Prior to the Spanish Inquisition, peace, tolerance, and shared learning existed. This shared knowledge influenced all subjects from the sciences to the arts. The music composed and performed during this time was about being in the moment: Some pieces tell stories–'Cancionera de la Columbina' for example–while others express emotions, as in the 'Romances.' Interestingly enough, the "non-Jewish" selections were written during the Inquisition, while the Sephardic selections were written right before it. Director Jordi Savall and Hesperion XX, an ensemble that specializes in early music from all over the world, are like chameleons. Soprano Montserrat Figueras is able to inhabit each work with great authenticity and individual style…
Prior to the Spanish Inquisition, peace, tolerance, and shared learning existed. This shared knowledge influenced all subjects from the sciences to the arts. The music composed and performed during this time was about being in the moment: Some pieces tell stories–'Cancionera de la Columbina' for example–while others express emotions, as in the 'Romances.' Interestingly enough, the "non-Jewish" selections were written during the Inquisition, while the Sephardic selections were written right before it. Director Jordi Savall and Hesperion XX, an ensemble that specializes in early music from all over the world, are like chameleons. Soprano Montserrat Figueras is able to inhabit each work with great authenticity and individual style. Her singing on the 'Villancicos' displays more of a Renaissance influence, while in the 'Sephardic Romances' we hear authentic Middle Eastern inflections. The contrast in style of the "Christian" versus "Jewish" works is evident, but there are similarities. Both "Si d'amor pena sentis" and "La Reina xerifa mora" are lyrical, sparsely accompanied, and plaintive in tone. The songs on these discs are beautiful and expertly performed.
In 17th and 18th century New England, transplanted Englishmen like Daniel Read, Abraham Wood, and especially William Billings were composing beautiful but rough-hewn and distinctly American vocal music for use in what were called "singing schools." Far to the west and south, in what was then called New Spain and would later be called Mexico, natives and transplanted Spaniards were composing liturgical music of a richness and complexity that was worthy of the greatest cathedrals of Europe – and teaching their native converts to do the same. This disc showcases the works of two of 18th century Mexico's finest composers: the Mexican-born Manuel de Zumaya and the transplanted European Ignacio de Jerusalem. The latter is represented by a polychoral Mass in D Minor, a responsory, and a gorgeous Dixit Dominus setting written in six sections; from the former listeners have a setting of Jeremiah's lamentations, a breathtakingly complex solfeggio composition titled Sol-fa de Pedro, and the polychoral Celebren, Publiquen.
The soundtrack to the Hughes Brothers' tribute to early-'70s blaxploitation gets the sound of the era right, featuring hits by the O'Jays, the Spinners, Isaac Hayes, Al Green, and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, among others. The inclusion of Danny Elfman's instrumental theme interrupts the flow of the album, but for the most part, Dead Presidents is a first-rate collection of prime soul.
The West of veteran TV writer/Deadwoodcreator David Milch is as grim as it is gritty, sprinkled with salty dialogue and punctuated by sudden brutality and raw sexuality. The original soundtrack cues by composer David Schwartz (represented here by his evocative show theme), Michael Brook and Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek play off that vision with often stark rootsiness. But it's the series' rich slate of songs – choices whose inventiveness often rivals that of The Sopranos – that consistently reinforce its all-too-human drama, if not the crusty veneer. This collection gathers the best songs from the series' first season, coloring the milieu with evocative hillbilly romps like Michael Hurley's "Hog of the Forsaken" and the a capella grace of Margaret's Native American "Creek Lullaby." But the collection's musical eclecticism stretches far beyond mere genre concerns, variously encompassing the nascent jazz of Jelly Roll Morton (a rollicking "Stars and Stripes Forever"), Delta blues of Bukka White and Mississippi John Hurt and even Gustavo Santaolalla's hypnotic Brazilian fretwork. But the collection's country and folk-tinged performances are its most resonant, whether invoking earthy traditions (the gospel fervor of the late June Carter Cash's "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee's more heretical "God and Man") or more contemporary stylings like Lyle Lovett's "Old Friend" and the gentle "Twisted Little Man" by Michael J. Sheehy.
Like so many contemporary official soundtrack releases, Evening brings together the film's original score with a batch of familiar period pop hits – unlike most soundtracks, the two disparate halves prove surprisingly complementary, each capturing the film's romantic intimacy without sentimentality or mawkishness. Composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek's score returns to his signature piano and strings, but he exhibits an uncommon restraint and subtlety here that allows his lovely melodies room to breathe. This is music that arrives by its sophistication naturally, favoring nuance over Sturm und Drang. No less compelling are contributions like Peggy Lee's "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You" and Sarah Vaughan's "Stairway to the Stars," which further underscore the maturity and elegance of the cumulative listening experience.
Depending on your viewpoint, director Brian De Palma has been frequently lauded/taken to task for liberally appropriating the stylistic flourishes of other directors. And if De Palma's biggest "inspiration" on Snake Eyes is Alfred Hitchcock, the director found an admirable, if unlikely, semblance of frequent Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrmann in Ryuichi Sakamoto. Though better known for more delicate, electronic, and ethnically tinged work, here Sakamoto does a truly amazing Benny impression, cranking up the brass and swirling the strings into an unsettling sonic maelstrom that would've done late '50s Hitch proud. Meredith Brooks and LaKiesha Berry also contribute a pair of songs in the contemporary pop vein that the kids seem to like so much.