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MUSIC | Reviews of four albums
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No, this album does not include Gary Cherone’s version of Kanye West’s “God Is.” It does, however, include “X Out,” a techno-metal adaptation of the rich man and Lazarus story punctuated by a faith-hope-love refrain and seasoned with a sprinkling of Macbeth. Shoring it up are Nuno Bettencourt’s guitars in general and songs of hard-rocking social commentary and soft-rocking summer love in particular. The bounciest borrows a title from Cherone’s former band Van Halen. The title of the one with ’90s smash written all over it cites a rainbow that has nothing to do with gay pride.
Seckou Keita with BBC Concert Orchestra
For sure this elegantly sumptuous adaptation of Seckou Keita’s kora to Davide Mantovani’s orchestral arrangements and vice versa will have you tracking down the original, pre-adaptation versions, whereupon you’ll have yourself a handy one-hour best-of. Boosting Keita’s back catalog, however, was not the intention. What was, was exploring uncharted possibilities where both kora and orchestra are concerned. Was the journey or the destination the point of embarking on the odyssey? In this case, both.
To Our Children’s Children’s Children (50th Anniversary Edition)
The Moody Blues
The soft copy contains three digital discs, the hard copy four CDs and a Blu-ray. Both contain new mixes and live recordings, all of which sound good because sounding good—i.e., covering a multitude of pseudo-profundities with echoey, mellotron-drenched vocals—was the Moodies’ stock in trade. Could it be that the band waited till 2023 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of an album released in 1969 just to give the target audience specified in the title a better chance of coming into existence?
Orchestra of the Swan
In his liner essay, the Orchestra of the Swan’s artistic director David Le Page invokes the cassette-era “mix tape.” “It meant something to the recipient,” he writes, “because of the time you had spent putting it together.” He goes on to insist that a lot of thought went into this project too: into deciding to lead off with Bach and Vivaldi as recomposed by Max Richter, into deciding to wind down with Philip Glass and a Gerald Finzi setting of Thomas Traherne, into deciding to keep listeners on their toes with curveballs from Frank Zappa, Portishead, and the Velvet Underground, and into featuring a sweet, bright violin sound that—almost—holds everything together.
When the livestreaming platform Veeps broadcast Shadow Kingdom: The Early Songs of Bob Dylan in the summer of 2021, the world was still deep in lockdowns, making 50 minutes of a fit-as-a-fiddle Dylan accompanied by a drumless, COVID-masked mystery band feel like a long drink of something cool and refreshing. That it was immediately identified as a long-form music video rather than an in-the-moment concert did nothing to quell the enthusiasm with which it was received.
Now available as an LP, CD, or video download, Shadow Kingdom finds its star as committed to getting to the essence of these deep cuts and familiar favorites as he’d been to “uncovering” Sinatra-era tunes a few years before. The voice is supple, the articulation precise, the instrumentation detailed and (mostly) unplugged. You can sing “All Along the Watchtower” to the closing instrumental, “Sierra’s Theme.” And “Forever Young,” which has never sounded lovelier, can move you to tears. —A.O.