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Kelvin Brown RSS Feed (Ashburn, VA)

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Price: $31.10
28 used & new from $25.03

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As Good as Beethoven Gets!!, April 15, 2011
This review is from: Symphonies (Audio CD)
This is America, and I love lively discussions, but trashing one of the finest Beethoven cycles out in the history of recorded sound and the man with the most Grammy awards (30+) is just plain wrong. I am a musician, and spend over 20 hours a week on the average listening to, writing, or engineering recordings. I don't play at being an armchair musicologist, but please allow me make a few observations and recommendations.

First, let me address sound and technical engineering. Until the recent recordings and SACD technology, these recordings had more clarity and "bite" than just about anything else out there. You feel the brass, you can hear the bow hair hitting the strings, and the mallets on the tympani. All without feeling the mikes are so close you and the orchestra are in a bathtub like on some of the original instrument cycles. Listen for yourself. Go to where you would download the mp3s and listen to the samples. You get a sense of spaciousness without the overwhelming reverb, precision, and then there is the performance. Solti's takes a traditional big orchestra approach with tempo's that aren't as brisk (and to my ears, rushed) as some of the original instrument recordings. What Solti delivers is power and excitement that is as visual as any painting in the Louvre.

The high points in this cycle are the entire Fifth Symphony, the Sixth, the Seventh, and the second and fourth movements of Symphony # 9. In fact, I would go as far to say that Solti's 1970s version of the Ninth is one of the greatest recordings in history. Martti Talvela's entrance in the 4th movement will send chills down your spine if you have the right stereo set up for it. If there was ever an good excuse to blast the neighborhood to Jupiter, this would be it. The other soloists and chorus are spot and turn this piece into an event...something to experience, and often. I have to admit I like Norrington's version (with the London Classical Players on EMI) of the First and Second Symphonies Beethoven - Symphonies 1-9 · Overtures / London Classical Players · Sir Roger Norrington. Some critics and a lot of folks hate those. These two works were a little more like what Haydn would have turn out and Norrington's approach works for those pieces. And as good as these recordings are, I still have a soft spot the Bruno Walter's recordings of the 4th and 5th Symphonies with the Columbia Symphony Beethoven: The Complete Symphonies.

Is this version the best? Goodness, who's to say? In my opinion, you may get different, but you aren't going to get better. Comparing versions of recorded classical works is like comparing apples, oranges, and motorcycles. Toscanini's version with the NBC Symphony has lyricism and a fine sense of feel for melody. It's also in mono. Worth owning, but it's early days of mono. Karajan's cycle is astounding, especially the SACD version. The Minnesota Orchestra just turned out one of the most critically acclaimed cycles in years, and I highly recommend giving that a spin Beethoven: The Symphonies . Classical music lovers tend to like the version they hear first and then judge other versions against that one.

Give this a listen. 99 per cent of you won't be disappointed. Highly recommended.

The Spirit of England
The Spirit of England
28 used & new from $4.89

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nobody does serene like Boughton!, April 14, 2011
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This review is from: The Spirit of England (Audio CD)
This set of English classics by William Boughton and the English String Orchestra is one of the most amazing bargains on Amazon. The music is mainly serene, pastoral classics by the 20th century English romantics...Holst, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, etc. Not that the set doesn't have it's livlier moments - Butterworth is exhilarating. But the performances are spot on, not rushed, and the acoustics are spacious, perfect for these pieces. If you're new to the English classical music scene, and you want to get a head start at what 20th century English classical orchestra pieces sound like - this is a fine start. I bought it to augment my collection, and highly recommend. Some other fantastic performances on these pieces are available on Chandos by the Bournemouth Symphony English Music for Strings, Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony turn in one of the finest Tallis Fantasias Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis; Barber: Adagio for Strings; Grainger: Irish Tune from County.

If you can find it, Pinchas Zukerman on the violin with Barenboim conducting the English Chamber Orchestra (Deutsche Grammophone) to my ears is the best version of Vaughan Williams "Lark Ascending" and "Fantasia on Greensleeves" you're going to find anywhere. It is out of print, so getting it used may be your only option. Lark Ascending But well worth it if you can get you hands on it.

Beethoven: Symphony No. 6, Pastoral / Symphony No. 8
Beethoven: Symphony No. 6, Pastoral / Symphony No. 8
24 used & new from $0.73

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From one of the best engineered Beethoven cycles available., April 13, 2011
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These recordings are from Solti's 1970 sessions of the Beethoven symphonies. Enthisiasts have their own preferences, but what is undisputable about these recordings is the sound quality. Yes, you can hear chairs and someone, probably Solti, breathing as he leans into a crescendo and picks up the tempo. These are not live performances, but you still get a sense of presence and being there you don't get on some of the newer recordings. That being said, you get spaciousness without overwheling reverb, you can feel the brass, and hear the bow hair hitting the strings in some of the more intense passages of the music.

I am a huge fan of Solti and the Chicago Symphony. His opera recordings are legendary, his Mahler cycle and other symphonic recordings are all standouts. The man won more Grammy's than any other person in history. To listen to samples of the box set these were drawn from, check out Beethoven: The Nine Symphonies (Complete). Then select the link to the mp3 and listen to the samples.

Reviews speak for themselves. The Ninth Symphony from this cycle is one of the greatest achievement in the history of recorded music.

New or used, if you like Beethoven you should have these in your collection.

Beethoven: Symphonies, No. 3 & 6 [2 CD]
Beethoven: Symphonies, No. 3 & 6 [2 CD]
Offered by mirmedia_movies_and_music
Price: $3.49
38 used & new from $0.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Repackaged Dohnanyi - Cleveland recordings - it's a steal!, April 13, 2011
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Everyone has their opinion of which conductor and ensemble did the best cycle of Beethoven symphonies. There are the standards, like the vintage edition with Bruno Walter with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra Beethoven: The Complete Symphonies or the 1970's recordings of Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Beethoven: The Nine Symphonies (Complete). Some listener's would tell you Herbert von Karajan's cycle with the Berlin Philharmonic Beethoven: 9 Symphonies / Karajan (1963)is the gold standard. They are all great choices, and each has their strong points. Solti's Ninth Symphony, 1970's version, is one of the best pieces or recorded classical music, period. But,

FOR THREE DOLLARS Dohnanyi conducting the Cleveland Symphony, you get two of the more popular Beethoven symphonies performed by one of America's top 10 orchestras with that magnificent Telarc sound. The two symphonies on this set are taken from Beethoven: The Complete Symphonies. Seventy plus bucks for the entire set. The performance takes a more period flavor, but the sonics can't be beat. Then, if that isn't enough you get Serkin playing one of his signature pieces, the Choral Fantasy, with Ozawa and the Boston Symphony. It sparkles.

Highly recommend. At this price, it's a no brainer.

Apocalypse Now (Two-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray]
Apocalypse Now (Two-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Martin Sheen
Offered by Two Thumbs Up
Price: $12.74
45 used & new from $4.49

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blu-ray Perfection, February 18, 2011
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Depending on your criteria for what makes a film great, you could argue with my assessment that this is one of the top films of the 1970s. Martin Sheen turns in one of the finest performances of his career as Capt. Benjamin Willard, a trained special ops assassin who journeys up the Nung River to into Cambodia to terminate Colonel Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando). Kurtz has gone mad and believed to have committed atrocities outside the realm of human decency. What sets the film apart are the memorable scenes from the film - golden nuggets of cinematography, screenplay, and sound. And it is precisely those elements that stand out in one of the finest transfers for Blu-ray to date. The helicopter scene with Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" blaring down on the locals, the Playboy Bunny sequence, and some of the final scenes inside Kurtz's compound are a few examples of scenes rich in detail, color, and contrast.

Not only is the video portion of this Blu-ray one of the best ever, the audio will simply knock you out of your chairs. I have SA-CDs that don't come close to sounding this good.

I've had my heels nipped for mentioning the grain in other films recently released from this era. And I see comments which basically excuse shoddy transfers from the late seventies because "that's the way they were shot...that's what the director intended." OK. Fine. Whatever. I am NOT a younger viewer. I saw all the films when they were originally released. This Blu-ray version of Apocalypse Now just demonstrates what can be done when the studio gets committed, and gets the original movie makers involved. An upgrade worth the investment. Buy this now.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 15, 2011 1:52 PM PDT

South Pacific [Blu-ray]
South Pacific [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Mitzi Gaynor
Offered by Clyde Parks
Price: $34.31
21 used & new from $7.22

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Check your shoes for sand, December 18, 2010
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This review is from: South Pacific [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
There are plenty of comments on the movie, the material, and the performances, so I will add a comment or two on the blu-ray edition. Considering old movie restorations, especially old musicals, this is the crown jewel (so far.) I have recently purchased Gigi [Blu-ray], The Sound of Music (Three-Disc 45th Anniversary Blu-ray/DVD Combo in Blu-ray Packaging), and many other films on Blu-Ray, and while they are really good, the don't come close to bringing the level of transformation you'll see here. If it weren't for all the color filters used on the romantic musical sequences in the film, you would think this had been shot yesterday. Clean, stunning sound quality, and crystal clear thoughout the film. You can see every freckle, hair, and rippled ab on every sailor and nurse on the beach. Stew Pot and Liat never looked so delicious. Almost like you walked right on the beach. The producers of the Blu-ray went WAY beyond upscaling. What you are paying for is a full scale restoration. The color fluctuations from previous versions and changes in color saturation have been fixed.

What they couldn't fix..the incredibly bad lip synching typical of musicals produced in the 1950s, and the annoying color tint shifts throughout the films. The original tech folks should have been beaten with a lamp cord.

Sadly, there are no real special features to speak. A commentary track by two people I've never heard of, a sing-a-long feature, and a menu to jump straight to the songs. But still worth the extra money if you are a fan of the film. Crystal clear picture. Breath taking sound.

Monster HTS 1000 MKIII 8-Outlet Power Center with Clean Power Stage 2 (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Monster HTS 1000 MKIII 8-Outlet Power Center with Clean Power Stage 2 (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Offered by Beach Audio
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6 used & new from $39.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comments on the AUDIO difference - worth it!!, December 18, 2010
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I can't comment on this unit as a surge protector yet. But man, oh, man! I can hear a dramatic improvement in the sound quality. I own an old NAD power amp, a Rotel pre-amp and have Linn speakers. I sold stero equipment for years and used to think investments in cable, power conditioners, and such were all tremendous wastes of money. I have a home recording studio and was having some trouble with equipment humm and interference. So I purchased the Monster Power strip on the recommendation of a friend. I hooked up a cassette deck, a Digital Audio Tape deck, my computer, audio interface, mic pre-amp, and the stereo equipment mentioned above...and was stunned by the results. Even though there are four hookups dedicated to audio, and four dedicated to video - it works fine for audio. My next purchase will be one of the pro units for audio only. Then this unit will get moved to my home entertainment unit where it belongs.

The sound coming from my equipment is measurably and noticeably cleaner, warmer, and richer. Cleaner highs, deeper lows, and more definition to the whole sound stage. For less than a hundred bucks, it's like I just purchased 8 new much more expensive components.

Bach: Sacred Masterpieces and Cantatas
Bach: Sacred Masterpieces and Cantatas
14 used & new from $57.16

53 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Bachs of Treasure, December 18, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Bach is perhaps the greatest composer that ever lived, but not my personal favorite. However, Gardiner, the English Baroque Soloists, and the Monteverdi Choir have turned out some of the finest recorded performances of Baroque classical music and done so consistently for at least 25 years. I had heard some of these performances on the radio, purchased the Magnificat in D and a few of the cantatas, but never really committed to having all that much Bach in my collection. Until this box set was released. Every thing presented here on these discs is a standout in the career and collaboration of this conductor and amazing ensemble. This marvelous set includes The Christmas Oratorio, the St. John Passion, the St. Matthew Passion, and some of Gardiner's more recent recordings of the cantatas. One of the things that distinguishes these performances and sets them apart from other Baroque recordings is Gardiner's interpretation of the material, the performance of the choir, and the quality of the soloists.

Many conductors plod through Baroque standards like they are conducting to a metronome, sometimes technically perfect but lacking any emotional connection with the material. The first time I heard Gardiner's recording of Handel's Messiah, I was stunned. The man actually put dynamics - crescendos and slight tempo changes - into the Hallelujah Chorus. Simply brilliant. He has done the same thing for each of these recordings, but this is more evident in the later recordings of the cantatas. My personal favorites on the album are "Cantata # 140, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme," the "Magnificat in D," and the "St. Matthew Passion."

As for the Monteverdi Choir, Gramophone Magazine said they are the best choir in the world. I don't what criteria they used to come to that conclusion, but my ears agree with them. Consisting of about 21 singers, they attack these pieces with flawless precision and emotional conviction that makes every listen a meaningful experience worth sitting still for, and worth repeating.

The soloists, too many to mention or list all, are knockouts, each and every one. Emma Kirkby, Nancy Argenta, Anthony Rolfe-Johnson are some of the standouts. I have listened to many Baroque choral performances, in person and recorded, where everything was perfect...except for the star soprano. The bass that couldn't execute the runs in the Messiah solos, etc, etc. or sounded like they were chain smokers, dying of emphysema, and gasping for every note. None of that here. Under Gardiner's direction they interpret the material with technical precision and heart wrenching emotion that makes the music enchanting and memorable.

Yes, you do have to go online to get the full liner notes and texts to the works. If that is a critical feature for you, you'll have to buy these separately and pay ten times the price for the material. All in all, the steal and opportunity of the century. Grab this while you can. Highly recommended.

Farmer's Daughter
Farmer's Daughter
Price: $7.00
100 used & new from $0.01

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest, personal, and deliciously grass roots America!, December 14, 2010
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This review is from: Farmer's Daughter (Audio CD)
Crystal Bowersox just established herself as a national treasure. Her voice is no stranger to the American TV-watching public, but on this collection she never sounded better. Clear, upfront, and powerful vocals, she has an acoustic rock sound that's reminiscent of something between folk-rock and honky tonk. She's already been compared to Melissa Etheridge and Janis Joplin, and while those are meant as compliments, it just doesn't come close to the capturing the way this singer-songerwriter can turn a phrase. She's been places most of us haven't, endured backbreaking hardships, and it reflects in each original on the album. While some of the songs are about abuse, struggling to survive, the famous breakup..there's something inspirational and uplifting here I haven't experienced in pop/rock music in years. The two non-Crystal penned songs, Stephen Still's "For What It's Worth," and the Kara DiGuradi/Chad Kroeger ballad "Hold On" are a great fit for the overall feel of the album.

I had previewed the entire album online before it was released, and am listening now again as I write this..for the tenth time. Adam Lambert and many of the other Idol vocalists like Kelly Clarkson, while talented beyond belief, have one or more albums to their credit that are over produced and loaded with songs that were written by someone else. The big difference here is Crystal's musicianship and experience (both life and muscial) is - gladly - in your face and oozing from every measure, note, and beat of every song. And the recording and production is clean, close, and clear.

Folks - there's not a bum song on the whole album. I am 53 years old, and listen to as much jazz, country, and classical as pop and rock. My vote for the best album of the century. Farmer's Daughter is a good investment. Bowersox just took her place with the likes of Tracy Chapman, Joni Mitchell, Alison Krauss and Bonnie Raitt as one of the most important female vocalists in years.

Offered by MEGA Media
Price: $15.36
24 used & new from $5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Grusin the Arranger - At His Best, July 12, 2010
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This review is from: Amparo (Audio CD)
There's Grusin - the Jazz guy. There's Grusin - the Jazz/Soundtrack guy. And there's Grusin - the Soundtrack guy. This is Grusin - the Soundtrack guy, in arranger mode. He's taken some classical themes from different periods, woven them together, and given us a beautiful album of arrangements that almost seem they could be used as various kinds of themes set against movies. His uses of Fleming, Taylor, Bell, and Botti are thoughtful, but the real star of this CD is Grusin's arrangement skills and his own playing. And he and Lee Ritenour have never sounded better together as musical partners. All of it blends together into one sentimental, romantic work of art that is one of my favorite Grusin productions.

And as always, Grusin's piano, with the trademark flourishes, just sparkles.

The recording quality and imaging of this effort is superb. This result is surely from Dave's experience back at GRP records, turning out some of the best early digital audiophile jazz recordings of the 1980 and 90s.

Highly recommend this. Hopefully he'll do much, much more of this!

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