A one-disc, 20-track condensation of Mercury's two-disc, 50-track anthology ANYWAY THE WIND BLOWS, THE VERY BEST OF J.J. CALE is the one J.J. Cale CD to have when you're having only one. Leading off with a new recording of "Call Me the Breeze", featuring Johnny Cash's R&B-playing son John Carter Cash, THE VERY BEST OF J.J. CALE runs through 19 other Cale gems, including the original versions of "After Midnight" and "Cocaine", both made famous by Eric Clapton. The surprise to new listeners used to the more showboating Clapton versions will be how laid-back and seemingly offhand Cale's originals are. That goes for every song on this set. A master of the two-minute blues, Cale plays and sings with remarkable restraint and economy. There's no one like him.
Bach's Coffee Cantata BWV 211 & Peasant Cantata BWV 212 are secular and very light. The librettos are innocuous and sometimes silly; however, there's a playfulness and joy of life which redeem them. Bach's music is often glorious and well brings out the play and joy. Reviews I have read of the Tafelmusik recording have been rather unkind, noting that neither Tafelmusik nor the vocal soloists display sufficient charm and joy for the high-spirited moods of the music. I can't deny that Hogwood's vocalists are better than Tafelmusik's. Suzie LeBlanc can't match Emma Kirby for youth or high-spirits, and tenor Nils Brown pales next to Rogers Covey-Crump. However, Brett Polegato is very good in the baritone role. Tafelmusik does present a darker atmosphere than Hogwood, and I'm sure that the reviews have considered that a negative.
Listeners familiar with any of Masaaki Suzuki's many Bach recordings for BIS are likely to know what to expect from his recording of the Well-Tempered Klavier Book II: immaculate playing, impeccable taste, and immediate sound. Perhaps best-known internationally for his series of recordings of Bach's cantatas and other sacred works, Suzuki started his career as a superlative keyboard player, and as his performance here on the harpsichord demonstrates, he has kept his skills well-honed.