Music reviews

Friday, August 18, 2017

Soundtrack for Nostalgia

Most LGBT folks are probably more familiar with Rufus Wainwright (or his sister Martha or his late mother Kate McGarrigle) than they are with his father Loudon Wainwright III. But that doesn’t mean that Loudon doesn’t deserve his due. As a singer and songwriter, Wainwright excelled at both. The 24-track compilation The Atlantic Years (Real Gone Music), which combines Wainwright’s first and second albums – the 1970 eponymous debut and the 1971 follow-up Album II – and adds a previously unreleased bonus track (“Drinking Song”), is proof positive. Wainwright’s trademark humor (see his 1972 hit single “Dead Skunk”) is also in evidence, along with his serious side, on songs such as the breathtaking “Old Friend,” as well as “School Days,” “Nice Jewish Girls,” “Movies Are a Mother to Me,” “Be Careful There’s a Baby in the House,” and “Glad to See You Got Religion.”

Friday, August 04, 2017

Twelve By Two

Country duos are nothing new. Think about Johnny and June, Porter and Dolly, George and Tammy, and so on. The Judds put a different spin on the coupling of country singers by teaming up a mother, Naomi, and her daughter, Wynonna. The Judds were a prevailing pair from the early 1980s until the beginning of the 1990s, at which time Wynonna embarked on a solo career that made her an even bigger star. The 21-track compilation All-Time Greatest Hits (Curb) includes everything you might expect on a collection such as this, including “Mama’s He’s Crazy,” “Why Not Me,” “Have Mercy,” “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days,” “Rockin’ With the Rhythm of the Rain,” and “Love Can Build a Bridge”.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Sound of Seniors

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, now in their mid-to-late 70s respectively, remain productive and continue to tour and perform on a regular basis. In their youth, the surviving half of The Beatles, along with the late John Lennon and George Harrison, made an immeasurable impact on contemporary music and culture. Out of all of the Beatles’ albums, 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Apple / Capitol / UMe), now available in a new two-CD 50th anniversary edition stereo mix (by Giles Martin, son of George Martin) 50th anniversary edition, is probably the Fab Four’s most influential and eternal recording. Whether you last listened to Sgt. Pepper a year ago or 20 years ago, you’re sure to be thrilled by the new sounds you’ll discover in this version, especially on songs such as “She’s Leaving Home,” “With a Little Help from My Friends,” “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” “Getting Better,” “When I’m 64,” and “A Day in the Life.” The second disc features numerous takes of the songs on the album, as well as 2017 stereo mixes of the singles “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane,” which though recorded at the same time as Sgt. Pepper, would later find their way onto Magical Mystery Tour, released later in 1967.

Queer singer/songwriter Sia has been messing with her appearance on her album covers for years. It didn’t just start with 2014’s 1000 Forms of Fear or either version of 2016’s This Is Acting. For example, for 2010’s We Are Born her face was peppered with colored dots and colorful pipe cleaners were woven into her hair, making her look like a hipster Medusa. But it can all be traced back to her third album, 2008’s Some People Have Real Problems (Monkey Puzzle / Concord), newly reissued in its first-ever vinyl pressing. On the cover, Sia is grasping a trio of magic markers with which she has drawn a heart and lines on her face. As for what’s contained inside, the songs on Some People Have Real Problems marked something of a turning point for Sia. Sounding more confident than ever, in total control of her powerful instrument, Sia belts out original numbers such as “The Girl You Lost to Cocaine,” “Day Too Soon,” a cover of The Kinks’ “I Go to Sleep,” and the CD hidden track “Buttons” (included on the LP). She’s also joined by Beck on “Academia” and “Death By Chocolate.” It’s easy to understand why, shortly after the release of this album, she not only became an increasingly in-demand guest vocalist on other people’s albums, but also a sought-after songwriter who would go on to provide a multitude of hit songs for others.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Open to Interpretation

Croatian string duo Two Cellos first came to our attention with its rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.” Since making its major-label debut in 2011, the pair has applied the classical crossover shtick to songs by Nine Inch Nails, U2, Sting, Nirvana, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Kings of Leon, AC/DC, Coldplay, Radiohead, Muse, and even the Magnetic Fields, to name a few. On Score (Portrait), Two Cellos turns its attention to the music of the silver screen, and the work of legendary film composers such as Henry Mancini (“Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s), Ennio Morricone (“Cinema Paradiso”), Francis Lai (“Love Story”), Nino Rota (“Love Theme” from The Godfather), James Horner (“My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic), John Williams (“Main Theme” from Schindler’s List), and Vangelis (“Titles” from Chariots of Fire), among others, with a pleasing albeit safe outcome.


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