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Listening Post / Brief reviews of select releases


Tina Turner, "Tina!" (Capitol). As Tina Turner prepares to launch her first North American tour in years, Capitol has assembled "Tina!," a compilation documenting her development from deep soul diva, to R&B/pop crossover artist, and finally, to mainstream pop-soul grande dame. For my money, Turner's masterpiece is also Phil Spector's -- the keening, wailing wall-of-sound brilliance that is "River Deep Mountain High." All the other hits are here, too, as well as four previously unreleased live recordings and a pair of brand new songs, "It Would Be A Crime" and "I'm Ready." Neither is particularly remarkable, relying as they do on hyper-cheesy production flourishes and lame arrangements. But man, even as she prepares to turn 70, Turner can still sing like few others. Worthwhile as a career overview, concert souvenir, or introductory collection for new listeners. Review: 3 stars (Out of 4) (Jeff Miers)



Sigur Ros, "Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust" (XL). Iceland's Sigur Ros has slowly built a strong underground following over the course of four albums of carefully constructed, brilliantly orchestrated rock songs. From the beginning, the band ignored the earthly plane and headed straight into a foggy ether, there to laze about in a billowy, abstract, but charged atmosphere. These guys came down hard on the "space" side of the space rock idiom, where long meandering songs, centered around airy melodies sung in an invented language, received emphasis from bowed electric guitars set atop gluey tempos. It has all been so cool to experience this unique band's development, to the point where Sigur Ros could have simply continued churning out the psychedelic masterpieces in a similar form without upsetting fans too much. "Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust" -- loosely translated as "with a buzz in our ears we play endlessly" -- offers some rather radical shifts in direction, however. Acoustic instruments, horn and string arrangements and brisk-clip tempos abound, with nary a bowed electric six-string in evidence. It works, wonderfully, navigating a spot in the clouds somewhere to the right of heaven and the left of Radiohead. Epic, grandiose, passionate and sprawling, even if the songs follow a slightly more conventional path than previously, "Med Sud" is a masterwork. Review: 4 stars (J.M.)



Rudresh Mahanthappa, "Kinsmen" featuring Kadri Gopalnath and the Dakshina Ensemble (Pi). Get this. If you have any jazz adventure in you at all, this is extraordinary. Jazz has always been international. Not only have American jazz musicians settled in Europe and even Japan, but was any jazz guitarist ever more revered than Django Reinhardt? What is happening now is that we're seeing new places for great jazz musicians to come from and be influenced by besides Europe, Japan and Africa. This is, far and away, one of the great jazz records of the year and it comes from the saxophonist who was part of pianist/composer Vijay Iyer's quartet in last season's Hunt Real Estate Art of Jazz Series in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. This music is much more beholden to classical Indian music than anything by Iyer (or, for that matter, anything by American jazzmen like Coltrane, Paul Horn and Charles Lloyd at the pinnacle of Indian influence in jazz). And yet with fellow alto saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath and violinist A. Kanyakumari, their combination of jazz and Indian influence is not only completely seamless but hugely powerful. A terrific jazz record. Review: 4 stars (Jeff Simon)


Martin Taylor, "Double Standards" (P3 Music/The Guitar Label). He's one of Europe's great jazz guitarists and will begin an American tour in mid-October. (Cleveland, sadly, is as close to Buffalo as he'll get.) For the first time, the man who played in Stephane Grappelli's best late-life band and who's beloved by such guitarists as Pat Metheny, Sylvain Luc and Jeff Beck, has recorded an entire disc accompanied only by himself in overdub (hence the title of this, which Taylor calls a "solo duet recording.") Taylor is a witty man who says that before the final tracks were recorded (solo or accompaniment), "what often sounded like a burning zoo in the morning, would actually end up sounding quite musical by the end of the day." Quite frankly, this music is too beautiful and civilized to remind a living soul of screaming animals but at best, it's a delight. What other guitarist, after all, could be more appropriate accompaniment for Martin Taylor than Martin Taylor? Review: 3 stars (J.S.)


John Miller, "Stage Door Johnny: John Miller Takes on Broadway" (PS Classics). Johnny Miller is a music coordinator on Broadway -- that is, he hires musicians for pit orchestras, recordings, films, etc. In his off time, he sits around with his guitar. Years of Broadway tunes percolating in his head produced this charming disc, full of completely original interpretations. Miller's voice is thin and humorous, something like Dave Frishberg's. When he's backed by a folk group, the whole package sounds a lot like James Taylor. Miller takes songs you never think he would take and turns them on their ear. He puts "Secret Love" with an aggressive, almost Diddley beat. "Ol' Man River" is easygoing and tender. "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" kicks off with a bluegrass chorus. "I Won't Grow Up," from "Peter Pan," turns into a contrapuntal chorus with a bunch of other guys. And it's cute how he goes for songs a guy would normally never sing, giving us a sweet "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" and a hilarious "I Can't Say No." Who can say no to this? Not me. Review: 4 stars (Mary Kunz Goldman)



Vaughan Williams, The Complete Symphonies and assorted smaller works performed by Bournemouth Symphony and Chorus and conductors Kees Bakels and Paul Daniel (Naxos, six discs). No one would dream of pretending that these are the best Vaughan Williams symphony performances available. So great is the regard of his countrymen for his music (and so popular has it been over here since his death 50 years ago) that there have been many towering performances of Vaughan Williams' symphonies and smaller orchestral works (from conductors as disparate as Barbirolli, Boult and even Andre Previn). What this collection of performances from 1992 to 2003 is though is a uniformly excellent one with first-rate vivid modern sound, a British orchestra as attuned to this music as an orchestra could probably be and a budget price. The Naxos cunning in finding A-grade performers with B-grade reputations isn't uniformly successful, but it is so often that it's immensely impressive. And, on occasion, it works so well that it's close to stunning. This is one of those cases. Review: 3 1/2 stars (J.S.)

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