Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band:Live In Barcelona(Columbia Music Video)
When this remarkable DVD came out last fall, it didn't get much attention, probably because Bruce Springsteen's previous DVD release, Live In New York City, got so much ink. (That disc captured the E Street Band's 2001 reunion tour.) But Live In Barcelona is actually a much stronger set in my view: It's the E Street Band another year down the line from New York City and playing with even more passion and conviction (if that's possible). The reason is simple: The program is dominated by nine songs from Springsteen's extraordinary meditation of 9/11 and its aftermath, The Rising. Those songs are so full of life and spirit here, it's impossible not to be swept up in their grandeur and occasional sadness and desolation. Beyond all that great new material, though, is a fine collection of “hits” (several of which are also on New York City) and a handful of less predictable choices, including “Night,” “She's the One,” and exquisite solo piano renditions of “Spirit In the Night” and one of my all-time favorite songs, “Incident on 57th Street.” The sound is occasionally a tad cluttered, but that's nothing new for this band — there's whole lot of mojo goin' on. But the performances couldn't be better and I must say, that Barcelona crowd really knows how to get down! A remarkable musical journey, from the edge of town into the fire and beyond. (As a bonus, there's also a documentary about the tour tagged on to the end of disc two.) Bruuuuuuuce!
Director: Chris Hilson. Recorded by Brendan O'Brien. Mixed by O'Brien and Nick Didia. Recorded at Palau Sant Jordi (Barcelona). Mixed at Southern Tracks (Atlanta), Silent Sound Studios (Atlanta) and Larrabee West (West Hollywood). Audio mastering: Bob Ludwig/Gateway.
— Blair Jackson
Beulah frontman Miles Kurosky disregarded the group's pretty indie pop formula on the group's fourth album, opting for more emotional weight, fewer trumpets and less sunshine. With the aid of producer/engineer Roger Moutenot (Yo La Tengo, Sleater-Kinney), the San Francisco band created an expansive album more languid in mood, but filled with Beulah's trademark solid melodies, fuzzed-out guitar and vintage keyboard parts.
Kurosky, who reportedly ended a relationship while writing the album's 10 songs (some co-written with keyboardist Pat Noel), speaks to his ex on the easygoing “A Man Like Me.” She answers on “Landslide Baby,” a song that references, however slightly, the Beach Boys — influenced “ba-ba” melodies that Kurosky seemingly intended to avoid. The woeful “You're Only King Once” features lush strings and, yes, those pesky horns, all nestled behind verses for disenchanted, heartbroken souls. “Me and Jesus Don't Talk Anymore” offers up a bit of sunshine, but it's followed by the gray skies of “Fooled With the Wrong Guy.”
Beulah's latest does explore the darker side of their layered, melodic pop, but it's far from a downer effort. The plaintive lyrics and warm, wistful melodies are worth repeated listens no matter where you sit on the emotional roller coaster.
Producers: Roger Moutenot, Miles Kurosky. Engineers: Moutenot, Eli Crews. Assistant engineer: Rob Clark. Studios: Tiny Telephone; The Bank; New, Improved Recording; Masterlink Studios. Mastering: Steve Fallone/Sterling Sound.
— Heather Johnson
Eric Bibb, Rory Block, Maria Muldaur:Sisters and Brothers(Telarc)
This is definitely one of the feel-good albums of the year, a marvelous collaboration between three excellent and distinctive singers on a fine cross-section of acoustic gospel, blues and R&B-flavored material. Each of the three brings something special to the disc: Bibb's soulful style is the perfect blend of “church” and “street”; Block has that bluesy authority and incredible guitar chops — she's had a following since the mid-'70s, but it's amazing she's not even better known. And Maria Muldaur, whose career has undergone a deserved resurgence since hooking up with Telarc a few years ago, still sings the sassy blues as well as anyone, while also shining on more delicate and nuanced material.
This far-ranging collection of 13 tunes is bracketed by a pair of gospel tunes: The a capella opening, “Rock Daniel,” hearkens back to earlier times (it was popularized in the late '30s by Sister Rosetta Tharpe), while the closing track, “My Sisters and Brothers,” by the Sensational Nightingales, is from the 1970s. In between, there's a terrific range of old and more recent tunes, including Bill Withers' “Lean on Me” (sung by Block, with lovely backup from Muldaur), Dylan's “Gotta Serve Somebody” (a Bibb showcase), “Rolling Log” (Block blues at its best) and Muldaur's sensuous take on “Bessie's Advice.” The disc was recorded in a performing arts space in a former barn in Unity, Maine, and the sound is impeccable. So are the arrangements, which are spare but always musical as can be. A great uplifting album to start the year with!
Producer: Randy Labbe. Recording, mixing and mastering engineer: Lincoln Clapp. Recorded at UCPA (Unity, Maine).
— Blair Jackson
Yes:Going for the One(Atlantic Reissue)
Rhino Records has just remastered the classic Yes album catalog, including landmark albums like The Yes Album, Fragile and Close to the Edge. Going for the One, released in 1977, has particularly benefited from the sonic fine-tuning. At the time of its release, the album was eagerly anticipated by fans, as it marked the return of keyboardist Rick Wakeman to the lineup. It kicks off with the title track, one of the band's hardest rocking recordings, on which Steve Howe delivers sheets of blistering slide guitar, while lead singer Jon Anderson humorously dishes out, “I'm thinking I should go and write a punch line/But they're so hard to find in my cosmic mind.” While the album contains “Wonderous Stories,” one of the band's most enduring radio tracks, fans of Yes' more extended works should check out the 15-plus-minutes “Awaken,” one of their finest works. Chris Squire's mighty “Parallels” benefits from particularly muscular rhythm section work and Rick Wakeman's grand organ work, recorded at St. Martin's Church in Vevey, Switzerland.
In previous CD versions of the album, the huge cathedral ambiences sometimes tended to reduce some of the more rocking moments to a kind of sonic mush. While some of that is still present, Rhino's remastering has gone a long way toward articulating the sound stage and giving the music a little more visceral punch. All in all, Going for the One is perhaps Yes' most unfairly overlooked album. Any fan of the band's classic albums would regard this remastering as a real find.
Producers: Yes. Engineer: John Timperly. Recorded at Ars Laeta (Laussane, Switzerland), Eglise des Planches (Montreux, Switzerland) and St. Martin's Church (Vevey, Switzerland).
— Rick Clark