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27 used & new from $0.76

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Edgy, yet accessible., December 2, 2006
This review is from: Viaticum (Audio CD)
The Esbjörn Svensson Trio, or EST for short, are simply the hottest European jazz outfit in the world right now. Their brand of highly modernistic instrumental compositions have won plaudits from the likes of Pat Metheny and Jamie Cullum, while critical acclaim has been unrelenting over their 13-year history - auspiciously they became the very first European jazz outfit to grace the front cover of American jazz bible Downbeat.

While maintaining a credible and contemporary edge to their improvisation, the band manage to create instantly accessible and beautiful themes in their music and this is the key to their continued popularity both with audiences and critics alike.

'Viaticum' is set for a similar reception, it's an album that grabs you straight from the off but at the same time demands repeated listening to make sure you catch all the detail.

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379 of 391 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beatles' extravaganza is a magical mystery tour..., November 21, 2006
This review is from: Love (Audio CD)
Of all the possible posthumous incarnations for the Beatles, here's one of the most unlikely - as soundtrack to a Las Vegas circus.

It isn't any old circus, admittedly, but Canada's arty, super-acrobatic Cirque du Soleil, whose current Las Vegas show, "Love", is modelled on the story of the Beatles and characters from their songs: "Eleanor Rigby", "Sergeant Pepper" et al.

More importantly, "Love-the-show" - the result of George Harrison's friendship with Cirque founder Guy Laliberte - involved producer George Martin disinterring the group's master tapes from the Abbey Road vault for he and his son Giles to remix and remodel.

The results blast "Love" audiences from a state-of-the-art surround-sound system that includes speakers in individuual seats.

And the first thing "Love-the-album" does, at least in its DVD surround-sound format, is to blow you away with sheer sonic wizardry. Set to a noisy dawn chorus, complete with fluttering wings, the three-part vocal harmonies of 'Because' arrive with the clarity of an ice blue sky. The chugging introduction to 'Get Back' hurtles out of the mix like a train. The pumping fairground organs of 'Mr Kite' reek of steam and sawdust. Hearing many of the familiar tracks is like viewing an old masterpiece after cleaning: the light is brighter, the shadows deeper. Here, the trebles tingle while the bass end booms.

Some of this is painstaking technical restoration. After the Beatles swapped touring for the studio, they and Martin became experts at squeezing a quart of sound into a pint pot, extending the limits of four- and eight-track recordings by 'bouncing down' tracks.

Today's technology has let the Martins reverse the process, giving instruments and voices more autonomy. Ever notice the pizzicato violins on the middle 8 of 'Something'? You will now.

The ambitions of "Love" go beyond renovation, however. Its 26 tracks are set in an ambient flow of sound collages distilled from hours of Beatles tapes and containing fragments and echoes of 130 songs in all. Frequently the effect is ghostly, as the stalking strings of 'Glass Onion' and a snatch of 'Nowhere Man' drift like ectoplasm down a corridor. 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' - one of the few numbers from the moptop days - surfaces from a scratchy haze of screaming.

The most ambitious songs emerge most improved. There is not, after all, much to be done with the rock'n'roll retro of 'Lady Madonna', whereas 'Strawberry Fields' and 'I am the Walrus' sound more than ever like avant-garde masterpieces. Harrison's 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' (the slower version from Anthology 3) is given a sumptuous string setting by Sir George.

Throughout, the McCartney/Starr rhythm section has never sounded so heavy, or the group's vocal harmonies so sharp and affecting.

"Love" vindicates the Beatles' status as master musicians and conceptualists. Not only for the spirit of optimism they embodied but artistically, they remain the act to beat. On this evidence, no one else comes close.

My favourite track is 'Here Comes the Sun/The Inner Light'.

Neil Spencer
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 18, 2016 8:01 PM PDT

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Showing what he feels inside, playing from the heart., November 21, 2006
This review is from: True (Audio CD)
Focusing on performance, improvisation and really playing from the heart & soul, and fueled by the metropolitan sounds and influences of his hometown of Chicago, the album is a mix of R&B, contemporary jazz, pop and dance music.

A talented cast of musicians helped Cole bring "True to life", including Jeff Golub, Steve Rodby, David Mann, Lenny Castro, Khari Parker and Chicago jazz specialists Ricky Peterson, Dave Hiltebran, and Mike Logan.

Cole plays five different instruments on the CD, coming off sassy while walking with the bass on "Coté Seine", funky-mellow on "Curtis" and very urban on the cross-tempo "Metro".

Cole's sax style melds melodies well with the guitar work of Golub, Michael Thompson, Bernd Schoehart and a bit of acoustic stroking from otherwise bass-man Hiltebran and the other side-men. "Something About You" is another fast paced piece with bunches of horns and some good solo work from Cole.

Through his four previous albums, Cole has established himself as a solid contemporary jazz artist.

His consistency as a songwriter and producer has netted him four #1 radio hits and ten Top 5 singles since his 1998 debut.

Even if this Chicago-based saxman has always been one of the most grittily soulful of today's top smooth jazz artists, there's always been the sneaking suspicion on his previous four release that he'd been holding out somewhat -- covering his truest funk-jazz with way too much slick pop sheen. If the title of this superior collection is indicative of the true persona that's here to stay, then genre fans will be in for a powerful adventure. There are none of those right-in-your-face catchy/fluffy pop hooks, at least not right away; a potent live ensemble backs the jumpy, David Sanborn-esque opener "Bounce," which builds to a bluesy jam with wilder playing than usual. "Cote Seine" matches the hot modern chill vibe with some of Steve Cole's most low-key, cool playing ever recorded. Could it be he finally learned that less is more? He finally gets to his trademark horn texturing on "Curtis," but does so in the dreamy, retro-soul spirit of his hometown legend Curtis Mayfield. "Just a Natural Thang" starts with a strong pop hook, but its trappings are loose and bluesy rather than superproduced. Even on the more overtly commercial tracks like the disco-meets-Memphis-driven "Metro," Cole captures the magic of his fiery live performance. "Take Me" reminds us of the lighthearted singer/songwriter vibe of his previous CD Spin -- likeable but a lot less engaging despite a singalong hook. Most artists in smooth jazz achieve success with a certain style and formula and stick with it, lest they alienate radio programmers and fans. Cole has scored many hits while on the road to finding his true voice, and with any luck, he'll stay right there as the perfect antidote to his less imaginative contemporaries

Back to Mine
Back to Mine
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful late-night mixtape., November 20, 2006
This review is from: Back to Mine (Audio CD)
As one might expect from a band as eclectic as Mercury Rev, their late-night mixtape compilation offers a selection of style and genres, incorporating legends (Billie Holiday, George Jones, Nico, Pharoah Sanders and Randy Newman) alongside more outré talents. What's also no surprise, given the layered approach of their early albums, is the elegant congruence of many of the segues: the opening link from Bowie's "A New Career in a New Town" to Johan Johannsson's "Hotel Borg", for instance, is all about shared intent and melodic echoes, while the move from John Cale's "Days of Steam" to Andrew Bird's "Opposite Day" involves the subtlest of shifts from viola to violin. The most sustained progress, however, is from the band's "Cecilia's Lunar Exposé", a slice of Saucerful Of Secrets-era Floydism, through the Neu!-style groove of Spacemen 3's "Big City", to the erotic trance-scape of Suicide's "Dream Baby Dream", a beautifully modulated arc for the more ambitious musical explorers, with childlike comforts furnished by "Seasons In the Sun" and "When You Wish Upon A Star".

Highlights :'Days Of Steam', 'Big City', 'Dream Baby Dream', 'Cecilia's Lunar Exposé'

Hands On
Hands On
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A contemporary celebration of love, life and rhythm., November 19, 2006
This review is from: Hands On (Audio CD)
Throughout his three decade career, pianist/keyboardist Bobby Lyle has developed an international reputation not only for his dazzling piano technique, but also for his versatility and ability to constantly reinvent himself, both as a leader, sideman and even as music director for superstars Al Jarreau and Anita Baker.

With "Hands On", Lyle adds another significant title to his already impressive discography.

"A contemporary celebration of love, life and rhythm" is how Bobby Lyle describes his Heads Up debut. "Within the twelve songs there are expressions of all of those things. I wanted the overall tone of the record to be funky and upbeat, but with romantic interludes".

"Hands On" - Lyle's 15 th album overall - is a unique blend of contemporary jazz classics and acoustic piano compositions that crosses the boundaries between straight-ahead and contemporary jazz. A brilliant showcase for this gifted songwriter/producer/arranger's unique talents, Hands On features an array of timeless tracks containing an entire world of emotion.

Lyle kicks off with "Passion Drive", one of nine original tracks to spotlight his amazing ability to combine acoustic piano sophistication with addictive beats. The thick and insistent groove on the title track draws from both modern and old-school music. Indeed, Lyle's R&B background is apparent on such tasty cuts as the Maurice White/Al McKay classic "Best of My Love" and Michael McDonald's "Minute By Minute". For longtime Lyle fans, tracks like the bright and bouncy "Fancy Pants", the quietly elegant jazz standard "Poinciana" and the graceful "Spirit" perfectly summarize the multi-faceted keyboardist's range and influences.

In addition to Lyle, "Hands On" features special guest Peabo Bryson, who co-wrote and sings on the track, "Lost In Our Love". "Peabo and I are good friends", says Lyle. "I've always admired his work and he's a first class crooner. He's so professional and easy to work with. He always delivers".

Rounding out the project are guitarists Todd Parsnow, John Calderon and Brennen Nase, bassists Martin Walters, Larry Kimpel, Keith Vivens and John Adams, saxophonists Wayne DeLano, Dave Caseras and Joe Vincelli, trumpeter Larry Spencer, trombonist Keith Adkins, drummer Keith Banks, percussionist Jorge Ginorio, and backing vocalists Dailyn Valdez, Melanie Covington and Derrick McCampbell.

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56 used & new from $0.01

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Distinctive voyage., November 13, 2006
This review is from: Travesias (Audio CD)
Susana Baca came to international prominence doing her own thing and in so doing became synonymous with the Afro-Peruvian sound that is now recognised the world over.

"Travesias" sees her gently exploring other directions in music and indulging herself with some inspired collaborations.

With songs chosen from Italy, Spain, Brazil, Chile and Haiti to name a few, Susana Baca has nevertheless insisted on a personal connection with each and every song.

It is a cliché to say that lesser musicians 'borrow' songs but great ones 'steal' them, and that is what happens here.

"Merci bon dieu" illustrates this perfectly. The song is in fact originally from Haiti but sung by Susana Baca with her full tone, nimble pacing and taste for simple accompaniment, this could easily be from the Afro-Peruvian cannon she weaves around her.

Susana Baca is a self-confessed lefty and so it is to be expected that she is drawn ineluctably to the poetry of Pablo Neruda, from whose verse she creates the anthemic "Guillermina". The subject matter being the passing of time for a woman seems to have particular resonance for the singer.

And from the same country, Chile, Anti-fascist activist Violeta Parra's "Una copla me ha cantado" is chosen. It's a delicate song from a woman of great stength.

She makes something beautiful with the world's favourite politician Gilberto Gil on the gently funky "Estrela" -- a duet of exquisite longing and delicacy.

Landing back in Peru for the traditional Christmas tune "Palomita ingrata". An ancient song forever linked to the practice of slave owners showing off their human possessions, given a fresh poignancy by Baca's attentions.

Lastly, in case English speakers were feeling left out by this uncharacteristically internationalist mode from Susana Baca, there is a surprise cover of Damien Rice's "Volcano". Baca is drawn to the painful love described in the song and she has the perfect voice to amplify that. As a footnote, she heard the song on a compilation of songs a friend made for her, proving once again that home-taping and its modern versions are not killing music after all.

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