Music Review

ANNIVERSARIES: David Crosby Born August 14, 1941

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David Crosby: Voyage

If I Could Only Remember My Name... (Atlantic/Rhino)

David Crosby's troubled life has overshadowed his brilliant art. Back when Melissa Etheridge and then-partner Julie Cypher picked Crosby to be their sperm donor, my friends would make dumb jokes about it or question why anyone would want their child to have the genes of an obese ex-con ex-crack addict, I would answer along the lines of "he's the best musician in one of the most successful bands of all time," by which I meant Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Read more »

Sviatoslav Richter Top Ten + Four

richterFor a decade now we have been deprived of the physical presence of the man many consider the greatest pianist of the modern age. Fortunately, we can console ourselves by listening to his vast recorded legacy, for he was long perceived as a phenomenon and his performances were documented assiduously, if not always in high fidelity. There have been at least 200 Richter albums released (at least a few against his wishes), which come and go according to the whims and misfortunes of the music biz -- much more than the casual listener can sort out. I'll try to help with that, but first a look at Richter's life and career. Read more »

Bad Title, Good Blues

bishop.jpgElvin Bishop: Booty Bumpin’ (Blind Pig)

Back in 1966 Elvin Bishop was a skinny, guitar-carrying college kid from Tulsa chasing down his blues dream in Chicago. He ran into Paul Butterfield, was endowed with the alias “Pigboy Crabshaw,” and helped make some blues history. By the early '70s Bishop was recording, leading his own bands and establishing his own blues footprint. Over the years, Bishop forged a reputation as a showman who could deliver, had a few hits, recently had deep personal setbacks, and prevailed. Read more »

John Coltrane: An Album Per Year

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John Coltrane, considered by many to be the greatest saxophonist in jazz history, had a short recording career. He made his first album as a leader in 1957, when he was already 30 years old; he died of liver cancer on July 17, 1967 -- yes, forty years ago today. We are blessed that he made so many great recordings in those ten-plus years. Here's a walk through some highlights on that timeline, using recording dates rather than release dates. Read more »

Sweet Music from The Summer of Love

summer_of_love.jpg67 from 1967

I ingested the Whitney Art Museum's Summer of Love exhibit a month ago and it left me rather dazed. I wasn't blown away by this nostalgic Baby Boomer's Utopian moment hanging on the walls with psychedelic posters and even framed acid sheets, but rather inspired by the richness of the music and how it permeated the world's culture. So with that in mind I approached our site's editor Steve Holtje and asked him to compile the most essential music from this pivotal year in pop culture.

Take it away, Steve! Read more »

The Erratic Career of a Torch Singer & Suburban Decadent

simon_warnerSimon Warner: Waiting Rooms (Rough Trade)

Some artists are prolific, whilst other have longer, Blue Nile-like periods of gestation before presenting their glorious wares to the world. One such vagabond of taking time and creating an air of anticipation and mystery in the process is the delightfully dandified Simon Warner. In a career spanning two decades, he has produced one album, the achingly beautiful and string-soaked Waiting Rooms, and a trio of singles. He appears to be in no hurray to add to this select canon of work. Read more »

The Absolutely Essential Progressive Rock Listening Guide

pink_floyd_fisheye.jpgJune 1, 2007 marked the 40th anniversary of what was the first "progressive rock" album to receive mainstream acclaim as such: The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper. In that spirit, we asked Ian Alterman -- a founding moderator and senior writer for progarchives.com (the number one prog website in the world) -- to undertake a truly hopeless task for Culture Catch: create the definitive Top Ten list of prog albums. He provided that and more. Take it away, Ian....

Imagine yourself -- a progressive rock aficionado -- on that hypothetical desert island to which you can only take a given number of albums (usually around 10). Now imagine that you are going to share that island with someone who has a keen interest in, but little real knowledge of, progressive rock music, and you are looking to choose the dozen or so absolutely essential albums that will not only serve to give this person a fairly broad perspective of "prog," but will not become tedious after a few hundred listenings: i.e, the cream of the genre. Read more »

Beyond the Speed of Light

sgt_pepper.jpgThe Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Capitol)

So, The Beach Boys lit a fire under the lads with Pet Sounds. They stopped touring and had 600 or so hours to kill. It's not Lou Reed and the Velvets. It's far too neat for Floyd, not messy enough for the Satanic Majesty of The Stones, but, stop, look, listen. June of 1967, a fake band emerges (meta-art, how cool?) and all the lyrics are all over the back and it opens and it's got this weird cover and everyone's got their favorite and it's got "A Day in the Life" and it's a total and utter and complete fuggedaboudit. (Floyd, who were recording Piper just down the hall, came in on the second take of "Getting Better." Yes, things were getting better. Read more »

ANNIVERSARIES: Lemonheads' It's a Shame About Ray released 15 years ago on June 2, 1992

lemonheads.jpgLemonheads started out in Boston in the mid-1980s playing hardcore punk, but mellowed a bit and had a college radio hit with its cover of Suzanne Vega's "Luka," leading to a deal with Atlantic Records. It's a Shame About Ray was the group's second album on Atlantic, and its best, one of 1992's finest releases. It spent some time atop the Gavin Report College Albums chart and reached No. 68 on Billboard's album chart, not spectacular but pretty good for a quirky alternative band.

Lemonheads leader Evan Dando hit the songwriting jackpot here. Read more »

Coffey Break!

coffey.jpgDennis Coffey: Big City Funk (Vampi Soul)

Back in the '80s I was working college dorm security at an inside post and one of the uniformed outside guards was a guy who also deejayed as Super Dan. Every few hours he had to do a tour of the building. I was always listening to a portable tape player (yeah, that’s how long ago it was), and we inevitably ended up talking about music. The best tip he ever gave me was to keep an eye out for Dennis Coffey’s “Scorpio.” Read more »

Lee Johnson: Dead Symphony No. 6

dead_symphony.jpgThis piece, subtitled “An Orchestral Tribute to the Music of the Grateful Dead,” is considerably classier than most such offerings, because Johnson is an ace arranger with a fine ear for orchestral color. As he strings together ten Dead tunes – some quite familiar, others less so – he contrasts timbres and moods with subtlety, avoiding garishness (and often bringing to mind the words of one of my teachers: “the viola is the workhorse of the orchestra”).

Johnson, who conducts the Russian National Orchestra in the performance, is not merely transcribing notes off of Dead LPs and assigning them to instruments; the songs’ raw materials are used (or omitted) with a discerning ear for taste and proportion, with new elements introduced to abet their adaptation to this very different context. Read more »

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson: Beloved Mezzo Lives on CDs

lieberson.jpgLorraine Hunt Lieberson/Roger Vignoles
Wigmore Hall Live (BBC)

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson/Boston Symphony Orchestra/James Levine
Peter Lieberson: Neruda Songs (Nonesuch)

American mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, who died at age 52 last year after a long battle with cancer, is remembered on two new releases of concert recordings commemorating her artistry. Read more »

Björk: Volta (Atlantic)

bjork_volta.jpgVolta is Björk's most accessible album since Vespertine, and at times of the whole decade, not because her imagination is curbed, or because she makes any compromises. No, it's going to bring back some fans scared away by her far-out stuff on Medulla and the Drawing Restraint soundtrack because she takes what she did on those albums and pours the ingredients into song structures and lays beats underneath. (And I'm not just being metaphorical; the brass arrangements of pieces on Drawing Restraint are heard again on "Vertebrae by Vertebrae" and "Declare Independence," changed in role from focus to support.) It's the best of both worlds, really. Read more »

Michael Brecker: Pilgrimage (Heads Up)

brecker_pilgrimage.jpgThis is the late tenor master’s elegant and substantial swan song project. In the final stages of his lost battle with leukemia (he passed away in January of this year) Brecker summoned the strength to create his last and perhaps most profound work. No simple task considering his deteriorating condition or the fact that over his 30-plus year career, he appears on something like 900 recordings. Brecker’s technique of fusing Coltranesque expression through a modern fusion prism created a unique voice in jazz and pop. The result: session appearances for artists from Aerosmith to Zappa, from top 40 to the obscure niches of the jazz world. Read more »

ANNIVERSARIES: The Clash's UK Debut Released 30 Years Ago

the_clash No less an authority than Jon Savage, the most thorough chronicler of British Punk (his book England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond is a must), has proclaimed The Clash "the first major Punk statement." That it is excellent (Robert Christgau declared it "the greatest rock and roll album ever") certainly helped, but it achieved that status partly because the Sex Pistols' first LP was delayed by the controversy surrounding the group, which resulted in several record labels dropping them. Read more »

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