These Decca recordings of Vaughan Williams's complete symphonies appear in a boxed set for the first time ever, and they feature such august personages as sopranos Isobel Baillie and Margaret Ritchie, baritone John Cameron and speaker John Gielgud!
Adrian Boult conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
During the mid-'50s, Sarah Vaughan spent most of her time recording songbook standards backed by a large orchestra in florid arrangements, with only the occasional breath of fresh air like her masterpiece, 1954's Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown. Four years after that milestone, another landed with the live album At Mister Kelly's. Recorded quite early in the days of the live LP, the album captured Vaughan at her best and most relaxed, stretching out on a set of late-night torch songs and ballads.
A bluesman from Chicago who doesn't perform any covers is a rarity indeed, but John Grimaldi, aka Studebaker John, has stuck to his guns throughout his career, and this 2001 release is a good indication why. While his melodies are serviceable, the guitarist/harpist/singer writes sharp, smart lyrics that are far more provocative than what most contemporary bluesmen churn out. Add tough vocals that place him between Darrell Nulisch and Stevie Ray Vaughan and a sizzling attack that never seems phoned in for a 50-minute set, and you wonder what more it would take for this gutsy, obviously inspired bluesman to get traction, even in a market saturated by talented players. Along with his other talents, Grimaldi also produced this disc, and the stripped-down yet full sound is raw and driven yet accessible. Songs such as the opening "Burned by Love" and "Rich Man" boast melodies that are far more creative and dramatically arranged than the genre exercises most bluesmen work in. He blows serious Little Walter-inspired amplified harp on the "Juke"-styled instrumental "Harpology," and the driving Bo Diddley beat of "Nothing Comes Easy" pushes this disc into the red zone. The slow, sexy grind of "Lock & Chain" gives Grimaldi a chance to display his impressive vocals and a slide guitar tone with Elmore James nuances.
Ralph Vaughan Williams' A London Symphony, otherwise known as the Symphony No. 2 in G major, was composed between 1911 and 1913, and premiered in 1914. After the score was lost in the mail, reconstructed from the short score and orchestral parts, and revised twice, the symphony was published at last in 1920, though it was ultimately replaced by the definitive version in 1936, with cuts to the about 20 minutes of the original material. This recording by Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra presents the 1920 version, along with three short works, Sound sleep for female voices and small orchestra, Orpheus with his lute for voice and orchestra, and the Variations for brass band. The filler pieces are delightful rarities that Vaughan Williams specialists will find of some interest, though most listeners will prize this recording for the energetic and colorful performance of the symphony, which is one of the composer's most vivid and satisfying works.