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MUSIC | Reviews of four albums
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Chapman Pond Music
Enrico Caruso, the GOAT of operatic tenors, made 247 recordings between 1902 and 1920. This project isolates and refurbishes the vocals from nine of them (his “greatest hit,” “Vesti La Giubba” from Pagliacci, and the instantly recognizable “La Donna E Mobile” from Rigoletto included) and surrounds them with original synthesizer-and-piano arrangements, the otherworldly spookiness of which transforms what might look like mere novelty on paper into an avant-garde achievement of uncommon depth and beauty.
Regarding Miles Davis
You’d better believe that Miles Davis would’ve found his way into lo-fi hip-hop if he’d lived into his 90s. And what he would’ve done would probably have sounded a lot like the 20 selections on this tribute. Kind of Blue appears in its entirety (courtesy of Sebastian Kamae & MONODUKE, Oatmello, Jazzinuf & Theo Lee, Project AER, and Noé Mina, DESH & delaney,), as do 10 other selections from Davis’ fecund 1950s, joined by three from the ’60s and two from the ’80s. His less-melodic ’70s get passed over altogether—maybe because they don’t lend themselves to the ethereal, or maybe because there’s an equally ear-opening Volume 2 on the way.
With this mash-up of obscure black-gospel recordings, the founder of the turntablist DJs known as the Beat Junkies has created a stream-of-consciousness sense of what it’s like to scan AM radio for gospel content. As one might expect, the gravitas of the preaching that emerges from and disappears back into the musical samplings varies considerably. As one might also expect, although J. Rocc’s main purpose is neither to evangelize nor to inspire, his source material guarantees that he ends up doing a bit of both.
Ryder turned 78 shortly after this album’s release, and at times he sounds his age. Still, despite years of being used to belt out Detroit Wheels hits, his pipes remain impressively resilient. He also wrote every song. And from the lovely lullaby “Jack,” the saloon confession “Lord,” and the Santana-like “Naked” (about the “naked truth”) to the funky “Mask” (celebrating the end of lockdowns), the romping-stomping “Soul,” and the sad ballad “Salvation,” each feels like the product of serious thought.
If you’re going to get any edition of The Songs Of Bacharach & Costello, you may as well spring for the “super deluxe” one. In addition to Costello and Bacharach’s only official album (Painted From Memory, 1998), you’ll get 16 songs (half of them previously unreleased) from the duo’s proposed Taken From Life musical, a disc of Costello-sung live versions (with Steve Nieve tickling the ivories), and another disc of mostly live, mostly Costello-sung versions of eight Burt Bacharach–Hal David hits.
Costello wrote the lyrics for the rest, and if Bacharach’s melodies ever find their way into the art-song or jazz-standards repertoire, those lyrics will be the main reason that they do. They’re a shade too dark for pop. One is even called “In the Darkest Place.” (Another asks, “Does the extinguished candle care / about the darkness?”) They also presuppose higher-order thinking skills. In “The Long Division,” math and metaphor meet to elucidate a slowly unraveling love knot. —A.O.