Alice Cooper - Muscle of Love: If this were better received (judging from reviews), ceteris paribus, I would think it's a minor classic. As it is it's stuck on "worst Cooper band album (post-Easy-Action) in my head. It's a collection of very solid songs, but maybe too even. This group's lyrics as always can rescue iffy songs with their signature adolescentiana. "Workin' Up a Sweat" screams for handclaps, in both the verses and especially chorus. "Big Apple Dreamin'" is one of the better New York songs, allowing for a hint of doubt. Everyone has a love/hate relationship with that city: I like it for what it is and for what it's given the world and the culture that gave it. In spite of its obnoxious self-obsession and self-aggrandizement that aren't helped by its controlling the media, and sometimes I'd like to spend a weekend there. Sometimes I think/hope the United States is the New York City of the world.
Alice Cooper - Welcome To My Nightmare: I had a "Matt listening to Bat Out Of Hell" with this one. After the title track and the Vincent Price stuff I was thoroughly ready for this album to kick ass, but almost the whole rest of the album can't quite find its footing. The two three-track suites (the middle songs are best here) kind of work in themselves, but both barge their way into the tracklisting smack in the middle of the sides; of them, the "Steven" suite is the better of the two. Between the two suites is the best stretch of the album, with several rawkin' numbers and "Only Women Bleed", which isn't bad (but, to continue the Bat Out Of Hell comparison, "Women" corresponds to "Heaven Can Wait" or "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad". Probably the former. As I said, I was hyped for this album, but it's just an album I'd rank between Easy Action and Killer (really that low, though?) The light and serious don't really mesh.
Alice Cooper - Goes To Hell: I'm really at a loss for what to say about this record. It's more pot roast to Nightmare's steak, with probably more consistent songs, but much fewer highlights. The song styles are all over the place, but generally used to their potential. There are at least three songs about going to Hell, literally or idiomatically ("Go To Hell", "Give the Kid a Break", "Wish You Were Here"). I don't really understand exactly who this album is aimed at, with the usual focus on adolescence and rebellion (although it does come to a head here). But the delinquents they're speaking to seem more middle-school-aged, which makes me think there are as many actual 8-year-old (10- or 12-year-old, even) smokers and dirty-magazine readers listening to Cooper's music as there are actual black-metal listeners who are Satanists, or Velvet Underground listeners who are on heroin. (Of course it's a bit of a put-on, and Alice was a talented fellow: it's clever much more often than it falls flat.)
Enslaved - Frost: Actually came after the below chronologically but it's much better received for some reason. I didn't like it as much at first; it's billed as a Viking-metal milestone but has weaker melodies and less creative textures and instrumentation in comparison, and a less pronounced folk influence (and the other album literally has "Viking" in its title!) Still for all that I've come to really dig it and it's the more creative album, a step forward. I'd have pretty bad trouble putting anything here on a mix CD because of the non-emphasis on melody and especially for the raspy puking vocals (but this is common to a lot of metal). The song titles are all in Norwegian and I can't tell one song from another just from looking at a tracklist.
Enslaved - Vikingligr Veldi: As I said, the one before Frost -- their debut, unless they did first an EP or something beforehand -- and has "Viking" in the album title, as I also noted. The music is more diverse than on Frost while simultaneously being more monotonous as four of the five tracks are over ten minutes long. They would do better (I've heard 2003's Below the Lights and it smokes it, probably a little better than Frost, too.) The closing eleven-minute instrumental "Norvegr" is a total snooze.
The Jazz Butcher - Cult of the Basement: Fast forward four years from the last album I have of theirs, and good enough to go ahead and (plan to) go ahead and download the rest of their discography. AMG talks about jazz- and cabaret-influenced tracks, which I'm really not hearing at all. It's about the same schtick as the other two Butcher albums I've heard (that is, a helping of diverse indie-pop), but the whole thing has a sellout-album feel to it, much less amateurish. Might just be the band's development; I haven't heard any of their work between 1986 and 1990. One track borrows the guitar part to Spacemen 3's "Lord Can You Hear Me", which is unexpected as that's a Jason song and I only know of Pat Fish working with Sonic Boom. I guess he was tight with the whole band, which were, at least officially, still together at the time. The albums's a bit slick and not as much fun as Scandal or Gentlefolk. Still recommended.
John Coltrane - Sun Ship: I believe the last with the classic '60s quartet, and one of the best. McCoy Tyner certainly has rarely been better. Trane actually plays very little on the second side, which aims for transcendence and mostly pulls it off: the first track on the side features lengthy piano and drum solos (the former is really good), and maybe half of the other track is bass solo (which is often otherwise inaudible). The entire title track grows out of the first four notes, vertically and horizontally (and Coltrane lets it ####ing loose). I like this as much as any Coltrane album not named Giant Steps or A Love Supreme. Much play with rhythm and note values to be found. I think Tyner might be like Joe Henderson to me in that, all in all, I prefer him on other people's albums over his own.
Miles Davis - 'Round About Midnight: Everyone's heard of or owns this album so there's not a lot I can say. The blurb on the back acts like the bonus tracks (which I haven't heard much of) are part of the album. The last album with the '50s quintet, I believe, and as great as any of the "-in" albums. This was intended as an album, placing it above the "-in" records and is much more focused. I like "All of You" and the playful "Bye Bye Blackbird" best: he's mixed kind of in the background but Red Garland always was good with standards. I spaced out or was distractible while the closing "Dear Old Stockholm" was playing every. Single. Time. A shame, because I've gotten my fill of this album by now and "Stockholm" is a standout. Is it written into Paul Chambers' contract that he get one solo on all of his records?
Miles Davis - Agharta: Sometimes I enjoy it, sometimes I'm not feeling it, but there's a consistent problem: it never makes up its mind whether it wants to be background music or active-listening music. To be sure there's a lot going on, and it can almost grab you, but then there's not enough going on, so you disengage your ears or tune out and it starts to grate after a while. This is almost more a heroin album than cannabis. I guess it'd be helped if you were on some narcotic, or something else with a body load. (Actually the album works best stone-cold sober as working music. I've done some long, tedious tasks to it, and it works great as a non-diverting diversion.) (updated: Yeah, this kicks ass as background music. "Maiysha" is the best track though I also love "Interlude". Got a beat, got some stuff going on (it bounces exactly in time with the girl's boobs in the video I'm watching). I've actually never heard the original "Jack Johnson" -- this version has a little lick that sounds very similar to the Primal Scream song (used in the film of the same name) "Trainspotting" -- gotta get on that and Filles de Kilimanjaro stat.) Hell of a guitar record.
Freddie Hubbard - Hub-Tones: This disc is worth picking up for "Lament for Booker" alone, one of the finest and most beautiful jazz performances I've heard. The album is from 1962, featuring a very young, already-great Herbie Hancock, the year of Ready for Freddie, a fairly conventional effort notable by its including a euphonium; I gave it another hearing after this and it's pretty forgettable. So far I think this actually might be my favorite '60s Freddie I've heard yet: Open Sesame is great but it's not as distinguishable, like going to a food court and seeing a bunch of delicious food, none of which is particularly appetizing at the moment. "You're My Everything" is a great opener. I either really like or really dislike "Prophet Jennings": it's a fairly short piece with trumpet, flute, and piano solos, kind of saying the same thing differently, like some trinitarian thing. The melody, or at least as Hubbard takes it, adopts the rhythm and intonation of natural speech, and I take it it's Fr. Jennings himself. Or I could just be high.
J.S. Bach - Keyboard Concertos 1, 2, 4 (Murray Perahia; Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields): These (the whole set, plus the BWV 1060) together with the Beach Boys' Made in U.S.A. compilation form my earliest musical memories: I literally can't remember a time when I wasn't familiar with them. My dad had the Glenn Gould recordings, which is a little odd to have as your only version, but it's all good. Perahia obviously has emerged in the new millennium as one of the great Bach interpreters; he directs the ASMF (the Academy rarely works for me but it does here) and it's really good (and not a thing like Gould, though those recordings have a special place in my heart), good enough to order the other volume when I get around to it. I can't say why I like it so much. Perahia handles the orchestra as well as he does the piano and they come together as a living, breathing thing. The slow movement to the D-minor positively weeps, and the siciliana in the Second is the best overall. (I think these are the only concertos not based on other (extant) works, so the two volumes, sold separately, break down neatly into more- and less-essential material).
J.S. Bach - St. John Passion (soloists; Monteverdi Choir; The English Concert/Trevor Pinnock): First time I didn't like this, for the same reasons I disliked the St. Matthew Passion at first: main complaint is that there's waaaaay too much of the Evangelist (both the choruses in these sections are well-done and well recorded: thankfully, as the second disc begins with a five-minute Bible passage, ten including a minute-long chorale in the middle. There was very little "actual" music, but I've come to love them. The St. John is similar to the St. Matthew, but on a much lesser scale. It's still almost two hours, true, but that's an hour less than the Matthew, which can actually get neglected for its sheer size. I've listened to the John at least once a day for the last week maybe, and the musical highlights are all good. Somehow I've acquired both Passions, the B-minor Mass, and the Christmas Oratorio all from this Gardiner cycle. I think this and die Kunst der Fuge were the last major Bach works I had left to hear. Maybe the Easter Oratorio, if that's major.
Debussy - Ibéria, Trois Nocturnes; Ravel - Rapsodie Espagnole; Ibert - Escales (L'Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Française/Leopold Stokowski): Never cared for the Ibéria much, but this performance makes me wish I did dig it. The Nocturnes I've loved since I heard it: two long, serene atmospheric pieces separated by a brief party. After the Debussy are are more, briefer, not as Debussy-ish, impressionist works. That's basically the problem with the disc: 73 minutes of impressionist mush is just too much. The Debussy would merit its own CD all by itself (I suspect it originally was). I own a lot of classical LPs and I own many from the 1950s/60s golden age. The great conductors of the previous, pre-LP generation -- Bruno Walter, Wilhelm Furtwängler and, yes, Leopold Stokowski -- were on their last legs, releasing an album here and there. Stokowski did the Fantasia soundtrack and fathered (IIRC) Anderson Cooper; I think he originated the "Philadelphia sound". Beyond that I can't tell you much.
Handel - Complete Organ Concertos (Simon Preston; The English Concert/Trevor Pinnock)
Handel - Organ Concertos opp. 4 & 7 (Karl Richter/orchestra)
Handel - Complete Organ Concertos, Vol. 1 (op. 4/1-6; op. 7/1-3) (E. Power Biggs; London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult
Handel - Organ Concertos, Op. 7 (Carl Weinrich; Arthur Fiedler Sinfonietta/Arthur Fiedler): I bought the Pinnock on CD and I have the other three releases on vinyl. This is going to take a fair bit of time to get into but from what I've heard the op. 7 are much more polished -- and enjoyable. The op. 4 concerti are shorter and more conventional; that's not a curse but they're just good for what they are. The Op. 7 starts with a ####ing five-minute (nine- if you don't hear the subtle transition between the first two tracks) passacaglia to begin its six (!) movements. As to the recordings: the Pinnock is the opp. 4 & 7, plus the "Cuckoo and the Nightingale" plus two earlier ones and one later one, without opus number. The others are as shown. It's a pretty diverse bunch of recordings and this is easy music to familiarize yourself with.
WWF: I think my first WWF broadcast was February 17, 2000. I know it was between the Royal Rumble and No Way Out PPVs; I think it was Smackdown, and I remember a plot element from that night as well as a quote from the opening promo. I knew Mick Foley's retirement after No Way Out 2000 was big, though I didn't know he was the same guy as Mankind. It seems really unexpected when I watched it and its leadup again (midway through the buildup to Wrestlemania? Pfft.) LOL, mom jeans were still in in February 2000. The pop tarts much have killed them off later that year. (And speak of the devil -- then Tori was wearing low-rise jeans and a whale tail with a bare midriff). In the space of about two weeks Too Cool went from a totally dead reception to the most popular tag team in the company. It's interesting seeing those early episodes when the first time I didn't know who anybody was. This was the time of the "Radicalz" (sorry, "R4dicalz"). Benoit and Guerrero sure worked out, but literally the only things I remember about Saturn and Malenko are Saturn falling in love with a mop and Malenko's James Bond/ladies'-man gimmick. A huge two out of four ain't bad. Chris Benoit is now scrubbed from all the capsule episode summaries on the WWE Network (before: "The Rock faces Chris Benoit"; after: "The Rock is in action"). In one Benoit match a commentator notes that Benoit's son had just been born. Errr... (Gotta give a shout-out to Stephanie McMahon. In the space of one pay-per-view she turned from an innocent daddy's girl to adopting a slvtty look and carriage. To my 14-year-old self she oozed raw sexuality. The seamless transition is funny.)