Curtis Mayfield - Superfly: I have little knowledge of soul so I picked this up. Before I get too far into this, I'll tell Pugeye that I don't have serious designs on the genre anytime soon so sorry, Pugs, but I don't need recs. The record is nice and funky and groovy... well shit, you all have all heard it. Where the album loses me a bit is Mayfield himself: he's a bit of a Johnny One-Note with a sweet, pleasing voice, but with the emotional range of a turnip. That said, his voice is nice enough that it doesn't hurt the album much at all; it's terrific background music and there are plenty of great songs, even the throwaway instrumental tracks and whatnot. I'm not well versed in such things, but I thought the Man was an authority figure? What's he doing slinging dope? "No Thing on Me" is awesome. Satisfying album, if overrated.
Arnaldo Antubes, Carlinhos Brown, Marisa Monte - Tribalistas: A good little contemporary alt-rock-ish slab of Brasiliana that you're never going to buy or hear, so you don't need me to say that it's laid-back and not that groovy. On the cover it seems like Monte has a nice rack but in internet photos she's as flat as a board.
Gilberto Gil - Ao vivo em Tóquio (Live in Tokyo): A 1987 live album. It took a lot of goodwill to get into this one; I dug Quanta Live from like 20 years later, and this sounds nothing like it; for a good three or four listens I was less than impressed. A major reason is the six-minute slow tuneless (autocorrected to "tubeless". Is that even a word?) number closing the first side, which kills all momentum. (The CD back cover lists the tracks by side. If you wanted to you could have flipped the record over early; there's something about CDs that make me sit through them.) The second side is fantastic. It closes with an example of some of Gil's stuff being like reggae if reggae didn't suck, based on "No Woman No Cry", here called "Não chore mais", which I guess is "Don't Cry Anymore"? I don't know what "chore" means but I assume it's an imperative. "Ne touche pas à mon pote" takes its title from the slogan of a French anti-racism group called SOS Racisme. They were featured in our seventh-grade French textbook, Nouveaux copains, a thoroughly '80s affair. Both album and book being what vintage they are, and the fact that I've never heard of them since, leads me to assume that the group is long defunct. Good album; Quanta Live is better.
Wes Montgomery and the Wynton Kelly Trio - Smokin' in Seattle: A rediscovered live recording from 1966, same lineup as Smokin' at the Half-Note except with Ron McClure instead of whoever played bass on that one. It's two half-hour sets recorded for a radio broadcast. I guess it's not just hype that Montgomery is on the album, but of each set of five tracks, he doesn't figure into the first two, which, with one exception, are the longest on the CD. This is all to look the gift horse of a recently uncovered vintage live record that sounds this good straight in the mouth. It's good. Not great, but very enjoyable; it wasn't expensive so I'd recommend it. Wynton Kelly was made for this music.
Gerry Mulligan et al. - Newport Jazz Festival 1958, Vol. 2: Mulligan in the Main: Sort of like "Mostly Mozart", I guess, but with the baritone-sax white boy with a really wimpy voice. TBH I check out after Mulligan's ten tracks, even though a young Eric Dolphy plays on a few of the later ones. Kind of typical late '50s Mulligan, and with terrific sound given the circumstances. I probably overpaid for this and I don't see myself putting it on again: the Mulligan Quartet's set is good but his two long tracks with the Marian McPartland Trio are worth hearing, as is "Cherokee" with Sonny Stitt (and without Gerry Mulligan). Unfortunately the 77-minute CD's abundance of often-middling performances make this a chore to sit through. It's great to hear two or three times.
Enesco - Symphony No. 2, Vox Maris: The symphony is really late-late Romantic. It doesn't live up to its ambitions but it's a pleasant listen. The 24-minute choral symphonic poem "Vox Maris" is one of those pieces you really only need to hear once. I don't remember liking the Rumanian Rhapsodies, either, though I do like one of his violin sonatas. A $1.99 clearance special.
Haydn - Symphonies 53, 73, 79 (Orpheus Chamber Orchestra): A good, not great recording of three good-but-not-great symphonies. The orchestra mostly aren't bad, but at certain moments (forgotten exactly where, but one time especially was in the flurries of notes typical of a first theme of a first movement) the playing comes through as cold and emotionless. Got it for $1.99 in a clearance bin, got exactly what I wanted out of it. Too bad few composers after Haydn turned out some massive sets of work as the Haydn symphonies, Vivaldi concerti, Scarlatti sonatas, etc. Hovhannes, Hindemith, Bartók?
D Scarlatti - Sonatas (Narciso Yepes): Another $1.99 clearance special, transcribed for guitar by Yepes himself (did his parents really name him after Narcissus? Maybe the flower.) I recognized the first 10-20 seconds of the CD because they were used in a radio commercial many years ago (same music, same instrument; the disc has been around since 1985). I've heard Scarlatti on piano and harpsichord; the guitar setting is very pleasing. It sounds a lot like a harpsichord rendition, but warmer, without the harpsichord's "crunchy" timbre, making it much more bearable to sit through (its being 45 minutes helps). Twelve sonatas, well chosen, well sequenced. Recommended.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind: Only five quests left before I finally start the main storyline after some 60 hours: don't even mention the two expansion campaigns. There are still dozens of other quests but I'm planning on moving on once I'm done with the faction I'm playing with's. You start out really weak in the game so it's quite satisfying to get to the point where you can one-hit practically any enemy. I've got the difficulty slider pretty low because the early going was tough. I probably ought to boost the difficulty because my character is crazy overpowered.
Leisure Suit Larry 2: Looking for Love in Several Wrong Places: I pooh-poohed this game's difficulty last time, as I got 100% about halfway through. I still haven't beaten it, but starting in the airplane there are some absolutely ridiculous puzzles that I had to check a walkthrough for. Kind of takes away from meeting the game on its own terms (oh wait, Sierra needed to sell hint books) but hot the hell are you supposed to figure out that you have to give an (easily overlooked) religious pamphlet to the boring guy in the seat next to you to advance, or that you can crawl under a bush full of killer bees that otherwise kill you if you get too close?