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Back Cover

Gryphon Diablo 300

Verve 00602577089619
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ***½
Sound Quality: ***½
Overall Enjoyment: ***½

Vinyl’s health -- it’s grown in sales every year since 2011 -- continues in a physical media marketplace that’s otherwise shrinking. In 2018, LP sales in the US alone totaled nearly 17 million units, and close to one-third of revenues from physical recording formats. So it’s a little surprising that some record labels have been slow to take advantage of this revitalized segment of the market. Verve’s foot-dragging is especially puzzling given the fact that the label is, with Blue Note -- now committed to reissuing much of its catalog on vinyl -- part of Universal Music.

Blue Note B0029413-01
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****

When saxophonist Sam Rivers began recording as a leader for Blue Note Records in 1964, he’d played briefly in Miles Davis’s quintet, and had also played in sessions led by Tony Williams, the drummer in Davis’s band. Rivers was a bit too avant-garde for Davis, who replaced him with Wayne Shorter. The four albums Rivers made for Blue Note between 1964 and 1973 were cutting edge, but still accessible enough for the label’s loyalists.

Parlophone DB83881 0190295692735
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ***½
Sound Quality: ***½
Overall Enjoyment: ***½

Let’s Dance, David Bowie’s 15th studio album, appeared in 1983. Videos based on its singles were in heavy rotation on MTV, which by then had established itself as the dominant promotional tool for new pop music. Bowie’s acute visual sense made him a good fit for MTV, and his videos for “Let’s Dance,” “Modern Love,” and “China Girl” won viewers and sales. Those singles were among his biggest selling, and the LP hit no.1 worldwide.

Intervention IR-021
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ****½
Sound Quality: *****
Overall Enjoyment: ****½

Matthew Sweet’s first two albums, Inside (1986) and Earth (1989), showed promise, but their production locks them in time. Nor, when he recorded them, had Sweet quite pulled together his influences into the inspired level of songwriting that would make his third album, Girlfriend (1991), so unexpectedly good, and one of the best records of the 1990s.

Shakey Pictures/Reprise 574192-1
Format: 2 LPs

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ***½
Overall Enjoyment: ****

Neil Young rivals Bob Dylan for making large amounts of archival material available to his fans, giving them a clearer picture of how he creates his music, and how he presents it in concert. In April 2018 he released Roxy: Tonight’s the Night Live, comprising performances from a three-night stint at the Roxy Theater in 1973. He closes out 2018 with Songs for Judy, a collection of solo performances from a November 1976 tour.

Dunham DUN1007 (DAP-054)
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ***½
Overall Enjoyment: ****

The last few years have been tough ones for lovers of soul music. Aretha Franklin died last August of pancreatic cancer, less than two years after Sharon Jones, the shining light of Daptone Records, passed away from the same illness. In September 2017, Daptone and soul lost another great when Charles Bradley died, of stomach cancer.

ECM 2618 6775896 (LP), ECM 2618 B0029060-02 (CD)
Format: LP, CD

Musical Performance: ***½
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****

Danish jazz guitarist Jakob Bro has recorded 15 albums as a leader since 2003, and has played as a sideman on nearly as many. He’s appeared on work by formidable players, including Paul Motian and Tomasz Stańko; other jazz greats, among them Lee Konitz, have appeared on sessions he’s led. Nor is Bro intimidated by playing with other guitarists -- Bill Frisell has appeared on three of his discs. Bro’s playing has clearly been influenced by Frisell and by Pat Metheny, two strong voices in jazz guitar, but that hasn’t kept him from developing an immediately recognizable style as both player and composer.

Sundazed LP 5460
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ***½
Overall Enjoyment: ****

Don Van Vliet was born Don Glen Vliet in 1941 in Glendale, California, a city just outside of Los Angeles. He showed artistic talent at a young age, and had an opportunity to study art in Europe at age 13, but his father did not give his consent. He met Frank Zappa in high school in Lancaster, California, and the two bonded over their interest in blues and R&B. By 1964, Vliet was performing as Captain Beefheart in bands around southern California.

Role Play RPRV03 (CD), Park the Van PTV-LP70 (LP)
Formats: CD and LP

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ***½
Overall Enjoyment: ***½

The Magic Numbers have released five albums, and while this British quartet comprising two brother-sister pairs has kept great harmonies and solid pop melodies at the center of their sound, they’ve also worked to keep things fresh. Their first two records, The Magic Numbers (2005) and Those the Brokes (2006), were straightforward in execution, letting the vocals and songs speak for themselves. The Runaway (2010) added string arrangements and a bit more instrumental complexity, and Alias (2014) worked in the occasional distorted guitar and sound effect.

Intervention IR-020
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ***½
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****

When I got my first apartment, in 1981, the first thing I did was order a cable-TV package that included MTV. In those days, MTV programmed nothing but music videos -- it was the only way I could hear the Clash and the Jam, let alone the English Beat. Punk and New Wave got little airplay on the local FM stations, so MTV helped me hear some great new bands.