Share this article

print logo

Listening Post / Brief reviews of select releases

> Dance

The Pussycat Dolls, "PCD" (A&M). The Pussycat Dolls are the Spice Girls, redux, with a touch of burlesque and cabaret thrown in. It's at best kitschy, at worst, vapid. Cameos by Busta Rhymes, Will I. Am and Timbaland do nothing to generate much interest here. Nor does a cover of "Tainted Love," which is a few steps south of banal. Oh yeah, in case you were wondering, there are six Pussycat Dolls, but only one of them -- Nicole -- actually does much singing; she's credited with all lead and backing vocals on the record, the rest of her sisters only with additional backgrounds. OK, ladies; your 15 minutes start right . . . now! Review: 1 star (Out of 4)(Jeff Miers)

> World

Anoushka Shankar, "Rise" (EMI/Angel). The great Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar is her father. Norah Jones is her half-sister. She calls the late George Harrison "Uncle George." And if you listen to her sitar playing and crossover compositions such as "Red Sun" that employ what sounds like nothing so much as nattering, chattering sub-continental scat-singing (it's called "bol" singing, and it transfers tabla drumming rhythms to the voice), you'll rejoice in a musical artist whose gifts seem to be every bit as abundant and lavish as her beauty. While making every possible effort to preserve the classical Indian traditions of her father, she is, in her own music, phenomenally able to connect it with other cultures and other generations. Don't ask what it is. Just enjoy. Perhaps even marvel. It's gorgeous, often remarkable music. Review: 3 1/2 stars (Jeff Simon)

* * *

The King's Singers and Saraband, "Sacred Bridges" (World Village). A fascinating disc: a brilliantly performed collection of "sacred bridges" from Judiasm, Christianity and Islam in 16th and 17 century settings of the Psalms of David. The composers include the great 17th century Dutch polyphonist Sweelinck, Jewish violinist and singer Salamone Rossi Hebreo and two Turkish composers (one a former Polish church musician) who specialized in religious and cultural cross-breeding. Review: 3 stars(J.S.)

> Classical

Barber, "Adagio for Strings," orchestral and chamber works performed by the New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra, conductors Thomas Schippers and Eugene Ormandy and others (Sony Classic Library). Even among the great recent collections of reissued music by Samuel Barber, this one from Sony's new "Classic Library" series stands tall for being unusual. Along with Barber's "Adagio for Strings" conducted in 1965 by his (and Norman Dello Joio's) friend and protege Thomas Schippers, you also get the Beaux Arts String Quartet's performance of Barber's String Quartet, Op. 11, where that hugely famous piece of American music first appeared (upon completing its composition, the composer wrote, "I have just finished the slow movement of my quartet today -- it is a knock-out!", an odd thing to say about one of the world's great masterpieces of musical grief, but so it is, so it is). Also included is the oft-performed "Excursions" performed by pianist Andre Previn and the considerably less famous "Toccata Festiva" for organ and orchestra, performed by E. Power Biggs and the Philadelphians under Eugene Ormandy. Review: 4 stars (J.S.)

> Blues

Vivian Campbell, "Two Sides of If" (Sanctuary). Irish guitarist Vivian Campbell made his name in the world of hard rock and metal, as a hot-shot, fleet-fingered kid with Ronnie James Dio, and as a mature adult with pop-metallers Def Leppard, with whom he still tours and records. When metal guys get the blues -- invariably, late in life -- the result can be downright embarrassing. But fellow Irishman Gary Moore pulled if off convincingly and, somewhat surprisingly, so does Campbell. Both men have an indelible connection to the blues through the Irish rover, Rory Gallagher, that country's equivalent to Stevie Ray Vaughan. Campbell worshipped Gallagher as a kid; the thing about the blues is, once it's bitten you, it will have to come out sometime. As a player, Campbell -- with a band that includes virtuoso Terry Bozzio on drums, playing with uncharacteristic understatedness here -- plays with conviction, chops and tone. As a singer, he sounds pretty white, a fact underscored when Joan Osborne lets it rip with buckets full of soul on "Spoonful." (It's a problem with the vibrato; rock guys don't often apply the right vibrato and inflection on blues recordings, Eric Clapton being the glaring exception.) Still, Campbell does an admirable job throughout, and the inclusion of ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on two tracks is a godsend for guitar lovers. A sturdy and often impassioned coming out as a bluesman for Campbell. Review: 3 stars (J.M.)

* * *

Barry Goldberg, Nick Gravenites, Harvey Mandel, Tracy Nelson, Sam Lay and Corky Siegel, "Chicago Blues Reunion -- Buried Alive in the Blues: Limited Collector's Edition" (Out the Box). Nothing with Tracy Nelson singing four songs on it should ever escape major notice, especially when she brings the house down the way she does with her rafter-busting voice on "Walk Away" -- and especially with this company, recorded in concert October 2004. The title song, by Nick Gravenites, was written for Janis Joplin, but she died before getting a chance to sing it. To hear Gravenites do it now has special resonance. This is the blues as an article of faith, Chicago style (North And South Side). You'll have no trouble believing, if not exactly worshipping. Review: 3 stars (J.S.)

> Soundtrack

"Rebecca," the 1940 film score by Franz Waxman, the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Adriano, conductor (Naxos). The latest in Naxos' wonderful film music series is a dandy -- the shining, Gothic score to the elegant Alfred Hitchcock horror masterpiece "Rebecca." This was Waxman's favorite score (he also wrote the music for Hitchcock's "Rear Window"). Listening to this expansive performance, you can sense the fun he had with it, from the halting, uneasy waltz in the Hotel Lobby, hinting at choppy romantic sailing ahead, to hints that everything's not going to be smooth romantic sailing, to the passionate blasts that accompany the burning of Manderley. Of special interest is the novachord, a now-obsolete electronic instrument Waxman called into service to evoke the spooky presence of the first Mrs. De Winter. ("Its sinister purr seems to deepen the undercurrent of lesbianism and necrophilia," observe the astute liner notes.) I just wish they could have worked in Joan Fontaine's haunting opening monologue, "Sometimes I do go back to Manderley. . ." But you can't have everything. Review: 4 stars (Mary Kunz Goldman)

There are no comments - be the first to comment