Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Modern Recordings
Format: 24-bit/48kHz FLAC download

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Daniel Lanois lets inspiration take him wherever it leads. Last year he released Heavy Sun, an album of soul and gospel music that Lanois presented in his own sonically adventurous production style. In 2018, he collaborated with Aaron Funk (aka Venetian Snares) on Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois, a provocative and bracing collection of keyboard- and effects-based instrumentals. Goodbye to Language (2016) paired Lanois and Rocco DeLuca on steel guitars for a series of ambient songs that yielded great rewards, with each play revealing tremendous emotional and musical complexity.

Polydor / Track Record / UMC ARHSLP014
Format: LP

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

Released in December 1967, The Who Sell Out fulfilled the promise of the band’s first two albums, moving it into the front ranks of the great British Invasion bands. When MCA reissued the album on CD in 1995, Who biographer Dave Marsh penned the liner notes. “For me,” he wrote, “The Who Sell Out is the greatest rock and roll album of its era and, as the years go by, seems more and more to me The Who’s consummate masterpiece.”

Ozella Music OZ100CD
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Ten years ago, I wrote about Ozella Music, a record label in Germany that releases well-recorded jazz albums, instrumental music that often defies category, and a few singer-songwriter titles. Recently, I was listening to some of the recordings I had previously reviewed and realized I hadn’t heard any news from the label for a while. I popped over to Ozella’s website to see what was going on there. A few days later, I opened my mailbox to find some new releases from the label. The three discs in the package were all worthwhile, but Villingsberg, an album of duets by pianist Helge Lien and guitarist Knut Hem, caught my ear immediately.

Music for Nations / Sony Music 19439956901
Format: LP, 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC download

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

The British band Porcupine Tree took some time off in 2011 so founding member Steven Wilson, its chief songwriter and leader, could work on his second solo album, Grace for Drowning. Four more Wilson solo albums followed, and the band seemed to be on a permanent hiatus. Wilson was busy with his own albums and with remixing and remastering classic albums by King Crimson, Jethro Tull, XTC, and many others. Drummer Gavin Harrison toured with King Crimson and recorded with The Pineapple Thief; keyboard player Richard Barbieri focused on solo projects and other work; and Colin Edwin lent his bass-playing talents to several other bands.

dBpm Records
Format: 24-bit/96kHz FLAC download

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

Wilco’s first album, A.M. (1995), seemed to suggest the band would move in the direction of alt-country, but the follow-up, Being There (1996), was the work of a band that was eager to experiment and to avoid being categorized. With Summerteeth (1999) and, especially, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002), Wilco veered into the avant-garde so markedly its music has often been referred to as “art rock” since.

Sub Pop Records SP1430
Format: CD

Musical Performance
**1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
***

Singer-songwriter Joshua Tillman recorded a number of albums as J. Tillman before adopting the stage name Father John Misty. He has released five albums credited to that name, the newest being Chloë and the Next 20th Century. Misty albums are often crammed with instrumental details that enliven Tillman’s songs, and his latest is no different in this respect. Chloë and the Next 20th Century is carefully and lushly appointed, but this time, Tillman pulls in ideas from several earlier eras of pop music. The result is an album that is a nod to the past while feeling very modern.

Proper Records PRPCD160
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

The Cowboy Junkies have recorded quite a few of their own songs in the 37 years they have been performing together, but the Canadian group has always shown a talent for reinterpreting other artists’ tunes. Their first album, Whites Off Earth Now!! (1986), comprised eight covers and only one original song (“Take Me,” by band members Margo and Michael Timmins). But it was a cover song from their second album, two years later, that brought them international attention: Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane,” from The Trinity Session (1988)—the Junkies’ best known and most highly acclaimed recording.

Windchild Records WCR001LP
Format: LP

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

In January, my fellow SoundStage! writer and vinyl enthusiast Jason Thorpe wrote an article on sister-site SoundStage! Ultra about Canadian musician and songwriter Harkness. Jason grew up in the same Toronto neighborhood as the artist and went to school with the Harkness family, and his article contains biographical detail about Harkness that I need not repeat here. The article also explains the reasons behind the musician’s public persona and his attire, which includes a visor and lavender-colored robe.

Republic Records B0034978-02
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

John Mellencamp turned 70 this past fall; the years—and cigarettes—have left their mark on his voice. He now sounds almost as raspy and ancient as Bob Dylan. At this point in his life and career, Mellencamp realizes the pop music landscape has changed. “I still make albums,” he told The Wall Street Journal recently, “even though there’s not a lot of demand for albums in today’s singles world.”

ISO Records/Parlophone Records CDTOYBOX 1/0190296773372
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

In the summer of 2000, David Bowie performed four live shows, including an appearance at the Glastonbury Festival on June 25. That performance, in front of an estimated 250,000 people, was a triumph; the following month, Bowie and the members of his touring band began recording in New York City. The group had been together since the previous year, when they toured in support of Bowie’s then recently released Hours . . . (1999).