Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

4AD 0070 LDX
Format: 2 CDs

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

Singer-songwriter Gene Clark’s career was filled with the kinds of bad decisions, personal problems, and bad timing that lead to cult status for someone who should have been a star. As a founding member of the Byrds, Clark wrote or cowrote some of their most popular songs, including “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” and “Eight Miles High.” He left the Byrds in 1966, after three albums, and over the next few years released two solo albums, Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers (1967) and White Light (1971), that were early examples of country rock and Americana.

Interscope/Polydor B0031280-02
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

I reacted to the news that the Who were releasing a new album with “Ho-hum. [pause] Oh, man -- really?”

Blue Note 00602577888090
Format: Vinyl EP

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

One of my favorite albums of 2018 was GoGo Penguin’s fourth album, A Humdrum Star, which showed the piano trio’s versatility and its ability to use a number of current influences, from electronica to the experimental rock of Radiohead, to create jazz that’s smart, fresh, approachable, and potentially appealing to younger listeners. While the group, based in Manchester, England, plays acoustic instruments, pianist Chris Illingworth, bassist Nick Blacka, and drummer Rob Turner are not averse to using studio technology and electronics to occasionally alter the sound and impact of their music.

Republic B0030192-02
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

On October 1, 1969, James Brown performed with his band at the Bell Auditorium, in Augusta, Georgia, the city in which he spent much of his childhood. Brown’s time in the state’s second largest city was troubled, to say the least, but by 1969 he was a huge international star, and the city claimed him proudly. He was going to record his show there for release that December, but his plans changed, and instead he released Ain’t It Funky, a compilation of mostly instrumental tracks recorded between 1966 and 1969.

dBpm DBPM-010-20-LP (LP), DBPM-010-20-CD (CD)
Formats: LP and CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

I was three songs into my second playing of Ode to Joy, Wilco’s 11th album, when I realized that drummer Glenn Kotche wasn’t using cymbals anywhere. He plays drums and other percussion, but no ride or crash cymbal, no hi-hat to fill in time or sound. That doesn’t keep him from providing a rhythmic foundation for these songs, even as he helps them flow and adds texture -- much as jazz drummer Paul Motian did on many of his recordings.

ATO AT00505
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

Singer and guitarist Brittany Howard is best known as the lead singer of the Alabama Shakes, and for her side project and alter ego Thunderbitch. Although the Shakes are steeped in Southern soul, their second album pulled in other influences, including funk and 1960s psychedelia. Thunderbitch is searing garage rock. But Jaime, Howard’s first solo outing under her own name, is harder to classify. While rooted in the well-established genres of funk and neo-soul, it has an exhilarating immediacy.

ECM 2654
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Although saxophonist Joe Lovano has appeared on a number of ECM recordings since the early 1980s, Trio Tapestry, from earlier this year, was his first release as leader for the label. On his own recordings, Lovano is probably best known as a post-bop player with a solid, unerring sense of swing. Trio Tapestry was a move in a slightly different direction -- Lovano’s 11 compositions were atmospheric and contemplative without descending into background music. He was aided greatly by his accompanists, pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Carmen Castaldi.

Warner Bros. 093624900658
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

The Flaming Lips’ 15th studio album, King’s Mouth: Music and Songs, is part of a larger work that includes a book and an art installation, the songs being part of a unifying narrative. The overarching concepts of Flaming Lips albums are usually more evoked than spelled out, and while the whimsical fairytale on which King’s Mouth is based helps embody the album’s themes, it’s the layers of sound in the music and Wayne Coyne’s emotionally charged singing that convey the album’s felt meaning.

Rune Grammofon RCD2207
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Even after listening to and collecting records for a few decades, I’m still on the lookout for new music worth hearing and telling others about. To that end, I read music publications and new-release announcements, looking for recommendations. The Norwegian trio Elephant9 isn’t really new -- they’ve been together since 2006 -- but when I read descriptions of their music that compared it to Soft Machine, a genre-crossing British prog-rock band of the late 1960s that’s among my favorites, I wanted to hear them.

Rhino R2 591470
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Estimates vary, but it seems that some 400,000 people showed up in Bethel, New York, for the Woodstock Music & Art Fair: An Aquarian Exposition in White Lake, N.Y. -- 3 Days of Peace & Music, which ran from Friday, August 15, 1969, into the morning of Monday, August 18. Something close to that number were unable to attend at all, due to traffic jams caused by the festival. In 1969, there was no social media. Rolling Stone magazine had begun publication two summers before and was not yet widely distributed on newsstands. FM rock radio, which leaned toward playing unedited album cuts and even full albums, was only a couple of years old and broadcast in only a few markets.