GLOWBIES - tell us what sounds good on your GLOW system. Submit your own music reviews.
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Recommended Recording - JUNE 2010
Performance: 8.5 Recording: 8
Hello GLOW people. I listen to a lot of different music, but I have to say, this album SPARKLES on my GLOW system (I have the complete system, amp plus speakers plus sub). It is a great sounding album, and it sounds completely real on my system, the kind of "I am there" presentation that puts a smile on your face as you hit the "replay" button. This is a serious blues album by Cyndi Lauper. Yes, THAT Cyndi Lauper. I am here to say that she pulls it off.
From the opening track it is apparent that this is a gritty, genuine and emotional performance. Forget your preconceptions, this is a GREAT album. Bluesmen Charlie Musselwhite and Alan Toussaint back Lauper on several tracks, while B.B. King sings and plays on "Early in the Mornin', a definite highlight of the album. Jonny Lang guests on "Crossroads" and "How Blue Can You Get?"
And it is 100% blues. "Crossroads" is a standout, with stellar guitar work from Lang. But this album does not rest strictly on the guest performances. "Down So Low" and "Romance in the Dark" are basically Cyndi's solo work, making the whole thing even more impressive.
It is not a perfect album. On a couple of tracks during quieter moments, Lauper's vocals sound a bit forced, as though recorded separately, although the result is still listenable. But for the most part she gets it right, and when she does, it is remarkable. Although I wouldn't have thought so, being not so fond of her 80s pop music, I can now say that her distinctive voice is actually well suited for the blues. -J. Iversen
Recommended Recording - MAY 2010
Performance: 9/10 Recording: 9/10
We don't just feature new recordings ... this month's recommended recording dates back to 1999.
Tan Dun is best known for his soundtrack for the movie CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. His work spans much further than film music as he has written a number of award winning symphonies and operas that are still relatively unknown to western music lovers.
Tan Dun's 1999 album, Bitter Love, is a complex and rich mixture of traditional and modern, western and eastern influences. Rarely do such ambitious attempts to blend music from across time and culture succeed; in this case, Tan Dun has produced a masterpiece.
Tan Dun, a violinist himself, includes within this recording a soprano, a tenor, a monk, a baritone chorus, an infant, unconventional Chinese orchestration mixed with bits and pieces of Beijing Opera, folk tunes, and lots of percussion. The result is a rich musical tapestry that defies description. It is a collage of various individual and seemingly disparate elements of West and East, ritual and sensual, ancient and modern. Tan Dun presents them with a sense of assimilation at times, and antithesis at others.
Ying Huang's pure soprano displays the poetry of the music beautifully. With a sensuous approach, her singing is well attuned to the music's aura of longing and exotic beauty. The fabulous baritone chorus from The New York Virtuoso Singers gives a touch of the western opera and provides an indispensable layer to the orchestration.
The music is not for everyone, nor for every day. Despite its depth and range, it could be a strange landscape for some ears. The recording is beautiful, and with a GLOW audio system you will not miss any of the nuance and character of the music.
Recommended Recording - APRIL 2010
Performance: 8/10 Recording: 9/10
This is a Wildchild recording, an offshoot of Mapleshade Records. First released in 2000, it deserves to be in every audiophile's collection. The music is great, the recording is first rate. The concept is awesome.... take eighties era pop songs by Joe Jackson, Peter Gabriel (Shock the Monkey) and a little punk from the Clash (Jimmy Jazz) and do re-takes in a jazz vein. Results? Many such attempts fall flat, with the "reinterpretation" sounding insipid at best and insulting at worst, but in this case, the outcome is remarkable. "Blitzkrieg Bop" comes straight at you with great instrumentalists and a jazzy presentation that is a tribute to the originals songs. This album is worth it just for "Jimmy Jazz" and "Shock the Monkey", but despite a couple of tunes that fall short, most of the other renditions are pretty awesome as well. Even if you've never heard the originals, you would probably appreciate these songs. But if you are familiar with the originals, you will LOVE hearing these fresh re-interpretations by the excellent jazz artists on this recording.
The album is pure fun. If you have never listened to any of the offerings from Mapleshade Records definitely try this one. You won't be disappointed; the recording is superb.
Recommended Recording - March 2010
LONELY LONDON LAD
Performance: 9/10 Recording: 7/10
This album is proof that the sound of a modern recording, relying on multiple tracks and layers of electronic instruments, can benefit from the clarity and depth of presentation that a tube amplifier can lend to a recording. So many times, the layers of detail in such a busy recording get compresssed when digitized, and when gain is achieved by transistor based amplification. The result can be a flat, brittle presentation, with all the nuance ironed out. This 2009 independent, double CD release is a phenomenal debut. There is more excellent music on this CD than you can shake a stick at. LLL are a prolific songwriting machine, cranking out a prodigious amount of good songs and excellent, well crafted music. In a time when, sadly, it is more common than not to find one or two listenable tunes on a CD release, this CD stands out. It is brimming with catchy, thoughtful, manic, kaleidoscopic pop tunes that weave a delicious tapestry of modern indie excellence. A month after purchasing this 2 disc CD I am still trying to get my arms around it.
Recommended Recording - February 2010
CHINA MOSES & RAPHAEL LEMONNIER
This One's for Dinah
Performance: 8/10 Recording: 8/10
This disc was recorded in 2009 in the old style: all the musicians performed together and the best take was used for the actual release, It is what makes so many of the early Blue Note recordings so wonderful. It is one of those recordings that makes you happy you have a nice little tube amp that can reveal all the magic buried in the music. China Moses is the daughter of singer Dee Dee Bridgewater. She has released three previous albums: China (1997), On Tourne en Rond (2000) and Good lovin' (2004).
Raphael Lemonnier made his debut with the Nimes Big Band. On becoming a professional musician in 1997, he moved to New York to study piano with Jaky Byard. Upon returning to France, he studied with Ivan Jullien and released the album Septet Jazz, dedicated to Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington. At the same time he was composing music for television, notably the Arte network.
Raphael first heard China at Cafe de la Danse in Paris. While the two were on a drive through the Camargue, the car radio played a song by Dinah Washington. Dinah turned out to be their mutual idol. Raphael had been a fan for years, and China had secretly listened to Dinah Washington records at the home of her grandmother, who thought the lyrics too suggestive for young ears.
For China, this adventure was a huge challenge, given the unparalleled talent of her idol, Dinah Washington. Often referred to as the Queen of The Blues, Dinah was one of the most important female singers during the 1950s and 1960s. China had the artistic intelligence and good taste to pay tribute to Dinah by emphasizing spirit over form--in other words, by relying on her own talent.
The various soloists perform well, but for my taste, on several tracks the band seems almost overpowered by China's vocal tour de force. My preference would have been for China to be a little less up front, a little more laid back in the mix. Or alternatively, Lemonnier's Piano and Couderic's sax should have been more forward in the mix. Lemonnier almost disappears on "Goodbye", sounding strangely detached. He reappears smartly on "Evil Gal Blues," as does a reinvigorated horn section. My quibbles aside, it's a very good recording and a beautiful tribute to Dinah. Especially noteworthy are China's rendition of "Mad About the Boy" and "Cry Me A River." On the latter, the band has got it just right. "What a Difference a Day Makes" is my favorite track; THIS is what a jazz ballad SHOULD sound like. Especially delicious on a GLOW system and Sub One subwoofer ... the bass line is magical and deserves to be heard cleanly, without the mud that sloshes out of lesser subwoofers.
Recommended Recording - January 2010
Digital Sampler (FREE on AMAZON.COM)
Performance: 8/10 Recording: 8/10
Ike Reilly is a songwriting and performing tour de force who hails from Illinois. He can rock out hard and deliver a ballad that makes you listen and feel. Reilly will make you forget that Bob Dylan doesn't make music that gets under your fingernails and seeps into your grey matter any more. A review by Steve Almond of Reilly's Hard Luck Stories sums up how I feel about Reilly:
"If you took the Pogues and multiplied them by the Clash, then divided by Dylan the result would be Ike Reilly. Over the past decade, he's quietly amassed one of the most raucous and literate catalogues in rock and roll ..... Reilly is that rare breed of rocker, the kind of guy who dares to make intelligent, tuneful music while remaining loyal to the needs of the pub crowd. Hard Luck Stories is a blisteringly good record....."