01 May 2009
 

 

The Sounds of Vinyl Records

There's something about the combination of needle and groove that showcases music in it's very best light.
 
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Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama : There will be a light  
Ben Harper's history with the Blind Boys of Alabama has been an evolving one that has moved from being a guest on their landmark Higher Ground offering and touring with them in Europe, to the Blind Boys joining Ben and the Innocent Criminals on-stage at the front and back of the show. This album began as a series of rehearsals for collaboration on a Blind Boys of Alabama record. Recorded in two sessions, the vibe in the room was loose and creative enough that the two acts ended up with an album of collaborative material for joint release. And this is a collaboration in the truest sense of the word. It's not just Ben playing gospel, or the Blind Boys of Alabama singing on a Ben Harper record. These ten tunes — with seven Harper originals written specifically for the sessions, the rest traditional gospel tunes and covers — showcase Harper and the Innocent Criminals alongside the Blind Boys of Alabama. The album kicks off with Harper's "Take My Hand," a funky gospel tune that showcases a Fender Rhodes and Harper's wah-wah pedal underscored by the call and response of the Blind Boys repeating the title after each sung line of the verse, before Clarence Fountain takes it out. "Wicked Man" is a Southern soul tune that has a Muscle Shoals groove and a beautiful vocal weave on the refrain. "Church House Steps" is pure gospel groove with a Hammond B3 and a smoking duet between the Blind Boys' layered harmonies and Harper on the verses with full-on blues feel in his singing and playing. There's a killer cover of the Bob Dylan/Danny O'Keefe tune, "Well, Well, Well," with Delta blues bottleneck shimmering through the intertwined vocal lines. The deep, nocturnal sparseness of "Satisfied Mind" is a complete re-reading of the nugget with a swampy backbeat. And this album works beautifully. Nothing sounds forced, all of it loose and comfortable and the vocal performances on both sides are simply stellar. Highly recommended.

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Bob Dylan : Together Through Life  
We have reached a crucial point in the history of modern music. As the icons of the rock and folk movements ascend into their twilight years, what direction will these long and storied careers take? Think about it. We have been able to trace the careers of jazz and blues greats such as Duke Ellington and John Lee Hooker, but what rock legends have lived long enough for us to find out what becomes of their music in a later, final stage? As artists such as Leonard Cohen push into their seventies, musicians with legacies that feature numerous left turns and a refusal to settle into the folkie or bard boxes, we are experiencing a cultural phenomenon akin to other media. Imagine being able to view the final stages of great painters such as Pablo Picasso as they occur.
No surviving musician is as legendary as Bob Dylan and with Together Through Life, he has cemented the '00s as the years he returned his music to its very roots. True, many people will consider his folk songs of the early '60s to be the progenitor for that Dylan sound, but if you look more closely at the genesis of folk music, and the songs of Dylan's "Pre-Dylan" days, he's covering songs by the likes of Jesse Fuller and Bessie Smith. Sure, people love to pinpoint Woody Guthrie's topical songs as the influence on the young Dylan, but look below the hood and there are also influences running from the great traveling bluesmen to Tin Pan Alley. Dylan's ability to synthesize American music, true music from an era of troubadours and minstrels where the sounds float down from Appalachia or explode from speakeasies and chain gangs, has always been his gift. It's just now, as he settles into old age, that he is able to let those many strains of pure American music speak through his work.

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Borodin : String Quartet No.2  
Unlike his fellow countryman Tchaikovsky, it wasn't easy for Alexander Borodin to achieve the recognition due to him. As a professor of chemistry, Borodin found very little time for composing, but in spite of this he is considered one of the most important Russian symphonic composers of the 19th century. Borodin also created works for small ensembles; thanks to its beautiful, slow notturno, his String Quartet No. 2 is among the most important compositions in chamber music.
Dmitri Shostakovich has often been honoured as one of the outstanding composers of this century. Shostakovich was devastated by the destruction of Dresden and the composition of the moving String Quartet No. 8 was his means of overcoming his war experiences. The intensity of this piece is augmented by the relaxed climax in the largo which brings his composition to a serene ending.
The international career of the Moscow Philharmonic Quartet began in 1955 when it took on the honourable title "The Borodin Quartet". These 1962 recordings are masterly performances, full of great expressivity. Even the highest demands are met by the warm and full sonority.

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Khachaturian : "Spartacus", "Gayneh"  
.The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Aram Khachaturian
Aram Khachaturian, the most well-known of all Armenian composers, believed that art should be closely bound to the people and indeed it was a pre-requisite for his own creative inspiration. Largely uninfluenced by the manifold trends of the 20th century, Khachaturian's works reflect the folk heritage of his native country. In the two richly orchestrated ballets, which he himself later arranged into suites, we find the musical spirit and customs of an ancient culture. In particular the unrestrained exuberance of the Sabre Dance from Gayaneh has contributed to the immense popularity of this suite. The ballet Spartacus could be described as a monumental historical drama and made Khachaturian one of the Soviet Union's most highly honoured composers.
That a slave uprising can not only be expressed in music but can also take place on an international dimension is admirably demonstrated by the maestro personally in this recording where Khachaturian takes on the role of leader of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.


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Tivoli iPal  

The most delightful radio on the planet.

We’ve all owned things that bring on a smile just from looking at, or holding, or listening to them. The Tivoli Audio® PAL®(Portable Audio Laboratory®) radio is, for many of our customers, one of those things.
Originally conceived as a portable version of the benchmark Tivoli Audio Model One™ table radio, the PAL radio has taken on a personality all its own. “You won’t believe how great the speakers are on these portable AM/FM radios. You can hook up your CD or MP3 player to share your music with your friends. They’re design marvels, acoustically and aesthetically.”
Tivoli Audio is an American electronics company, mainly making radios and other sound reproduction equipment. The company was started by Tom DeVesto. Tivoli Audio emphasizes a simple and functional design without redundant switches, knobs or lights. Henry Kloss designed several versions, including the PAL. Many types, including the Model One and Model Two, incorporate visual elements similar to Kloss' legendary KLH Model Eight table radio; most prominent is the vernier rotary tuning dial, which allows the user to carefully dial in a station without requiring excessively-steady


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