ReviewsReviews

Bob Dylan Live at the Beacon Theatre, New York

Last night Bob Dylan played the first of a series of five concerts at New York City’s Beacon Theatre, the final stand of his current tour.

Posted on November 29th, 2014

Cerys Matthews – “The Reverend Eli Jenkins’ Prayer”

Under Milk Wood is Dylan Thomas’s “play for voices” (i.e. intended for radio rather than the stage), a quite wild and sometimes soaring portrait of the inhabitants of a fishing village in Wales, the fictional Llareggub, depicting both their dreams and a day in their lives.

Posted on October 30th, 2014

Taylor Swift – “Welcome to New York”

Boy, do I love songs about New York City. It’s a helluva town. From the good old “New York, New York,” to the less old “Theme from New York, New York,” from the lovely Dinah Washington singing Rodgers’ and Hart’s “Manhattan” to the rather dorky Paddy McAloon singing his “Hey, Manhattan,” from Paul Simon strolling Broadway with diamonds on the soles of his shoes to Lou Reed waiting for his man at Lexington and 125th street, there’s so many nice things to sing about and so many great songs that have been sung.

Posted on October 21st, 2014

“It’s Sunday” – Frank Sinatra with Tony Mottola

In 1983, in between albums, Sinatra was still doing some studio work as it suited him. And a song happened to come along that was apparently written with him in mind, by the famous melodist Jule Styne and the relatively young lyricist Susan Birkenhead. It was a gentle tune called “It’s Sunday,” the words being a reflection on the quiet love of an older couple: just the simple pleasures and the comfortable company of one another. Frank knew a treasure when he heard it, and he wanted to record it.

Posted on September 7th, 2014

“When Death Comes Creepin’ (Whatcha Gonna Do?)” – Bob Dylan and a Few Good Questions

There are at last three recordings in existence: that Witmark demo, which was chronologically the last of the three, and two earlier ones that appeared on the limited edition Copyright Extension Collection released last year. It’s the second of those two that I think is (by far) the best, a fine recording of a terrific song.

Posted on August 6th, 2014

Hendrick’s Gin

While utilizing juniper—the trademark botanical of all gins—Hendrick’s is marked most by the infusion of rose petal (Bulgarian Rosa Damascena) and cucumber. It is the flavor of this latter cylindrical gourd which is most obvious on first tasting. Cucumber is the unexpected note which defines the melody that Hendrick’s plays upon one’s tongue.

Posted on June 23rd, 2014

The Charlie Daniels Band – Off the Grid: Doin’ it Dylan

The “off the grid” part of the title refers to the fact that it is all acoustic; yet, do not be fooled into thinking that this is a quiet album. The Charlie Daniels Band are in high gear on this recording, and the best word for their overall approach to the material is rollicking.

Posted on April 8th, 2014

Bob Dylan in the 80s (Volume 1) – Various Artists

It does not purport to contain the best ever Bob Dylan songs and certainly not the most popular ones. It does not feature artists who are household names, and no one could be expecting it to sell in enormous quantities. Its clear motive instead is to lift up songs from Bob Dylan’s most maligned and least hip decade.

Posted on April 4th, 2014

Reggie Watts – “Get Ready”

Speaking of Reggie Watts (“Bob Dylan in the 80s”), he recently put out a new song titled “Get Ready.” From someone who comes up with a lot of highly-charged improvised music in his comedy performances, this track plays it straight, and to these ears it’s just an extremely listenable and groovy piece of old-school pop and soul.

Posted on February 27th, 2014

Music from the Welsh Mines – Rhos Male Voice Choir

Oh, indeed, we are still very much on our Welsh kick, and with St. David’s Day fast approaching, who knows what may be in store? This, however, is something very special which recently came to our attention. In 1957, some coal miners from the Welsh village of Rhosllannerchrugog – Welsh is such delightful language! – made a one-off recording, which has now been restored and remastered and re-released by “Moochin About” records.

Posted on February 21st, 2014

Eilen Jewell at the City Winery in New York City

Eilen Jewell is a singing gem from Boise, Idaho, and around 2005 she struck gold by combining her talents with guitarist Jerry G. Miller, bassist Johnny Sciascia and drummer Jason Beek in Massachusetts, and they’ve since been supplying the world with a well-poised balance of country and swing music with jazzy-torchy stylings, and a little bit of whatever else feels right mixed in.

Posted on February 17th, 2014

Justin Bieber – “Confident”

It’s remarkable that for a pop star at his level that this is the best thing that could be concocted for him at a crucial juncture of his career, or indeed at any juncture at all. I’m not a hater of Justin Bieber. The kind of records he’s been making have never been my bag, but I like pop-music, and if he was putting out good stuff he would deserve applause for it. Right now I feel bad for him.

Posted on January 30th, 2014

Twyla Tharp / Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A-Changin’

It’s easy to see why Dylan himself — who has spent decades now probing different angles of his own songs in live performances — would say: “It’s the best presentation of my songs I have ever seen or heard on any stage.” It does so right by the songs that it is hard to believe that Dylan himself had no part in the basic concept — but that’s what we’re told.

Posted on January 16th, 2014

Prefab Sprout – Crimson/Red

The best tracks on it should make any listener very glad for whatever meandering set of circumstances led to Paddy McAloon actually completing and releasing something. The bouncy melody and wryly-humorous metaphor of “The Old Magician” is all counterpoint for an exquisitely poignant meditation on old age, decay and, yes, death. A mid-song harmonica-break (electronic though it is) provides perhaps the most cathartic few seconds of music on the entire record.

Posted on December 30th, 2013

3 Must Have Christmas Albums

‘Tis the season to remember three of our very favorite Christmas albums, all of which have been reviewed at greater length in these pages in the past. So, in capsule form here and now ….

Posted on December 21st, 2013

Tallis Scholars (Alice Tully Hall)

“Recordare, Domine (Remember, O Lord)” by Nico Muhly is his setting of Lamentations 5:1-5, and it was deeply powerful and haunting. And the setting by Arvo Part of Luke 3:23-38 was genuinely revelatory. Its title is “… which was the son of …” because these are the verses where Luke lays out a biblical genealogy of Jesus, all the way back to Adam.

Posted on December 3rd, 2013

Listening to the Remastered Saved (Bob Dylan)

I listened to the original and the remastered versions both through headphones and through the speakers on my stereo, flipping from one version to the other as appropriate. Now, there’s always going to be a subjective element to how music is heard, but my own conclusion

Posted on October 30th, 2013

Cerys Matthews – Hullabaloo

Cerys Matthews excels at inspiriting and refreshing old tunes, and she also excels at finding and lifting up the common thread that runs through the really great songs from a variety of musical traditions. It’s very difficult (actually impossible) to define that thread in mere words, but one shot at it is to suggest that it is one entwined with insight into that which is fundamentally human and quite often that which is sacred

Posted on October 16th, 2013

Elton John – The Diving Board

The new album, The Diving Board, from this point of view, is not a terribly unusual Elton John album. It is better – it’s always better – when Elton is playing the piano rather than hiding from it, but the album has perhaps a few tracks that get somewhere, and then a lot of other tracks that are only for the most uncritical fans

Posted on October 3rd, 2013

Quoted Out Of Context: Music by Paddy McAloon – (Joakim) Milder PS

The very broad and distinctly tasteful look at McAloon’s body of work that is offered by the tracklist is one of the things about the album that I liked instantly, including as it does songs like “Andromeda Heights,” “God Watch Over You,” and “I Trawl the Megahertz.”

Posted on September 26th, 2013

Another Self Portrait – Bob Dylan (Bootleg Series Volume 10)

So it is: Self Portrait is a joke wrapped in a joke, wrapped in a joke. The latest joke is that over forty years later, they’ve released the outtakes from this almost-universally-despised album, and people all over the place are writing long intellectual-sounding treatises on how wonderful it is. You truly can’t make up this stuff.

Posted on August 29th, 2013

Lady Gaga – “Applause”

Lady Gaga has released a new single titled “Applause,” the first song to be heard from her forthcoming album Artpop. (Video at bottom.) Frankly, to these ears, it is three minutes and thirty-three seconds of brain-battering bombast. Not long ago, I wrote about the recent Miley Cyrus hit (“We Can’t Stop”) and—although both the song […]

Posted on August 14th, 2013

Miley Cyrus: “We Can’t Stop”

It’s as if there is an awareness deep inside there that the song is expressing an attitude to living that is not going to end well, that is ultimately a kind of death-wish. And hard partying does incorporate a death-wish. It always has, and the corpses stretch further than the eye can see.

Posted on August 6th, 2013

Bastille 1789 (a French Whisky)

Its smoothness and subtlety is such that although I usually enjoy my favorite whiskies with a little ice or water, in this case it instantly appears to be a mistake to dilute it with any H2O.

Posted on July 13th, 2013

Koss PortaPro Headphones

Six months later, after quite a bit of use, the headphones are still in good shape and working well. Therefore I am upgrading my rating!

Posted on June 7th, 2013

Hook, Line and Singer: A Singalong Book by Cerys Matthews

It’s a songbook which has been put together by Welsh singer and raconteur Cerys Matthews, of whom we’ve become big fans lately at the Cinch HQ. This isn’t

Posted on June 5th, 2013

SanDisk Sansa Clip MP3 Player (4GB)

My criteria for a replacement MP3 player were simple: it needed to be low-cost and reliable. I’m not an Apple aficionado, and an iPod would be a case of extreme over-buying for my needs. I wanted something under $50. The “SanDisk Sansa Clip+” player which I settled upon is listed …

Posted on June 5th, 2013

Tom Jones: Spirit in the Room

At the age of 72, most pure pop vocalists (if they’re still able to sing) are playing it safe, rehashing their tried and true work, or recording duets with friendly young stars to lift their visibility. Spirit in the Room, the new album from Tom Jones on Rounder Records in the U.S., is, however, nothing like that.

Posted on May 1st, 2013

Bushmills Irish Whiskey

Wholesome? It’s an odd word to apply to a whiskey. But consider this: Bushmills was my everyday drink for many, many years, and it’s fair to say that on one, or two, or maybe even as many as three occasions over all

Posted on March 17th, 2013

Jameson Irish Whiskey

Jameson Irish Whiskey, how do I loathe thee? It is really a case of “let me count the ways.” Its smell is offensive, although at this point in time I admit this may largely be because of how I anticipate that it will taste.

Posted on March 15th, 2013

Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey

Tullamore Dew is certainly nothing if not smooth. It is so smooth that it is best appreciated neat, or with the merest splash of water, or poured fairly generously over a single ice-cube.

Posted on March 13th, 2013

Ron Sexsmith: Forever Endeavor

What is it about a great Ron Sexsmith song that can be so very pleasing and satisfying, right on the first hearing? I was trying to work that out while listening to one after another on his latest album, Forever Endeavor. For me at least I think it’s something like this: One has heard in one’s lifetime a whole lot of songs, by artists one likes a little or a lot, and there are so many instances …

Posted on March 7th, 2013

Too Many Cooks (a Nero Wolfe novel) by Rex Stout

Indeed, one of the gifts which Rex Stout imparted to his creation, Nero Wolfe, was the gift for aphorism. And the one delivered there is in its way a wonderful summary of how he looks at things. He is a great detective, but he doesn’t see his role as setting the world right or solving everyone’s problems. He has a pronounced sense of his own flaws and of those things which make him ill-suited to the society of others, but he is not out to fix himself either.

Posted on February 27th, 2013

Tom Jones and a Towering “Tower of Song”

Scheduled for release on April 23rd in the U.S. (on Rounder Records) is a new album from Tom Jones, titled Spirit in the Room. It was released on the other side of the pond last year. I confess I’ve only just become aware of it, and that was through my encountering on YouTube the video […]

Posted on February 17th, 2013

Eware (Wind Chaser) 1.4L Ultrasonic Humidifier

It’s just possible that I have recently stumbled upon the explanation for the age-old mystery of “spontaneous combustion.” That’s the alleged phenomenon whereby a living thing—including most notably a human being—suddenly bursts into flames for no apparent reason. I was in bed, and our small dog was lying near the bottom of the bed, atop […]

Posted on January 25th, 2013

Downton Abbey

I’d avoided this much-talked-about joint British ITV/American PBS Masterpiece Theatre television series until last night, when special circumstances conspired to compel me to view it (i.e. my better half wanted to watch it). I fully understood that the show was basically a soap opera for people who are too good to watch soap operas. And […]

Posted on January 14th, 2013

David Bowie: “Where Are We Now?”

But I happen to think it is quite good and quite lovely: an impressionistic, bittersweet reflection on aging, evoking sadness at things lost, and a poignant longing to hold on. And maybe some other things. Bowie is nothing if not good at leaving space for the listener to paint his or her own picture, and that’s so even in this case where the things he’s singing about are quite personal and specific to him.

Posted on January 11th, 2013

Cerys Matthews – Baby, It’s Cold Outside (Christmas Classics)

Before this Christmas season draws to an official close (there are twelve days of Christmas, y’know), I thought it worth noting one new addition to the already-gargantuan and ever-increasing library of Christmas albums. (I love great Christmas music and am known to listen to it in July.) It is a record titled Baby, It’s Cold […]

Posted on January 1st, 2013

A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra

There’s a communal feeling about most Christmas music. Maybe this is because we generally hear the songs in the company of others, whether it’s as we’re elbowing our way down the aisles of the department store or perhaps singing along with them in church. I think that the most special thing about Frank Sinatra’s A […]

Posted on December 13th, 2012

“Revisionist Art” by Bob Dylan at the Gagosian Gallery in New York

“Revisionist Art: Thirty Works by Bob Dylan” is on show at New York City’s Gagosian Gallery. It was unveiled last Wednesday and runs, God willing, until January 12th, 2013. I was slightly surprised to hear that Dylan was having another show at the Gagosian. It was little more than a year ago that they hosted […]

Posted on December 3rd, 2012

Fleischmann’s Gin (and Some General Notes on Gin)

In the glass, both straight and with a little water, my first impression of Fleischmann’s (which I have not had reason to revise since) was that it possessed about the same flavor balance as Gordon’s (surely about as uncontroversial and plain an English-type-gin as you can find) but was distinctly milder and smoother.

Posted on November 29th, 2012

Tempest by Bob Dylan: Is it an unreviewable album?

My impression at the moment is of a vast gulf between what the album contains versus what even the best reviewers have been able to say about it. I don’t think this is because the reviewers are stupid but rather that there really is so much going on in the songs on this album that a review of standard length and breadth is bound to come up short; this is true I think even more than to the usual degree.

Posted on September 10th, 2012

Acer Aspire Laptop Computer

The idea that a computer with all of these resources and features is merely “fine for web browsing and email” but otherwise unworthy of note is rather mind-boggling, when you look at it with a little perspective. The richest man in the world could not have owned a computer anything like this a mere fifteen or twenty years ago. Now you can slip this marvel of human ingenuity in a bag and carry it with you everywhere you go.

Posted on August 21st, 2012

Defiant Requiem

At New York’s IFC Center I recently watched the film “Defiant Requiem,” which is a new feature-length telling of a remarkable and moving story from the Holocaust. I am not going to try and provide the whole narrative here, as you can find that kind of thing elsewhere, but briefly it is the story of […]

Posted on August 8th, 2012

All the Things You Are: The Life of Tony Bennett by David Evanier

I’ve recently read David Evanier’s All the Things You Are: The Life of Tony Bennett, and it seems to me that it will stand as the essential written reference point for anyone interested in this great American singer’s life and music. Of-course, being about the only proper biography written of Bennett (excluding his 1998 autobio […]

Posted on April 3rd, 2012
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