A more literal return to form, Blood Like Lemonade builds on the familiar downtempo grooves that filled Morcheeba's 2008 effort Dive Deep, but this time with original vocalist Skye Edwards back in the fray. Right from the opening dusty, minor-keyboard chord, the album is instantly identifiable for fans as stony, late-night grooves combine with melodies that are both pop-minded and soul-spirited. All the organic elements that sit on top of the slow, rolling drum machines are back, as is the sinister underbelly of their early material, although here it's amped up a touch. The title track references “drinking blood like lemonade,” while “Recipe for Disaster” begins “Wanna know why there's a dead guy in my dining room” before unveiling a story that's somewhere between the Jesse James legend and Natural Born Killers. The sweet tricks are Edwards using her velvet voice to make it all sound delicious, along with her ability to be equally effective on the breezy, positive numbers like “I Am the Spring.” Add “Crimson,” which would be the quintessential Morcheeba song if “Rome Wasn't Built in a Day” didn't exist, and Blood Like Lemonade exceeds expectations, coming in a close second behind fan favorite Big Calm.
Every so often, a piece of music comes along that defines a moment in popular culture history: Johann Strauss' operetta Die Fledermaus did this in Vienna in the 1870s; Jerome Kern's Show Boat did it for Broadway musicals of the 1920s; and the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album served this purpose for the era of psychedelic music in the 1960s. Saturday Night Fever, although hardly as prodigious an artistic achievement as those precursors, was precisely that kind of musical phenomenon for the second half of the '70s – ironically, at the time before its release, the disco boom had seemingly run its course, primarily in Europe, and was confined mostly to black culture and the gay underground in America…
One of the many jazzmen who started out playing hard bop but went electric during the fusion era, Joe Sample was, in the late '50s, a founding member of the Jazz Crusaders along with trombonist Wayne Henderson, tenor saxman Wilton Felder, and drummer Stix Hooper. The Crusaders' debt to Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers wasn't hard to miss – except that the L.A.-based unit had no trumpeter, and became known for its unique tenor/trombone front line. Sample, a hard-swinging player who could handle chordal and modal/scalar improvisation equally well, stuck to the acoustic piano during the Crusaders' early years – but would place greater emphasis on electric keyboards when the band turned to jazz-funk in the early '70s and dropped "Jazz" from its name.
Even though he came from the theater himself, Bob Fosse, when he came to make a film of Harold Prince's musical Cabaret, did what most movie directors do, taking the 15-song score and cutting two-thirds of it to leave five songs – "Wilkommen," "Two Ladies," "Tomorrow Belongs to Me," "If You Could See Her," and "Cabaret." (In addition, "Sitting Pretty" was performed instrumentally and "Married" in German.) He then allowed the show's songwriters, John Kander and Fred Ebb, to add material to emphasize the film's two musical stars, "Mein Herr" and "Maybe This Time" for Liza Minnelli and "Money, Money" for Minnelli and Joel Grey…
You might think that Handel's Water Music, HWV 348-350, arguably the most familiar piece of Baroque music (the Four Seasons of Vivaldi can give it a run for its money, but its popularity is more recent), has received every possible interpretation. And you would be wrong, as the musicians of the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin have shown in this Harmonia Mundi release, precisely recorded in Berlin's Teldex studio. You get a steady parade of innovations here, marked overall by, but not in the least restricted to, blisteringly fast tempos that turn the horn-dominated movements into tests of virtuosity. Unexpected dynamic contrasts and the unusual rhythmic treatment of the "Overture" to the Suite No. 1 (sample track one) are other novelties, but this veteran group is not out for shock value. The Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin operate without a conductor, and their coordination in these crisp prestos is worth the price of admission in itself. Their ability to act as one in really unusual shapings of each individual movement is remarkable, and the treacherous horn parts are near perfection in the hands of Erwin Wieringa and Miroslav Rovenský.
In this second volume, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and its chief conductor Sir Andrew Davis play some of the most characteristic pieces of Charles Ives, an insurance salesman by trade and one of the most precociously original of all American composers.
In case anyone has forgotten how ingratiating and prolific Joe Sample the songwriter has been, the master of elegant funk re-records 14 songs here. And it is a cooler, more reflective light in which Sample and producer George Duke see his old tunes in the '90s: with relaxed, uncomplicated, to-the-point acoustic piano leads; a mildly percolating beat; and a veneer-thin garnish of electronics.