This splendid seven-disc set marks Alicia de Larrocha's 2003 retirement from the concert stage after an extraordinary career spanning more than seven decades. To many listeners, she is a peerless performer of Iberian (particularly Spanish and Catalan) music. Indeed, as her rendition of Manuel de Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain demonstrates, this Catalan pianist brilliantly captures the indefinable magic and charm of Iberian music, revealing a timeless richness and depth that lesser artists, conforming to ideas of national style, often miss. It would be a mistake, however, to define de Larrocha as an "Iberian specialist." As this set demonstrates, her rich repertoire encompasses various traditions and a timespan from the late Baroque to the present, from Bach to Xavier Montsalvatge (1912-2002).
Alicia Keys' debut album, Songs in A Minor, made a significant impact upon its release in the summer of 2001, catapulting the young singer/songwriter to the front of the neo-soul pack. Critics and audiences were captivated by a 19-year-old singer whose taste and influences ran back further than her years, encompassing everything from Prince to smooth '70s soul, even a little Billie Holiday. In retrospect, it was the idea of Alicia Keys that was as attractive as the record, since soul fans were hungering for a singer/songwriter who seemed part of the tradition without being as spacy as Macy Gray or as hippie mystic as Erykah Badu while being more reliable than Lauryn Hill. Keys was all that, and she had style to spare – elegant, sexy style accentuated by how she never oversang, giving the music a richer feel. It was rich enough to compensate for some thinness in the writing – though it was a big hit, "Fallin'" doesn't have much body to it – which is a testament to Keys' skills as a musician.
Alicia Bridges scored big in 1978 with "I Love the Nightlife (Disco 'Round)," a celebratory disco single that reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100. It was her biggest moment in music and made her self-titled debut, released on Polydor, a definite part of the feel-good disco scene of the late '70s. The blues-tinged "Diamond in the Rough" and "Broken Woman" were mildly successful, but Bridges never regained her disco reign. She released one more album for Polydor, 1979's Play It as It Lays, then settled into a series of independent recordings and compilations, such as 1984's Hocus Pocus, 2007's Say It Sister and 2008's FauxDiva XX – that explored a wider range of inspirations. "I Love the Nightlife" has been included on dozens of disco compilations, including the soundtrack for The Last Days of Disco (which also features an update from Masters at Work's Nuyorican Soul project.
First aired ten days prior to the release of Girl on Fire, Alicia Keys' VH1 Storytellers program featured six songs. While this set expands the set to 11 songs, it does not present the full performance. Heavy editing was involved; certain portions of Keys' dialogue re hacked up, crowd noise is unnaturally lowered and raised in volume, and there is little evident effort to make the songs flow. Keys' first words here, the lead-in to "No One," are "We were at the end of the album, and it was finished, and…" – so it provokes the feeling of walking into the venue as the gig is in progress. Furthermore, much of her intro to the following "Brand New Me" was cut. For all its choppiness, VH1 Storytellers is enjoyably off-the-cuff…
Alicia Keys isn't interested in the accoutrements that seem to mark the success of today's stars such as a vanity clothing line, a perfume and a reality show.
However, the multi-talented singer/songwriter is ready to delve into acting. Not that the nine-time Grammy winner has turned her back on music.
This Barcelona-born pianist won acclaim for her Mozart performances, but it was her interpretations of the great Spanish composers that made her a star. That's the focus of this set; all the recordings of solo Spanish piano music she made for the Spanish company Hispavox in the '50s and '60s and a live 1971 recording with soprano Victoria De Los Angeles join a Montsalvatge concerto she played in '92. In addition to a wealth of Granados ( Danza Lenta; Allegro De Concierto; Valses Poeticos Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 & 7 ) and Albeniz ( Almeria; Triana; El Polo; Lavapies; Malaga; Jerez; Azulejos; Tango; Zaragoza ), she plays Soler ( Sonata en Re Menor; Sonata en Fa Mayor ), De Falla ( Piezas Espa+Ýola; Fantasia Betica ), Turina ( Danzas Fantasticas I, II & III ) and more!