Ingar Bergby, Royal Norwegian Navy Band – Symphonies of Wind Instruments (2014) [HDTracks 24-192]

Ingar Bergby, Royal Norwegian Navy Band – Symphonies of Wind Instruments (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz | Digital Booklet | 1.99 GB
Genre: Classical | Official Digital Download – Source: HDtracks

A composer speaking about his own problems is also speaking about the problems of mankind,” asserted Schoenberg. “I was made a revolutionary in spite of myself,” said Stravinsky. Hindemith spoke of a forthcoming “big battle over new music”, and added, “the need will be to prove whether or not the music of our day, including my own, is capable of survival.” Today these composers are regarded as being three of the most seminal figures in music history in the first half of the 20th century. Meanwhile a composer at the end of the same century, Rolf Wallin, has written music that portrays “the dancing dynamics of the universe”, where nothing is stable and everything is volatile. The works featured on this album by these four composers reflect the universal and timeless balance between tradition and innovation, and the Royal Norwegian Navy Band under Ingar Bergby illuminate this balance in their recordings of these works, and breathe new life into this music.

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Steven Osborne, Ilan Volkov – Stravinsky: Complete Music For Piano & Orchestra (2013) [Hyperion 24-88.2]

Steven Osborne, Ilan Volkov – Stravinsky: Complete Music For Piano & Orchestra (2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/88.2 kHz | Digital Booklet | 916 MB
Genre: Classical | Official Digital Download – Source: Hyperion

A new album from the Gramophone Award-winning team of Steven Osborne, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Ilan Volkov. Here they present Stravinsky’s complete music for piano and orchestra as a rare complete set, plus the Concerto in D for string orchestra. The taut rhythmic brilliance of this music is perfectly suited to the particular artistry of these performers. Volkov’s mastery of Stravinsky’s neo-classical idiom is clear from the ecstatic critical response to his recordings of many of the composer’s orchestral works.

Composer: Igor Stravinsky
Performer: Steven Osborne
Conductor: Ilan Volkov
Orchestra/Ensemble: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

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Stevie Wonder – Journey Through The Secret Life Of Plants (1979/2014) [HDTracks 24-192]

Stevie Wonder – Journey Through ‘The Secret Life Of Plants’ (1979/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz | Time – 88:41 minutes | 3,86 GB
Official Digital Download – Source: HDTracks.com | Front cover
Genre: Soul, R&B

Stevie Wonder created the soundtrack for the documentary The Secret Life of Plants (directed by Walon Green) in 1979. The album was released by Motown as the sequel to Wonder’s 1976 Grammy Award-winning Songs in the Key of Life. Although The Secret Life of Plants was not as well-received as Songs in the Key of Life, some critics still found it compelling. Stephen Holden, in a review for the Village Voice wrote that the album has “the painful awkwardness of a barely literate sidewalk sermon”, though Wonder “manages to transform even the worst of this drivel into a spiritual jargon that’s virtually a different language; his very in-articulateness clears the way for us to tune in to the ineffable, nonrational flow that’s his obsession.”
On its release, the album peaked at #4 in the Rock and R&B Billboard charts in 1979, and the single “Send One Your Love” hit #4 as well.

Stevie Wonder broke a three-year silence, one that followed a series of six classic albums released within six years, with this double album, the score/soundtrack to a little-seen environmental documentary directed by Wild Bunch co-screenwriter Walon Green. From the release of Songs in the Key of Life through the release of Plants, Wonder had been active, actually, but only as a collaborator, working with Ramsey Lewis, the Pointer Sisters, Minnie Riperton, Syreeta, Ronnie Foster, and Michael Jackson. Even so, three years was a considerable lag between albums. Anticipation was so high that this release peaked at number four on the Billboard 200 and R&B album charts. It quickly slipped to footnote status; when Wonder’s 1972-1980 albums were reissued in 2000, it was left out of the program. Plants is a sprawling, fascinating album. Though it is dominated by synthesizer-heavy instrumental pieces with evocative titles, there is a handful of full-blown songs. The gorgeous, mostly acoustic ballad “Send One Your Love” was a Top Ten R&B single, while the joyous “Outside My Window” registered in the Top 60. Beyond that, there’s the deep classic “Come Back as a Flower,” a gently lapping, piano-led ballad featuring Syreeta on vocals. Otherwise, there are playfully oddball tracks like “Venus’ Flytrap and the Bug,” where Wonder chirps “Please don’t eat me!” through robotizing effects, and “A Seed’s a Star,” which incorporates crowd noise, a robotized monologue, and a shrieking Tata Vega over a funkier and faster version of Yellow Magic Orchestra. The album is not for everyone, but it suited its purpose and allowed its maker an amount of creative wiggle room that few major-label artists experience.

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Stevie Wonder – In Square Circle (1985/2014) [Acoustic Sounds 24-96]

Stevie Wonder – In Square Circle (1985/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 45:56 minutes | 1,07 GB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover
Genre: Soul, R&B

Although it went platinum, nothing stands as better evidence of how cyclical the pop experience is than the response to In Square Circle. Wonder actually wrote some superb songs, and several, like “Overjoyed” and “I Love You Too Much,” were superior to the hit single “Part-Time Lover.” But that one zoomed to the top spot and became the album’s definitive tune in the minds of many.

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Stevie Wonder – Hotter than July (1980) [24-96]

Stevie Wonder – Hotter than July (1980/2014)

FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 45:45 minutes | 956 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover | Label: © Motown Records
Genre: Soul, R&B

Jam until the break of dawn! Released in 1980, Stevie Wonder’s brilliant Hotter Than July followed up with a bang a film soundtrack that witnessed the end of the legendary artist’s “Classic Period.” And how. Excited after meeting Bob Marley, Wonder embraced reggae’s sunnier feel and colorful look on the album, which yielded four Top Ten singles in the U.K. and three charting singles in the U.S. Hotter Than July remains the peerless composer’s last true masterpiece.
Possessing a slightly faster and jam-oriented direction that Wonder’s other trademark efforts, the record finds the singer doing what he does best: Crafting memorable arrangements and addictive grooves, all the while ignoring the musical trends that surrounded him at the time. Wonder flirts with a disco pulse on “All I Do,” yet the main attractions relate to his irrepressible soulfulness. Rather than play everything himself, he switches up his prior methods by employing all-star backing choirs and abundant rhythm sections that grace songs with insouciant tunefulness and buoyant hooks. More than a dozen backing vocalists (including Michael Jackson, Eddie Levert, and Angela Winbush) as well as multiple handclap percussionists are involved in the process.
Historically, Hotter Than July not only marks a return to form, but a launching pad for the now-observed Martin Luther King holiday. With the anthemic “Happy Birthday,” Wonder issued a call to action and ultimately, got it. The song is line with the mood of the majority of the album: celebratory, positive, and lively. Wonder, however, doesn’t abandon his penchant for social critique, as “Cash In Your Face” stands as a protest against housing discrimination. Simply put, Hotter Than July has it all, and more than 30 years after its original release, continues to burn brightly.

Four years after the pinnacle of Stevie Wonder’s mid-’70s typhoon of classic albums, Hotter Than July was the proper follow-up to Songs in the Key of Life (his Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants concept record was actually a soundtrack to an obscure movie that fared miserably in theaters). It also found Wonder in a different musical climate than the one that savored his every move from 1972 to 1977. Disco and new wave had slowly crept their way into the mainstream record-buying public, and hindered the once-ample room for socially and politically charged lyrics. However, Wonder naysayed the trends and continues to do what he did best. Solid songwriting, musicianship, and production are evident in the majority of Hotter Than July. Wonder also carries on his tradition of penning songs normally not associated with his trademark sound, from the disco-tinged “All I Do” (originally planned to be released by Tammi Terrell almost ten years previously) to the reggae-influenced smash “Master Blaster (Jammin),” which went straight to the top of the R&B charts. While admittedly there are a few less-than-standard tracks, he closes the album on an amazing high note with one of the most aching ballads in his canon (“Lately”) and a touching anthem to civil rights pioneer Martin Luther King, Jr. (“Happy Birthday”). While most definitely not on the same tier as Innervisions or Songs in the Key of Life, Hotter Than July is the portrait of an artist who still had the Midas touch, but stood at the crossroads of an illustrious career. –Rob Theakston

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Stefano Bollani Trio – Stone In The Water (2009) [Qobuz 24-96]

Stefano Bollani Trio – Stone In The Water (2009)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 61:44 minutes | 1,08 GB
Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz.com | Front cover
Genre: Jazz

“Stone in the Water” features the brilliant Italian pianist’s “Danish trio”, a group that has been honing its improvisational understanding for six years already. Bassist Jesper Bodilsen and drummer Morten Lund (both making ECM debuts) draw on a still longer association, having collaborated closely for more than 15 years. The three players move, with immense subtlety, through a fascinating programme that includes new pieces by Bollani and Bodilsen, plus ballads by Caetano Veloso and Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Poulenc’s “Improvisation 13 en mineur”, bringing fresh colours to the piano trio genre.

Material on “Stone in the Water” spans original pieces by Bollani and Bodilsen, tunes by Caetano Veloso and Antonio Carlos Jobim and Poulenc’s “Improvisation 13 en la mineur” – it’s a wide range of material, unified by the gracefulness of Bollani’s touch and the feeling of freedom in the trio playing. The group sound is supple, subtle, flowing, and thoroughly musical. Stefano Bollani: “There is a special chemistry in the trio, difficult to pin down in words. We’re all about the same age [Bollani and Lund were born in 1972, Bodilsen in 1970], we all grew up listening to the same records, have a similar range of interests…that’s part of it. We never have to discuss how to play a piece of music, which in my experience is very unusual, and there’s a shared understanding that the way we play the songs can sometimes be more important than the material itself. One thing I know for sure is that every note I play is going to be listened to, and developed by Jesper and Morten. And that’s rare, because we live in an age of highly-gifted jazz soloists who listen mostly to themselves! In this group, listening is central, and each of us is always caring, in every moment, about what the others are doing. Everybody is always focused on the total group sound. It’s my ideal of how jazz group-playing should be.

The delicacy of many ECM recordings can be measured via degrees, but in the case of the music conceived by pianist Stefano Bollani, those increments of hushed tones are micro dynamic, rendered as quintessentially subdued. Within a typically formatted piano-bass-drums trio, Bollani alongside bassist Jesper Bodilsen and drummer Morten Lund can be described favorably as a cut below most groups of this type in terms of a sonic footprint. While Tord Gustavsen, Esbjorn Svensson, or Bobo Stenson may approach the similarly softer side of contemporary Continental jazz, Bollani has them covered in his utterly subtle approach, while still grasping an elusive, haunting quality to melody-making. These themes are definitely based on a liquid, clear, cool quality that is founded on European chamber music. What is surprising on this disc is how Bollani has adapted the Brazilian music of Caetano Veloso, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Vinicius DeMoraes to his brand of solemn and dimmed light voicings. His version of “Dom de Iludir” parallels the classic melody of “My Romance,” while “Brigas Nunca Mais” is humbled into a solemn reality, held in place by Lund’s brushwork. A feeling of compact, ethereal wholeness is maintained in the oval framework of this music, whether during the playful, cascading waterfall motif of “Il Cervello del Pavone,” the steady, somewhat energized “Un Sasso Nello Stagno,” or the small sparks of percussive energy in “Asuda,” all compositions of the pianist. The fourth piece contributed by Bollani, “Joker in the Village,” has a stairstep, elfin quality that combines childlike mischief with the overall enigmatic façade listeners have come to expect from a Manfred Eicher production. Bodilsen contributes two sleek pieces, as the free-spirited and light “Orvieto” and the under-the-surface, dark, and mysterious paean to “Edith” perfectly center the group as coming out of the introspective, neo-baroque-oriented ECM stable. Surprisingly “out of the box” is an interpretation of French 20th century composer Francis Poulenc’s “Improvisation 13 en la Mineur,” which sounds merged with the standard “Out of Nowhere.” It could be said that this effort is inspired by peaceful oceanic waves lapping up ashore at dusk or daybreak, but you’d have to assume that. Perhaps it is an aural representation of the concentric wave a stone produces as it hits the surface of said water. For sure, the music you hear Bollani and his trio creating is pure and serene, far removed from a traditional jazz trio, and approaching new era — not new age — craftsmanship.

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Stefano Bollani – Joy In Spite Of Everything (2014) [ECM 24-88,2]

Stefano Bollani – Joy In Spite Of Everything (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/88,2 kHz | Time – 75:56 minutes | 1,42 GB
Official Digital Download – Source: ECM Records.com | Digital booklet
Genre: Jazz

Stefano Bollani is an artist of ebullient virtuosity, with uncommon sensitivity and range. The Italian pianist has proved to be at home on ECM improvising solo or leading a trio, as well as engaging in duos with Enrico Rava, Chick Corea and Brazilian bandolim player Hamilton de Holanda. With Joy in Spite of Everything – an album of new compositions by the pianist for a trans-Atlantic quintet – Bollani has made his most beautifully textured and infectiously lyrical statement yet. He recorded these nine pieces at New York City’s Avatar Studios with the Danish rhythm section from his Stone in the Water trio – bassist Jesper Bodilsen and drummer Morten Lund – plus two prominent American players and ECM intimates: guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Mark Turner. As its title reflects, Joy in Spite of Everything brims with an indefatigable lightness of spirit despite the inevitable shadows of life.

On Joy in Spite of Everything, Italian pianist Stefano Bollani reconvened his longstanding trio with drummer Morten Lund and bassist Jesper Bodilsen. They recorded three previous dates together, the most recent being 2009′s excellent Stone in the Water on ECM. Bollani has continually displayed — from his dates with mentor Enrico Rava, on solo offerings, and with other leaders, that his playing and composing signatures are not only versatile and Catholic in their approach to jazz, but informed equally by the building blocks and possibilities of song itself. To that end, he has added two more players to this date, guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Mark Turner. The group performs on these tunes not only as a quintet, but in various quartets, trios, and duets. The tracks are long enough to stretch a bit and offer a wide, colorful palette of approaches. Opener “Easy Healing” has a calypso-cum-plena vibe that allows for lovely interplay from the rhythm section, but also between Frisell and Turner — who is unusually lyrical rather than cerebral — in his solo. It’s followed by “No Pope No Party.” With knotty, stop-and-start post-bop as its entryway, it swings throughout even when it moves afield; the dialogue between saxophonist and pianist is canny, with Frisell’s solo melding straight-ahead swing with Americana. “Alobar e Kudra” is a piano trio that offers Bollani’s fluid voicings, light and dark, balanced by shimmering ostinati as the rhythm section digs in and extrapolates on them. “Las Hortensias” is a long, moody ballad for a quartet with lovely understated work by the pianist. Turner explores the fringes of the melody and engages in counterpoint after his restrained solo break. The set’s lengthiest number is “Vale.” It commences skeletally as a nearly formless, languid, balladic improvisation. Bollani brings angles into view after his own solo, touching on post-bop, Nino Rota’s delicate classicism, and the Italian jazz tradition, but it’s Turner’s solo that shines brightest. “Teddy,” a duet with Frisell, was inspired by pianist Teddy Wilson, though its sparse, impressionistic opening would hardly suggest that. Nonetheless, in its sprightly, swinging dialogue, one can hear its subject’s influence — though musically it reaches much further. “Ismene” is a beautiful ballad, and a fine vehicle for Frisell’s instinctive manner of chordal voicings and poignant lyrical fills. The closing title track for Bollani’s trio is fleet, wildly creative post-bop that shows off just how intuitive the group’s development has become in the last decade. Joy in Spite of Everything’s myriad colors and moods illustrate its title — even in the most melancholy places. As an album it reveals how confident and sensitive Bollani is, in full command of his musical range and technical facility — as composer, bandleader, pianist, and arranger — as well as in the depth of his honesty in emotional expression.

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Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto featuring Antonio Carlos Jobim – Getz/Gilberto: Expanded Edition (1964/2014) [HDTracks 24-192]

Stan Getz & João Gilberto featuring Antonio Carlos Jobim – Getz/Gilberto: Expanded Edition (1964/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz | Time – 72:08 minutes | 2,32 GB
Official Digital Download – Source: HDTracks.com | Front cover
Genre: Jazz

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark, four-time Grammy Award winning jazz album GETZ/GILBERTO which single-handedly ignited the international bossa nova craze with such hits as “The Girl From Ipanema” and “Corcovado”. This anniversary celebrate with the release of GETZ/GILBERTO: Expanded Edition. It includes U.S. single versions of the widely popular hits as well as a newly remastered version of the jazz/bossa nova classic album in both mono and stereo, with the mono version making its CD debut and the stereo album in its original left-right configuration for the first time since its vinyl release!

GETZ/GILBERTO, released in 1964 and produced by label head Creed Taylor, was an international sensation altering the direction of jazz, pop and the samba itself. It brought together Stan Getz (tenor saxophone) with Brazilian stars Joao Gilberto (guitar & vocals) and Antonio Carlos Jobim (composer & pianist), who wrote and co-wrote six of the original eight tracks on the album, as well as Joao’s young wife Astrud Gilberto, who was not scheduled to contribute to the album. When Astrud was spontaneously asked to sing new English lyrics to “The Girl From Ipanema,” her charming, sultry vocals made all the difference. “The Girl From Ipanema” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart and went to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. (Astrud is also featured on “Corcovado.”) Other bossa nova classics on the album include “Só Danço Samba,” “Vivo Sonhando,” “O Grande Amor” and “Desafinado.” Backing the main artists is the Brazilian rhythm section of Sebastiao Neto (bass) and Milton Banana (drums).

In 1965 at the seventh annual Grammy Awards, GETZ/GILBERTO was the first jazz album to win a Grammy for Album Of The Year, while “The Girl From Ipanema” won Record of the Year. GETZ/GILBERTO also won Best Jazz Instrumental Album andBest Engineered Album, Non-Classical. The album’s engineering award was the first Grammy for the late, legendary Phil Ramone, who recorded the album at his renowned A&R Recording studio.

Ranked one of Rolling Stone’s 500 ”Greatest Albums Of All Time” and Vibe Magazine’s “100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century,” GETZ/GILBERTO’s wildly addictive charm proved that the bossa nova had legs—that the infectious syncopated rhythm could be leveraged as easily as the blues to captivate listeners, and forever making an everlasting impact on the world of jazz.

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Spoon – They Want My Soul (2014) [HDTracks 24-96]

Spoon – They Want My Soul (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 37:35 minutes | 975 MB
Official Digital Download – Source: HDTracks.com | Front cover
Genre: Alternative, Indie Rock

They Want My Soul is Spoon’s most straight-up, direct and concise rock album ever; a certain “return to form” as a straight up American rock band, and a restoration of Spoon’s trademark authority, confidence and swagger. The music runs a gamut from AC/DC-esque guitar-driven songs like the opener “Rent I Pay” to stunning cosmic space disco tracks like “Outlier” to delicately pensive album standout “Inside Out”.

After spending the 2000s churning out consistently good albums, Spoon were due for a break. 2010′s Transference reflected their weariness in its beautifully frayed collage of demo and studio recordings, so the four-year gap that followed wasn’t surprising. During that time, Jim Eno produced albums by !!! and the Heartless Bastards; Eric Harvey released the solo album Lake Disappointment, and Britt Daniel formed Divine Fits with Dan Boeckner. That project couldn’t help but rub off on Spoon’s next album, especially since Daniel wrote much of They Want My Soul shortly after touring with Divine Fits and brought keyboardist Alex Fischel into the fold. Spoon’s time off paid off; if they were weary before, here they’re reinvigorated but self-aware. On several of these ten songs, Daniel laments that “they” want a piece of him, and the album revolves around obligations — spiritual, romantic, financial — that make for a witty focus for the band’s first major-label album in over 15 years. On “The Rent I Pay,” one of their best fusions of the Rolling Stones and Wire, Daniel pays his dues and defies them (“I ain’t your dancer”) while Eno’s mighty snare hits signal that Spoon is back. On the album’s title track, he includes Kill the Moonlight inspiration Jonathon Fisk among the laundry list of folks who want his vital force, but the irresistible harmonies and guitars give the song’s paranoia an almost romantic tinge. Later, the standout “Let Me Be Mine” teeters between freedom and commitment with exuberant outbursts and chilly breakdowns reminiscent of Transference. But where that album’s messy vulnerability was a big part of its appeal, They Want My Soul’s sound is much tighter, thanks to two established sound-shapers: Dave Fridmann, whose intricate work embellished the music of the Shins and Sleater-Kinney, and Joe Chiccarelli, who produced the more mainstream likes of Jason Mraz and Counting Crows. However, the results are unquestionably Spoon. The hooky, strummy “Do You” is their version of a radio-friendly hit, while “Outlier” dresses its disses (“I remember when you walked out of Garden State/You had taste” takes aim at the song’s subject and Zach Braff’s movie) in busy percussion and swirling organs that borrow from late-’80s baggy. Songs like this, the sparkling “Rainy Taxi,” and the swooning “New York Kiss” — which could be a Divine Fits song — showcase the depth Fischel’s keyboards add to the band. A few indie quirks remain: many of They Want My Soul’s most immediate tracks are at the bottom, and some of these songs take time to reveal themselves. “Knock Knock Knock”‘s bristling guitars tip Daniel’s hand more than his elliptical lyrics, while the raw cover of “I Just Don’t Understand” feels like as much of a disguise as the more cryptic moments. Still, They Want My Soul is more of a welcome return than a comeback, and too complex to be considered back-to-basics — especially when they reinvent the basics on each album.

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Spock’s Beard – Live at Sea (2014) [Bandcamp 24-48]

Spock’s Beard – Live at Sea (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/48 kHz | Time – 67:55 minutes | 886 MB
Official Digital Download – Source: Bandcamp.com | Cover/Booklet
Genre: Rock

Spock’s Beard was formed by Neal Morse, who wrote all the band’s material and contributed lead vocals, piano, synth and guitars. This is a superb Progressive rock in the Seventies’ spirit, full of contrated climates, breaks and complex compositions based on tortuous, audacious and elaborated instrumental developments. They combine strong melodies with intricate arrangements and superb musicianship.

The Progressive Nation at Sea cruise, upon the beautiful Norwegian Pearl, was an event that will be considered by many of the musicians and fans that were there as one of their top lifetime live music experiences.

This is Spock’s Beard’s second and final show of the cruise, where they were joined on stage for the final two epic songs by founding member Neal Morse.

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