Rachmaninov's opus 1, his first piano concerto, deserves to be heard more often. The opening bars have that heroic sound that raises the hair on the back of the neck. Indeed those first moments rank alongside those of the Grieg and Tchaikovsky piano concertos for their ability to thrill. Ashkenazy's breathtaking playing on a superb piano is matched by that of the Concertgebouw Orchestra under Haitink's direction.
This CD, in places, just cranks it up and spits out a wall of undiluted rock and roll. Straight ahead full speed ahead and tell everything to get out of our way. "Gypsy Blood," and "Dancin' on Top of the World," are two cuts that really stand out in this vein. A couple of the tracks just seem to be languishing in a daze as if they've suffered a concussion, and can't decide which way to go. This CD is produced by Dave Edmunds, and I like a lot of his work because when it hits, it hits hard. However, when it misses it leaves you scratching your head wondering. The band is tight, just sometimes lacking that guiding hand. The hard-charging "Courage" alone makes this a worthwhile disc, and there is more than just that track to pick the listener up. (Bob Gottlieb, AMG)