Stages: Performances 1970-2002 is one of the most cynical box set projects ever issued. While producers Neil Diamond and Sam Cole don't exactly offer untruth in their presentation of this five-CD live retrospective, they might as well have. For starters, this entire project seems like an excuse to issue a new double-CD live album from Vegas in December of 2002, and a live Christmas album (like anyone ever needed that to happen). The other two discs in this set are a compilation of live tracks, from "Lordy" in 1970 (easily the best thing here) to a cloying "I Believe in Happy Endings," from New Year's Eve 2001. The majority of the cuts from these discs come from Diamond's '80s and '90s shows and do not showcase him at his best.
SLY & ROBBIE recruited the American rock guitarist Daryl Thompson († 2014) whom they knew from their time with PETER TOSH. They engaged the keyboardist Franklyn 'Bubbler' Waul who was however not allowed to play the reggae typical shuffle organ but to steadily thrash the offbeat onto the piano. Those two musicians who were being replaced at several shows with Keith Sterling and Mikey Chung formed the core of BLACK UHURU which together with a second guitarist and a percussionist also dominated the stage in Essen.
Continuing his impressive series of Anton Bruckner's symphonies on CPO, Mario Venzago leads the Bern Symphony Orchestra in period style performances of the Symphony No. 3 in D minor (1889 version) and the Symphony No. 6 in A major (1881 version), using scores edited by Leopold Nowak. Venzago strives for historically informed performances that give varying perspectives on Bruckner's development, employing different orchestras with each release to reveal important differences in the composer's orchestral conceptions and to show that there wasn't one prescription of how the symphonies should sound. Instead, Venzago rejects the massive and heavy-handed interpretations of the early 20th century and tries to re-create the 19th century sound world in all its variety and intimacy. The glistening, vibrato-less string tone, pungent woodwinds, and crisp brass and timpani are easily distinguished from the more homogenized tone colors of a modern symphony orchestra, and Venzago ensures that these distinctive timbres aren't obscured by keeping the orchestral sections lean and discrete.