There are a number of arguments to be made for and against Maria Muldaur's 2008 antiwar statement Yes We Can! on Telarc (before actually listening to it; remember, we live in a cynical culture). The "perceived" negatives all relate to the intent of the recording and who it's supposed to reach (no doubt an expression of the same set of beliefs rooted in Muldaur's 1960s music), and the fact that it's loaded with guests (in all fairness, these star-studded affairs seldom work). On Yes We Can!, her guests include Muldaur's old friends (Joan Baez, Bonnie Raitt, Phoebe Snow, Jane Fonda, and Holly Near) and influences (Odetta) and new pals (writers/spiritual gurus Anne Lamott and Marianne Williamson, and Indian spiritual teacher Amma). Does it read as if it is yet another exercise in self-referential backslapping? Yep. But don't believe everything you read on the back of a CD jacket. The positives are all musical.
As his starting point for a brand new recording of the music from the polychoral Renaissance and the “monumental Baroque”, with Alessandro Striggio’s 40 and 60-part Missa sopra Ecco sì beato giorno leading the way, Hervé Niquet turns to the musical celebrations for a feast day occasion in the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence in honour of St John the Baptist, adding a trio of works by Orazio Benevoli, another specialist in multi-parted choral works, and Striggio’s motet Ecce beatem lucem, also scored for 40 voices.
Guided By Voices’ August By Cake is the one hundredth studio album that Robert Pollard has released since 1986’s Forever Since Breakfast. To put that in perspective, Bob Dylan has released roughly thirty nine studio albums since 1959. And that includes the Traveling Wilburys. This is a highly anticipated record, which includes the new line-up (returning GBV veterans Doug Gillard and Kevin March, virgins Bobby Bare Jr and Mark Shue) that has been wowing audience in clubs and festivals throughout 2016. It’s the most musically adept and versatile line-up Pollard has ever assembled.
This vocal quartet originally started life as an extension of jazz band the Hi-Lo’s. From that prominent '50s band came Don Shelton, who decided to form Singers Unlimited after the Hi-Lo’s broke up in 1964. After retreating to Chicago, Illinois, where he worked on a series of television commercials, he enlisted fellow Hi-Lo’s veteran Gene Puerling of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to join him in the city in 1967. The group was formed along with Len Dresslar and Bonnie Herman, with the express intention of recording commercials in the doo wop/vocal group idiom. Shelton’s connections in the industry ensured the group was able to exploit the market successfully, and lucrative work rolled in. However, the 30-second snatches of songs hardly satisfied their artistic ambitions, and when they found themselves with studio time left over after one session, they recorded a take on the Beatles' "The Fool on the Hill." Through visiting jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, the demo of the a cappella recording was passed to MPS Records in Germany.
After last year's releases on Spectrum Spools, Italian techno masterminds Donato Dozzy and Neel are returning as the duo Voices From The Lake with a release on the mother label Editions Mego. "Live at MAXXI" is a marvellous organic live-set of hypnotic ambient techno, proofing the outstanding and elegant craftsmanship of their sonic sculpturing, that they both are famous for. As was to be expected they stay true to their polyphonic topography of liquid scapes: aquatic sceneries are embedded in soaking dense atmospheres, gently gyrating us into trance. Sometimes soft echoes of sirenic voices are heard – the only remnants of human traces in these spaces that have suspended time, where smooth silky textures are being channeled into fractal structures that induce a state of transcendence…
William Byrd (1543-1623) has been called the greatest English composer, an arbiter of the sublime and master of his craft. And while discerning early music listeners have a fair number of recordings to choose from in order to put any stake into this claim, this offering from ECM is as sensitive an introduction as any into all things Byrd.
This is a very good collection of Gesualdo's sacred motet style, performed beautifully. Most of these pieces are much more conservative and less chromatic than his madrigals, but they are exquisite and expresive and every bit as competent as the styles of contemporaries such as Gesualdo's alter-ego, Palestrina. Much of this music makes his mental turmoil and fear of damnation over his infamous murders achingly clear, especially the disturbing mode changes and chromaticism on parts of the text that say things like "have mercy on me" and words like "my sorrow and "my tears".