Rossini's La donna del lago ("The Lady of the Lake") is a lush, positively verdant dramatic opera, first performed in 1819, that deserves to be better known. Derived from Sir Walter Scott's famous poem, the story concerns love both unrequited and requited amid rebellious Scottish clans, as the titular lady is wooed by two rivals while her heart is pledged to another. Given Rossini's luxuriant orchestration and emphasis on romance, one can't help feeling that the composer had the hills of Tuscany more in mind than the rugged Scottish highlands. A succession of highly charged scenas contrast with languid melodies, such as Ellen's delightful introductory "Oh mattutini albori", making this a less bloodily melodramatic companion-piece to Donizetti's Scott-inspired Lucia di Lammermoor.
This 2012 box set rounds up Blake Shelton's first five albums – Blake Shelton, The Dreamer, Blake Shelton's Barn & Grill, Pure BS, and Startin' Fires – presenting them as mini-LPs in a slipcase. There are no bonus tracks but this is an easy, affordable, and handsome way to get Shelton's prime.
Tim Blake played synths with Gong, Hawkwind, Steve Hillage, and other similar projects before going solo as a synthesizer performer and recorder. This was Blake's first studio release versus his recordings of live gigs. He really polishes things up a great deal, adding guitars and singing in the style of Gong's Daevid Allen and Steve Hillage's solo offerings. Blake's vocals would never be his strong point. His blessing to the ears was and always will be his ethereal and spacy synthesizer expertise. As Gong and Steve Hillage all preached the New Age and tuning into earth vibes and aligning one's soul with Earth energies to bring in a world of light and love – so Blake also crooned. No doubt, the '70s drug culture and disenchantment with organized religion had an immense influence on philosophy and music.
Too many synth artists of the early to mid-'70s seemed more interested in demonstrating their dexterity with their instrument than actually showing why it was worth being dexterous with in the first place. The reason Tim Blake is important is because he took the opposite approach entirely. Schooled in Gong and soon to dignify Hawkwind, Blake is a composer first, a technician a very distant second. And if New Jerusalem, his solo debut, represents a peak which electronic rock in general has yet to top, Crystal Machine is at least equal to the task. In maintaining the earlier album's application of melody over mood, Blake totally separates himself from the ranks of sallow, clever souls who let their machines do all the talking – a lesson which, by year's end, both Jean Michel Jarre and Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" would both have translated into worldwide chart-toppers. More importantly, however, Blake also liberated the synth from the showroom and showman.