Tales of Mystery and Imagination is an extremely mesmerizing aural journey through some of Edgar Allan Poe's most renowned works. With the use of synthesizers, drums, guitar, and even a glockenspiel, Parsons' shivering effects make way for an eerie excursion into Poe's well-known classics. On the album's 1987 remix, the instrumental "Dream Within a Dream" has Orson Welles narrating in front of this wispy collaboration of guitars and keyboards (Welles also narrates "Fall of the House of Usher: Prelude")…
Improvisation on the keyboard was very much expected of the leading classical musical minds in earlier years. And what came about was framed by the compositional practices of the time. So Johann Sebastian Bach might improvise elaborate fugues based on a particular theme; Mozart was known to create brilliant variations spontaneously on a theme given to him at the spur-of-the-moment. Fantasias were possible and were another, more free option, but of course what came out was something the composer might have more carefully worked over in a formal composition. There were definite resonances between the improvised and the composed.
'Testament' is Rachel Barton Pine's very personal homage to the music of J. S. Bach, on which she performs the composer's complete Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin in the acoustic of her hometown St. Pauls Church in Chicago, where she first heard and fell in love with Bach's music.
It's nearly impossible to single out any of Aretha Franklin's early-'70s albums for Atlantic as being her best, particularly given the breadth of her output during this era. In terms of albums rather than singles, it's probably her strongest era, and if you count live albums like Amazing Grace, choosing a standout or a favorite record isn't any easier. Yet of this stunning era, Young, Gifted and Black certainly ranks highly among her studio efforts, with many arguing that it may be her greatest. The album is Top 10 Gold-certified. The album won Aretha a 1972 Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance of the year.
Almost 30 years after their debut, 3 Feet High and Rising, transformed the possibilities of a rap record, and nearly 12 years since their last LP, De La Soul are still ambitious outliers. Financed by a Kickstarter campaign, constructed over breaks and beats mined from more than 200 hours of jamming by a live band, and stuffed with guest stars (Snoop Dogg, Damon Albarn, Jill Scott), And the Anonymous Nobody sometimes risks losing Posdnuos, Dave and Maseo in their own record. Tracks like the loopy "Snoopies" (with David Byrne) and old-school throwdown "Whoodeeni" (with 2 Chainz) are glorious bug-outs, but the urban cautionary tale "Greyhounds" (echoing Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City," with Usher on the hook) is a reminder that De La are often more powerful when they're less goofy – and that their greatest strength has always been not caring what hip-hop is supposed to sound like.