The Doors’ Perception breaks on through.
The Doors’ self-titled first album was in an altogether darker, more theatrical, sinful, and sexual musical realm than anything heard in 1967. It was one hell of a debut, and, 40 years on, it still sounds incredibly unique. The band functioned with a collective spirit, and its four members—Jim Morrison, vocals; Ray Manzarek, keyboards; Robbie Krieger, guitar; and John Densmore, drums—shared songwriting and arranging credits on most of the tunes.
We’ve all made mix “tapes” of our favorite tunes, and now the Beatles’ producer, Sir George Martin, has made his—Love was conceived for the Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas stage show. Or perhaps Love was inspired by the infamous Danger Mouse/Jay-Z mashup, The Grey Album, but, whatever the reason, I’m thrilled with Love, it’s all you need, after all.
It was in the late 1970s when Noel Lee, a laser-fusion design engineer, started a little company, Monster Cable, which soon spawned, well, the entire high-end audio-cable industry. Over the decades, Monster maintained their dominance in the cable market as it branched into power conditioners and M•Design home theater furniture. Now, with Monster Music, they're jumping into the record business with a line of High Definition Surround SuperDiscs. Noel Lee's passion for multichannel music—and frustration with the stillborn SACD/DVD-Audio formats—pushed him to extract the best sound from Dolby- and DTS-encoded music. Monster Music claims that the SuperDiscs are the first music releases certified by THX for sound quality.
This DVD-Audio has been a long time coming. Many a planned release date came and went before this one finally hit the shelves back in November, but I assure you that it was worth the wait. The high-resolution, multichannel audio soundtrack allows an already great album to realize its full potential.
A trembling flute figure drifts into the air and hangs there, sensuously falling and rising. It's one of the most celebrated moments in orchestral music, and the free, blissful, agile development that follows does not disappoint. Nor does Telarc's multichannel recording of this sumptuous work.
I don't know how many banjo players you can name, but I can come up with two: Bela Fleck and Roy Clark (and I had to cheat to get Roy Clark-before a trip to IMDB.com, it was "that guy from Hee-Haw"). Even if you've never heard of Bela Fleck, you've probably heard his music, as he's appeared on a ton of pop and jazz albums. He's won Grammys in the country, jazz, classical, and pop categories, but his roots are pure bluegrass.
I guess I shouldn't have counted him out, but, after Neil Young's last few efforts—Silver & Gold, Are You Passionate?, and Greendale—I was starting to feel like he was in a rut. The recordings had their high points, all right; but, when I'm in the mood for Neil, I'll spin Comes a Time or Sleeps With Angels. Although I've only spent a few weeks with Prairie Wind, I think it'll stand beside Young's earlier triumphs. It's that good.
Brothers in Arms was a monster seller of the 1980s and yielded Dire Straits' MTV anthem, "Money for Nothing." Beyond the pop successes, the band's music was coveted by audiophiles for its sweet sound; back in the day, I wore out countless Brothers in Arms LPs at my job selling high-end audio gear. Reconnecting with the music in this new 20th Anniversary Edition, remastered to DualDisc, was a total pleasure.
Sergei Rachmaninov's second piano concerto demands both a virtuoso pianist and a huge, supple orchestral sound. It gets both in this multichannel recording from Deutsche Grammophon, which pairs Lang Lang with a venerable Russian orchestra.
Isn't it a little odd to squeeze a whole symphony orchestra into a living room? The great thing about chamber music is that it's designed to be played in the home, correctly scaled to your personal space. It's best heard live, of course-but, if you can't invite musicians over for tea, the next best thing might be to feed your universal disc player this well-recorded pair of Beethoven chamber works.
Imagine the score for a 33-minute film noir with nonstop action. That's Béla Bartók's The Miraculous Mandarin in a nutshell, although it's actually a one-act dance suite. The story concerns three thugs who use a young woman as bait to rob a series of victims, culminating in the Mandarin. They murder him—but not before he consummates his passion for the girl. The plot had enough sex and violence to get it banned immediately upon its 1926 debut in Köln, Germany.
Even people who know nothing about Brazilian music recognize the urbane Latin syncopation of the bossa nova beat. The language, of course, is Portuguese, not Spanish. The key names in Brazilian pop music are Jobim and Gilberto; in orchestral and chamber music, Villa-Lobos. Arguably, the most alluring voice in Brazilian music today belongs to Rosa Passos, who partners with jazz bassist Ron Carter on this audiophile release.
By mere coincidence (or perhaps not), I sat down to review this new hybrid SACD on the rare rainy day in Los Angeles (although not quite as rare this winter). The two were a perfect fit. The Jazz Kamerata has a comfortable warmth about it, inviting you to wrap yourself in it and settle in for a lazy afternoon.