holiday season is a time for re flection, for taking stock
of the good things in life. So let’s reflect on the bygone
days of a little band called Ween. I’m talking about their
spastic, hallucinogen-fueled early years, when Dean and Gene
traveled the world as a hungry young duo, with just a Yamaha
digital tape deck serving as their backing band. These were
the hazy, crazy times that brought us such classics as “Cover
It With Gas and Set It On Fire,” “You Fucked Up,” and “Pork
Roll, Egg and Cheese,” and those songs (and more!) are among
the featured tracks on the new CD/DVD set At the Cat’s
Cradle, 1992 (MVD Audio/Chocodog). The CD portion
is an entire Ween set—21 songs, fast and furious—captured
at a December 1992 concert in Chapel Hill, N.C. The bonus
DVD culls performances from three separate concerts: in the
Netherlands, in Columbus, Ohio, and an in-studio at a Trenton,
N.J., radio station. The video isn’t exactly pro-shot—it’s
of the hand-held, single-camera variety (read: kinda crappy)—but
it’s a bongload of fun to watch.
Ween started out at roughly the same time as Pavement, and
based on their extremely lo-fi initial recordings, I’d guess
that neither band ever expected to make a career out of music.
But by 1997, the Stockton, Calif., band most responsible for
the term “slacker rock” had more or less polished their rougher
edges; now, with the release of Brighten the Corners:
Nicene Creedence Ed. (Matador), we’re given a second
look at the last great Pavement record. The original album
is remastered here (sounds nice!), but the real hook of the
set is the wealth of extras—32 bonus tracks in all, including
all of the excellent B-sides of the period, plus dozens of
outtakes and radio performances. Highlights include an excellent
cover of Echo and the Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon” taped
for BBC Radio One, and the epic “And Then (The Hexx),” which,
if it had opened the record as originally planned, would have
made BTC a completely different album. You also get
a 62-page perfect-bound booklet, a poster and a postcard,
all inside a deluxe slipcase housing.
Also getting the deluxe-remastered-reissue-bonus-edition treatment
this year was the sorta-self-titled 2001 breakthrough record
by Mesa, Ariz., emo (in a good way!) pioneers Jimmy Eat World.
Bleed American (Deluxe Edition) (Geffen/UME)
restores the album’s original title, which was dropped after
initial pressings in the wake of 9/11, plus more than 20 additional
tracks, including the requisite B-sides, a new recording of
the album track “Your House,” and the band’s cover of Wham’s
holiday chestnut “Last Christmas.”
There’s really nothing alternative or indie about this, but
it’s still pretty cool: In Nov. 1968, a 22-year-old Neil Young
played an intimate solo-acoustic concert in Ann Arbor, Mich.,
a sort of test run for his then-forthcoming solo career. (At
the time Buffalo Springfield had just disbanded, and Young
wasn’t sure that audiences would take to his music in such
a stripped-down setting.) Sugar Mountain—Live at Canterbury
House 1968 (Reprise) is the document of that evening,
the tapes having sat in storage for four decades. It’s Young
at his most vulnerable: He sounds nervous and tentative during
the between-song “raps,” fiddling with his guitar and delivering
meandering, conversational explanations of the songs. It’s
like having Neil Young over for tea.
Among the more unexpected reissues this season are the two
albums from early ’70s would-be pop star and gay icon Jobriath.
Jobriath and Creatures of the Street
(Collectors Choice) originally were issued by Elektra in 1973
and 1974, respectively; the label signed the former Broadway
actor (born Bruce Campbell) for an exorbitant sum in an attempt
to brand a U.S. version of David Bowie . . . or something
like that. Neither album came anywhere near the charts, and
Jobriath’s signing is now considered one of the great miscues
in the history of popular music. And the music? It’s garish,
excessive, sometimes tuneless—and fascinating for all of those
reasons. His voice is a cross between Bowie and Mick Jagger
(I’ll refrain from making any love child jokes—oops, just
did), and the song arrangements are rife with abrupt time
changes, gospel choirs, and moody strings. Jobriath was the
first openly gay musician to be signed to a major recording
deal and, though he passed away in 1982, his music has taken
on a level of cult popularity in the gay community, and among
music elite—none other than Morrissey spearheaded a renewed
interest in the artist by overseeing the first CD reissues
of these long-out-of-print albums in the early ’90s. Trust
me: The music snob on your list will love you or hate you
for dropping a Jobriath disc in their stocking; either way
they’ll get a kick out of it.
the season for gifts and giving, but also of guilty pleasures.
For the jazz collector, this can mean pricy indulgence in
lavish box sets that satisfy little more than completist urges.
Listeners who are just hipping themselves to modal jazz should
be pleased as punch with the classic 1959 Miles Davis release
Kind of Blue, but for those who long to fully inhabit
the best-selling jazz record ever, Kind of Blue: 50th
Anniversary Collector’s Edition is the ultimate square-toe
stocking stuffer. With two CDs, a documentary DVD, the original
12-inch LP, a 60-page book of memorabilia and a fold-out poster,
all that $109.98 won’t get the obsessive fan is a sample of
On the topic of box sets that complete collections, provide
hours of listening, and double as office furniture, it’s impossible
to overlook The Encyclopedia of Jazz (Membran
Music). No, really. Billed as “the world’s largest jazz collection,”
the set consists of 500 CDs divided into five major epochs:
Classic Jazz, Swing Time, Big Bands, Bebop Story, and Modern
Jazz. At $780, it’s an investment that should get the most
ambitious listener through Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
The assertion that music from legendary artists lives on long
after the artist’s death is never truer than on a posthumous
release. Last year saw the passing of former Davis collaborator
and keyboard wizard Joe Zawinul. On his 75th birthday, two
months before his death, Zawinul and the Zawinul Syndicate
played a concert in Lugano, Switzerland, that has just been
released on the two-disc set 75th (Birdjam).
Spanning material from the Davis era, the Weather
Report catalog, as well as recent forays into electronic and
latin grooves, this one stands as a proper capstone for both
Zawinul’s career and the year.
As far as contemporary greats in their prime are concerned,
two albums rise to the top of Santa’s sack. The Dave Holland
Sextet’s debut recording Pass It On (Dare2)
reimagines material familiar to the band-leading bassist’s
acclaimed quintet with a sense of power and adventure. Pat
Metheny scales it back to a trio for his latest Day
Trip (Nonesuch) by inviting the heavyweight rhythm
section of Christian McBride and Antonio Sanchez to join him.
Spanning samba, soul-jazz, funk and reggae, the group flaunt
their versatility without sacrificing classic jazz ballads
When Esperanza Spalding nearly withdrew from the Berklee College
of Music, it was Metheny who urged the young bassist-vocalist
to stick with it. She went on to become the school’s youngest
professor ever. Now she’s a globetrotting sensation armed
with double-threat virtuosity and an energetic young band.
Esperanza (Heads Up) is Spalding’s
debut. One part jazz and one part soul, Spalding’s music links
up with a lineage of bassist-led outfits (Holland, et al),
while paying gorgeous homage to the great jazz chanteuses.
Bandmate Leo Genovese also has been busy making a name for
himself. The Argentine pianist has been a go-to sideman for
numerous projects, but it’s in front of his very own trio
that his freewheeling chromaticism is best displayed. Unlocked
(Ropeadope Digital) is proof. Without fully going
off the deep end, Genovese wades in waters abstract enough
to make a fine labelmate of Tim Collins.
(Ropeadope Digital) is Collins’ first big break. The
young vibraphonist had been hiding in the studio with guys
like John Ellis, Sam Barsh and George Porter Jr., when 8-string
guitar wiz Charlie Hunter started dropping his name around
label execs. After unwrapping this one you can put it up on
the shelf next to the other vibe greats like Milt Jackson
and Mike Dillon. It grooves at least as hard as the latter.
And, hell, might as well make it a twofer by picking up Hunter’s
latest Baboon Strength (reapandsow) while your
at it. The guy already reinvented the guitar; now he’s busy
with the organ trio.
Now that we’ve crash- landed on the outer periphery of the
jazz genre, we might as well snorkel over to some stuff that
will appeal to both the finger-popping daddy-o and his head-bobbing
offspring. Stebmo (Stebmo) is an aught-defining
collaborative amalgam. Steve Moore writes jazz tunes as only
a keyboardist who’s played with Bill Frisell and Sufjan Stevens
can. Moore shares drummer Matt Chamberlain with Marco Benevento,
whose trio record Invisible Baby (HYENA) ranks
with the year’s best. Dig.
us now praise those rascally musi cians and composers who
create works that don’t fit easily into categories, who toil
away in obscurity, or who simply like to knock over a few
The Numero Group continue to unearth the efforts of lost,
forgotten or never really visible labels. The latest in their
Eccentric Soul series is The Young Disciples.
Allen Merry started the Young Disciples through the South
End Community Center in St. Louis. Having made a name for
himself working with Lou Rawls and Ray Charles, Merry put
his efforts into teaching music, putting kids in the studio
and keeping them off the streets. Through the Gateway and
Merry labels he recorded and released everything from vocal
groups and solo acts to a massive horn section and troupe
of African dancers. Numero’s Titan! It’s All Pop!
collects all eight singles released by the Titan imprint between
1978 and 1981. The acts are similar to the meaty pop being
released concurrently by Bomp in Los Angeles and Ork in New
York, except that the label wasn’t able to make many ripples
emanate from their home base of Kansas City.
When the third album by Enrico Rava was released in 1975,
the Italian trumpet player was 36 and it was his first for
the ECM label. The Pilgrim and the Stars has
finally been reissued, and it remains a sterling work, mixing
jazz with folkish melodicism and classical chamber intimacy.
Many more people hear the Microscopic Septet than know their
name. That’s because they created the theme song for NPR’s
Fresh Air. The group disbanded in 1992 after a dozen
years together. Then, two years ago, the Cuneiform label released
four discs covering their entire output. This spurred Founder
and saxophonist Philip Johnston to reform the group. One thing
leads to another and—presto!—a new album, Lobster Leaps
In. (Yes, they have a sense of humor.) Surrealist
swing, Dadaist post-bop hijinks . . . they cover all the bases.
Fifteen years after his death, Frank Zappa’s music continues
to entice, dazzle and confound. Lumpy Money
is a new three-disc set on the Zappa Records label, containing
the entirety of Lumpy Gravy and We’re Only in It
for the Money. These 40-year-old works remain a tour de
force of cut-and-paste studio wizardry, sprawling orchestral
scores, jazz improvisation, 50s-fueled rock and doo-wop. The
set also contains a wealth of outtakes, alternate mixes and
commentary, adding to the complete picture of two of his best
Veda Hille’s This Riot Life is on Andy Partridge’s
Ape label. While it’s the first associated with the erstwhile
XTC leader, it’s actually her 13th album. Upon hearing her
voice, compositions and arrangements, Partridge’s fascination
with her becomes clear (and she sounds something like another
of his favorites, Judee Sill). The disc is built around a
song cycle based on hymns found in a book that had belonged
to Hille’s late grandmother.
Great and Mortal Men is a three-CD set contained within
a 112 page book. It contains 43 songs, one for each of the
43 United States presidents, undertaken by Christian Kiefer,
Matthew Gerken and Jefferson Pitcher. The trio welcomed a
slew of contributors, including Califone, Mark Kozelek, and
Alan Sparhawk. The range of approaches are as varied as the
presidencies they convey. While some of the songs offer straightforward
narrative, many are more poetically elusive, finding small
details from their lives and administrations to build upon.
A new song for our recently elected 44th president is going
to be offered for download shortly (see standardrecording.com).
While it’s not exactly music, Shout Factory’s five-disc box
set, One Hundred Greatest, is so rich with the
rhythm of human voices that to call it merely spoken word
seems inaccurate. It is divided into five categories (each
occupying a disc with 20 tracks, hence the titular total):
speeches, news stories, personalities, scandals, and sports.
Everything is here from Grover Cleveland to Barack Obama,
Malcolm X to Helen Keller, Babe Ruth to Tiger Woods, and Bob
Dylan to Albert Einstein.
economy may be a bit damning for us to suggest pooping out
50 bucks for something you can probably find on LimeWire,
but if you’re in a buying mood this holiday season, there
are some great new box sets on the market for the music lover
in your life. And one for fans of hard drugs and gonzo journalism.
This week marked the 21st anniversary of Roy Orbison’s death,
and there’s a new box on the market celebrating the career
of the man who may have had the greatest voice in the history
of rock & roll, Freddie Mercury notwithstanding. The
Soul of Rock and Roll (Monument/Orbison/Legacy) is
being marketed as the “definitive Roy Orbison collection,”
and we’re in no position to argue. Indeed, this four-CD comp,
in a lovely white-linen-wrapped package (how often do you
hear that about a CD set?), devotes a disc each to Orbison’s
four decades in music. The first disc includes tracks from
Orbison’s first bands (the Wink Westerners and the Teen Kings),
plus his earliest hits and a handful of previously unreleased
demos; the second collects all the great ’60s hits he made
for the Monument label, along with some rare B-sides; the
third moves into the 1970s with some great live cuts and rare
soundtrack recordings; and the last disc features some of
the 1980s recordings that brought Orbison back into the commercial
If your intended’s classic-rock tastes run more, well, mainstream,
the powers that be have found yet another way to repackage
the music of Led Zeppelin. This time, the Rhino label
has issued a limited-edition 10-disc box set containing mini-LP
replica CDs of every one of the band’s albums, from 1969’s
Led Zeppelin through 1982’s post-mortem Coda.
The original U.K. album artwork has been re-created in full
(to scale, naturally), meaning the debut has the original
turquoise logo, Led Zeppelin III includes the rotatable
disc, Physical Graffiti has the interchangeable cut-out
window illustrations, and all six covers of In Through
the Out Door are included. Bonuses include additional
photography from the Out Door bar scene and the U.S.
version of the Led Zeppelin cover (with orange ink).
It’s a neat package, with two major drawbacks: The cooler
art elements will surely suffer in these tiny editions, and
the set retails for around $200.
Merge Records has slowly emerged as the indie label nonpareil,
and they’re celebrating their 20th anniversary with a subscription-only
box set called Score! Merge Records: The First 20 Years.
For $199, indie-rock geeks get a veritable mother lode of
music: 14 CDs of Merge music, each disc curated by a different
notable personality (folks ranging from David Byrne to Amy
Poehler); a disc of remixes and interpretations from the likes
of Battles and Caribou; a set of covers of Merge songs done
by non-Merge artists like Death Cab for Cutie and the New
Pornographers; a gigantic 350-plus-page book featuring the
cover art from every single Merge release; a Scharpling and
Wurster comedy CD (Scharpling was the drummer for Superchunk,
the band upon which the Merge label was founded); and a custom
box in which to put all this stuff. The set can be purchased
only via the Web site (mergerecords.com/score), and will be
issued in periodic installments between now and the end of
2009. It’s the gift that literally keeps on giving.
Fans of the Philadelphia soul sound pioneered by producers
Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff should enjoy Love Train:
The Sound of Philadelphia (Philadelphia International/Legacy).
It’s four discs of songs by such time-tested groups as the
O’Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and the Spinners,
plus a deluxe book full of photos and interviews with the
guys involved in the making of this great music. The set is
kind of an update to a similar-minded 1997 set—both sets begin,
fittingly, with the Soul Survivors’ 1967 hit “Expressway (To
Your Heart)”—but there’s enough divergence between the two
(the new set has more in the way of rare cuts) to recommend
White Zombie—remember them?—have a four-CD/one-DVD, career-spanning
box out, titled Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (Geffen/Universal).
It’s pretty much everything the band ever put their name on,
from their self-released mid-’80s recordings through their
multi-platinum swan song, 1996’s Astro Creep: 2000.
The DVD features nine music videos, 10 live cuts, and a plethora
of bonus material, all of which are probably better than House
of 1000 Corpses.
And finally, for the acid casualty in your life—particularly
those acid casualties who happen to be journalists as well
(looking around newsroom)—there’s The Gonzo Tapes:
The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (Shout!
Factory). If you’re into this kind of thing, this set really
is the bee’s knees: five discs of tapes recorded by the good
doctor himself, either during or after his many famous trips
and travels. One disc of Hell’s Angels notes, from the assignment
that made him a near-household name; two discs of Fear and
Loathing in Las Vegas; a disc of thoughts and drafts for works
that never got published (I’m guessing Thompson had a lot
of those); and a final disc chronicling his time in Vietnam
just before the fall of Saigon. The set is a companion piece
to the recent Thompson documentary film, and it comes with
original artwork by Ralph Steadman, plus exhaustive written
notes to add context to the recordings.
Blues, Celtic, Bluegrass
God the holidays are here again. Now we can shove all that
economic angst onto the back burner and talk about which of
this of year’s roots-music CDs you might want to giftwrap
for that folkie, blueshound, Celtophile, or bluegrass fan
you need to shop for.
For more than five decades, Delmark has been a leading name
in blues records and also is the nation’s oldest indie label.
The Chicago-based outfit has celebrated its golden-and-change
anniversary with 55 Years of Blues (Delmark),
a hot two-CD compilation of material from marquee artists
such as Junior Wells, Otis Rush, and Magic Sam, as well as
lesser known performers like Sleepy John Estes and Jimmy “Fast
Fingers” Dawkins. As the new movie Cadillac Records
seems likely to rekindle interest in Chicago blues, this would
be a timely pick.
Darker in tone is New Orleans piano professor Dr John’s latest
release, The City That Care Forgot (429),
a blast of fury at the Bush administration’s feckless
response to Hurricane Katrina. On these 13 tracks, which contain
some Dr. John’s best writing in years, the swampmeister is
joined by Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Ani DiFranco, Terence
Blanchard, and others.
Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder are longtime mavens of old-school
bluegrass. Their latest offering, Honoring the Fathers
of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947 (Skaggs
Family), pays homage to mandolinist Bill Monroe and
his original Bluegrass Boys: Earl Scruggs on banjo, Lester
Flatt on guitar, Chuddy Wise on fiddle, and Howard Watts on
bass. Monroe originally recorded the 12 songs here during
those storied years, and Skaggs and company do them justice
aplenty with Skagg’ powerful tenor vocals and Kentucky Thunder’s
On the opposite end of the High Lonesome spectrum, former
Hot Rize mandolinist and vocalist extraordinaire Tim O’Brien
has a solo CD, Chameleon (Proper American),
that features hip contemporary songwriting and his extraordinary
instrumental work on guitar, banjo, Irish bouzouki, fiddle,
and mandola. As O’Brien showed us at his recent WAMC Performing
Arts Studio gig, his songs can range from lightheartedness
to trenchant political observations, all delivered with incredible
Ireland’s Kevin Burke, Brittany’s Christian LeMaitre, and
Quebec’s Andre Brunet are the fiddlers three of the Celtic
Fiddle Festival. Backed by guitarist Ged Foley, their most
recent CD, Equinoxe (Loftus), offers traditional
tunes from the British Isles, Canada’s Cape Breton and the
French speaking lands where the fiddle is played. The trio,
each a virtuoso player, offer a full buffet of fiddling: reels,
jigs, slow airs, pipe tunes and even French gavottes.
The guitar is not a traditional Celtic instrument, but that
hasn’t stopped Scottish fingerpicker Tony McManus from recording
a new CD of traditional tunes arranged for the six-string.
His new release, Maker’s Mark (Greentrax), is
a picker’s version of the proverbial kid in the candy store—McManus
was left alone in a room housing the $175,000 guitar collection
of Dream Guitars founder Paul Heumiller, who let him record
each track on a different, priceless ax. The result is a superb
CD with sprinklings of jazz and world music over the Celtic
subtext. This would be a perfect gift for any guitarist.
With 50 years of performing and around 30 albums to her credit,
Joan Baez is the indisputable queen of folk music. Now the
Achingly Pure Soprano is back, albeit singing in a lower range
than that of her early Vanguard LPs, with Day After
Tomorrow (Razor and Tie). On this record, one of her
best in a long time, she is supported by Tim O’Brien, Darrell
Scott, and others, and performs recently minted songs by songsmiths
including Steve Earl, Tom Waits, Patti Griffin, and Eliza
Gilkyson. Although you’ll find some of the antiwar themes
you’d expect from a ’60s counterculture icon, many of the
songs are, surprisingly, spiritual in nature. God is good,
but Joan Baez is still great.
tech-savvy know that CDs are an endangered species, and classical
music probably is the genre closest to extinction. So start
your holiday buying with Endangered (Albany),
a set of piano works performed by the excellent Marthanne
Verbit, and including a gorgeous suite titled “Five Rivers”
by Joseph Fennimore, inspired by the Delmar nature center
of that name. Also included: works by Steven Heitzeg, John
Kennedy, Peter Lieberson and Hilary Tann.
The big CD companies have vaults of vintage classical recordings,
much of it hobbled by the inferior sound of early-20th- century
media. But some performers and performances warrant a listen
no matter what sonic mists you’re forced to listen through.
That’s why I can’t overrecommend a set of Paul Robeson recordings:
The Complete EMI Sessions 1928-1939, a seven-disc
collection that picks up with Robeson’s London success in
Showboat and continues through his subsequent decade
in England. Three different versions of signature song “Ol’
Man River” offer surprising contrasts, and a number of forgettable
pickaninny songs nestle with glorious examples of Robeson’s
rich stylings of spirituals and standards. The 170 tracks
were excellently restored by engineer Andrew Walter, and the
box includes spare but decent notes on the material.
More recent history—going back a mere half-century or so—is
celebrated in Sony BMG’s Original Jacket collections,
which gather acclaimed LP-era recordings and in a package
that reproduces the album covers in miniature on the CD sleeves.
Originally presenting faithful reissues of the albums themselves,
the company took some heat for the comparatively brief playing
times. The four releases noted here feature filled-out discs,
while the sonic state of the recordings seems to be that of
the most recent CD release before this set. Each sports
10 discs. In the Jascha Heifetz set, early-stereo recordings
of the big concertos dominate, along with Bach’s solo sonatas
and the violinist’s final public recital. Pianist Arthur Rubinstein’s
set centers on solo Chopin, covering his stereo RCA recordings
and probably filling most of your Chopin needs. The Vladimir
Horowitz set mines earlier composer-specific collections that
bear almost no resemblance to the jackets they’re paired with
here, while Bernstein Conducts Bernstein is
an essential collection of shows, symphonies, ballets, the
Mass and more.
The early digital years didn’t always produce good-sounding
stuff, but Chandos got a handle on it quickly. Conductor Neeme
Järvi recorded a wealth of Prokofiev’s orchestral works,
and the Complete Symphonies have been reissued
in a four-CD box, each disc shorn of the material that accompanied
the original CD releases. But you’ll find much of it in a
series of six single disc issues, including suites from Alexander
Nevsky, The Buffoon, Cinderella, The
Love for Three Oranges, Lieutenant Kije, The
Stone Flower and much, much more.
A Prokofiev footnote: Two distinguished cellists have new
recordings worth considering. Rhapsody pairs
the Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff sonatas (Virgin Classics),
with cellist Gautier Capuçon and pianist Gabriela Montero
Taking matters into his own hands, early music specialist
Jordi Savall founded his own record label, Alia Vox, and has
been lacing his new release schedule with reissues of older
discs deleted from other labels. Thus his vigorous 1993 recording
of Handel’s Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks
returned earlier this year, as did a lean, affecting 1994
set of Purcell’s Fantasies for Viols. One of
the best of the new is a handsome book-and-two-disc package
of music—The Route to the Orient—associated
with 16th-century Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier.
This list wouldn’t be complete without Mahler Symphonies,
and this year alone the London Symphony released four of them—numbers
1, 3, 6 and 7—with the dynamic Valery Gergiev helming the
band. Start with any one and you’ll want them all.
Simon Rattle continued his impressive reign with the Berlin
Philharmonic with a recording of Stravinsky Symphonies—specifically,
the Symphony of Psalms, Symphony in C and Symphony
in Three Movements (EMI).
On the vocal front, I didn’t understand why classical snobs
disparaged Sting’s foray into Dowland—it was an original,
inspired approach. But a straight-ahead classical approach
by countertenor Andreas Scholl is heartbreakingly gorgeous,
presenting songs by Dowland and his contemporaries in a disc
titled Crystal Tears (Harmonia Mundi).
Naxos put together six discs (available, so far, only
separately) of the Songs by Charles Ives, with
a variety of performers contributing to the alphabetically-arranged
list. And EMI combined elements from the Ensemble Modern’s
Portrait of Ives (Orchestral Sets, “From the Steeples
and Mountains”) with 13 songs sung by Marni Nixon with pianist
John McCabe into American Classics: Charles Ives.
The much-recorded King’s Singers topped themselves with this
year’s Simple Gifts (Signum), in which the male
sextet contrast classic old folksongs with works by Randy
Newman, Stephen Stills, Paul Simon, Billy Joel and others.
And my favorite opera recording this year was a budget-priced
reissue of John Eliot Gardiner’s version of Berlioz’s version
of Gluck’s version of Orpheus and Euridyce,
beautifully sung by Anne Sofie von Otter and Barbara Hendricks
(EMI). It’s the classic trip to hell and back, a perfect way
to put behind us the past eight years.
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