Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

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.

A&M/Intervention IR-SCD4
Format: SACD/CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

By March 1984, when Joe Jackson released his seventh album, Body and Soul, he’d already moved beyond punk and new wave. His fifth album, Night and Day (1982), and his score for the film Mike’s Murder (1983), had taken in other styles, indicating Jackson’s musical restlessness. Like those on Night and Day, the songs on Body and Soul defy easy categorization, but Jackson hinted at his jazz influences with the album’s cover art, which faithfully re-creates the cover of Sonny Rollins’s Vol. 2, photographed by Francis Wolff and designed by Harold Feinstein, and released on Blue Note in 1957.

Blue Note B003198202
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
***

GoGo Penguin’s last release, Ocean in a Drop: Music for Film (2019), was a five-track EP of music the trio wrote to accompany recent screenings of director Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi (1982). Philip Glass had composed the original film score, and it was while listening to the EP that I finally heard a connection between Glass and GoGo Penguin -- the group’s use of repetitive melodies that change subtly and shift in emphasis owes something to Glass. Still, GoGo Penguin’s rhythmic elasticity and grasp of everything from jazz to various pop genres set them apart. Glass is just one of their many influences.

Columbia 19439780982
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

When Bob Dylan released “Murder Most Foul” as a single in April, he called it “an unreleased song we recorded a while back that you might find interesting” -- which sounded as if it was something he’d had in the can a while and had decided to release for the heck of it. I bought it as a high-resolution single, and I wasn’t alone. The song was Bob Dylan’s first No.1 on Billboard’s singles chart.

ECM 2679 (083 6036)
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Although John Scofield has appeared on ECM releases before -- as a co-leader, with Larry Goldings and Jack DeJohnette, of Trio Beyond on Saudades (2006); and as a sideman on three albums by bassist Marc Johnson -- Swallow Tales is his first outing as a leader for the label. Bassist Steve Swallow has appeared on ECM and its subsidiary labels Watt and XtraWatt many times, both as leader and sideman, and this album is Scofield’s tribute to his early teacher and mentor. It’s appropriate that Swallow Tales, comprising nine tunes by Swallow, is released on his home label.

Capitol B003132902
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

Radiohead creates such complex webs of sound assembled from so many disparate elements and instruments that it can be hard to figure out the division of labor on any given recording. Bassist Colin Greenwood and drummer Philip Selway have their assigned duties, but Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood each play a barrage of keyboards, and even their guitars are heavily processed. Ed O’Brien is primarily a guitarist, but also relies on effects to transform his guitar into other sounds.

ATO AT00520
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Like their labelmates My Morning Jacket, the Oklahoma band Other Lives defies easy categorization. They’re less guitar-driven than Jacket, though even that band doesn’t hesitate to use other instruments to expand their musical palette. Other Lives arranges many of their songs for strings, and shows an affection for a broad range of music that includes 1960s orchestral pop and Ennio Morricone’s film scores. The result is stylistically fluid and sounds, at its best, as unique as it does familiar.