From Jackie Cantwell
Author: Taylor Swift
Title: 1989 [sound recording CD]
This is Taylor Swift’s first pure pop album. And it is nearly pop perfection. Even if you’re not the expected demographic listener for this CD, like me, you may find yourself humming these songs. Not only do I have a deeper respect for Swift’s songwriting abilities, I admire her collaborators such as Jack Antonoff, who co-wrote “Out of the Woods” and “I Wish You Would”. Antonoff plays acoustic, electric and bass guitar as well as drums and keyboards on these tracks. The strongest track is probably the first that was released, and that is “Shake It Off”. “Bad Blood” has evocative imagery and reminds me of Avril LaVigne. “Blank Space” and “All You Had to Do Was Stay” also remind me of Avril LaVigne songs which shouldn’t be a surprise, as they both collaborated with Max Martin, the Swedish producing marvel. The tone of the album seems to be nostalgia for lost love, but at the same time, it’s fun to listen to. Harry Styles is rumored to be the subject of “Style” and “Out Of the Woods”. “Welcome to New York” is another strong track which is about re-inventing oneself and taking on the challenge of a new city (or identity). “This Love” was written entirely by Swift and it’s a beautiful, dreamy song. “I Know Places” seems to warn lovers that the paparazzi will try to find them but she can hide: “They are the hunters, we are the foxes and we run.” “Clean”, co-written with Imogen Heap,likens the end of a relationship with going sober. Some songs repeat these phrases: wildest dreams, Oh my God, mad love, sink (or sinking) ships; while other songs repeat references to the words: ghosts, lips, cheeks, and insane. I love you, Taylor, but I hope you got a thesaurus for Christmas! Grade: A-.
From Edna Susman
Author: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Title: MOZART [SOUND RECORDING CD] : PIANO CONCERTOS K 503 & K 466 / MARTHA ARGERICH, CLAUDIO ABBADO.
As with preserving photos from the past by scanning and saving to computer or disc, the music world is fortunate to have recordings of the great conductors and performers to enjoy long after their passing. The library is acquiring this recording of the brilliant pianist Martha Argerich with conductor Claudio Abbado, who passed away January 2014. The performance was recorded live in 2013 at the Lucerne Festival. Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times calls the performances “phenomenal”. Abbado’s conducting specialites included opera as well as the standard classical and contemporary works. This beautiful recording should be enjoyed by all as among one of the last by the great conductor.
From Edna Susman
Author: Beethoven Ludwig van
Title: Animals in music [sound recording CD]
This 2-CD set is an excellent vehicle to introduce classical music to anyone unfamiliar with it, children or adults alike. Pieces included are taken from the early Baroque period to modern day. Some include the piece in its entirety such as “The Wasps: Overture” by Ralph Vaughan Williams and “Carnival of the Animals” by Camille Saint-Saens. Others, just the relevant movement is included such as from “Pictures at an Exhibition: no. 9 Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks” by Modest Mussorgsky, from “Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67:2, The Bird or Op. 67:3, The Duck” by Sergei Prokofiev, from “Tale of the Tsar Saltan: Suite, Op. 57 – Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and from “Piano Quintet in A Major, Op. 114, D. 667, The Trout, Theme with Variations” by Franz Schubert to name just a few. Since often only parts of the entire piece are played, this is a wonderful sampling of music especially for those wanting to learn more about classical music.
From Edna Susman
Author: Johannes Brahms
Title: Brahms Complete Edition [sound recording CD]
Just released in April 2014, this set of 58 discs is a treasure! To have all of Brahms’ works in one set is a gold mine for any classical music lover. The performers include the top names in the music world such as the London Symphony Orchestra, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, the New Philharmonia Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Yehudi Menuhin, Sir John Barbirolli, Daniel Barenboim, Kurt Masur, the Tokyo String Quartet and more. Each work from Brahms’ symphonic, solo, chamber music and vocal repertoire is listed separately so that it is easy to choose what you’d like to listen to. There are over 400 works in this set.
From Jackie Cantwell
Author: various performers
The Beatles [sound recording CD] : the rock biographies : the world’s greatest music performed by top musicians
One has to have audacity to produce an album of cover versions of the Beatles music. Musicians as diverse as Little River Band and Molly Hatchet to Dweezil Zappa and Air Supply tried to bring something new or different to classic Beatles tunes. I think they all failed miserably with the exception of Jackson Browne who brings an ethereal and lilting voice to the song ”Across the Universe”. Ordinarily I’m floored by the talents of Fee Waybill of The Tubes, but his version of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was dull and uninspired. Some of these songs are even painful to listen to. Leave me with my memories of the Beatles!
From Chris Garland
author: Johnson, Eric
Up close [sound recording]
Texas guitar virtuoso Eric Johnson returns with his latest album, Up Close. If you are fan of guitar music, this album delivers. The album has a more spontaneous feel than previous Johnson efforts which tend to strive for sonic perfection. Thematically the album is pop/rock with a touch of blues and country, a departure for Johnson since on past albums he delves into all musical genres. Guests include Steve Miller on the blues classic “Texas” where Johnson and Jimmie Vaughn trade solos. Another standout track is the autobiographical tune “Austin” where Johnny Lang takes the lead vocal. Eric shines on the pop instrumental “Gem” and adds one of his greatest guitar solos to the song “Arithmetic”. The album concludes with Johnson paying tribute to his father on the tune “Your Book” where Sonny Landreth add his poignant slide guitar. Up Close is a terrific disc that stands up well to the artist’s best work.
From Jackie Cantwell
Carolina Christmas [sound recording] / The Marshall Tucker Band
You may know the Marshall Tucker Band from their 70’s hits such as “Heard it in a Love Song” and ”Fire on the Mountain.” They’re known for Southern rock, with R&B, blues and country influences. You probably don’t know they recorded a Christmas album. There are standards such as “Silent Night” and “Jingle Bells” sung by Chris Hicks and Doug Gray respectively. On “Christmas in Carolina,” there’s a fantastic saxophone solo by David Muse. A beautiful rendition of “I’ll be home for Christmas” is sung by Gabrielle Gray Leopard (Doug’s daughter), with acoustic guitar by Clay Cook (Doug’s nephew). “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” features a saxophone solo by Jerry Eubanks. “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” is a jazzed up version with lead vocals by Clay Cook. “Jingle Bells” features lead vocals by Doug Gray (who also did the arrangement) and a chorus of family members. Nothing says a redneck Christmas like time in the county lockup. And in this case, it’s Spartanburg, SC for a DWI on the track “Christmas in Custody,” written and sung by Barry “B.B.” Borden. Borden also plays drums on this track. (You kind of have to wonder who the intended audience was for this disc). There is a bluesy version of “Merry Christmas Baby” with lead guitar by Stuart Swanlund. “Snowfall in Georgia” features David Muse on flute, which reminds me of all the classic tunes by this band. “Leave the Christmas Lights On” has a country feel, owing to the lead vocals of Doug Gray and Chris Hicks. The album concludes with a sober reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Doug Gray. There are also some well-researched liner notes by Barry Alfonso. Although it’s a bit of a motley collection, I’ll give it an A- for putting me in the Christmas mood in June!