Like American comedian W.C. Fields, American composer Elliott Carter never believed in giving the listener an even break. In the three string quartets recorded here, Carter used all the tools at his command a virtuoso technique, an adroit intellect, and an unsurpassed ability to write ruthlessly independent counterpoint to challenge and confound the unsuspecting listener.
One of the great decade-long singles runs is straightforwardly documented on Respect M.E., a compilation distributed throughout Europe and, unfortunately, not released in the States. From 1997 through 2006, Missy Elliott's work – often the product of a partnership with producer Timbaland – was in steady rotation on the radio and on video programs. Nearly every time out, she came up with something fun, inventive, out of this world, and lasting, charting alternate paths for pop music while also projecting the image of a fully empowered plus-size woman in a mainstream populated by females who tended to be anything but. Although each one of Elliott's albums is well worth owning, nothing can deny the need for this release, which includes almost every noteworthy track she released during the period, from "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" through the underappreciated "Teary Eyed." The most significant omissions are "Lick Shots" and "Take Away": hardly deal breakers. An ideal companion release would contain the hits Elliott wrote and/or produced for other artists, such as Aaliyah's "One in a Million," SWV's "Save Me," 702's "Where My Girls At," Nicole's "Make It Hot," Total's "What About Us," Monica's "So Gone," and Tweet's "Oops (Oh My)." During these years, there was no greater force in popular music.
Few others besides avant-garde composer/instrumentalist Elliott Sharp could record a collection of blues songs and make them sound like a new genre altogether, a sort of blues/folk/jazz/new age sound with droning keyboards, slinky reverbed vocals, sinuous guitar parts, and angstful horns. The album is by turns haunting, sexy, volatile, and soothing
These quartets are Juilliard specialties, and anyone wanting to hear this music played with a near ideal combination of virtuosity and humanity need look no further. Carter's quartets are not for the musically faint of heart: they are uncompromisingly thorny, intricate pieces that require lots of intense, dedicated listening. Very few people doubt their seriousness–or even their claims to musical greatness–but just as few people enjoy listening to them. Perhaps this spectacular set will encourage the adventurous to give them a shot. They're worth the time.
As son of Yes guitarist Steve, Virgil Howe was born into a house full of music, tinkering on his dad’s synth at four, learning multiple instruments as he grew up and destined to follow in his father’s footsteps…