Hammock go massive as they meditate on grand themes of death and loss, their music ever larger, more expansive. Every song a mountaintop vista with a clear view to the horizon, unencumbered by clouds, in all directions. Departure Songs demands that it be played loudly so that the details in each track can breathe, whether it is the androgynous, falsetto vocals of Marc Byrd or the angelic voice of Christine Glass Byrd or just a little bit of guitar in the background, this record is nuanced in a most compelling fashion. The arrangements beg to be picked apart - soaring guitars, propulsive bass, and hypnotic strings. The vocals work wonderfully as an instrument, but when the words finally become understandable, they cause shivers.
Elton John was the biggest pop star of the '70s, grabbing headlines and generating hits throughout the world. As it turned out, this was merely the first act in a remarkable career that kept him at the top of the charts for over 25 years. He charted a Top 40 hit single every year between 1970 and 1996, a sign that he knew how to both change with the times and mold the times to fit him. Initially marketed as a singer/songwriter, John soon revealed he could craft Beatlesque pop and pound out rockers with equal aplomb. He could dip into soul, disco, and country, as well as classic pop balladry and even progressive rock. His versatility, combined with his effortless melodic skills, dynamic charisma, and flamboyant stage shows, became his calling cards and many of his songs became contemporary pop standards.
Carolyn Sampson and Iestyn Davies have collaborated on many occasions in the field of Baroque opera and oratorio, but on this occasion they venture into a somewhat different territory. In the company of Joseph Middleton, they have been exploring the Lieder for one and two voices of Mendelssohn and Schumann, combining them with songs and duets by Roger Quilter. And even though the disc actually opens with a set of Purcell songs – repertoire which both singers have previously made their mark in – they are here performed with the piano accompaniments realized by Benjamin Britten, turning them into something quite new and different.
The incomparable lied baritone, Christian Gerhaher, revisits Gustav Mahler in his latest release Mahler: Orchestral Songs. Accompanied by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra , under the elegant baton of Kent Nagano, Gerhaher has recorded three Mahler song cycles in their authentic orchestral versions for the first time. On Mahler: Orchestral Songs, Gerhaher manages to blend with the compelling sound of the orchestra, but at the same time makes his baritone hover above the instruments, so that every word and nuance comes across without ever sounding forced. Simple in style and full of empathy, this is the art of song at its finest.
This modest, single-CD compilation remains an excellent introduction to Duke Ellngton's work as composer and bandleader, two indistinguishable roles. It includes many of the original recordings of his most familiar songs, reaching back to the 1930s for the swinging "It Don't Mean a Thing" and the exotic "Caravan" and forward to the 1950s for "Satin Doll." The first 10 tracks appear here in their original monaural sound, and they're an authentic account of the early years of Ellington's marvelous band–with the rich, smooth saxophone textures of Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney, the soaring muted trumpets of Cootie Williams and Rex Stewart, and the unadorned musicality of Ivie Anderson's voice. If you want a CD with just the most famous tunes, or if you want to introduce someone to Ellington's music in all its regal brilliance, this is a good place to start.