Conductor and pianist James Levine is one of the powerhouse figures of the classical music scene today. As a child he undertook both piano and violin; he was so accomplished on the violin that at the age of ten he played Mendelssohn's second violin concerto at a Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra youth concert. He studied piano at various summer music festivals before enrolling at New York's Juilliard School, where he took conducting courses with Jean Morel and continued piano studies with Rosina Lhevinne.
In a year notable by the too-high incidence of jazz losses, Charles Earland quietly left this planet on Saturday, December 11, 1999. Known as the Mighty Burner for the intense way he commanded the Hammond B-3, the always working, too-heavy 58-year-old Earland made his departure via heart failure following one last performance in Kansas City.
Simple Minds signed to Chrysalis for Néapolis and saw the return of Derek Forbes on bass. Néapolis signals a return to form while remaining on the cutting edge. Unlike U2, the band they have been most often compared to, Simple Minds have not lost themselves in techno beats and processed samples. Longtime fans will embrace this album; from the opening track, "Song for the Tribes," through the two singles, "Glitterball" and "War Babies," one immediately recognizes that classic sound. Other standout tracks include "Tears of a Guy," "Superman V Supersoul," and a potential third single, "Killing Andy Warhol." The biggest surprise on the album is "Androgyny," a welcomed instrumental in the tradition of their earlier works (see Empires and Dance, Sister Feelings Call, and Sons and Fascination). It's nice to know that in the 1990s, one classic new wave band hasn't forgotten what it is all about. Unfortunately, Chrysalis felt there was not enough of a following outside of Europe to justify the worldwide release of the album.
From the Vault is a neat little rarities collection from Spock's Beard originally released in 1998. The CD contains demos, alternate mixes, live cuts, one Japanese bonus track, and two cover songs. For the Spock's Beard completist, From the Vault is a must have…