Current recording methods will be “updated.” That is why some of the best recordings are suddenly available at reasonable prices! That prompts me to list (my opinion) three of the best recordings currently available — three that combine the greatest talent with quality recording. Check these out.
If you have an appreciation for trumpet players who can convert sound into a form of liquid gold, you will love Chris Botti. Botti combines a style reminiscent of the late Chet Baker with a velvety, seductive interpretation of old standards (“Embraceable You” and “I’ll Be Seeing You”) that may leave you limp and perspiring. In addition to half a dozen CDs, Botti has just released a DVD, “Chris Botti Live,” that combines the vibrant visual atmosphere of a live performance with Botti’s elegant stage presence. In addition, Botti does duets with his “eleven favorite musicians in the world,” including Sting, Burt Bacharach, Gladys Knight and Paula Cole. Finally, there is a mesmerizing episode in which Botti strolls into the audience and plays “My Funny Valentine” while Sting sings... all for an adoring fan who listens in a rapt manner that approaches... well, physical intimacy. As it turns out, the “adoring fan” is Sting’s wife! This album contains both a CD and a DVD (one for the house and one for the car).
For those of you who remember Prine classics like “Sam Stone,” “Far From Me,” “Blow Up the TV” and “Hello in There,” they are all beautifully rendered in John Prine: Live from Sessions at West 54. Looking weathered but spry and confident as a bantam rooster, Prine dominates this album as he sings, plays and talks before an adoring audience. The accompaniment is first rate, especially in the thunderous rendition of “Lake Marie” (John loses a string from his guitar, but flails on amid shouts of “Oh, Baby!” and “We gotta go now.” Lovingly photographed, this album is prime Prine.
This tribute to one of the world’s great songwriters received bad reviews from a bevy of critics who found the vocalists (mostly Canadian) “eccentric and uninspired.” Well, I’m sorry, but the critics are dead wrong, and I’ll wager the woods are full of Cohen fans who will agree that “Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man” is a landmark in documentary/music. The film alternates between Cohen talking about his remarkable life and various performers’ “interpretations” of Cohen’s songs/poems. Among my favorites are “Chelsea Hotel,” “Everybody Knows,” and “Hallelujah” (Rufus Wainwright); “Suzanne” (Nick Cave); “The Traitor” (Martha Wainwright); “If It Be Thy Will” (Anthony); and “The Tower of Song” (Cohen and Bono). For those of you who are accustomed to seeing your performers coifed, shellacked and swanked in glitter, it may be an original experience to see Montreal singers attired in what Cohen would call “rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters.” Quite frankly, for these songs and ballads for life’s defeated people, such clothing seems appropriate. Watch it again and again.
— By Gary Carden