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.
It's hard to believe that Morning Glory Ramblers is the first full-length recording by Norman and Nancy Blake in eight years. Certainly they've been active, from playing on all 47 Down From the Mountain dates, performing on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Cold Mountain soundtracks, June Carter Cash's final album, Wildwood Flower, and various other projects. This album, recorded on the soundstage of the Western Jubilee Warehouse in Colorado Springs, is a dynamite setting for the material found here. There are 17 songs in this collection, seven of them traditional melodies, still others so old they've seldom been heard over the last century, a Hank Williams' tune, and a couple by friends of Norman and Nancy's that are so saturated in the deep country, they could have been written decades before.
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.