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QMusic

Music reviews

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.

Here’s why Hello, Dolly!: The New Broadway Cast Recording (Masterworks Broadway) is one of the gayest things you’re likely to hear this year. Hello, Dolly! is a musical based on the play The Matchmaker, written by Thornton Wilder, a gay man. The musical comedy Hello, Dolly! features music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, a gay man, and a book by Michael Stewart, also a gay man. The 2017 revival stars the Tony-nominated Bette Midler in the lead role. Midler is a singer and actress who first achieved great acclaim for her performances at gay NYC bathhouse, the Continental Baths, and has long acknowledged and vocally supported her LGBTQ fan-base. Cast members David Hyde Pierce and Gavin Creel are also openly gay. Even the subject matter, about a slightly audacious meddler with ulterior motives who “arranges things,” has a gay glow to it. Midler shines as Dolly Levi. As you can hear, she sings in character (with a nod here and there to the original Dolly, Carol Channing) and fully embodies the role in songs such as “Before The Parade Passes By,” “So Long Dearie” and “Dancing.” Pierce even gets a solo, “Penny In My Pocket,” which was restored for the production.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Cover to Cover

There is a lot to love about What in the Natural World (Paradise of Bachelors) by Jake Xerxes Fussell. To begin with, the artwork on the cover and inside the gatefold CD is by the late artist Roger Brown. The two pieces – “Hunters Hunting an Autumnal Tapestry” and “A Seasonal Change” – are not only lovely to behold, but also complementary to the music within. Fussel drenches the eight songs, ranging from traditionals to obscure covers of tunes by Duke Ellington and others, and even one original, with his Southern syrup voice. An intimate and stripped down, yet rich and colorful album, Fussell gets things started with Ellington’s joyful “Jump for Joy,” in which he asks if we’ve seen “pastures groovy.” More questions follow on the traditional “Have You Ever Seen Peaches Growing on a Sweet Potato Vine?” Fussell sets Welsh poet Idris Davies’ “Bells of Rhymney” to music and brings us to tears on “Furniture Man.” “Billy Button” and “Love Bonnie” are also not to be missed.

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