Bee Gees - One: It took them eight years to record this? [ed: they released an album actually only two years before.] The disco era snuffed out their once-idiosyncratic songwriting and the trends of genericism, putting out highly-polished more or less good songs, finally reached completion. Stuff like this -- the late '80s/early '90s AC, immaculately produced -- hits a mainline and gives such waves of nostalgia, and even that can't convince me. To tell the truth, though, it's not a terrible album (which to me is a step below "awful"): its songs are at least professionally crafted and there's not one track that's shitty all the way through. It's a very listenable record. If you have an itch for adult pop, you could have much worse. TL;DR not great but I'll probably play it again, as it's got serious background-music vibes to play, say, Morrowind to.
Bee Gees - E.S.P.: Actually released in 1987, but the idiot who did the date metadata put it as 1999. I don't feel like totally rewriting the entry for One, so I'm putting this here. I'll get the worst out of the way first: "This Is Your Life" features a long section of Barry Gibb rapping and name-dropping some of the group's hit songs (think "Roll the Bones", but on a different level of bad). Nevertheless, this album proves that One is a bigger piece of crap than I had thought: there's a certain genre of album, not sure how to describe it [ed: despite my invoking it in every one of these comments, eesh], that's peak mid-'80s adult contemporary pap -- think Press to Play but with better writing and more entertaining -- that I absolutely grew up on (Peter Cetera's Solitude/Solitaire is a particular favorite; see also: Big Bam Boom) Disco changed them as writers [ed: I've said this before, and once I finish this discography I won't say it again, I promise], simpler and streamlined. "You Win Again" was the big (among whom?) single and it's an earworm. Everyone who doesn't like this kind of music would hate E.S.P. but it's essentially solid.
Bee Gees - High Civilizaton: Now this is bad. An hour-long 1991 release of bland, boring, slick adult-pop like their last few, but this time with more orchestral hit; for the first time the album is basically irredeemable -- the first two tracks are about the best of them; ten of the eleven tracks (!!!) are over five minutes long. The music isn't all bad; there are good moments drowned out in the songs' lengths. High Civilization even has the worst Bee Gees cover art, second only, maybe to Spirits Having Flown: that's a flying 5.25" floppy on the cover in 1991! It looks like bad Photoshop, probably looked good at the time, but yeesh. Either Big Ben (6:55) or the digital-watchface spliced onto it (7:00) is showing the wrong time. Both? The Pyramids are floating in midair, and what's the power cord doing? I think I get the cover: these are all (now cheesy and dated) symbols of what was then high technology, presumably from Kemet on, although the Mesoamerican idol doesn't match the theme. I think the kind of people who wore digital watches then now use their cellphones to tell time.
Bee Gees - Size Isn't Everything: Holy shit! Where did this come from? Easily their best album since... I don't know, Living Eyes? It's diverse, and with hooks! Lots of them! Check out the catchy "Above and Beyond"; the closer, "Decadence", is just an updated "You Should Be Dancing" (with original vocal). Speaking of that, there's a good bit of Barry Gibb falsetto and it *doesn't suck*. Totally different idiom from how they used it in the disco days. Recommended, probably all the Bee Gees albums in this what's spinning. Still adult contemporary, just with "modern" 1991 sensibilities -- but well worth your while. Only two of twelve tracks are much above five minutes long. (Contrast High Civilization, where only one track of eleven clocked in under.)
Milton Nascimento & The Jobim Trio - Novas Bossas: I have the hardest time thinking of something to write. It may be on Blue Note, involve a guest vocalist, and be played by a trio named after a Brazilian legend (two of said legend's sons, and a number of dad's songs), with an old-school jazzish album cover: yes, all that is so, but this is not a jazz album. It's kind of regular pop-rock, pop-rock with a Brazilian flavor, but pop-rock. I'll leave it to others whether it has especial pretensions. It's a good listen though, and I'd actually recommend it. Beats some of the more mainstream stuff I've gotten; the trio plays very well and obviously they'd be doing a lot of the arranging work. The album title is Novas Bossas, but I'm not that familiar with bossa nova to start with so I don't know what that really means.
Clara Nunes - Sempre: #### reggae; samba is the real background music to getting high. Uh, I've listened to it like ten times now, enjoying it, but when I just played it through just now, I realize that there aren't that many outstanding individual tracks. I'll have to look into her back catalogue, when Nunes was in her prime (this album is from 2009 -- ed: No, it's a compilation of her later career. Her albums seem to be totally unavailable, if they're not going for a hundred bucks or whatever on Discogs. Ordered two other compilations.) Still a very enjoyable disc. There are hints to a political side in some of the titles ("Moreno de Angola", "Canto de Três Raças") but it's all in Portuguese.
Various - Beleza Tropical 2: Novo! Mais! Melhor!: As the title suggests this is is from a later period from the original Beleza Tropical (both discs are compiled by David Byrne, BTW). It's more accessible and the songs are all memorable (by which i mean you remember how all of them on the album go). One thing I hate about Brazilian music is that I can't latch onto the titles in my mind. There's a really, really bad Sergio Mendes track towards the end that's entirely in English; the woman's accent makes her sound like Eleni Poulou from the Fall (and there's also a Fall clip played at the beginning of one of the songs!) but it's rappish with awful lyrics and vocals. Better than that Barry Gibb rap, I guess (see above).
Max Roach - Lift Every Voice and Sing: Another vocal album, this early '70s disc is pretty clearly an kind of update of the 1960 We Insist! Freedom Now Suite. Obviously the civil-rights movement would have been in a very different place at the end of the '60s than before. It's got singers, it goes to the heart rather than the intellect, and has little melody to speak of except for the odd, out-of-place R&B number "Garden of Prayer". This track is the only one not "traditional"; presumably, the three-minute track was released as a (very misleading to the album) single. TBH the opening "Motherless Child" is hard to get through: no bottom end, no melody, vocal or otherwise; some other songs fit the same description. Just two tracks later, for instance, is the very similar "Troubled Water" (the chorus is great, done dirty by the composition. But all is not lost: when you're in the right frame of mind (sober) it's a gripping listen. The second side smokes the first; the songs and vocals (otherwise with screechy female singers) are calmed way the #### down.
Max Roach - With the New Orchestra of Boston and "So What" Brass Quintet: I got this mostly because I wanted to hear what the hell is could sound like. It was $5.99, right in the middle of their jazz pricing, so why not? The first of the two tracks is a fifty-minute-plus orchestral epic (that is, symphony orchestra); you might even call it a concerto with Max Roach as soloist. It's actually pretty great background music -- I've got it on right now -- that could rival a later Eno album. The other track is only 12 minutes; it's with the So What brass quintet. It's still in the arranged-jazz style/subgenre but it's jazzier, funkier, and most certainly *not* an orchestral epic. The two parts are kind of reconcile, obviously. Progheads would eat this one up. Ganja is recommended.
Fats Waller - Young Fats at the Organ: A little of this stuff goes a long way. The CD is 74 minutes long. Still great until it all starts to turn to mush. There are a few duplicates of tracks on my other Waller compilation (which was more of a representative survey), so there are a few landmarks, but not enough to make the disc any easier to get through. People who are into early jazz are like Baroque enthusiasts.
Jack DeJohnette - Earth Walk: What a difference a few listens make: to go by the cover I was thinking this would be maybe from the '70s or early '80s. Turns out it's a 74-minute 1991 album that starts with mediocre fusion (with a reprise at the end). First sit-down was dreadful, but with further spins this actually just might be the pick of the HAUL. They're a quick 74 minutes, offering a few different styles that all gel until you can't really disjoint them. Favorite track is the 11-minute sax battle (plus a piano solo) that is "One on One (the altoist is the same Greg Osby who was a highlight on Andrew Hill's contemporary album Eternal Spirit). Once you get past the dumb "jungle" noises on the title track (not walking-through-the-steamy-rainforest so much as a walk through a radio station's sound-effects board) it's not that bad. I really enjoyed this one.
Warlock - The Curlew, songs, orchestral pieces (John Mark Ainsley; The Nash Ensemble/Martyn Brabbins): Peter Warlock was one of the most interesting composers, between dabbling in the occult and hanging out with Aleister Croley and attend séances and shit, and changing to his name to that of an anti-Christian sorcerer. For all that, his music is about as English as it gets, the opening orchestral suite Capriol bleeding 16th-century. In fact, the disc continues with musical settings of actual Elizabethan poetry. The back half contains The Curlew, a Yeats mini-cycle, which was the only work of his I had heard before getting (slightly) more into his music. The differences in textures, harmony, orchestration, etc. are about what you'd expect from texts as dissimilar was Yeats and Shakespeare. Perhaps it's just listening fatigue, but I don't get the closing work, even if the aesthetic is purely English (in a different way). Basically think Vaughan Williams versus Purcell, with the closing two works sound like the Tallis fantasia and the "Pastoral" symphony. I might try getting into Warlock further. I don't know how the performance compares to any others, but this Hyperion disc is at least -- and more than -- simply listenable. Very interesting CD.
Alkan - Solo piano music: sonatina, minuets, nocturnes, capriccios, "Une fusée", "Le tambour bat aux champs" (Constantino Mastroprimiano): This, with most of this classical HAUL, was taken from a $1.99 clearance sale, so I didn't risk much with this one. Uh, this is good music? Second-tier Romanticism without a standout track, but enjoyable.
Corelli - Solo Sonatas for Violin & Continuo, Op. 5 (Chiara Banchini et al): Another $1.99, considerably better than the Alkan. TBH I usually don't like earlier Baroque music, and a glance at the back cover with help tell why: the CD contains six sonatas (actually only the first half of Op. 5) of five short movements each: admirably, the back CD cover lists all 30 tracks (at under 67 minutes total!) As for the music: it's very hard to tell one sonata from another, except that the fifth is in the minor, and it'd be silly to buy many more discs like this, if not just to have a bigger selection. Still very good music, background music especially; I spun this like ten times and still enjoyed it; it didn't seem to drag on and on (but I couldn't tell you how even the first few tracks go). At $1.99 you can't go wrong.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind: There aren't any good Facebook groups about this name (they're all about either Skyrim or Elder Scrolls in general.) Anyway, I scrapped my first character after about 30 hours of play after learning more about how the game mechanics work. Made my own class and gave him skills that either suited his abilities, or that can be levelled up by simply doing things in the course of the game (athletics, acrobatics, alchemy, speechcraft, etc.) As a result I'm like level 45 from exploiting a glitch that lets you take the best potion-making equipment in the game right away). The potions are much more valuable than the ingredients to make them, so you can quickly make five-figures-plus profit (and increase your alchemy level to 100) at the very beginning of the gmae. As a result I'm in my mid-forties level, can climb mountain ranges, can kill everything with one or two hits, and I'm having all sorts of fun playing this. Such a good game.