Few pop groups were as irrelevant in 1966 as the New Christy Minstrels' extended acoustic folk aggregate. Although the title New Kick! (1966) projects an optimistic future, internally the combo was split between its consistent demand as a live act and creatively disappointing outings such as this.
By the mid-'60s none of the founding Christys remained in the fold.
The lack of a central musical force or direction left them at the collective mercies of their management team, who owned the name and admittedly knew more about the Christys' payroll than their play list. The steady stream of new talent infuses the material with a fresh perspective, although some arrangements are inevitably better than others. Unfortunately, the album opens with a less-than-inspired overhaul of Paul Simon's "Homeward Bound." The melodramatic ensemble reading all but removing the intimacy of the original and is certainly incongruous given the introspective lyrics. Here, it is akin to a Mitch Miller singalong or an Up With People presentation.
A slow and moody cover of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" follows to equally erratic results, recalling the Sandpipers' swipe at "Things We Said Today" -- the latter of which would be considered comparatively successful. The tide turns however for an affective "Highflyin' Bird" (aka "High Flying Bird") as Bob Buchanan's husky lead harks back to Fred Neil or Hoyt Axton and similarly shines on "A Corner in the Sun." Sadly, any goodwill is rescinded by the inappropriate galloping pace and feigned drama on the overhaul of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" or the worst (or best, depending on how you're keeping score) offender, "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'." So unconvincing is the Christys' borderline farcical and socially out-of-sync interpretation, it easily makes a case for co-dependant relationships. The New Christy Minstrels continued for several more years, even scoring a final entry on the Top 200 LP chart as late as 1970.
Yet undeniably, the soul of the Christys had dissipated to the point of the unit becoming nothing short of a caricature of its former glory less than a half-decade earlier.
The Sonata meridional and several other compositions by Mexican composer Manuel Ponce are staples of guitar recitals, but here's a release that takes you a bit deeper into the circumstances under which Ponce's guitar music took shape. Ponce, who went to Paris for studies with Paul Dukas, enjoyed a long, creative partnership with guitar pioneer Andrés Segovia, furnishing most of his guitar works (and all of those heard here except the short Appendix Variations from Cabezón used as interludes) for concerts in which Segovia played them as premieres. The Sonata meridional is a compact, exceptionally attractive fusion of impressionism, Spanish rhythms, and counterpoint, with the latter a bit more emphasized in the readings of Montreal guitarist Patrick Kearney than in Segovia's own performances.
Kearney includes works that show other facets of the Ponce-Segovia partnership, including the sinewy Thème varié et Finale, a technically difficult piece, probably the most harmonically adventurous of the set, and not at all the pleasant salon work the title might imply. Even more interesting is the Suite in A minor, written for a concert in which Segovia was appearing with violinist Fritz Kreisler. The violinist at the time was composing and performing a long series of hoax Baroque works, and, according to annotator Kevin Manderville, Segovia wanted to play a joke on Kreisler by beating him at his own game. Ponce complied with a pleasant five-movement Baroque suite that the pair passed off as a work by Bach's contemporary Sylvius Leopold Weiss. Segovia later played the work, without identifying its composer, for Heitor Villa-Lobos, who pronounced it an authentic Bach suite. Ponce's piece sounds more like real Baroque music than Kreisler's forgeries, although the voice leading is replete with things that neither Bach nor Weiss would ever have created.
The whole topic of exactly what audiences of the 1920s thought they were hearing in such works is worth further investigation; Ponce's little rarity, at any rate, sheds new light on the question and rounds out an interesting program. Kearney himself was involved in the production; perhaps it was he who caused the ATMA label's engineers to forsake their fascination with cavernous Montreal church spaces in favor of a studio that captures his quiet, detailed playing extremely well.
Sadly, the majority of Tex Owens' official commercial recordings, done for RCA-Victor in 1936, are missing.
Still, this CD runs to 22 tracks, encompassing the four songs he cut as a solo artist for Decca in August of 1934, his Texas Rangers collaboration "Dude Ranch Parts 1 and 2," and the four 1953-1954 sides for Wrightman. The rest are previously unissued demos of unknown origin or date, licensed from Owens' widow and comprising songs that only show up on lists of Tex's compositions, not his recordings.
The sound is generally good, with only moderate noise on the worst of the masters. Owens' demos are nearly as engaging as his formal recordings, and surprisingly include some backing musicians, as well as Owens' requisite guitar. Highlights, in addition to the title track and the pair of songs with the Texas Rangers, include "Daddy's Old Rocking Chair," "Cowboy Call," and "Don't Hide Your Tears My Darling."
As its title suggests, Die Große Weihnachtsparty (The Big Christmas Party) is a Christmas-themed album on which Matthias Reim covers several seasonal classics in his trademark schlager rock fashion -- including "Oh, du Fröhliche," "Jingle Bells", "Kling, Glöckchen, Klingelingeling," and "Oh Tannenbaum." The album also features a German-language cover of Wham!'s "Last Christmas" (called "Letzte Weihnacht") with lyrics by Reim and Joachim Horn-Bernges, and a new song written by Reim himself ("Wo Bleibt der Schnee").