Paul McCartney - Run Devil Run: A companion piece (a decade later) to Снова в СССР (a disc of classic rock 'n' roll). I don't know why, but I prefer this one: the production on the first album really wasn't that '80s and Devil isn't particularly '90s, but this one's got the sort of nutsy excess that John Lennon's Rock & Roll attempted. Also the selections are better. It's a nice use of 40 minutes -- maybe a bit long for what it is, but about the right length -- that I'll never listen to again.
Paul McCartney - Driving Rain: I thought I was being heterodox again when I really liked this before checking a few reviews and realizing I'm back in the mainstream. Yay! Many, many great melodies, and it doesn't scream 2001 (for the most part; notably this album is loudness-warred to hell). "Spinning on an Axis" is the closest thing to a shitty track here, pseudo-rap and all. I thought "Rinse the Raindrops" was so long because it was hiding a bonus track five silent minutes after the track ends, but it turns out to actually be ten minutes long, and the length is more or less justified! "From a Lover to a Friend" is either beautiful or corny as hell; I'm a sap for a great tune and that track has one, really as do all of them. "Freedom" is a bonus track but I don't think I had ever heard it; when I see the name I think George Michael (was never under the impression that this song was that). Good album, and it's supposed to only get better from here.
Paul McCartney - Back in the US: Yeah.
Ultravox - Systems of Romance: Per Oleg's recommendation. I've come to enjoy this record on its own terms but I admit it's more influential-to than superior-to than the new wave and synth-pop that followed it. I don't think I'm going to get much more out of it from more than the occasional relisten. For Christmas my record-store buddy is going to buy me a sandwich and I'll lend him some of my LPs, and I've decided I'll lend him this one since I turned him on to the albums inspired by this; he confided to me that he's having severe tracking problems on his turntable and upon inquiry he hasn't changed his stylus in four years. He probably doesn't put nearly as much stress on his turntable -- a pretty nice one, a mid-range Audio-Technica -- as I do but damn. He'll have to get that fixed before I entrust him with anything. I'm rambling.
Johnny Griffin - A Blowin' Session: Featuring Hank Mobley and John Coltrane; I was a bit concerned about keeping the three tenors straight but it's easy: Coltrane is unmistakable and I'm familiar enough with Hank Mobley's playing to tell the other two apart. Four long -- blowin' session, after all -- tracks: two from Jerome Kern and two Parkeresque originals. Lee Morgan is just fine and in fact like half of the players on this one were Jazz Messengers at some point.
Charlie Parker - In Sweden 1950: The sound on this is rough. For at least the first half of the disc -- before I stopped noticing sound quality altogether -- the bass is actually the most distinct member of the rhythm section; the drums and the pianist's left hand are all but inaudible. Nevertheless Parker and often the trumpet player (some no-name Swede -- well, they're all no-name Swedes except Bird) play quite well, and as the horns are clear in the mix it's at least listenable. Still wouldn't recommend it, but it's always nice to hear Parker stretch out, freed from the three-minute restriction from recording.
Sun Ra - Angels and Demons at Play: A bit too short at 24 minutes (actually my shortest album period, not counting ten-inch LPs: or was this one?) but not a note is out of place. The Sun Ra albums I like take you somewhere and this does that; I assume that the first four tracks (always hard to say "first side" in cases like these) represent the angels and the latter four represent the devil's music. It's all good.
Sun Ra - The Nubians of Plutonia: The first three tracks are great but the second side is percussion-heavy and features a few drum solos: granted, they can be interesting and some feature tuned drums so they can play ostinati and the like, but in the end it's still three or four of a lot of booming and not much melody. Three of the four tracks are named after geographical regions (taking "Aiethopia" as "Aethiopia" plus whatever Watusa is) so maybe it's a drummin'-round-the-world? However it is the first three tracks are good and the rest is at best interesting.
McCoy Tyner - Expansions: I could be overrating this since it's the first/only jazz LP I have on vinyl -- in fact, it kicked off my vinyl-collecting revival -- but I enjoy it a good deal. "Song of Happiness" is a bit rambling and could stand to lose a minute or two. I've come to realize that Ron Carter really isn't a very good cellist; his tone is ugly and his phrasing awkward, but hey, cello in jazz is a rara avis and it's enjoyable (very much so in the last track). I have Carter on cello in Where? and Out There (hey, that forms a question and answer) as well, maybe somewhere else. Wayne Shorter steals the show, and Tyner is no slouch; the large number of musicians doesn't drag down the album.
Monteverdi - Eighth Book of Madrigals (selections) (Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini): A holdover from last what's spinning, but what a holdout! Great ####ing disc. Same here as for Flaming Pie: it's enjoyable even when, and perhaps because, the tracks don't stick in your head. It's like hearing half-to-two-thirds of it new with every listen. I have several other Monteverdi CDs and LPs I'll need to get to.
Prokofiev - Symphony No. 5; Scythian Suite; "Love for Three Oranges" suite (Minneapolis Symphony/Antal Dorati): Considering I like just about everything I've heard from Prokofiev, and that his music is some of the most engaging of the 20th century, it's odd that I have as little from him as I do. The symphony is his most popular and it's overflowing with great tunes and manages to be fresh besides; the "Three Oranges" suite is also good, and the Scythian Suite is... well, kind of there, I guess. For my money the Mercury Living Presence series -- both mono and stereo -- are the best-sounding records of the '50s; some of their mono recordings IMO beat RCA Victor's contemporaneous Living Stereo series, and it's a shame there weren't more of them in that series.
The Big Lebowski: On first watching I was pretty disappointed, especially given its reputation; the plot was all ####ing over the place and I found John Goodman obnoxious. The second time -- it's only a 24-hour rental, goddammit -- was more satisfying: it's as if the beginning assumes knowledge of later events, and you can keep separate the several threads of the story and more or less follow it from beginning to end and let yourself enjoy the movie. It was funny -- a lot of which came out in the second viewing -- but it's just not one of the greatest comedies of all time ever. Donny is awesome, as are all of his interactions with Goodman. I had a high school classmate who I thought was constantly affecting Tommy Chong, but watching this I realize that he could have been channelling the Dude (or some combination of the two). (Holy Miller product placement! I had totally forgotten about Slice soda, too.)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture: What happened between 1969 and 1979? 2001, I guess; this movie tries hard to emulate it, down to the silly orchestral prelude, and although the visuals and music are terrific the last half-hour or so is a bit of a slog. I had seen this movie once, as a kid, and remembered only the big twist; in a way I wish I hadn't seen it until now because without that twist the movie just becomes a series of gorgeous shots and plodding plot. (McCoy in particular had no reason to exist.) Having matured a lot and having seen 2001 I enjoyed the film a lot more than I did as a kid but sheesh, you couldn't get any further away from TOS in... just about any metric possible. I'm hoping to get to Generations by the time I'm done with TNG (currently a few episodes into the seventh season, slowly proceeding). (Nitpick: for its narrowly avoiding destroying the entire known galaxy this incident was never spoken of again.)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: This was my second-favorite of the movies after the fourth when I was young, but I remembered little about it. Perhaps it saved the Star Trek franchise? TNG wouldn't be thought of for another few years and the first Trek film was a dud. Anyway it's a complete turnaround from TMP, and for the better. Odd choice of a plot, to elaborate on a single episode of a television series that wrapped over a decade earlier while many moviegoers wouldn't have been in a market with reruns. It seems pretty much dumb luck that the Enterprise's viewer worked better in the nebula than the Reliant's, but perhaps that was the point (Kobiyashi Maru and all). My dad used to go on about how "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" was communist propaganda. (Kirstie Alley was kind of cute once -- it's a shame what followed.)
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: This is a stupid, stupid movie and you just have to put its many absurdities out of mind -- my favorite is that the Klingon ship has shrunk to about a hundredth of its size when it lands on Vulcan -- to enjoy it. Really just to tie up any untenable ends from the last one. The Enterprise is destroyed but it was going to be decommissioned anyway and be replace by an identical-looking starship. Maybe that was some ad-hoc plot point as with so much of this movie. I saw all the Trek movies as a kid and the only thing at all I remember about this one was "I have had enough of you!" Still fairly entertaining, I guess. The new Saavik is as bad an actress as any of the TNG guest stars. The ending was very long and boring. The film as a whole feels like it had a much lower budget than Khan. If this is so I can't see why.
I mostly don't mention these but I've gotten to Bartók in my LP digitization and I've really been digging him. I dug him first time through but I was more concerned with going through my collection as quickly as possible without stopping to savor any of it. Definitely be going to that section next record-store run.
Bartók - Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta; Hindemith - Symphony "Mathis der Maler" (Berlin Philharmonic/Karajan '61)
Bartók - Concerto for 2 pianos and percussion; Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta (Gold & Fizdale (piano duo), New York Philharmonic/Leonard Bernstein '66)
Bartók - Piano Concerto No. 2; Sonata for 2 pianos and percussion (György Sändor; Vienna Symphony/Michael Gielen '67) (the latter works better as a sonata)
Bartók - Concerto for Orchestra (Chicago Symphony/Fritz Reiner '56)
Bartók - Concerto for Orchestra (Berlin Philharmonic/Herbert von Karjan '74)
Bartók - The Miraculous Mandarin, Wooden Prince suites (Symphony Orchestra of the Southwest German Radio, Baden-Baden/Rolf Reinhardt '61)
Bartók - Piano works: Three Studies; "Out of Doors"; Suite; Sonata (Noël Lee '67)
Bartók - Violin Concerto No. 2 (Isaac Stern; New York Philharmonic/Leonard Bernstein '58)
Bartók - Violin Concerto No. 2; Stravinsky - Concerto in D (Joseph Silverstein; Boston Symphony/Erich Leinsdorf '65)
Bartók - String Quartets (complete) (Juilliard Quartet '65)
Bartók - String Quartets (complete) (Emerson String Quartet '88) (on CD, very different from the Juilliards')
Roma Aeterna: Started on the penultimate chapter, selections from Cicero's Republic (not to be confused with Plato's). I've heard that his philosophical works are much harder than his speeches (which basically are just eloquently saying the same thing over and over; it seems he liked to hear himself talk) and this certainly bears it out. Words are both more general and more finely-shaded than in the other literature in this book and to figure out the exact meaning you sometimes have to look up every other word, including many you think you know, and try to figure out under what permutation it works. Still not doing terribly.
Plato - Apology: Going slowly but making progress, and it's sinking in more.