Best Music Reviewed!
During the course of a long and rambling conversation late at night in the Green Man Pub which touched on matters from cricket and the best single malts to how to make a proper chocolate souffle, we somehow decided this edition to have reviewers pick the single best recording that they reviewed for us. We think you'll find their choices rather interesting!
Camille Alexa had no problem picking her all-time favourite recording that she reviewed for us -- 'Cote d'Azur with Ella Fitzgerald and Joan Miro. Man! The entire thing is gorgeous, shot in that amazing gritty sepia-tinted black & white around the 1960s French Riviera, a region visibly crackling with the excitement of true cosmopolitanism, at the cutting edge of art and thought and social progressiveness. Ellington's brief intro, in which he describes there being 'nothing unwonderful about a truly well-appointed bikini' and being 'with it with the in-people,' is absolutely drool-worthy. His trio's extemporaneous session in a sculpture garden (with Joan Miro himself tapping toe in the background, lounging against one of his own sculptures on a marble-white pedestal that glows in the bright Riviera sunshine) is nothing short of astounding, and Ms. Fitzgerald's performance at the 1966 jazz festival at Juan-les-Pins, hours after learning of her sister's death, brings tears to my eyes every time.'
Craig Clarke offers -- 'Best recording? How about one that I actually still listen to years later, when many of the rest are long forgotten? That would definitely be Play It Again, Sham!, the collection of rarities and B-sides that the Saw Doctors put out in 2002. What I said back then still applies today: 'I [can't] listen to it and not instantly cheer up. It's a veritable party in a jewel case.'
Cat Eldridge says without doubt it was Beyond the Stacks -- 'Simply put, they're brilliant. The intertwining of the Shetland sound of [Frifot] fiddler Aly Bain meets the varied instruments (mandola, harmonica, jews harp) of Swede Möller in a way which few duos I've ever heard match. The only group that sounds close to this duo is -- not at all to my surprise -- Frifot.'
Tim Hoke says 'When the Editor-in-Chief asked which CD, of all that I've reviewed, was the best, I was daunted to say the least. There are several that I continue to pull off the shelf and listen to again. One recording, though, remains fresh with each listening. Committed, by the now-defunct Stark Raven, is a lively,
interesting blend of Irish traditional, jazz, rock, and worldbeat.'
Michael Hunter has a lengthy answer -- 'If I was being clever, I'd say that the definition of 'best' changes over time and there's no way I could select one CD now without that choice becoming redundant again very quickly. If I was being obvious, I'd choose one of the many Fairport Convention CDs reviewed over the years and again, that would probably change day by day too. However - for conforming to the various criteria I like in a CD; things like unpredictability, melody, a mix of ancient and modern, light and shade and so much more, I would have to go for the John Barleycorn Reborn set from 2007. Everything that's in the review still remains true, including the sheer listenability of such a large and diverse collection of music, and the clear intent and successful execution of the theme of Dark Brittanica. Sadly, Woven Wheat Whispers no longer exists but Cold Spring Records still distributes the album, and I happily recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in its premise.
The choice of Jack Merry will not surprise anyone who knows him -- 'After finishing a review of the latest Alasdair Fraser endeavour, Fire and Grace, I looked around the Green Man music library to see if we had overlooked any of his other CDs. Indeed we had. Dawn Dance really should have been reviewed sometime ago, given that it says on it 'promotional use only'. How it got overlooked is a story in itself, but we'll let sleeping musicians that shall not be named here by me stay that way. Let's just say that it was such an excellent CD that some of the fiddlers here kept borrowing it from the library for extended periods of time!'
Robert M. Tilendis, after he had calmed down a bit, responded thus -- 'Y'know, this is not easy. Comparing Celto-punk and classical is a lot harder than apples and oranges. So what do I pick? Gamelan? Raga? Celtic or Nordic trad? Nubian drumming? Medieval Iberia or Germany? A great romantic masterpiece? Sheesh! I'm calling it for Morton Feldman's The Viola in My Life. It was a landmark recording when first issued and still has power: subtle, spare, intelligent, lean but intoxicating, it's got everything I love about American music in the late twentieth century. Feldman works by implication, and I demand that an artist leave something for me to do. 'Nuff said?'
Gary Whitehouse says 'As I confessed in my review at the time, I'm not much of a jazz writer. And for jazz, I prefer 1930s and '40s swing. But it was such a humbling moment to be able to scribble my own few notes about the great Miles Davis landmark album Kind of Blue when Columbia Legacy released this CD/DVD DualDisc edition. This
We should remind you about our special editions which are our way of looking at specific writers and other subjects worthy of exploring in-depth. Of course, we've done several editions on master storyteller Peter S. Beagle which you can find thisaway and over 'ere. Needless to say, we're very proud of the great edition on Charles de Lint we did.
We did one on the ever fascinating trio of Brian, Toby, and Wendy Froud; naturally we did one on master storyteller J.R.R. Tolkien who is much loved by our staff; not to mention ones on Catherynne M. Valente, Patricia McKillip, and Elizabeth Bear
Oh, our Editor just reminded me that we did (as if I could 'ave forgotten!) an edition devoted to the now departed and much missed Year's Best Fantasy & Horror anthology.
Lastly, we have put together a Recommended Series Reading List covering many genres from fantasy to mystery and (of course) sf for your redoing pleasure. You can find that list thisaway.
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