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Soundtracks of Our Lives week ending 11 May 2024 CE
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Fitter Stoke
Fitter Stoke
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Re: Soundtracks of Our Lives week ending 11 May 2024 CE
May 12, 2024, 09:10
Face down beneath the waterline gazing into the deep:

Olivia Newton-John ‘Greatest Hits Vol.2’ - Livvy’s early 80s hits have dated less than you’d think since John Farrar’s compositional nous was sophisticated enough to transcend the dance-fuelled trends of the time, and overproduction was avoided. ‘Landslide’ in particular has some highly original chording going down;

Can ‘Live 1973-1977’ - I’m not routinely given to covermount CDs but this current Uncut offering is worth every penny of the magazine price and probably the greatest freebie ever. Of course, you cooler dudes will know this music already. Me, I’m effing transfixed. Proof that even in their supposedly fallow years Can could deliver the goods onstage. In fact, it’s the 1976 and 1977 material here that wows me most;

Caravan ‘Back To Front’ - perennially underrated orig lineup comeback album from 1982. Pure pop for prog people, as Stiff never said;

Gruff Rhys ‘Sadness Sets Me Free’ - my album of the season: sunshine even when it’s overcast;

Allman Brothers Band ‘Brothers and Sisters’ - uncool as it may be to pick anything post-Duane, this is comfortably my fave Allmans’ studio album. Dickey Betts RIP;

Ronnie Montrose ‘Open Fire’ - where the talented and individual Ronnie Montrose for some reason wanted to be Jeff Beck, and slightly missed the mark. Aside from the excellent ‘Heads Up’, this is mostly a bit dull;

Radiohead ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ - it’s been too long since Radiohead regaled us with a proper album. Hearing their last one from 2016 (!) reminds me that, good as The Smile are, they aren’t the full picture. This is simply wonderful contemporary music;

Electric Light Orchestra ‘Ma Ma Ma Belle’ (from On The Third Day’) - caught at the cusp between prog cred and pop stardom, with one of the greatest riffs ever at the start of each verse. The cello counterpoint three quarters of the way through is truly inspirational;

AC/DC ‘High Voltage’ - those pre-punk years were dull. Yeah, okay;

Opeth ‘Garden Of The Titans’ - only the second heaviest thing I’ve heard this week (see below);

Return To Forever ‘Romantic Warrior’ - dated synths aside, this is a fusion album that still holds its own, especially Al Di Meola’s jaw-dropping axe shredding. Enough feel remains to ensure enjoyment as well as admiration;

John Surman ‘Words Unspoken’ - mostly minor keyed, impressionistic vignettes from the octogenarian reed master and his impressive young sidemen. Lovely, if best approached in separate half hour sessions;

Beethoven: Symphonies 1, 3, 5 & 7 (Kammerkademie Pottsdam/Antonello Manacorda) - from a newly released Beethoven symphony cycle. No interpretative revelations but the pacing and phrasing are very satisfying, with plenty of percussive impact when required. Beautifully recorded too. I look forward to hearing more;

Beethoven: Symphony no.5 (Royal Flemish PO/Philippe Herreweghe) - well played but routine take on this most perfect of symphonies. There’s a wacky oboe improvisation in the first movement and almost playful staccato chords in the last, killing its impact despite impressive kettle drums. Not for me;

Schubert: Symphony no.4 ‘Tragic’ (Netherlands CO/Gordan Nikolic) - played for beauty over drama, and immensely soothing to a troubled mind;

Tchaikovsky: Francesca da Rimini (New York Stadium SO/Leopold Stokowski) - goddamn, this is HEAVY. Really. Proof that it’s not just Opeth that can make me feel like I’m repeatedly smashed against the walls of hell. I played Bernstein’s first NYPO and Bychkov’s Czech PO recordings of the same work but it’s Stoky that stokes this inferno;

Dvorak: Symphony no.9 (SNO/Sir Alexander Gibson) - I don’t think this 1967 LP of the New World has ever seen a digital release, which is sad: it’s an excellent, perfectly judged performance at least as fine as more lauded versions. I preceded this with Gibson’s equally good Berlioz Rob Roy Overture. He was an expert conductor who has never really got the renown he deserved;

Brahms: Motets (NDR Choir/Gunter Jena) - Brahms’ patent sonorities resound beautifully in his acapella vocal music, superbly rendered here;

Schumann: Forest Scenes & 6 Fantasy Pieces Op.12 (Sviatoslav Richter) - much as I love to compare interpretations of great music, a select few records sound so right in every way there seems little point in hearing others. This is one of those records.

Reinvent the government. Let’s do it on Monday.

Sunny vibes to all

Dave x

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