Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

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.

Easy Eye Sound/Dead Oceans DOC220
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Aaron Frazer was the drummer and co-vocalist for the soul-revival band Durand Jones & The Indications before going out on his own last year. Dan Auerbach, the guitarist from the Black Keys, heard Frazer’s falsetto on “Is It Any Wonder?,” a track from the Indications’ first album, and got in touch with him about recording a solo album. Auerbach brought Frazer to his Easy Eye Sound Studio in Nashville and assembled a batch of country and soul musicians to help him record his debut.

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.

BMG 538603562
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

In 2016, producer Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys gave the Pretenders’ Alone a good dose of the original group’s energy, and it turned out to be the Pretenders’ strongest album in a long time. Hate for Sale, their newest, features their touring lineup of guitarist James Walbourne, bassist Nick Wilkinson, original drummer Martin Chambers, and original lead singer Chrissie Hynde on guitar and harmonica. The result is even stronger than Alone, with a cohesive group identity. Producer Stephen Street (Blur, Cranberrys, Smiths) lets loud guitars rule, but also points up other talents of this band.