Beside Marty Paich, none of Mel Tormé's collaborators exerted such a large influence on the singer's career as George Shearing, the pianist whose understated, expressive accompaniment contributed to Tormé's resurgence during the early '80s. Their six excellent albums together – two of which, An Evening With… and Top Drawer, earned Grammy awards – proved that classic vocal music had outlasted the long night that was the '70s, and emerged to become a timeless American genre. The pair's work for Concord was usually recorded live in a trio or quartet setting; leaving much space for Shearing solos, Tormé occasionally reprised his big standards ("A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," "Lullaby of Birdland," "The Folks Who Live on the Hill"), but often searched for more obscure material he could make his own, and often succeeded. Tormé and Shearing were restless innovators, taking on a full album of World War II standards, medleys devoted to songs about New York and by Duke Ellington, and a stunningly broad range of material: "Oleo," "Lili Marlene," "How Do You Say Auf Wiedersehen?," and "Dat Dere."
Here are two of Rossini's "secular" cantatas: "The Lament of Harmony on the Death of Orpheus" for tenor, male chorus, and orchestra, written when he was a 16-year-old conservatory student, and the far more substantial "Wedding of Thetis and Peleus," one of many such pieces he composed for special occasions, commissioned for the marriage of an Italian princess to a French prince. Both consist of primarily short, separate, contrasting numbers, most of which would be perfectly at home in the opera house.
Concept albums are nothing new, but it’s the lengths to which Lights takes her fourth album Skin & Earth that sets it apart. After introducing herself as the comic book alter-ego Captain Lights in 2008, the electro-pop artist (real name: Valerie Poxleitner) further colors outside the lines by pairing her next LP, due this fall, with a comic book series from Dynamite Entertainment that brings the music’s narrative to life. “I’ve always found a way to connect comics and music, but never so directly,” she says.