Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love
Review: 2 1/2 stars (Out of 4)
Nothing really jumps out at you on a Trisha Yearwood record. Her voice is the star of the show, and has been since the begining of her career. A seasoned team of professional writers and studio musicians craft sturdy surroundings for that voice, which is an often-remarkable instrument. There's an easy-going feel to Yearwood's work that suggests a cross-pollinization of modern country and adult-contemporary formats. "Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love" finds Mrs. Garth Brooks confidently indulging this tendency. It's a good record, the way a comfortable sweater is a good sweater -- it serves its purpose.
One wishes Yearwood brought more of an edge to her art, but then, it would not be reasonable to expect her to change horses in midstream. It's by-the-numbers country for folks who don't want anything jumping out of the mix and scaring them half to death, and Yearwood and Co. do it well.
That said, it's with the more upbeat material -- the mild honky-tonk rumble of the title tune, the subtle swank of Matraca Berg's "They Call It Falling for a Reason," the breezy country-blues of "Cowboys Are My Weakness" -- that Yearwood shines brightest. When she's really digging in, Yearwood uses her entire range, which has a honeyed upper register, and an increasingly throaty, sensual low-end.
The ballads are overblown, even if they avoid the bombastic production favored by present-day Music Row. "This Is Me You're Talking To" would've been better left off the album, from an artistic point of view, though it will probably be a big country radio hit. It's simply overwrought and does not flatter Yearwood's beautiful voice, which is much better at unearthing subtle emotion than pulling a countrified Celine Dion. "Help Me" is a bird of a similar feather, a sort of Southern version of Bette Midler's "The Wind Beneath My Wings," which can only be a good thing if you happen to be music supervisor for a Hallmark Channel original movie. Yuck.
"Let the Wind Chase You," a folk-based duet with Keith Urban, is the best of the mellower tunes. The two singers' vocal tones are complementary, so that their harmonizing on the song's chorus is close to sublime. It's a high point during an album that could've used a few more of them, but is solid nonetheless.
-- Jeff Miers
The Goo Goo Dolls
Greatest Hits Volume One: The Singles
Review: 3 stars
Hardcore Goo Goo Dolls fans won't find anything here they don't already have, save a new recording of the massive hit "Name," granted a more spacious, slightly ethereal arrangement this time around. There's also the "Transformers" soundtrack surprise hit "Before It's Too Late" making its debut on an official Goos release.
The rest of "Greatest Hits" is exactly that -- a collection of the band's radio hits, culled from its three most successful, and most pop-oriented efforts: "Dizzy Up the Girl," "Gutterflower" and "Let Love In." As a hits-based playlist, the record quite successfully captures the guitar-based pop songcraft of John Rzeznik, who has become increasingly adept at penning memorable melodies and marrying them to big, fat hooks.
Sadly, there are no Robby Takac tracks included here, but that probably means they'll be included in the forthcoming "Volume Two" collection, which is said to be slanted toward B-sides and deeper album cuts.
What "Volume One" offers is a moving primer in latter-period Goo Goo Dolls power-pop. These tunes can't miss.
Church Windows, Brazilian Impressions and Rossiniana
Buffalo Philharmonic and JoAnn Falletta
Review: 3 1/2 stars
One of the more eagerly awaited discs yet by maestra JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra -- brilliant secondary works by a brilliant secondary composer performed in a budget edition by what can now be celebrated in brilliant performances from an orchestra usually taken to be secondary. And with all of it, you can start redefining the word "secondary."
The condescension that Ottorino Respighi suffered throughout the middle part of the past century never stopped "The Fountains of Rome" and, especially, "The Pines of Rome" from being hugely popular orchestral showpieces. The trouble to many ears and minds was that surely such pleasurable and sensually vivid tone poems couldn't possibly be major music, could they? (The postmodern answer: Why in heaven's name not?)
Another story entirely, for far too long, was "Church Windows," which began as a piano piece and wasn't nearly as frequently performed as its concert travelogue brothers but is, in many ways, just as interesting a score, if not more so (though the finale of "The Pines of Rome" could cause a whoosh of excitement in any healthy bloodstream). Based on Gregorian themes introduced to him by his wife, it balances blazing orchestration with religious fervor in a way that superbly challenges any orchestra.
Respighi's "Brazilian Impressions" and "Rossiniana" aren't the major work "Church Windows" is, but the BPO handles the challenges of all three works with gorgeous aplomb. One of the BPO's finest hours since its wonderful previous Griffes disc on Naxos.
-- Jeff Simon
Review: 3 1/2 stars
If anyone drove up in a ox-led droshky 15 years ago and told you that one of the hippest New York City jazz groups -- one of the most powerful jazz coalitions around, in fact -- would be formed around a young Israeli family named Cohen, you'd have thought that, at that moment, they weren't qualified to drive a droshky or anything else.
Well, guess again. It's not a dream or the product of exotic substance abuse. They, in fact, have their own sextet called the 3 Cohen sextet, and they're extraordinary. There are two brothers and a sister on lead voices in the sextet: tenor saxophonist and clarientist Anat, her older brother Yuval on soprano and trumpet player Avishai (not to be confused with -- are you ready -- the virtuoso Israeli/American bass player also named Avishai Cohen). Filling out the sextet is bassist Omer Avital, pianist Aaron Goldberg and drummer Eric Harland, one of the very best around, as has been proven many times over in discs by the Marsalises and Charles Lloyd.
This is straightforward post-bop mainstream jazz, but when the 3 Cohens call a disc "Braid," they're not kidding, so intricate and intuitively apt is the counterpoint and voice leading when they're playing together or off each other.
Obviously, they might not be such powerhouses if they hadn't come to America to go to the Berklee College of Music, but if there's any group that illustrated how profoundly and effortlessly international jazz has become in the new millennium, it's this one.