The Rolling Stones - Voodoo Lounge: Well it's there. There's some good music but it's absolutely inessential Stones, unless you're a fan.
The Rolling Stones - Stripped: very, very satisfying, and the first worthy live Stones album since... really, Ya-Ya's. Stripped down arrangements but, more notable, fourteen less-heard Stones songs, mostly from Exile and earlier; whether there's filler or not is irrelevant in this context, but there isn't. The audience noise is, to say the least, suspicious. No matter: this beats the shit out of Flashpoint.
Gil Evans - Out of the Cool: Mostly a very good album. The first side is terrific; aside from the beautiful "Where Flamingos Fly" is "La Nevada", a long rumination on a groove with a "parade of instruments" that doesn't get old. In contrast is "Stratusphunk", which has the same procession of instruments but which centers around the progression spelled out in the first minute (shades of "Blue 7"), lacking "La Nevada's" looser, more satisfying, groove. Also is the mostly unobjectionable "Bilbao Song"; in the middle of an engrossing bass solo a biting brass blast suddenly goes off. It doesn't do anything; it doesn't lead into anything; it's just there. All in all this is a satisfying album, even given the second side's stumbles.
Gil Evans - Into the Hot: I've never heard anything explicitly called "cool" until Out of the Cool; I assume that's cool jazz. This album is indeed very "hot": but is it any better or worse? The highs are higher and the lows are lower. The first two tracks are terrific (a long procession followed by a fiery tour de force) and the last two (a jaunty little tune and an urgent ten-minute groove -- actually the first two tracks in reverse). The middle two are pretty bad, worse than anything on Out of the Cool, and on the whole this isn't as good an album. Still engaging; I remember all the tracks being better than I just described them so it may just be my mood at the moment that makes the other superior.
RELISTEN: Joe Henderson - Our Thing: This has never taken fire with me. I think I've got the problem pinpointed: the Henderson solo in "Pedro's Time" (Pedro la Roca?) and the irritating contrasting, held-note sections of the title track. The playing preceding and following is unimpeachable, Kenny Dorham and Andrew Hill especially; still, this will always be a good but not great album. The compositions are rather weak.
RELISTEN: Johnny Hodges - Side By Side: The word that came to mind listening to this is "family-friendly." No harsh dissonances or knotty harmonies here, just good clean fun, musicians genteely passing the wide-open melodies on to one another. If you like this sort of thing this is the sort of thing you'll like. Duke Ellington gets equal billing but he only appears on four of the nine tracks whereas Hodges plays on all of them; it's really more appropriate to call this a Johnny Hodges record.
Rahsaan Roland Kirk - Blacknuss: Better on subsequent listens than I thought at first. It *seems* as if it goes on forever, but it's only 43 minutes. Most of the tracks are either potentially good but embarrassing ("One Nation", "Old Rugged Cross") or proto-smooth-jazz pop numbers (I wasn't sure what exactly constituted smooth jazz and how it differed from other jazzed-up pop shit over the years but as good a definition as anything is that with smooth jazz, the jazz serves the pop, not vice versa). I'd consider putting the title track on a mix CD. The song could have been a disaster but it's not that bad (same as the album, and the album's not that great).
John McLaughlin/Al DiMeola/Paco de Lucia - Friday Night in San Francisco: The three on stage with nobody else, and with acoustic guitars. This is basically a virtuoso album of interest to guitarists and not many else; the twelve-minute opening track is classical guitar a tre noodling around and going nowhere and generally wearing out their welcome. Not really a jazz album, but where else would you put it? Although a chore to listen to, stretches and even whole tracks are basically okay but this is like the first Schoenberg quartet in that it's destined to be the last disc in your listening session, having ruined your musical appetite.
Lee Morgan - Candy: I have only two albums with pianist Sonny Clark, and I got them both on this latest HAUL (of which this is the last album). This is pretty good, one of those second-tier albums that add nothing essential to your life but which are consistently high-quality, enjoyable, and sure to garner a mix-CD track or two. The fast songs are actually the worst ("C.T.A." -- Chicago Transit Authority? -- in particular does nothing for me) but there are only two of them; the second side opens with the seven-minute sentimental ballad "All the Way" that contends with the title track as the best on here. I want to say that trumpet-plus-rhythm-section is an unusual combination but I probably have several others in my collection.
RELISTEN: Allegri - Miserere; Palestrina - Stabat Mater, Magnificat, Litaniae, two motets (Choir of King's College, Cambridge/Sir David Willcocks): The Miserere is in English translation, which brings out its emotionalism and direct impact; it's primarily the words that this best-known and -loved of all Renaissance works affects the listener. The rest of the disc (Palestrina all) is great but quite a bit different. The Stabat Mater is mostly concerted for two choirs that come together for important moments and you can feel the words through the music, though I listened to this without text in hand (even if you know some Latin the words are hard to pick out). The two brief motets if you're not in the mood are a piss break between the Stabat Mater and the sumptuous eight-voice Magnificat, which from time to time bursts into free polyphony. Finally there's the Litaniae de Beata Virgine Maria which is good, if waaay too long and involved and repetitive for a good album closer. By the time it's over you're ready for the disc to be done. Did I just mention every track on here? I believe I just did.
RELISTEN: Holst - The Planets (Orchestre symphonique de Montreal/Charles Dutoit)
RELISTEN: Holst - The Planets (Berliner Philharmoniker/Herbert von Karajan): Never really listened to this work much, but I have two acclaimed interpretations. The Karajan is a demonstration-quality recording, showcasing its stupidly wide dynamic range from the very beginning (such a dynamic range as to prohibit loudspeaker playback in an apartment); in comparison the Dutoit sounds flat, but the orchestral balance actually is superior. You can overlook the harp and organ parts in the Karajan but with Dutoit it's all before you. But the most striking difference is in the conception of the suite itself: Karajan presents it as a series of discrete pieces whereas Dutoit shows how they fit and flow together. The Dutoit probably is superior, but I'm a sucker for polished, immaculate, technically-impressive recordings so I'll probably listen to the Karajan more.
RELISTEN: Prokofiev - "Classical" Symphony; Bizet - Symphony in C (New York Philharmonic/Leonard Bernstein): It's amazing how thoroughly you can know a work without ever owning a copy of it or even hearing it many times. This work is the Symphony in C ("Eine kleine Nachtmusik" is another). This was a common coupling on LP but not on CD. I made this recording on my old turntable, with my old cartridge and my old preamp. Whenever I buy a piece of equipment I'm always eaten by the thought that it might not be any better than what I already had and that I had just wasted a bunch of money, and put this on to compare. Thankfully this transfer doesn't hold a candle to those I've made with the new stuff. I'll have to go back and recopy my old LPs but having experienced the sound I'll be eager to hear them, months away from doing so as I may be.
Schubert - Piano Sonatas 4, 13 (Alfred Brendel)
Schubert - Piano Sonatas 14, 15, 16 (Alfred Brendel): Schubert's is the last great set of piano sonatas I've yet to get to. Early indications are not good. The outer movements are all -- every one of them -- loud, prolix, maddeningly repetitive, and unmemorable. I'll give the rest a chance but for now these are listening-session-enders.
RELISTEN: Stenhammar - Symphony No. 2; Reverenza; two Swedish songs; Exclesior (Anne Sofie von Otter; Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Paavo Järvi): The symphony is very rewarding. It's kind of (deliberately) old-fashioned, filled with canons and fugues and counterpoint and modality and stuff like that, and from the beginning there's a grandeur like a cathedral. The finale, as long as the two middle movements put together, is terrific, laying down several fugal sections that really feel of a piece. The fill-up isn't as good: there's a movement from a serenade for strings (reverenza) which clashes with the symphonic finale just before it; two songs, and the concert overture Excelsior!; it takes after the Tragic Overture a little in that it's two rousing sections separated by ten minutes of quiet rumination. Not great, but not an anticlimax to end the disc, either. The symphony -- and it's acceptably long -- justifies the purchase.
R Strauss - Four Last Songs; six orchestral songs (Jessye Norman; Gewandhausorchester Leipzig/Kurt Masur)
R Strauss - Four Last Songs; twelve orchestral songs (Elisabeth Schwarzopf; Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/George Szell): Together these discs are by Norman/Schwarzkopf. With the actual Four Last Songs the advantage clearly goes to Norman: hers is much more sensuous than Schwarzkopf's, "September" being a particular highlight (never really noticed it until I got the Norman). I can only assume that Schwarzkopf has a better grasp of the texts and their intricacies, but I don't speak German; she sounds like she's interpreting "Frühling" better than Norman but I can't tell. With the other songs -- composed and orchestrated much earlier -- I'd have to go with Schwarzkopf; Norman's dramatic style just doesn't work as well here. If I had to pick one it would be Schwarzkopf for the twelve songs, and because her Four Last Songs are perfectly serviceable; however you really should buy both. "September" is a great recording.
Vaughan Williams - Symphonies 3 ("Pastoral"), 5 (New Philharmonia & London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult): I've really been into the Third since rediscovering it on vinyl. This performance is a little too dynamic, which can break the mood too much when it swells; I also have the 1953 recording (also with Boult; see below) but have yet to put it on the iPod so I can't compare the two easily. Obviously takes a lot from La Mer; it ends about how it starts, fading away as if it never happened, as if it's a snapshot of eternal Nature, and is rather impressionistic (also the first movement has something of a "waves" quality). Never liked the Debussy work much, though, and I really like this one. Almost ambient, if a work for the concert hall can be considered so.
Telemann - Tafelmusik, Second Production (Austria Tonkuenkuntstler Orchestra, Vienna/Dietfried Bernet)
Telemann - Concerto, Overture, Trio (Collegium Musicum of Paris/Roland Douatte)
Telemann - Suite in A minor (with flute); Mozart - Flute & Harp Concerto (Julius Baker; I Solisti di Zagreb/Antonio Janigro)
Telemann - Concertos for groups of instruments (Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, Munich/Kurt Redel)
Telemann - Solo concertos (Pro Arte Orchestra, Munich/Kurt Redel)
Telemann - Essercizii Musicii (Aulos Ensemble)
Telemann - Flute Sonatas (Jean-Pierre Rampal, Robert Veyron-Lacroix)
Telemann - Trio Sonatas (Vienna Baroque Trio)
Thomson - The River; Luening - Symphonic Interludes; Prelude on a Hymn Tune (American Recording Society Orcehstra/Walter Hendl, Dean Dixon)
Tinctoris - Missa Trium Vocum (Roger Blanchard)
Turina - Piano Music (Alicia de Larrocha)
Varèse - Integrales, Density 21.5, Ionisation, Octandre (New York Wind Ensemble, Juilliard Percussion Orchestra/Frederic Waldman)
Vaughan Williams - A London Symphony (London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult)
Vaughan Williams - A London Symphony (Hallé Orchestra/Sir John Barbirolli)
Vaughan Williams - A Pastoral Symphony (London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult)
Vaughan Williams - A Pastoral Symphony, Tuba Concerto (London Symphony Orchestra/André Previn)
Vaughan Williams - Symphony No. 4 (London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult)
Vaughan Williams - Symphony No. 4, Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 (New Philharmonia Orchestra/Adrian Boult)
Vaughan Williams - Sinfonia Antartica (Norma Burrowes; London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir/Sir Adrian Boult)
Vaughan Williams - Symphony No. 8; Elgar - Enigma Variations (Hallé Orchestra/Sir John Barbirolli)
Vaughan Williams - Symphony No. 9 (London Philharmonc Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult)
Vaughan Williams - Tallis Fantasia; Dives and Lazarus; Flos Campi; "Greensleeves" Fantasia (Utah Symphony Orchestra/Maurice Abravanel)
Vaughan Williams - Fantasia on "Greensleeves", Tallis Fantasia, English Folk Song Suite; Coates - London Suite (Morton Gould and His Orchestra)
Vaughan Williams - Mass in G minor; Britten - A Ceremony of Carols (Choristers of Canterbury Cathedral/Dr. Sidney Campbell)
H.G. Wells - The Time Machine: Well this was a downer. I hadn't read it in probably 15-20 years and remembered only loosely so the themes of decadence and decay, devolving through evolution, came as something of a surprise. There are some rather dubious assumptions (that Man would be so close to the Eloi/Morlocks 800,000 years in the future while we evolved from proto-humans only 100kya; that there would still be an elaborate, artificial underworld for the Morlocks to evolve hundreds of thousands of years in the future; that the matches in the museum would have survived, et cetera) but hey, it's science fiction. That the Eloi were so disposable -- epitomized in Weena's death, cast off in a paragraph of two never to be mentioned again -- was disturbing. It's meant to be. I need to read The War of the Worlds; I've never read it, seen any of the movies; and the best I know of it is the Jeff Wayne album.
J.S. Le Fanu - In a Glass Darkly: As it turns out I had already read two of these: "Camilla" and "The Familiar," a lightly-edited version of "The Watcher" from Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery. Best is "The Room in the Dragon Volant" (incidentally the only one with no supernatural elements) which was a joy to read for the first time, though it would take an implausible, 9/11-Truth-level conspiracy for all of it to come about. I have the Oxford World's Classics edition, without which reading "Judge Harbottle" would be basically impossible.