Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Arts & Crafts Productions AC195CD
Format: 2 CDs

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Gord Downie’s solo album Introduce Yerself was released in October 2017, just ten days after the death of the iconic frontman and creative genius of The Tragically Hip. I assumed we had heard his final album, but Downie’s brothers later revealed that additional recordings were being prepared for release, and now we have Away Is Mine. Downie and Skydiggers guitarist Josh Finlayson, who had played on several of Downie’s previous solo recordings, cowrote the music for Away Is Mine and Downie wrote the lyrics.

Capitol Records B003285202
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Paul McCartney says his new album, McCartney III, was “made in rockdown.” He likes the sentiment so much he uses the pun twice in the booklet that accompanies the CD. Too cute, perhaps, and less clever than he thinks, but part of McCartney’s appeal is that he occasionally lapses into silliness. He recorded this disc, the third album in his long career featuring him alone on all vocals and instruments, during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it leans more toward the rustic charm of McCartney (1970) than the more heavily produced McCartney II (1980).

Mercury Nashville Records B0032689-02
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

The title of Chris Stapleton’s new disc, Starting Over, suggests a new musical direction, but the 14 tracks on the album stay close to the singer’s roots in country, rock, and soul. His three previous discs established Stapleton’s commitment to his musical heritage, and Starting Over reaffirms his ability to handle a variety of genres easily and naturally.

Concord Records CRE01393
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

Elvis Costello’s 31st studio album, Hey Clockface, comprises 14 tracks that the songwriter recorded in three cities: Helsinki, Paris, and New York. He used different sets of musicians in Paris and New York, and played all the instruments on the three songs recorded in Helsinki. The album takes in the many styles he’s embraced over his career, from new wave rock to sophisticated pop, jazz, and other, more experimental genres, but he pulls the disparate elements together into a pleasing and cohesive whole.

Tompkins Square TSQ 5692
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, singer-songwriter Sam Burton taught himself guitar and played in local bands before relocating to Los Angeles and joining fellow singer-songwriter Jess Williamson’s touring band. He’s clearly kept his ears open to a lot of folk, country, and other pop music styles, and put it to good use when he started writing and recording his own songs. He released some well-received homemade cassettes, gaining a following for his music and a record deal with San Francisco label Tompkins Square. There he met producer Jarvis Taveniere, who is also a member of Woods, a Brooklyn-based folk rock band. Taveniere and Burton co-produced I Can Go With You, Burton’s debut album.

Columbia Records 19439811582
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

Last year, Bruce Springsteen released Western Stars, and it was unlike anything he’d done before. The album was inspired by the Southern California pop records of the late ’60s and early ’70s, and it seemed to free Springsteen to let the music flow more easily than it had for most of his albums since The Rising (2002). Western Stars felt like the work of a musician who had rediscovered the joy of making music.

Because Music 6508400
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Of all the recordings I’ve reviewed over the last few years, I’ve returned to the 2018 Christine and the Queens album Chris most often. Christine and the Queens is Héloïse Adelaïde Letissier, a French singer-songwriter, dancer, and producer. The songs on Chris are well written, intelligently arranged, and powerfully performed. I probably should have given it at least a four-star rating, and I’m not alone in holding it in high regard. The Guardian named it album of the year for 2018 and Time picked “Girlfriend,” a single from Chris, as the year’s best single.

Womanly Hips Music 50481CD
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

With her new album, Trouble and Strife, Joan Osborne joins the growing number of her musical peers who have been moved to address current events. This album doesn’t display the unbridled anger that drives some protest records. Instead, Osborne gives us glimpses of people whose stories help to make her points. Osborne’s first collection of new songs since Love and Hate (2014) is also ear-catching, with engaging melodies and solid hooks.

Cooking Vinyl COOKCD762
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

I approached Made of Rain, the first album released by the Psychedelic Furs since 1991’s World Outside, with the expectation of reliving a time when I had a full head of hair and was enjoying the synth-heavy, processed-guitar pop of the late ’80s and early ’90s. In other words, when MTV still showed music videos. Expecting that kind of nostalgia from the Furs isn’t really fair, and the good news is that the album itself avoids being a faint echo of past glories.

Blue Note Records B003216902
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

In July, during the fourth month of the pandemic, a video showed up in my Facebook feed. It was a live performance by guitarist Bill Frisell’s current trio, with Thomas Morgan on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. They were outside on the porch of a house in Brooklyn, wearing face masks and playing, appropriately, the great Bacharach and David tune “What the World Needs Now Is Love.” Folks from the neighborhood were sitting on lawn chairs, enjoying the chance, rare these days, to hear live music.