Brass Construction continued to avoid the scrap heap, turning out another better-than-expected album. There were two more good singles in "Walkin' the Line" and "We Can Work It Out," and the production, arrangements, instrumental support, and vocals were all more inspired than they had been in the past.
Donovan Leitch's instantly recognizable vibrato may not appear until track six, but the casual "Hurdy Gurdy Man" fan has no business picking up this four-disc/sixty-song collection of the Scottish troubadour's four decades of whimsical pop confections and beatnik balladry. Sony's Try for the Sun: The Journey of Donovan includes a previously unreleased documentary from 1970, a lovely book that chronicles the singer/songwriter's storied career, complete with quotes of praise from current hipster bards like Devendra Banhart and the Polyphonic Spree's Tim DeLaughter, and 15 B-sides, rare demos, and live recordings, all housed in the finest faux-purple velvet box one could imagine.
Badfinger were a British rock band that, in their most successful lineup, consisted of Pete Ham, Mike Gibbins, Tom Evans, and Joey Molland. The band evolved from an earlier group called The Iveys that was formed in 1961 by Ham, Ron Griffiths and David "Dai" Jenkins in Swansea, Wales. The Iveys were the first group signed by the Beatles' Apple label in 1968…
If the glacial dynamics of previous metal and hardcore abstractions Celestial and Oceanic didn't prove that Isis was a heavy band in every sense, then Panopticon should do the trick. The title comes from 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham's prison design, which was later referenced by Michael Foucault in the 20th century. The idea is that a centrally placed guard or watcher can keep track of a large number of prisoners, and it excited Bentham and concerned Foucault. Heavy stuff for a metal band, huh? Both are quoted in the liner notes, bookended by aerial industrial photos laying out society's open sprawl…
Here we have the first complete recording of Gluck's charming one-act serenata teatrale for chamber orchestra and four treble voices, composed for the marriage of Hapsburg Archduke Joseph in January 1765. The Archduke's first wife had died. This time he was to marry the Bavarian princess, Maria Josepha. For this performance of the new Gluck work, four of the Archduke's daughters from his first marriage who were all accomplished musicians, sang roles in the new work. The new bridegroom's younger brother Leopold, conducted. That the four Archduchesses could successfully negotiate the florid soprano roles Gluck fashioned for them, is most impressive. One presumes that the youngest daughter, Marie Antoinette, was not so gifted. The serenata teatrale was presented as a surprise to the newly weds at Schonbrunn Castle in Vienna in the presence of the rest of the Hapsburg court. It was deemed such a success, that on the spot, Gluck was asked to compose another opera. The result was La Corona. The work was planned for November, but because the Emperor died suddenly, the work was not performed.
Thomas Rajna completed his cycle of Granados’s solo piano music within a year – 1976. As if to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of their original appearance on CRD LPs Brilliant Classics has returned the cycle to the market-place. It’s in one slim box containing six nicely filled CDs and with extensive notes from Bryce Morrison. Nothing could be finer. Rajna was an expert advocate for Granados’s music and though recordings since have come – and gone – his have maintained an honoured place in the memory; and now, thankfully, in the disc drawer. And this is all the more so as so few are performed in public with any great conviction, beyond the obvious Goyescas and maybe Escenas Poeticas and Escenas Romanticas.
For their first album in five years, the Seattle quartet continues in the instrumental jazz/electronica/funk/dub/experimental vein established on its existing catalog. Moody and eclectic but never frigid, the music succeeds by combining its diverse influences in warm, organic ways. Each track is a multi-layered microcosm of movement, and although there are plenty of danceable parts – along with some dancefloor-clearing ones – the album is best appreciated with headphones where all the intricacies of the tempo changes and especially the dynamic percussion can be picked out amongst the clatter. Even elements of prog – especially early King Crimson on the pounding "Punk Rock Guilt" – shapeshift into jazz and free form then back again with deceptive ease.