• 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)

Blank ProjectSmalltown Supersound STS248
Format: CD

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

 

Even Neneh Cherry’s fans might be surprised by the unusual sound of her new disc, Blank Project, although anyone who’s followed her career, with its many experimental turns, may not be too shocked by how avant-garde she is here. As versatile and surprising as her own work has been, her other musical projects have often strayed even further from the mainstream. Her trip-hop group cirKus, which she formed in 2006, included elements of electronica, but with Blank Project she moves fully into that genre.

Morning PhaseCapitol B001983901
Format: LP

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

 

Although Beck hasn’t recorded an album of new music since 2008’s Modern Guilt, he hasn’t been goofing off. He’s produced recordings by Thurston Moore and Charlotte Gainsbourg, co-produced and contributed to Rework: Philip Glass Remixed, and played on several discs by other musicians. In late 2012 he released a portfolio of sheet music -- new songs in written notation for others to perform. His website shows a firm grasp of how useful current technology can be to a musician, and on it he hosts Record Club, which brings musicians together to reinterpret an existing work by another artist and post the results online.

Internal SoundsOutside Music 23339-9087-2
Format: CD

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

 

The Sadies formed in 1994, in Toronto, and it says something about the music business that a band this good isn’t better known in the US. Two of the members, Dallas and Travis Good, are nephews of Brian and Larry Good, of the well-regarded Canadian country group the Good Brothers. Country music forms a part of the band’s sound, but they’re so versatile that they can play blues and garage rock with the same skill and conviction. They’ve played and recorded with blues singer Andre Williams, and with John Doe of X (Country Club, 2009), but are perhaps best known for their work with Neko Case.

Rickie Lee JonesMobile Fidelity Sound Lab MFSL 1-392
Format: LP

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

 

I first saw and heard Rickie Lee Jones on Saturday Night Live, in April 1979, when an appearance on that show could make a musician’s career. Her eponymously titled debut album had been released only a few weeks before, and that night she became a sensation. “Chuck E.’s  in Love,” one of the songs she performed that evening, went on to hit No.4 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and her album sold over two million copies. Her music had hints of jazz, R&B, folk, and Tin Pan Alley, and Rickie Lee Jones was the beginning of a recording career that would be marked by quality and unpredictability.

What I SeeJazzed Media JM1065
Format: CD

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

 

Judy Wexler has released only four CDs since 2005, when she debuted with Easy on the Heart, but she has a solid reputation among jazz critics and other musicians. She is also an actor who has appeared on television and in the theater, and that background perhaps accounts for her ability to capture the meaning of a song and tell its story. She hits the right emotional notes to give listeners a sense of what a song is telling us, and her skills as a jazz singer give her interpretations rhythmic excitement and unpredictability.

I Hear the SoundArchie Ball/Harmonia Mundi ARCH1301
Format: CD

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

 

On September 9, 1971, prisoners at Attica State Prison, in upstate New York, took control of the facility to demand better living conditions. When state police and the New York National Guard regained control of the prison four days later, ten hostages and 29 prisoners died in the gunfire. Over 50% of the prison population was African-American, and had acted, in part, out of anger over the death of prison activist George Jackson in California the previous month.

ForeverlyReprise 9362493997
Format: CD

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

 

I'd never heard the Everly Brothers before I bought this album, nor had I heard of them. But given that the brothers born in Kentucky and Illinois enjoyed a career that featured 35 Billboard Top 100 singles, including 26 in the Top 40, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, I feel sheepish about admitting as much. Having done some research on the pair, I wouldn't have naturally associated Billie Joe Armstrong, lead singer of punk-rock group Green Day, and singer-songwriter Norah Jones with them. Yet on the appropriately named Foreverly, the tandem recreates the legendary brothers' second album, Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. That 1958 release comprised a selection of songs that the boys had -- bear with me here -- learned from their father. Given that the pairing's popularity and commercial success owed to their billing as a rock 'n' roll act, it's fair to say that the album was a departure.

Quality StreetYep Roc YEP-2330
Format: CD

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

 

As I’ve noted elsewhere, Christmas music is a guilty pleasure of mine. I’ve probably played Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas more times than any other disc in my collection. Two years ago, my wife picked up for me both volumes of Blues, Blues Christmas, which include such obscurities as Gatemouth Moore’s “Christmas Blues” and Lightnin’ Hopkins’s “Merry Christmas.” This year, I add Nick Lowe’s Quality Street to my seasonal lineup.

Wise Up Ghost and Other SongsBlue Note B001875002
Format: CD

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

 

The cover design of Elvis Costello’s collaboration with the Roots, Wise Up Ghost and Other Songs, is based on the Pocket Poets series published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books, especially that series’ best-known title: Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems (1956). A few of us who are around Costello’s age (he was born in 1954) still have our copies of Howl; perhaps the reference is to reassure us, and Costello, that we’re all still hip.

SongbookRounder 11661-9154-2
Format: CD, DVD

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

 

Allen Toussaint’s name is familiar to anyone who has followed popular music since the 1960s. He made his first record in 1958, but hit his stride in the next few years when his songs were recorded by Ernie K-Doe, Irma Thomas, Aaron Neville, and other New Orleans singers. His piano playing graced recordings by Lee Dorsey, Chris Kenner, and others, and in the ’70s he produced records by the Meters and Dr. John, and worked with artists as diverse as Robert Palmer and Paul McCartney. Many rock fans know him from the horn arrangements he wrote for several of the Band’s projects, including Rock of Ages and The Last Waltz.