A solid album's worth of original and cover material played by Minneapolis's number-one roots blues-rock band.
Classic bar-band approach to it all, whether tackling low down blues, country-rock twangers or New Orleans funk. Great you-are-there recording quality to the proceedings; the only thing missing is the beer and the pretzels.
It's not too often anymore that we get a world premiere recording of a work by a composer as well-known and widely performed as Hindemith. The circumstances surrounding the recording as well as the artist make this album a real find. Composed in 1921 for wealthy pianist Paul Wittgenstein, Hindemith's Klaviermusik mit Orchestra, Op. 29, was one of several compositions for left-hand only that Wittgenstein commissioned from the likes of Britten, Prokofiev, and Ravel after losing his right arm in WWI. Unlike these other compositions, Wittgenstein never performed Hindemith's piece, did not allow others to perform it, and did not allow it to be published. Only after several machinations following his death was the work finally available in 2002. This Ondine album features legendary pianist Leon Fleisher, who himself lost the use of his right hand for some four decades, with Christoph Eschenbach leading the Curtis Symphony Orchestra. Why Wittgenstein never performed this piece is even more a mystery after hearing it; Wittgenstein must have known what Hindemith's music was like, and there are no real departures from the type of music Hindemith was composing at the time.
Fleisher's performance is exactly what one might expect: electrifying. His earlier mastery of the other works for piano left hand make him the perfect performer for this composition. He brings forth an abundance of engaging rhythmic diversity, textural change, and musical energy. The students of the Curtis Symphony Orchestra do honor to Hindemith and Fleisher in their own careful attention to detail. The album also includes Dvorák's Ninth Symphony. While well-played, it certainly offers nothing new or innovative and is largely just filler compared to the importance and interest surrounding the Hindemith.
Best known as the frontman for early-'70s hitmakers Christie, singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jeff Christie's career long predated that band.
In fact, his earlier group, Outer Limits, should have been just as big, if not bigger than Christie themselves. Formed in the dying days of 1963, the band released three singles, gigged incessantly, and took part in the legendary package tour featuring Jimi Hendrix Experience, Pink Floyd, and Amen Corner. Yet they never managed to land a hit or record an album. However the Outer Limits did leave behind a slew of demos before folding in 1968, 22 of which features on the first disc of this two-CD set. An incredible songwriter, Christie penned all the band's numbers, and his strong ear for a pop melody and a way with a catchy chorus is self-evident. Recorded between 1966-1968, the songs are stylistically diverse, encompassing R&B, British Invasion pop, and psychedelia. It's a soundtrack of the age, and while certainly influenced by the stars of the day -- notably but not unsurprisingly the Beatles -- still Outer Limits were no mere copyists, having a sound very much their own. "When the Work Is Through" is one of a slew of standouts, in this case a single that has number one written all over it, although it failed to break into the Top 50.
The rambunctious "Help Me Please" could have been a contender, while "Great Train Robbery" should have shot up the chart along with the acid washed "The Dream." The tough "Anyday Now," the harmony drenched "Funny Clown," the bouncy "Look at Me," the California dreaming of "Dancing Water," and the pumping "Run for Cover" are just some of the other highlights found on this stunning disc. Christie now beckoned, and upon its demise, the singer/songwriter launched a solo career, although his projected debut foundered in the mid-'70s, and a second go begun later in the decade also ended up being shelved.
It was these aborted efforts that comprise most of the second disc, with another half-a-dozen tracks culled from later in his career. The enclosed booklet provides all the background, taken from discussions with the artist himself. Finding himself out of musical fashion, Christie continued doing what he did best, writing strong songs and pushing his own stylistic envelope. "Midnight Express" is a case in point, pomp rock on amphetamines driving straight into the discos. '60s pop infuses "Both Ends of the Rainbow," a surprising punk edge cuts through "Tightrope," jazz, classical, and pop harry "Saints and Sinners," a tinge of funk flutters across "Back on the Boards," and new wave sweeps over "Somebody Else." And while the later numbers are not so adventurous, Christie has yet to lose his touch. All told this is a sumptuous set, and a superb tribute to one of Britain's finest composers.