Notre Dame on fire ...
Songs From Robin Hood Lane
Half of these songs come from Clichés, the only full-length testament to Chilton’s fondness for the jazzier chapters of the Great American Songbook released during his lifetime. And, truth be told, Clichés, with its typically Chiltonian curveballs, feels more alive. Still, it’s nice that his three cameos from Medium Cool’s Imagination have finally made it onto an album bearing his name and even nicer that his superb recording of Louis Jordan’s “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” has finally made it onto anything at all.
Steve Earle & the Dukes
This album’s good because Guy Clark, whose songs these are, wrote good songs and because Earle sings and performs them pretty much as Clark would’ve if he’d fronted the Dukes. What makes it less than great is the something in Clark’s songs that makes singing and performing them pretty much as he would’ve ineluctable. An exception is “Out in the Parking Lot,” in which Earle locates an excuse to rock almost as valid as the excuse not to that Brad Paisley once located in the very same song.
The vocal harmonies and the material are pure Southern gospel, the arrangements and the folk-leaning instrumentation only a smidgen more adventurous or roots-proud than the Oak Ridge Boys. But that smidgen makes a difference, especially on the title track, which gets sped up and reconfigured along lines entirely consistent with its death-bed urgency. Elsewhere, a happy-and-you-know-it spirit prevails, with “Shadrach” verging on the jocular. Not jocular at all: the “Sweet Hour of Prayer” that brings the program to a reverent close.
The Best of the ’68 Comeack Special
This single-disc edition of the seven-disc 50th anniversary box that Sony released last November avoids the repetition inevitable in the jumbo edition but at the expense of the ’tween-song chatter and jokes, without which these performances lose some of their intimacy and spontaneity. The energy, however, remains intact. Now, if only someone (Giles Martin?) could think of a way to gussy up the audio—or to explain why anyone thought it was necessary to tack on “A Little Less Conversation,” “Suspicious Minds,” and “Burning Love.”
Few artists can match the quality or the diversity of the recordings left behind by the pianist-composer-conductor André Previn, who died in February at age 89. The title of a 2008 DVD celebrating his accomplishments and aesthetic philosophy proclaimed him “a bridge between two worlds”—jazz and classical—and that he was (as even a cursory listen to any of his recordings of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue will prove). But bridges are often prosaic, and Previn was anything but.
No sooner had he died than fans took to the internet to single out their favorite Previn recordings, many of which can be found in Sony’s recent 55-CD box The Classic André Previn. One that can’t, however, is Doris Day and the André Previn Trio’s Duet (1962), on which Previn’s elegantly expressive playing functions less as accompaniment and more as an eloquent second voice—one that, were Day’s excellent vocals wiped, would still say everything that needs saying. —A.O.