Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

A&M/Intervention IR-SCD4
Format: SACD/CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

By March 1984, when Joe Jackson released his seventh album, Body and Soul, he’d already moved beyond punk and new wave. His fifth album, Night and Day (1982), and his score for the film Mike’s Murder (1983), had taken in other styles, indicating Jackson’s musical restlessness. Like those on Night and Day, the songs on Body and Soul defy easy categorization, but Jackson hinted at his jazz influences with the album’s cover art, which faithfully re-creates the cover of Sonny Rollins’s Vol. 2, photographed by Francis Wolff and designed by Harold Feinstein, and released on Blue Note in 1957.

Blue Note B003198202
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
***

GoGo Penguin’s last release, Ocean in a Drop: Music for Film (2019), was a five-track EP of music the trio wrote to accompany recent screenings of director Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi (1982). Philip Glass had composed the original film score, and it was while listening to the EP that I finally heard a connection between Glass and GoGo Penguin -- the group’s use of repetitive melodies that change subtly and shift in emphasis owes something to Glass. Still, GoGo Penguin’s rhythmic elasticity and grasp of everything from jazz to various pop genres set them apart. Glass is just one of their many influences.

Columbia 19439780982
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

When Bob Dylan released “Murder Most Foul” as a single in April, he called it “an unreleased song we recorded a while back that you might find interesting” -- which sounded as if it was something he’d had in the can a while and had decided to release for the heck of it. I bought it as a high-resolution single, and I wasn’t alone. The song was Bob Dylan’s first No.1 on Billboard’s singles chart.

ECM 2679 (083 6036)
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Although John Scofield has appeared on ECM releases before -- as a co-leader, with Larry Goldings and Jack DeJohnette, of Trio Beyond on Saudades (2006); and as a sideman on three albums by bassist Marc Johnson -- Swallow Tales is his first outing as a leader for the label. Bassist Steve Swallow has appeared on ECM and its subsidiary labels Watt and XtraWatt many times, both as leader and sideman, and this album is Scofield’s tribute to his early teacher and mentor. It’s appropriate that Swallow Tales, comprising nine tunes by Swallow, is released on his home label.

Capitol B003132902
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

Radiohead creates such complex webs of sound assembled from so many disparate elements and instruments that it can be hard to figure out the division of labor on any given recording. Bassist Colin Greenwood and drummer Philip Selway have their assigned duties, but Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood each play a barrage of keyboards, and even their guitars are heavily processed. Ed O’Brien is primarily a guitarist, but also relies on effects to transform his guitar into other sounds.

ATO AT00520
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Like their labelmates My Morning Jacket, the Oklahoma band Other Lives defies easy categorization. They’re less guitar-driven than Jacket, though even that band doesn’t hesitate to use other instruments to expand their musical palette. Other Lives arranges many of their songs for strings, and shows an affection for a broad range of music that includes 1960s orchestral pop and Ennio Morricone’s film scores. The result is stylistically fluid and sounds, at its best, as unique as it does familiar.

Epic
Format: 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC download (CD and LP editions to be released July 17, 2020)

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

“I Want You to Love Me,” the first song on Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters, begins with a stuttering Casio drum machine and firmly struck bass notes. Apple enters with piano arpeggios that shift between major and minor, and sings in a firm, almost angry voice. As the track gathers in force and intensity, her voice roughens and grows more defiant, occasionally even going off pitch. The song is about the ebb and flow of love and sex, the frustrations that grow out of them, and the strength needed to get past those frustrations. When Amy Aileen Wood’s drums enter halfway through, they sound like literal gunshots. Apple ends the song on a high note that becomes a strange howl sounding very much like Yoko Ono.

Jagjaguwar JAG361
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

The rock quartet Nap Eyes, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, has been around since 2011 and released their first album, Whine of the Mystic, in 2014. Singer Nigel Chapman owes something to Lou Reed, both in his vocal phrasing and in the sophistication of his lyrics, and Nap Eyes has a knack for setting those words to surprising chord changes and ear-catching melodies, all with a garage-rock sensibility. In short, this band writes good songs.

Opal Music/Deutsche Grammophon 0289 483 7771 8
Format: 24-bit/44.1kHz FLAC download

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Roger Eno, the younger brother of the far-better-known Brian Eno, has built his own impressive reputation as a composer and instrumentalist. Roger’s first recording, Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks (1983), was a collaboration with Brian and Daniel Lanois. Since then Roger has recorded some 20 albums of his own and has worked with other musicians, including Bill Nelson, of Be Bop Deluxe, and Kate St. John, of Dream Academy. Brian has collaborated on some of these, including the album with St. John, The Familiar (1992); and on 18 Keyboard Studies by Hans Friedrich Micheelsen (2002), which he produced.

Fantasy FAN00619
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

In his liner note for American Standard, James Taylor describes the album as “a collection of guitar pieces, with solos and support from my regular family of players.” Taylor has often covered tunes by songwriters -- including Chuck Berry, Holland-Dozier-Holland, and Otis Blackwell -- whose work is part of the great tradition of American songcraft. The 14 tunes on American Standard are all from the Great American Songbook, all but one of them pre-dating rock’n’roll -- as Taylor writes, “These are songs I’ve always known.”