Day & Age
From the beginning, the Killers have always wanted to be epic, and they've equated sounding important with being important.
Day & Age
, the band's third album, is their most epic-sounding yet. It's also a drag. New frontier aside,
Day & Age
plods too much, relying on dreamy synthesizers and flat atmosphere to convey some bigger meaning. In "Losing Touch" and "A Dustland Fairytale," the crescendos feel like ripples, rather than the big splashes they're meant to be, and you get the feeling that without a blueprint - without some other band's known quantity - the Killers can't get the formula right.
- Michael Pollock
The Greatest Songs
of the Eighties
(Arista; no stars)
After pillaging the middle-of-the-road ruins of the '50s, '60s and '70s with varying degrees of bathos and success, Barry Manilow - the Clay Aiken of his generation - goes for the slow fizz of the '80s and its genuinely dullest hits. Woe to the epoch so lamely defined by "Arthur's Theme." Pity the man who makes Reba McEntire sound dispirited, as Manilow does on "Islands in the Stream."
No sexuality or sensuality? That's Manilow's schtick. He's done OK by death-mush - "Mandy" still makes me cry. But even Manilow's usual melodramas are tamed here; irritating dramas such as "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" are rendered into such treacherous treacle I forgot I was listening to anything at all.
- A.D. Amorosi
Yes, Colombia has shown us the bilingual hip-shake of Shakira and the golden touch of pop-rock superstar Juanes (scoring another five Latin Grammys last month). But the Colombian export most keenly anticipated by the
rock en español
world is any new record from the diversified, consistently excellent Bogotá-based art-rockers Aterciopelados.
is the seventh studio album from "The Velvety Ones" since singer/songwriter/guitarist Andrea Echeverri and bassist/programmer Héctor Buitrago joined forces in the mid-'90s. It's a loose eco-oriented concept disc; the title track concerns their ailing hometown river. "It's thirsty/It's got a cough," sings Echeverri in her characteristically poetic Spanish and appealing melodic flow. (The group is promoting clean-water legislation in Colombia.) The nearly unbroken stream of 13 tracks touches on bolero, cumbia, reggae, hints of native vallenato, even a relaxed country-rock tinge in "Tomate." Buitrago's arrangements conjure an adventurous if less experimental sound than on previous Atercio albums. As ever, Echeverri's arty musings shine, as on "28," celebrating the implications when "The blood didn't arrive/On the 28th day," the tune enhanced by a deftly integrated rap from Gloria "Goyo" Martínez of Afro-Colombian hip-hop group Choc Quib Town.
- David R. Stampone
Steps to Heaven
(Tompkins Square ***)
Sings Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs
(Tompkins Square ***)
With his brother Ira, who died in 1965, Charlie Louvin formed one of the best duos in country music history. Now 81 and enjoying a new surge in popularity, the Alabama native is busier than ever.
These complementary sets have much in common, from spare musical settings to the asset of Louvin's worn voice. He brings dignity, pathos and a lifetime of experience to this music.
Steps to Heaven
frames Louvin's delivery of spirituals with piano and a female chorus. Slow and stately dominate, but Louvin occasionally cuts loose with a joyous up-tempo effort.
A similar jauntiness breaks the downbeat mood of
Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs
. With piano and choir giving way to acoustic picking colored by fiddle and steel, frisky takes on "Wreck of the Old 97" and "Dixie Boll Weevil" balance the somber "Dark as a Dungeon" and "The Little Grave in Georgia." Louvin knows his way around this material: Three of the songs were on the Louvin Brothers' 1956 album
Tragic Songs of Life
- Nick Cristiano
Willie and the Poor Boys
As much as anyone, John Fogerty made the whole idea of authenticity in music a tricky one. This Northern California kid conjured the swampy sound of a Louisiana bayou he had never visited, complete with patois ("Big wheel keep on toinin' . . ."), and in the process created some of the greatest and most popular rock music ever made.
The first six of Creedence's seven albums from the late '60s and early '70s have been remastered and reissued, all with bonus tracks (mostly live versions of studio cuts). So now this always-bracing music packs even more punch and clarity.
Albums four and five,
Willie and the Poor Boys
, are the cream of the cream, a hair ahead of
. Fogerty compositions such as "Lookin' Out My Back Door," along with covers of Lead Belly, Bo Diddley and Elvis, emphasize the band's roots-consciousness, as folk, country, rockabilly and R&B all figure in the classic sound. The menacing "Run Through the Jungle," meanwhile, shows Fogerty's swamp-rock to be as potent as ever.
"Fortunate Son" burns with working-class rage, the flannel-shirt sensibility that runs through Fogerty's music. And then you have what might be Fogerty's greatest song, "Who'll Stop the Rain." This plaintive folk-rocker speaks to the turbulence of those times, but it also applies to right now. Like everything else here, it's magnificently timeless.
- Nick Cristiano
Pianist Hank Jones and tenor saxophonist (and flutist) James Moody have both in spades. Their quartet with bassist Todd Coolman and drummer Adam Nussbaum is an impeccable affair. Not an unstylish note is heard.
The tunes are choice. Moody, whose career was for a long time entwined with that of Dizzy Gillespie, runs through two of the trumpeter's tunes, "Con Alma" and "Birk's Works," with fervor and style.
The group also turns to the tunes of Tadd Dameron, bop's leading arranger. The quartet's "Ladybird" makes for good hearth music - it's warm - while "Good Bait" makes for an elegant launching pad.
Moody, 78, is full of finely-turned ideas that never run amiss. His "Body and Soul" here is a clinic on how to treat a ballad. Jones, 90, the elder of an amazing jazz family, treats Moody like a vocalist and concentrates on making the sound better. His solos still glow.
The session could use more spice and surprise. But the title sums it up.
- Karl Stark
The Blues and the Abstract Truth Take 2
(Resonance Records ***)
Blues and the Abstract Truth
is a landmark recording in jazz. The reedman, lacking solo time in Quincy Jones' band, put all his heart into this 1961 recording. His ideas collided with a powerhouse band, including trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, saxophonist Eric Dolphy, pianist Bill Evans, and drummer Roy Haynes.
Enter pianist and arranger Bill Cunliffe, a jazz regular in Los Angeles, where Nelson spent his last years. For soloing heft, he taps trumpeter Terell Stafford, Temple University's director of jazz studies, and alto saxophonist Jeff Clayton of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.
The result is respectable. Stafford especially is up to the challenge, climbing all over Nelson's "Hoe Down."
Recastings, though, are troubling. While common in theater and film, they are more problematic in jazz, where venturing ahead has long had greater currency than looking back. It's worthy to honor the hard bop original. But great moments are hard to recapture.
Brandywine Baroque: Laura Heimes and Julianne Baird, sopranos; Tony Boutté, tenor; Sumner Thompson, bass; Karen Flint, harpsichord
Carolyn Sampson, soprano; Robin Blaze, countertenor; Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Nicholas Kraemer conducting
Deborah York, soprano; Lydia Vierlinger, alto; Capella Leopoldina, Jörg Zwicker conducting
(Phoenix Edition ***1/2)
No composer intertwined human voices better than Handel, but duets aren't as frequent in his output as one would think since his operas are a series of star turns. His oratorios contain enough duets to fill the Carolyn Sampson/Robin Blaze disc, with music from
Jephtha, Solomon, Saul
and, best of all, from
. Any cross-section of such towering works is to be welcomed. However, these duets tend to have a similar, mid-level emotional temperature that breeds sameness - particularly with singers whose balance of text projection and mellifluous tone is weighted toward the latter (not that there's anything so wrong with that, especially with voices of this quality).
That disc's pacing problem is preemptively addressed by the concoction of the pseudo-opera
. The disc's original idea was various baroque-period duets by Handel, Bach and Purcell. While attempting to find a through-line for the program, conductor Jörg Zwicker devised the idea for a full-blown three-act scenario. Well, why not (even if the languages jump between English and Italian)? The material is so strong, the individual moments are there to be enjoyed or taken in within the totality. Deborah York and Lydia Vierlinger are seasoned enough that they can make a wordless run of notes speak volumes. And what they do with words is even better.
Few duet partners, though, are as compatible as Julianne Baird and Laura Heimes in the more modestly scaled Brandywine Baroque program of cantatas accompanied only by harpsichord. All singers on the disc are longtime baroque specialists who truly have purged unconscious tendencies toward big-auditorium 21st-century singing - and have learned how to make the music speak more powerfully in more miniaturist terms. The fun part is that some of this music was cannibalized by Handel for
- what now sounds like Christmas began life as something rather saucier. The program will be performed live at Brandywine Baroque's concerts Dec. 13 at St. Peter's Church in Lewes, Del., and Dec. 14 at the Barns at the Flintwoods in Wilmington.