Posts Tagged ‘music’

Mood music has a bad rep. That’s a pity.

The environments we create for ourselves matter deeply. Some make life difficult. Some make it impossible. Others destroy it outright.

Alternatively, good environments are a space where things can grow. Sometimes in a most orderly way, sometimes with wild extravagance, often with unintended consequences of peace, blessing, sturdiness, and grace.

Rob Barrett’s Communion: Music for a Hectic World establishes this latter kind of environment. Gentle almost to a fault, flawless in staying with the story it has chosen. Traditional hymns and more contemporary worship melodies receive loving treatment from a small band of instrumentalists, in which the violins feature the most prominently.

Communion is worthy of the noble rather than laughable task of creating background music for the soul.

That’s saying something.


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Three great icons of American cinema were joined at the hip by the memory-saturated musical score that accompanied them. The Godfather films were expansive in many ways, but it ought not be forgotten that the music that framed them arguably lingers in our minds at least as long as the story’s most compelling visual images.

Notwithstanding criticism of the City of Prague Orchestra’s performance on this CD, I find this album a deeply satisfying revisitation of the Godfather phenomenon. The ‘Godfather Waltz’ and the ‘Love Theme’—with their variations on the two themes—define the musical horizon here.

It is music that would not stand without the film, as is true of film music in general with few exceptions. Yet after recently watching the three films over the space of a few weeks, I find this performance of its sounds well worth the patience it requires to hear them again.

Scenes linger. Sounds endure. A great cinematic moment does that sort of thing.

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You may never listen to another Christmas album like Over the Rhine’s Snow Angels. You may end up listening to no other.

OtR brings to Yuletide their bedazzling touch with the blues and their stupendous way with a lyric. Christmas is before all else a Christian celebration, which to this reviewer causes a bit of a squirm when devoutly secular artists toss off an album to the cause (are you out there, Sarah McLachlan?). OtC does not posture itself within that bandwidth we call `contemporary Christian’. So what do they do with, say, a manger?

The short answer: lots. (more…)

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My own halting advance into the world of Latin Ballroom Dance has led me to dance-themed CDs of each of the dances my long-suffering instructor is trying to get into my movement-resistant body and soul. Though the Rhumba is my favorite dance so far, this Strictly Dancing album is the least preferred of the five or six CDs I’ve accumulated.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a perfectly serviceable project and you can dance to it. It won’t disappoint at the leve of functionality.

Neither will it light your fire. It’s just not great music. But you probably aren’t looking for that. If not, don’t hesitate to learn Rhumba to the melodious tunes of the Peres Blanca Band. If you want a bit more aesthetic pop to your music, you might look elsewhere.

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If Brasilia were the capital of the world, everybody would grow up knowing samba and how to dance to it.

Alas, the world has not capital and Brasilia on the short list. So most of us need to be *taught* to dance samba. That’s where this CD claims its usefulness. Each of eighteen tunes is worked out to ‘strict tempo’ samba in order to facilitate dancing by the novices, the newcomers, and the merely stiff.

If you’re new to this, I must warn you. Samba is contagious. But there are worse things to catch.

If this kind of infectious rhythm doesn’t seem like such a bad idea to you, start here.

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Rob Lane and Joseph Vitarelli have not only written a reflective and shimmering work of music. They have provided a textbook example of how to write film music itself.

The thirty tracks of this HBO Series soundtrack strike notes that are alternately noble, daring, pensive, and troubled. All of it is stirring in the way that one’s soul is moved in proximity to great literature or the finest musical art. Yet, as is the nature of the case with a genre of music meant to frame a visual depiction rather than to publish its own grandeur, most viewers of John Adams will fail to realize the degree to which the series’ success has depended upon Lane’s and Vitarelli’s work in the shadows. (more…)

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If salsa is not the most joyous of musical genres it is at least one of the happiest. This entry in the Ballroom Latin Dance series features splendid CD liner artistry and a solid lineup of high-energy salsa performed by little-known but expert musicians.

The series comes at you without written comment as a simple source of dance music. It delivers extremely well on that promise and can hardly be faulted for what it does not aim to accomplish.

Great salsa here, on the cheap!

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Every once in a while, trudging along in this vale of tears, one stumbles upon an artistic statement so fresh and compelling that one has to stop in a clearing, put a foot up on a log, and pause to wonder how he got this far without knowing about this.

Sons of Korah and their 2002 release called simply shelter make for such a wonder-filled moment. From Lillian Carland’s eery and Edvard Munch-esque artwork to the spare minimalism of this Aussie band’s revisitation of the biblical psalms, a moment for head-scratching ponderment upon the forceful before and after of it all is upon us. (more…)

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There are two things you should know before buying a greatest hits album by one of the legendary composers whose music we often call ‘classical’.

First, the purists hate them. Their ire is understandable. Art music is so enriched by an understanding of its historical moment, its place in a composer’s career, the history of its performance, and the like that it seems almost barbaric to strip out a few listen-able tunes and flog them on an album that provides none of this context. These are portions of long pieces, not the four-and-a-half minute stand-alone tunes to which we’ve become familiar (and learned both to love and to consider normal) in pop music.

Second, the big box stores are full of ‘greatest hits’ albums performed by fourth-tier, no-name orchestral groups with little personality and unrecognizable roots. Don’t buy them if your entree into, say, Bach is really an entrance to something larger rather than just a need to fill the house with a little background music (which is not a bad thing on its own terms and beats hearing the doors squeak on their hinges or the frozen pizza sizzle on its lard-ish pan). (more…)

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Mo Leverett’s New Orleans jazz, a vehicle of the most streetworthy and reflective Christian faith, is just the thing.

Sensuous, anchored, penetrating, persuasive, Leverett’s music celebrates life as a gift that is capable of thriving and enlightening journeys walked out in otherwise insufferable darkness.

Leverett’s convincing voice is ragged in the very best sense yet so very sure of itself. He celebrates his family—not least his ‘Cajun queen’—with no hint of embarrassment. If he’s preaching—this reviewer suspects he is—his words get into the listener’s ears and perhaps even through his pores before any defenses can be raised. (more…)

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