Neither too nationalist nor too internationalist, this 1995 recording of Béla Bartók's two violin concertos featuring Thomas Zehetmair with Ivan Fischer leading the Budapest Festival Orchestra is just right. Austrian-born Zehetmair has a fabulous technique, a warm but focused tone, and lively sense of rhythm, all of which make him an ideal Bartók player. His interpretations are less about showing off then about digging in, and his performances are more about the music than they are about the musician. Hungarian conductor Fischer and his Hungarian orchestra are not only up for the music in a technical sense, they are also down with the music in an emotional sense, and their accompaniments ground Zehetmair's coolly flamboyant performances. Captured in white-hot sound that is almost too vivid for its own good, these performances deserve to stand among the finest ever recorded.
A countryman of Bela Bartók and a sometime teacher to both György Ligeti and György Kurtág, Sándor Veress emigrated to Switzerland from what was then part of Hungary in 1949. Settling in Bern, he collected various prizes and teaching posts while working in relative obscurity on who knows how many pieces–most of which have been unavailable. This collection is made up of a pithy trio of compositions dated 1938 (Six Csárdás), 1951 (Hommage à Paul Klee), and 1952 (Concerto for Piano, Strings, and Percussion), and they show what a deftly melodic force Veress was. He's thrilled by blustery string wafts, especially in the concerto, where the percussion adds drama and immediacy. But he also favors sweetly chipper string formations, which surprise the ear during the homage to Klee, especially given the dissonances fostered early on by the twin pianos. The closing piano miniatures of Six Csárdás are counterpoint-rich gems, played with sharp precision by András Schiff.
So what if Liszt spent most of his life in France and Germany and never learned to speak Hungarian? The music of the Magyars' fiery favorite son played by a hot-blooded local boy is an irresistible combination. Even the delightful Dohnanyi filler (variations on ''Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star'') doesn't really douse the flames. Put it in the CD player and let 'er rip! Just be sure to remove all flammable vestments first. (Entertainment Weekly)
This is the third in a series of posthumous albums of previously unreleased recordings by Randy California and Spirit, drawn from California's archives and assembled by Mick Skidmore. As Skidmore explains in his detailed liner notes, California put together an album called Blues From the Soul around 1995, and even copyrighted its contents; but later opted to use some of the material on the final album he released with Spirit, California Blues, prior to his accidental death by drowning in January 1997. Other tracks from the proposed album were culled for the first posthumous release, Cosmic Smile. Skidmore has included all 13 of the songs California had intended to use on his version of Blues From the Soul, though he has substituted alternate takes or live recordings of tracks already issued. Of course, the album also has been vastly expanded to include 35 selections for a running time of two-and-a-half hours. But the basic concept remains the same, and that is to present a collection of folk and blues recordings.
With Bitter Sweet Blues, Gaye Adegbalola has produced an album that starts off where her work with Saffire the Uppity Blues Women left off, and jumps into a new, adventurous space. An expanded cast of musicians and more personal lyrics are some of the benefits to going solo, and Adegbalola makes use of both well. Each song has either humor or power, sometimes both. The only thing that seems incongruous is the mixture of songs with wildly varying moods and topics. While satirical woman-power songs like "Big Ovaries" are empowering and funny, when paired with "Nightmare" – a powerful, personal song about child molestation – the effect is somewhat gross. The feminist politics of both songs mesh rather well, but it is difficult for the listener to shift from laughing at bawdy sexuality to somber empathy in just a few tracks. Overall, though, this is a fine first solo effort that resonates with spirit and emotion.
To be indelicate about the matter: what exactly makes Big Cocksucker Blues different than plain old Cocksucker Blues, the legendary rarely-seen film of the Rolling Stones' 1972 tour? Well, while the original Cocksucker Blues has frequently been bootlegged since the pre-DVD era, this Big Cocksucker Blues has that 95-minute film and well over an hour of extras. The extra footage, you should know, does not contain Cocksucker Blues outtakes, but does offer a good amount of rare clips from 1967-1974 that should interest any hardcore fan of the Stones during this era…
A Gary Moore box set titled Blues and Beyond has been set for release on Nov. 24. A press release for the album describes it as a “remarkable collection of his powerful and emotive blues studio recordings” and a fitting tribute to the Irish guitarist, who died in 2011.
Pianist Otis Spann played in Muddy Waters' band from 1953 to 1970, and was instrumental in creating the electric Chicago blues sound. These 11 tracks were recorded in the mid-'60s by Down Beat magazine editor Pete Welding, and were previously released as Otis Spann's Chicago Blues on Testament Records. This reissue omits the solo Spann material from the original disc and highlights the group recordings featuring S.P. Leary, Johnny Young, James Cotton, Willie Dixon, and Muddy Waters. While not as revolutionary as the records Spann played on with Muddy in the late '50s, you can't deny this lineup of seminal Chicago bluesmen doing what they did best.