Music Review

ANNIVERSARIES: William Boyce Died February 7, 1779

In a time when the most famous composers in England were -- for example, Handel, and J.C. Bach -- relocated Germans, William Boyce (1711-1779) was arguably the premiere English-born composer. In 1736 the former choirboy turned organist (he studied with Maurice Greene at St. Paul's Cathedral) was named composer to the Chapel Royal; in 1759 he was made Master of the King's Musick. By 1769 deafness had largely ended his official musical duties. Read more »

Happy Birthday, Bob Marley

Had cancer not taken him at age 36, Bob Marley (1945-1981) could have turned 70 today. The man who did more than anyone to make the reggae sound of his native Jamaica popular in the United States had made his first recordings at the age of 17 in 1962, so despite his early demise, he left a large and rich legacy of recordings. Fortunately, his popularity also led to a few of his concert appearances being filmed; here's a classic one.

Aldo Cicciolini R.I.P.

The great pianist Aldo Cicciolini died on Sunday, February 1 at his home in Paris. He was 89. Cicciolini was best known for his expertise in French music, and especially for twice recording the complete piano music of Eric Satie for EMI. But he had a broad repertoire and was also, for instance, a superb Beethoven pianist. Read more »

Video of the Week: José González - “Leaf Off/The Cave”

“Leaf Off/The Cave” is the brilliant second single from the new José González album Vestiges & Claws to be released on February 17th, 2015. Play it often and share it, too. Well, pay for it, of course.

Song of the Week: The Charlatans - "Come Home Baby"

The baggy rock grooves of The Charlatans are back! Tim Burgess and the lads have released one wicked new album Modern Nature. Here's their outstanding new single "Come Home Baby" for your weekend tuneage. 

A Comeback Continues, a Career Ascends

Maxim Vengerov/New York Philharmonic/Long Yu
Avery Fisher Hall, January 22, 2015

This week, Chinese conductor Long Yu is leading the New York Philharmonic in subscription concerts for the first time (his previous appearances at the orchestra's helm were non-subscription Lunar New Year celebrations). Meanwhile, Maxim Vengerov, once the most spectacular violinist on the scene, continues his comeback from an injury. Thursday night their paths intersected at Avery Fisher Hall in a Russian program that indicated each is on the right path. Read more »

The Black Crowes Have Flown The Coop!

The Black Crowes have broken up. Too bad, too. Looks like the riff between vocalist Chris Robinson and his guitar playing brother Rich Robinson has shaken some feathers from the Crowes' roost. Apparently Chris wanted a greater stake in the ownership of the band. Brother Rich had this to say: "I love my brother and respect his talent, but his present demand that I must give up my equal share of the band and that our drummer for 28 years and original partner, Steve Gorman, relinquish 100 percent of his share, reducing him to a salaried employee, is not something I could agree to." Shades of the Rolling Stones "hired gun" practices or a calculated tactic to afford them one final tour in the very near future? Either way, any upcoming Spring/Summer 2015 tours will be missed. In the interim, we've posted this wonderful concert from 2013.

Song of the Week: First Aid Kit - "Master Pretender"

One of our favorite Americana acts, Swedish duo First Aid Kit has just released an animated video for their song "Master Pretender" from their album Stay Gold.

Best New Jazz Album of 2014

Because explaining the glories of a project like this requires a length unsuited for a listicle, my favorite jazz album of 2014 gets an article all to itself.

Allen Lowe: Mulatto Radio: Field Recordings 1-4 or: A Jew at Large in the Minstrel Diaspora (Constant Sorrow)

Allen Lowe has (at least) a double identity: jazz composer/saxophonist, and scholar of early American jazz and pop. This four-CD set combines those identities even more than usual as it contains a whopping 62 original compositions, many -- perhaps even most; I didn't do the math, but it feels that way -- inspired by the sounds and personalities of early jazz and pre-jazz (both kinds of ragtime, etc.), as detailed vividly in his accompanying notes: Bunk Johnson (we get many movements from a Bunk Johnson Suite), Bix Beiderbecke, Paul Whiteman, Ernest Hogan, James Reese Europe, Jelly Roll Morton, Buddy Bolden, and a few more obscure figures. Later jazz legends are also cited as inspiration for some specific tracks, repeatedly Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, but also Lennie Tristano, Al Haig, Edgard Varese, Henry Mancini, Ran Blake, George Gershwin, gospel pianist Arizona Dranes, Zora Neale Hurston, Anthony Braxton, B-movie actress Barbara Payne, Jaki Byard, and Duke Ellington. Read more »

Steve's Favorite New Rock, R&B, and Electronic Albums of 2014

The mainstream drew me back in a little this year, though mostly by looking back several decades to the same things I love and incorporating them into music that doesn't especially sound like 2014.

1. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra: Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything (Constellation)

I think of Silver Mt. Zion as the post-rock Pogues. They have the drunken singing and the scratchy fiddling and the punky energy, but in a sort of gritty yet sophisticated Godspeed! You Black Emperor musical context (and in fact founder/singer/guitarist Efrim Manuel Menuck used to be in Godspeed!). On their eighth album, the added intensity that appeared on their previous album is increased; this may be their best yet. My favorite track is "What We Loved Was Not Enough," where at first it seems like he's singing "The days come when we no longer fail," but then when the women chime in with the same line minus his accent, it turns out "fail" is actually "feel"; across over 11 minutes, this becomes mantra-like. But really the whole album is stunning. (This review originally appeared in the print version of The Big Takeover.) Read more »

Dusty's Favorite Rock Music from 2014

What a year in rock music! There, I said it. Too much to take in. Like a rowboat taking in more water than I can bail out. I keep getting new music recommended to me by friends, publicists, old lovers, dudes on subways, songs blasting in hipster boutiques; freakin' new music was everywhere. I got tipped to U.K. acts such as punk rockers Sleaford Mods, poetry rapper Kate Tempest, and folkster Jake Bugg; there was a new pop rock opus by Dan Wilson, and soulful Brooklynite Selena Garcia, and much more. I could barely compile my "best of/favorites of 2014" list knowing that I'll probably discover even more music after I've completed it. But here ten favorite tracks from 2014, a few essential reissues, and my ten favorite albums, yes, albums, like on real heavy duty vinyl, with two sides and everything. Read more »

Blues Images 2015 Calendar

Once again a new year is imminent and you may be looking for a calendar, and as usual I highly recommend this one, not least because it includes a CD of great country blues.

First, the calendar. Blues Images is the vision of fanatical blues collector John Tefteller, who recently paid $37,100, reportedly the highest price ever for a 78 RPM record, to acquire the second known copy of a rare Tommy Johnson record -- and he already owned the other copy! (More about that in a bit.) Clearly this is a man who takes the blues seriously.

After acquiring a large collection of material related to the famous Paramount label in 2003, Tefteller started this calendar series featuring the wonderful art drawn for vintage advertisements of Paramount records during the label's 1922-32 heyday, and artists' promotional photos. Since then, Blues Images has branched out to include material from other labels' artists -- for instance, the 2015 calendar's April page features a great photo of the duo of Brother Son Bonds and Hammie Nixon, Decca artists. The first 12 tracks on the accompanying CD are always synched with each month's artwork, so the fourth track is their gospel tune "I Want to Live So God Can Use Me." October features a 1930 photo of the young Roosevelt Sykes; on the CD he's represented by "Conjur Man Blues," which he recorded for Paramount under the pseudonym Dobby Bragg. Read more »

Classical Review Roundup for December

Between reviews I'd been accumulating, things I listened to for my best-of-2014 list, and a couple of comparisons I'd planned to make, there's enough for another review roundup before the close of the year. Note that the three that could fit into the reissue category -- Rilling, Berman, and the first 71 tracks of the lead review here -- would all have been on my best-classical-reissues-of-2014 list if I'd made one.

Best New Classical Albums of 2014

It was another year full of great classical music. Here are my favorites from 2014, new releases only, no reissues.

This superbly programmed and performed album contains eight Latin sacred choral works (specifically motets, mostly votive antiphons and psalm motets) by John Taverner (c.1490-1545), Thomas Tallis (c.1505-1585), William Mundy (c.1529-1591), Robert White (c.1538-1574), and William Byrd (c.1540-1621). Active during the period of greatest religious upheaval in English history, they kept writing richly layered polyphony despite changing fashions (though the later composers listed would also provide chordal English-language anthems as needed). 

Joe Cocker, R.I.P.

Long before John Belushi mugged his spastic body movements and raspy vocals in an SNL parody, the Sheffield, England-born Joe Cocker was the voice that could sing any rock song and make it his own. His riveting performance at Woodstock, on the Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour of 1970, and early solo albums made him an unlikely rock star in the US. Joe may have lost his battle with lung cancer, but his songs will live on. His Beatles' cover "With a Little Help from My Friends" remains one of my favorite songs by him. Rest in peace, Mr. Cocker.

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