Cartola - s/t (1976) (#8?): This seems to be a straight vinyl transfer. The album is more developed, with more fleshed-out songs than the mostly blink-and-you'll-miss-it tracks of the 1974; it's also (as above) six or seven minutes longer and a few tracks have a female singer -- done quite well -- who I presume to be Beth Carvalho; I think I have a track or two of hers on a samba compilation. She's a nice contrast, but only -- whoever it is -- appears on two tracks. I've got this one on right now and I take back what I said above; I think the 1976 s/t is more enjoyable and mainstream than the 1974. The compositions are certainly more memorable. If you dig samba (and you should) you'll dig this, perhaps more than the debut. Hell, they're both very worth, so pick up the both of them. Different facets of the same gem 'n' all.
Os Mutantes - s/t (#9): Os Mutantes are astonishingly uncharismatic for such a popular and important band. I really, really want to like this album. It's late '60s and it's psych-rock and it's contemporary to Tropicália etc etc etc, but there's just not enough substance relative to the psychedelic fluff and the fully-formed songs often come off as half-baked, or are ones I've heard before. It's an interesting sound, but... I dunno. I'd've been pissed if I had bought the album off the considerable strength of "A Minha Menina", as nothing else sounds a thing like it except maybe "Bat Macumba" which actually is my favorite song on the album. "Baby" is nice to have, as are "Senhor F", "Trem Fantasma" (which my amateur/hack Portuguese skills are telling me means "Ghost Train"), and "Le premier bonheur du jour"; the last few tracks are pretty good. But the album as a whole doesn't hold up for me; they've got like three others on the Rolling Stone list so I'll be well familiar with them soon.
Os Mutantes - s/t (#9): At first I thought that the tracks I hadn't heard in some form before on Tropicália or other compilations were okayish, then I liked some of the other tracks in the middle and at the end, and next thing you know, you have a good album really ahead for its day, with every or near-every track being enjoyable (it takes a little while for the album to get going, as seemingly frontloaded as it is) and the whole thing sticking together right well. It's not as enjoyable as some albums, even some clearly lesser ones, and it's not the least bit endearing, but it's a classic.
Caetano Veloso - Transa (#10): Well this is the greatest album ever, and because it's half in English I could put it in a normal top-100/150-albums list. (The English lyrics make me wish I knew Portuguese. In the sense that they're good, not bad.) The actual music is groove-heavy; what sets it apart from other grooveish singer-songwriter music, I'm not sure; the exotic rhythms, shading, and instrumentation are part of it, but there's been plenty of that in other music I don't like as much; it's not as if it were just a Brazilian album, but with some English lyrics. There are hooks in most of the songs, so there's that. "Woke up this morning singing an old Beatles song" -- dude, it's 1972, they've been broken up for all of two years. "Neolithic Man" is basically bad Donovan, and the world really doesn't need more bad Donovan, especially when the real Donovan gave us plenty of bad Donovan, but it at least ends interestingly. This is suuuuch a good stoner album. Seriously, go to your neighborhood dope slinger, pick up a nickel bag of his finest sinsemilla, roll up that bone, and jam to this album. You'll thank me.
Sonic Boom & Panda Bear - Reset: Actually credited to "Panda Bear & Sonic Boom", but I'm only familiar with a few AnCo albums so I reversed the order, being very familiar with Mr. Kember's output. For reasons I'll never know, the digital release was in August and the physical, last week. I had preordered the album and had no idea how the reviews could have been written so far in advance; in any event I hadn't heard it until it came in the mail. Man, it's cool how Sonic traded in the guitar for synths in the '90s and was just as excellent. (Panda Bear plays Sonic's signature Vox Starstream; dunno if it's actually the very guitar -- vintage teardrop Starstreams are going for thousands of dollars online -- but that would be awesome.). Short summary: THIS ALBUM IS AWESOME. It's not saying much to say that this is far and away the LP of the year, as I've only heard maybe a half-dozen of them, but I'd throw in all of last year, too. Only possible ding is that Sonic turns in a pretty poor vocal performance, but he only "sings" on two tracks, one of them being shared. It's still a very strong showing as songwriting and general Sonic-Boominess go; I've only heard three AnCo albums so have little to go off of there other than this being considerably more accessible than Sonic's other work, but from all I can tell Mr. Bear is every bit his equal. The two men have collaborated several times now, to general acclaim, and I look forward to their next efforts. Hypnotic, organic, trippy, poppy, just a really cool disc in general. Recommend-issim-ended.
Dire Straits - Communiqué: Embrace the boring. Two Dire Straits albums, two great discs -- yet I'm not even sure what the appeal is. Communiqué is a terrific album with few, if any, memorable songs besides the opening "Once Upon a Time in the West" and the side-closing title track. (Actually I take that back: the second side has some hooky songs -- hello, "Angel of Mercy" -- that I'd probably love if I were to give it more listens, or if I had gotten into this band/album in high school or college.) The guitar parts on the disc are nice, but understated throughout; Mark Knopfler's gruff voice reminds me of someone, but I'm not sure who(m). (He was only 29 years old here!) Whatever the appeal is, I've eaten up both discs. I can definitely see how this could be a polarizing band, so if you think they suck I respect that. Cool Ranch are the best Doritos.
Dire Straits - Making Movies: Not as good, in fact their weakest so far. To begin with, the first side consists of three long songs: "Tunnel of Love" is like eight minutes long and has a kind of embarrassing name (how did people bring themselves to live in Love Canal, even without the toxic waste?). I'm not a lyrics guy, and I'm certainly not a Dire Straits lyrics guy. The rest of the side isn't awful and is worth sitting around through to get to the latter half, where Mark put all the songs with hooks. Here you have a decent song infuriatingly called "Expresso Love" and a campy track at the end, leaving "Hand in Hand" and "Solid Rock", evidently the big singles here -- at least I think I had heard them; they're lesser singles if they are -- and that's your album. A mixture of boring, irritating, and trite.
Dire Straits - Love Over Gold: This has bugged me since the debut album, but I've finally figured out who Mark Knopfler sounds like! Seventies Dylan. There's a Telegraph Road near me! Virginia Route 611. "Telegraph Road" is also the title of the great epic 14-minute guitar showcase that opens the disc and by itself cements this as their top album so far. In fact, this album is basically Wish You Were Here -- five tracks, with two long tracks (here, the big guitar tracks) bookending three shorter and much less impressive ones. "Private Investigations", track two, has a cold, tense sound, actually kind of like "Welcome to the Machine", if I may overextend the comparison, but it's a much better song, replacing the synthesizers with acoustic guitar. It's more human and fleshed out. "Industrial Disease" is somehow satirical -- probably the exact same thing as "Acute Paranoid Schizophrenia Blues" or whatever that song on Muswell Hillbillies is -- but I'm not a lyrics guy; still, there's Farfisa all over the place, and it's an earworm. The other "middle" track, the title track, is... not so good, but this is a seriously great album. Dire Straits had a tiny little discography, didn't they? The lightning bolt on the cover looks like the Rappahannock River (when viewed from above).
Haydn - Symphonies 22 ("Philosopher"), 63 ("La Roxelane"), 80 (Orpheus Chamber Orchestra): Three lesser-known symphonies, though not little-known. Their relative popularity comes from two of them having movements that bear nicknames: the "Philosopher" for its beatific opening movement, and "La Roxelane" -- I don't know what that means, but it's the subtitle -- also for its slow movement, a set of double variations. Double variations are pretty hard to screw up, and this one is no exception. The remainder of both symphonies is good. The third symphony on the disc, number 80, has no such gimmickry about it but is a good example of a more mature Haydn. The playing is fine, and at least doesn't get in the way, or drag down the music at all (and with Haydn that's about all you can ask for). A good disc.
Haydn - Symphonies 93-104 (London Philharmonic Orchestra/Eugen Jochum): The "London" symphonies -- I had almost none of them on CD, though I'm more or less familiar with all of them, particularly the second set (99-104). Hey, it's Jochum conducting Haydn, and Haydn's most mature and Beethovenesque symphonies. What can go wrong? Not much; these are good if old-fashioned recordings (1972, sounds more '60s) that, as practically every recording of the period (probably to be able to fit a full symphony onto a single LP side), omit all the repeats except for the already-short first movement of no. 95. That's okay; the twelve symphonies have to fit on four CDs, after all. I concentrated mostly on the less familiar first set (93-98), as I've played the others to death. They're actually pretty damned good (I dig the fart noise in the no. 93 slow movement), less gimmicky than the second set, though the "Drumroll" (no. 103) is, and probably always will be, my favorite of all of them. The "London" symphonies are definitely not as played-to-death as the early Beethoven ones, and I can listen to all of them without spacing out. I'll need to get a more modern-day set (the analog recording doesn't have the dynamic range for a good "surprise" or the drumroll) but this is a nice recording to have and I'm glad I bought it, especially at $7.99.
John Coltrane - Black Pearls: Never knew this one existed: a three-track 1957 album with Donald Byrd and a Red Garland/Paul Chambers/Art Taylor rhythm section. This contains what has to be one of the very earliest 12" LP sidelongs, "Sweet Sapphire Blues", making up the second half. Everybody solos on every track, drums and all: it's one of those albums. The tracks are just launching points. Coltrane is in full-on sheets-of-sound mode, and TBH that's my favorite era of his: he kind of loses me after My Favorite Things with a few exceptions. Donald Byrd is a nice foil.
John & Alice Coltrane - Cosmic Music: Very late (1968) and my first with Alice. Eh, it's pretty good. "Reverend King" in particular is excellent, Trane always with a trick up his sleeve; "Meditation" in particular is not, Trane always with a truck up his. It sounds like loud ugly nonsense terminating in three minutes of Starostin's proverbial fart noises on the sax. At its best, this album is a nice development of A Love Supreme; I don't know how much Alice inspired as I really don't know Coltrane's late history. I kind of like the last track. This is a short one, isn't it? Didn't even make 35 minutes.
Eric Dolphy - Last Date: Either his last date or last recorded date before Dolphy's death. Either way, this disc is obviously historically important, but the music's good, too. I don't have the personnel of the top of my head but the piano player is excellent. (Ed: Misja Mengelberg. Never heard of him.) Is "Epistrophy" the most versatile track since "Walkin'", or what? There are a bunch of ways to play it, it can be three minutes long or fifteen, versions go in all different directions, etc. I've never liked "You Don't Know What Love Is", and the album drops an eleven-minute version right near the end. Some of the tracks sound awfully familiar, but not under the same titles. Anyway, the CD is worth checking out because it's mostly very good musically and has the historical significance. Buy it. The sound is really good, too.