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New and noteworthy

MUSIC | Reviews of four albums

New and noteworthy
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Cat Temper

Not only do the cover art and the title of Mike Langlie’s latest “synthwave with cattitude” project pay feline tribute to Duran Duran’s Rio, but the song titles do too: “Save a Prayer” is now “Save a Purr,” “Last Chance on the Stairway” is now “Last Cats on the Stairway”—you get the idea. The songs themselves, however, are entirely original. And instead of echoing the early-’80s music of the New Romantics, Langlie dives straight into mid-’80s synth-pop, dispensing with lyrics and vocals altogether en route to equaling or excelling the hooks, beats, and electronic curlicues of that era’s greatest hits.

I Go to the Rock: The Gospel Music of Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston

What do these selections—including five from The Preacher’s Wife, one apiece from The Bodyguard and Sparkle, two from the 1995 VH1 Honors special, and three from a gospel session when she was 17, along with the title cut from Whitney Houston’s final studio album—prove? That no less than Aretha Franklin, Houston was born to sing gospel and that somewhere deep down she knew it.

Endeavour Variations 

The London Metropolitan Orchestra

Only the most obsessive fans of the British detective series Endeavour will take the time to verify whether these new “variations” by the show’s composer Matthew Slater share motifs with any of the music used in the show’s 36 episodes. But the soaring dignity of the performances does justice to its soaring melodies, which in turn do justice to the better angels of the main character’s nature. And for detective-TV fans who are really in the know, the inclusion of Barrington Pheloung’s “Theme From Inspector Morse” brings a fitting sense of closure.

Moving on Skiffle

Van Morrison

Maybe it’s that his fight against the official COVID narrative has begun paying off. Or maybe it’s that he simply loves skiffle. Or maybe, after a labor-intensive last couple of years, it’s simply a relief not to have to write new songs. Whatever the reason, Morrison has never sounded this joyful or this carefree for this long—94 minutes to be specific. He hasn’t totally abandoned protest: The folk standard “Mama Don’t Allow” has become “Gov Don’t Allow.” But “Gypsy Davy” could almost be “Full Force Gale,” Roy Acuff’s “Streamlined Cannonball” could almost be “Raglan Road,” and in “Green Rocky Road” he sails all the way into the mystic.

David Shire

David Shire Photo illustration by Rachel Beatty


David Shire’s soundtrack to the Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece The Conversation has had a strange history. It didn’t become commercially available until 2001, two years after the film’s 25th anniversary. Now, Silva Screen Records is releasing a remastered version one year too early for 50th anniversary hype. Anyone as paranoid as the film’s protagonist, the ­surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), might ­wonder whether there’s a plot to keep the music a secret.

Shire’s mainly solo-piano score has an eerily detached quality, equal parts nonchalance and creeping dread, with a jumping jazz-combo number (“Blues for Harry”) and brief incursions of musique concrète in which the nonchalance and the dread, respectively, break all the way through. In the film, the melodies and sounds emerge and dissipate like vapor trails in the wake of Coppola’s vertiginous plotting. They’re even more enjoyably disquieting on their own. —A.O.

Arsenio Orteza

Arsenio is a music reviewer for WORLD Magazine and one of its original contributors from 1986. Arsenio resides in China.



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