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KRISTIN AMARIE/Notes from a Journey: Now that Enya is basically little more than a crossword puzzle answer when they need a short word with a lot of vowels and a curve ball, David Lanz thought we might need a new Enya. Whether he's right or wrong about the need remains to be seen but his choice is right on the money. Right in the world/Celtic/new age/vocal pocket, Amarie knows the moves and makes all the right ones. More ethereal than say, Stevie Nicks, this is clearly more toward the mist on the moors. Nice stuff.

BILL COSBY/Far From Finished: With his first new stand up special in 30 years, I guess we have all the proof we need that it really took a long time to get the stink of "Leonard Part 6" off the Cos of laughs. Looking like a old man in recent commercials and owning a delivery closer to Moms Mabley than the guy that wanted ice cream when he got his tonsils out, Cosby is still on the money with his observations. His spot on observations about the problems with modern relationships and children have replaced Fat Albert and Russell---only the quality and quantity of laughs and laughter are the same. Certainly far from finished, Cos is still loaded with the right stuff. Even if you don't agree with his position on young comics and their views and language, he still knows how to present a course in Stand Up 101 that all can learn from (and laugh at). If this gets a comedy Grammy, it won't be for being a sentimental choice.

SUZANNA SMITH/Halfway Between Heaven & Love: An increasingly important figure in Bay Area jazz circles over the last decade, Smith might have a generic last name but once she opens her mouth to sing, there's nothing generic about it. A classic jazz vocalist with a little something extra in the mix, Smith's debut is a punch right between the eyes that really opens the ears. On the money throughout, this is a high water mark for contemporary jazz vocal. Well done.

STEVE SHEHAN/Hang With You: Whew, black clothes, foreign ciggys and art stuff as only the French can do it. With the lead cat playing an exotic instrument and gals purring in what you are never sure is sexy or suicidal, the left bank shows it's alive and well here.

SHAVER/Jewels (The Best of Shaver): Really? How do you separate the man Shaver from the band Shaver? Why bother? Both entities sing many of the same songs. Rounded up here is the best of the five albums Billy Joe and Eddy turned out rocking it up and turning it loose. When it comes to what we have to look back at, any Shaver is good Shaver and there's really nothing here that isn't essential. Kinky Friedman even gets his 2 cents in writing the program notes. Hot stuff.

FAR FROM HEAVEN/original cast recording: While not everybody agreed about the quality of the stage adaptation of the pic this play is from, all were in agreement that the duo behind the "Grey Gardens" score were back in fine form. Set in just pre-'Mad Men' times, quite the sensational story (for the times represented) underlies the score. Separated from the show, this cast recording is a show all of it's own. Once again, we find the PS Classics crew at the top their game in one of the many métiers they do so well. A solid new recording of a new show that's must hearing for any serious Broadway/show music fan. Well done throughout.

PETER OPRISKO/Sings! Matt Nelson Plays!: With Frank D'Rone gone, Oprisko is our Sinatra/saloon singer go to guy. Not only working the Sinatra tip, Oprisko is no lounge lizard/manqué, he's knows how to be the real deal and he is throughout. This cat is the leading light at keeping the male vocal traditional alive and well.

ANDREW RANGELL/Bach Keyboard Masterworks: The notes to this set make me think that most people are like Radar O'Reilly when he was trying to impress a MASH nurse into classical music by answering every question with an "Ah, Bach!" rejoinder. As famous as Bach is and as vast as his works are, he didn't publish many of them during his life time. The works in this reissue has material going back two decades, and this 3 cd set highlights several of the chosen few that were published. A much lauded release in it's time, the lamentably long unavailable "Goldberg Variations" by Rangell is now back in circulation, enhanced by modern mastering techniques. Highly present, transparent recordings in the first place, these solo piano works are timeless, high watermarks for the genre. On a purely musical basis, these recordings are must hearing for any fan of music music that want to soak in the joy of masterful playing at it's best. Killer stuff for any ears.

Volume 38/Number 17
November 17, 2013
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2013 Midwest Record

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