Mavis Staples: "If All I Was Was Black"

January 2018

Anti- 87557
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

As a child in Chicago, Mavis Staples idolized Mahalia Jackson, a towering figure in gospel music who attained such stature that she was invited to perform at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. Young Mavis got first-hand exposure to Jackson through the established performer’s friendship with Roebuck “Pops” Staples, the patriarch of the Staple Singers and an important -- though often overlooked -- link between the seminal Mississippi Delta guitarists and the urban gospel-soul of artists like Curtis Mayfield, Sly Stone, and Marvin Gaye.

Read more ...

ECV: "Sticks and Stones"

December 2017

Kwimu Music
Format: CD

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
*****

When you’ve heard someone play music as often as I’ve heard Ottawa-based guitarist Roddy Ellias over the past 40 years, it’s easy to overlook some of the things you hear; not to say that you ever actually take their musicianship for granted. With the 68-year-old Ellias, who has been more than a passing acquaintance for much of those four decades, it’s not so much familiarity or ubiquity that contributes to that state as his quiet self-deprecation. He’s so low key that it’s easy to forget that he’s both a world-class player and composer.

Read more ...

Living Colour: "Shade"

November 2017

Megaforce
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Outrageously overlooked in the annals of recent rock history in favor of other mid-’80s bands like Metallica and Guns N’ Roses, Living Colour is back, and sounding tougher than ever. The quartet’s sixth album -- its first since 2009 -- is an extended meditation on the blues that is stuffed full of slamming guitar hooks and uncompromising social commentary.

Read more ...

Gregg Allman: "Southern Blood"

October 2017

Rounder 1166100054
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
*****

The first music review I had published examined an album by Gregg Allman. By then, 1977, I’d already been hearing his voice for seven years. So I approach his final recording with both sadness and a wealth of historical context. Although I met Allman only once -- very briefly on a beach in Macon, Georgia, in 1979 -- I feel like I’m saying farewell to an old friend.

Read more ...

Vijay Iyer Sextet: "Far from Over"

September 2017

ECM 2581
Format: CD

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
*****

There’s a common refrain in the wider jazz community that there are few stars left, and that those who still remain -- Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Sonny Rollins are those most often cited -- are well into their senior years. The people who repeat this refrain like a mantra mourn the days when, as my colleague Howard Mandel wrote, “giants walked the earth.” The typical roll call of giants includes Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and select others of their generation.

Read more ...

Randall Bramblett: "Juke Joint at the Edge of the World"

August 2017

New West 6398
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Beck’s idiosyncratic mashups generally defy cover versions, let alone by veteran southern jazz-rock artists. So finding a credible version of “Devils Haircut,” one of the core tracks of Beck’s breakthrough Odelay, on the 14th album by Randall Bramblett is a surprise.

Read more ...

Steve Coleman's Natal Eclipse: "Morphogenesis"

July 2017

Pi 69
Format: CD

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
*****

Alto saxophonists Ornette and Steve Coleman share more than their instrument of choice and surnames; the younger Coleman was the first major bandleader since his namesake to make music that moved mind and body in equal measure.

Read more ...

Valerie June: "The Order of Time"

April 2017

Concord B01MF9RD6H
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

I celebrated my 60th birthday by catching one of the best concerts I’d seen in a couple of years. Consider the context: as someone who reviews music for a living, I see a lot of live performances. Yet this one still resonates, and it wasn’t just the monumental anniversary that made it memorable.

Read more ...

Delbert McClinton & Self-Made Men: "Prick of the Litter"

Hot Shot 001
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

It’s easy to see the humor through the world-weary cynicism when Texas-born singer Delbert McClinton half-drawls lyrics like “I gave up drinking / I gave up pills / I gave up everything that gave me a thrill / Nothing salty and nothing sweet / I skip it all, from milk to wheat / I got a trainer and a diet guy / Sprouts and protein shakes, that’s all I buy.”

Read more ...

Brian Eno: "Reflection"

February 2017

Warp 280
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Brian Eno is one of the rare figures in music who has preferred to work offstage and never claimed instrumental authority. Aside from a brief period with Roxy Music and even briefer forays with Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera and King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, Eno has remained in the studio, turning out more than two dozen albums under his own name and, much more successfully, serving as a producer for U2 and Coldplay.

Read more ...

More Articles ...

More SoundStage! Videos

  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)