January 2, 2010

Playlist 1-2-10

* Machaut: Motets (Hilliard Ensemble) (ECM CD)
* Buxtehude: Six Sonatas (Holloway/ter Linden et al.) (Naxos CD)
* Vivaldi: Cello Sonatas (ter Linden/Mortensen) (Brilliant Classics 2CD)
* Handel: Trio Sonatas, Op.2 & 5 (AAM/Egarr) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)
* J.S. Bach: Cello Suites (ter Linden) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)
* Bach/Webern: Ricercar (Münchener Kammerorchester/Hilliard Ens./Poppen) (ECM CD)
* Tulev: Songs (Estonian Phil. Chamber Choir et al./Hillier) (Harmonia Mundi SACD)
* John Coltrane: Fearless Leader (d.4) (Prestige 6CD)
* John Coltrane: Interplay (d.4-5) (Prestige 5CD)
* John Coltrane: Side Steps (d.5) (Prestige 5CD)
* Joe Henderson: Our Thing (Blue Note CD)
* Muhal Richard Abrams: Vision Towards Essence (Pi CD)
* Sun Ra: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London 11-9-70 (AUD 2CDR)
* Ornette Coleman & Prime Time: Zürich 10-24-84 (d.1) (FM 2CDR)
* George Benson: Breezin’ (Warner Bros./MFSL LP)
* Herbie Hancock: Sunlight (Sony – Japan CD)
* The Beatles: Please Please Me (stereo remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: With The Beatles (stereo remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: A Hard Day’s Night (stereo remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: The Beatles For Sale (mono) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Beatles For Sale (stereo remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Help! (mono) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Help! (stereo remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Rubber Soul (stereo remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Revolver (stereo remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (stereo remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour (stereo remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Yellow Submarine (selections) (stereo remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: The Beatles (a/k/a The White Album) (stereo remaster) (Apple/EMI 2CD)
* The Beatles: Abbey Road (stereo remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Let It Be (stereo remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Past Masters (stereo remaster) (Apple/EMI 2CD)
* Bob Dylan: Docklands Arena, London 5-12-02 (AUD/boot 2CDR)
* Grateful Dead: Winterland, San Francisco 12-31-72 (Pre-FM 4CDR)
* Grateful Dead: The Closing of Winterland (12-31-78) (selections) (GD/Rhino 4CD)
* Grateful Dead: Civic Center, Springfield, MA 10-24-79 (set 2) (SBD 2CDR)
* Grateful Dead: The Spectrum, Philadelphia 4-6-82 (SBD 3CDR)
* Grateful Dead: Coliseum Arena, Oakland 12-31-90 (Pre-FM 3CD)
* Big Star: Keep An Eye On The Sky (d.1) (Ardent/Rhino 4CD)
* King Crimson: Earthbound (DGM/Virgin CD)
* King Crimson: USA (DGM/Virgin CD)
* Rickie Lee Jones: Pirates (Warner Bros./MFSL SACD)
* Beck: Sea Change (Geffen/MFSL 2LP)
* Robert Pollard: Elephant Jokes (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Boston Spaceships: Zero to 99 (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Circus Devils: Gringo (Happy Jack Rock Records LP)
* Jim O’Rourke: The Visitor (Drag City LP)


Many months ago, a dear friend let me borrow an SACD of vocal music (on one of my favorite labels) by the contemporary Estonian composer, Toivo Tulev; but because I have this severe hang-up about “classical” singing, I put off listening to it until this week. On the Sunday after Christmas, I was in the mood, having listened to the Machaut Motets and Bach’s Cantata, BWV 4. I was surprised to find that Tulev’s music fit right in with this ancient sacred music while still sounding totally modern. Freely mixing languages, textual sources, and technical processes both new and old, one might more properly describe this music as postmodern but that word is so freighted with misunderstanding and invective that it would be demeaning of what is very serious, very meaningful, very (dare I say it?) spiritual work. Indeed, Tulev’s vocal music almost sounds pre-modern, pre-classical, ancient, even. And yet the music feels vital and alive – it makes you want to believe! Furthermore, Tulev thoughtfully explores new sonorities and textures within the seemingly constricted harmonic space, creating a kind of transcendental yet secular, non-ideological music. I like it! In an interview with the composer contained in the liner notes, he says: “I like to listen to Led Zeppelin, Robert Fripp, Robert Plant or Jimi Hendrix, a favourite of mine, a wonderful composer.” Well all right – it all makes sense now. I have added this disc to my want list and am grateful to hear of a contemporary composer whose work resonates so deeply with me – and which helps me get over my hang-up about “classical” singing. Thanks, Stan!


The Beatles In Stereo box set arrived this week and, as you can see, I listened to the whole darn thing. This was not hard to do – after all, the albums are short and, well, it’s The Beatles! This is some of the most beautiful and life-affirming music ever made! It was a joy to listen to these discs! I started out with Abbey Road, since it is not on the mono box and I was utterly blown away! You know how you can tell the engineers did a good job on this CD? Plenty of tape hiss! That may seem counterintuitive, but if they had attempted to remove it with digital noise reduction, they would have destroyed the otherwise spacious and luscious tonality of the sound. The vocals are frighteningly realistic – it’s like they’re in the room, singing just for you! Next up was Let It Be and, while this is one of my least favorite Beatles records, it was like hearing it for the first time. The band may have been falling apart at the seams by this point, but when they get it together, as on, say, “Two of Us” or “Get Back,” they still sound pretty fab! Starting over from the beginning, I was expecting the first few albums to sound awful in the hard-panned, twin-track stereo of the day, but was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying it quite a bit. The total separation of instruments from vocals provides some extra clarity to what’s going on in the mix, although to be honest, I still prefer the cohesiveness of mono for most of the early stuff (although I did find the stereo Beatles For Sale to be surprisingly good). Help! and Rubber Soul do not benefit so much from the remastering process since they decided to use George Martin’s 1987 digital remixes, but they do sound punchier than the original CDs (happily, the original stereo mixes are appended to the mono editions). With Revolver and beyond, however, things really start to get interesting and the sound quality is stupendous, despite the sometimes quirky mixes. It’s about time the Beatles catalog was upgraded and I couldn’t be happier with the results. I’m looking forward to re-experiencing these timeless records for years to come, comparing the stereo versions to their mono counterparts and the U.S. “butcherings” (in mono and stereo) found on The Capitol Albums, Vos.1+2 box sets. Good times for the obsessive record-collector. If you’re skeptical about whether these remasters are worth the bucks, I say emphatically yes!


Sam said...

Great assessment of the Beatles boxes, Rodger. I haven't had a chance yet to get through the whole stereo box, but I agree that the early ones sound WAY better than I thought they would. Glorious stuff!

Standout puzzler from your list: George Benson?!

As you can see, I finally got to hear the Big Star box--my brother got it for Christmas so I was able to spend some time with it--the sound is incredible. I immensely enjoyed the alternate mixes and band demos too. Way cool!

Here's my list for the past week:

Playlist 2010-01-04

*John Coltrane: Fearless Leader (disc 2)
*John Coltrane: Interstellar Space
*Billie Holiday: Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia (1933-1944) disc 2
*Charles Mingus: Mingus Dynasty
*Roscoe Mitchell: Nine to Get Ready
*Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble: Drawn Inward
*Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble: The Eleventh Hour
*Pennies From Heaven II (BBC soundtrack)
*Sun Ra: Horizon (Art Yard)
*Sun Ra: Nidhamu + Dark Myth Equation Visitation (Art Yard)
*Beatles: Past Masters (2009 stereo remaster) disc 1
*Beatles: Please Please Me (2009 stereo remaster)
*Beatles: With the Beatles (2009 stereo remaster)
*Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour (2009 stereo remaster)
*Big Star: Keep an Eye on the Sky (discs 1-4)
*Cornelius: Sensuous
*Bob Dylan: John Wesley Harding
*Grateful Dead: 1977-05-28 Civic Center, Hartford, CT (CDR)
*High Llamas: Gideon Gaye
*Led Zeppelin: III
*Stock, Hausen, & Walkman: Oh! My Bag!
*XTC/Andy Partridge (selections)

Reading log 2010-01-04

*Lowry, Lois. The Giver (started/finished)
*Larson, Gary. The Complete Far Side (in progress)
*Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet (Arden ed., 2nd series, ed. Brian Gibbons) (in progress)
*Theroux, Alexander. Darconville's Cat (in progress)
*Musil, Robert. Man Without Qualities (in progress)

Rodger Coleman said...

Heh, I knew you'd pick on me for the George Benson! What can I say? I like that album and the MFSL pressing sounds really great. It's some tasty cheese, baby!

That Big Star box is just so great.

How'd you like that Hartford '77 show?

Sam said...

Well, I gots me some tasty cheese in my closet somewhere as well! You never know.....

Like the Hartford concert just fine! Jerry seems "on", and the transition from "Playing" to "Terrapin" is really fine.

Roddus said...

I had noticed from your lists that you are pretty big on King Crimson and I was scrolling your playlists to see if you had listened to "Earthbound" and I see it on this playlist.
I know it sounds like it was recorded at the bottom of the sea(Even on my HDCD reissue from 2002)But it is one of those records that I really dig after falling in love with a vinyl copy 20 years ago. Sometimes the music is so powerful that even a bootleg quality recording can't take away from it(RE Sun Ra) and this one I feel becomes even more special as for me in this case the distortion actually adds to the ambience of this live set. I would probably be disappointed to hear this all cleaned up now.

What do you think of this album? I see you don't play it as much as the other King Crimson albums.

Rodger Coleman said...

@ Roddus - Not a big fan of "Earthbound," because of the atrocious sound quality. However, I like the overtly jazzy soul elements of that band. I've never explored any of the "Collector's Club" releases from that period. I wonder if they sound any better?