Supergrass makes music so effervescent and so effortlessly joyous that it's easy to take them and their skills for granted. Surely that was the case around the release of their third album, 1999's eponymous effort, which in its labored fun and weary ballads illustrated just how much hard work it was to craft records as brilliant as I Should Coco and In It for the Money. It suggested the group might have burned too bright and flamed out, but, happily, 2002's Life on Other Planets is a smashing return to form, an album giddy with the sheer pleasure of making music.
Waters' The Real Folk Blues and More Real Folk Blues, combined here onto one CD, were not exactly random collections of tracks – the quality was too consistently high for them to just have been picked out of a hat. Still, it was a pretty arbitrary grouping of items that he recorded between 1947 and 1964. In fact, they hail from throughout his whole stint at Chess, virtually; at the time these albums were first issued, though, all of the material on More Real Folk Blues was from the late '40s and early '50s. They didn't exactly concentrate on his most well-known songs, but they didn't entirely neglect them either, including "Mannish Boy," "Walking Thru the Park," "The Same Thing," "Rollin' & Tumblin' Part One," "She's Alright," and "Honey Bee," amongst somewhat more obscure selections. So ultimately, this disc's usefulness depends on your fussiness as a collector – if it's the only Waters you ever pick up, you'll still have a good idea of his greatness, and if you don't mind getting some tracks you might already have on more avowedly best-of sets, you'll probably hear some stuff you don't already have in your collection.
Since the repertoire for cello octet is small and consists almost entirely of arrangements and new works, expect Four Winds, Conjunto Ibérico's 2002 release, to be somewhat eccentric and experimental. Leader Elias Arizcuren and his virtuoso cellists seek a happy medium between the intimacy and clarity of a much smaller chamber group, and the richness and power of a full string orchestra; but such a balance is hard to sustain, and their shifting back and forth feels unsteady. In Terry Riley's Requiem for Adam, the ensemble is pulled between extremes of symphonic density and chamber transparency, and this heavy arrangement seems only to distort the dynamics and textures of the original version for string quartet.
This is an uncompromising retrospective by Gilberto Gil of his career and successes. It may be superfluous for those who already have these hits in previous cult renditions (not the post-'80s fancy versions), but for those who don't, this album stands as a good choice. In simple, predominantly acoustic renditions interspersed with some spoken testimonials, Gil delivers "Eu Vim da Bahia," "Procissão," "Domingo No Parque," "Soy Loco Por Ti America," and "Mar de Copacabana." The dance tracks "Filhos de Gandi" and "Palco" are representative of his frenetic, consumerist phase. He also plays his blue for his mother, "Mamma," and a version of Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You."
For those fans still incapable (or unwilling) to accept Deep Purple guitar legend Ritchie Blackmore's defection from heavy metal glory into the acoustic renaissance music of Blackmore's Night, perhaps this double live album will finally drive the reality home. Recorded in May 2002, Past Times with Good Company (named after a traditional folk song written by none other than King Henry VIII) finds the obdurate guitarist and his conversely charming sparring partner and wife, vocalist Candice Night, performing before a few hundred friends in the Netherlands…
Between 1961 and 1986, Herbert von Karajan made three recordings of the Mozart Requiem for Deutsche Grammophon, with little change in his conception of the piece over the years. This recording, from 1975, is, on balance, the best of them. The approach is Romantic, broad, and sustained, marked by a thoroughly homogenized blend of chorus and orchestra, a remarkable richness of tone, striking power, and an almost marmoreal polish. Karajan viewed the Requiem as idealized church music rather than a confessional statement awash in operatic expressiveness. In this account, the orchestra is paramount, followed in importance by the chorus, then the soloists. Not surprisingly, the singing of the solo quartet sounds somewhat reined-in, especially considering these singers' pedigrees. By contrast, the Vienna Singverein, always Karajan's favorite chorus, sings with a huge dynamic range and great intensity, though with an emotional detachment nonetheless. Perfection, if not passion or poignancy, is the watchword. The Berlin orchestra plays majestically, and the sound is pleasingly vivid.