza Spalding’s command of multiple musical idioms is evident in "Radio Song," the first track of her new disc, Radio Music Society. She injects a hint of jazz vocalise after a couple of verses of nicely developed funk inspired by Earth, Wind & Fire. It’s not only that she’s brash enough to throw jazz into the mix, it’s also the ease with which she makes the transition -- you hardly notice until it’s there. Radio Music Society is more groove-heavy than Spalding’s three previous discs, and jazz purists will probably see it as a bid for commercial success. But her inspirations are the sophisticated soul of Stevie Wonder and EW&F, and jazz fans should find her harmonic flights beautiful and daring.

Ahmad JamalJazz Village SP9570001
Format: CD

Musical Performance ****1/2
Sound Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

 

I lost count of the number of albums listed in the discography on Ahmad Jamal’s website, but his newest, Blue Moon: The New York Session, brings his recordings as leader to over 50. Jamal will be 82 in July, and he’s still bursting with ideas. Early in his career he was unfairly accused of commercialism, a charge that Miles Davis, for one, dismissed out of hand. Jamal’s use of space and economy of notes was a strong influence on Davis, who encouraged Red Garland, the pianist in his 1950s quintet, to play like Jamal.

Leonard Cohen - Old IdeasColumbia 88697986712
Format: CD

Musical Performance *****
Sound Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment *****

 

Leonard Cohen is a poet, novelist, painter, and singer-songwriter, and a figure of such sartorial grace that he makes even Bryan Ferry look a bit shabby. He’s a Companion of the Order of Canada (one of several honors he’s received there), and in 2008 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His standing as a poet in music puts him in the same category as Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, both of whom are better known but no more widely respected. Cohen, born in Montreal in 1934, has seven years on both of those singer-songwriters, and, like them, is writing about mortality, romance, spirituality, and the mysteries of aging.