Mike Oldfield – Five Miles Out (1982/2013) [Deluxe Edition] [HRA 24-96]

Mike Oldfield – Five Miles Out (1982/2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 2:17:39 minutes | 2,72 GB | Genre: Rock
Studio Master, Official Digital Download  , Source: highresaudio | Artwork: Front cover

Mike Oldfield was back into the extended composition game with Five Miles Out,
continuing the “Taurus” series with the mammoth “Taurus II,” an entertaining
enough romp with references to Irish music, brass bands and Oldfield’s beloved Morris.
The true standout, though, was the title track, a paean to flying in bad weather that
could easily double for Oldfield’s feelings about the sort of monumental critical
drubbing he was accustomed to receiving. “Family Man” became a huge worldwide hit
for Hall & Oates. (AMG)

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Michael Jackson – Bad (1987/2012) [Acoustic Sounds 24-96]

Michael Jackson – Bad (1987/2012)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 48:14 minutes | 1,0 GB | Genre: Pop
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

Bad is the seminal masterpiece by one of music’s most influential artists. It has sold over thirty-five million copies worldwide, making it one of the bestselling albums of all time. The album includes five #1 singles: “Bad,” “Man In The Mirror,” “Dirty Diana,” “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” and “The Way You Make Me Feel.” Michael Jackson is among two artists to have five #1 singles from one album. The GRAMMY Award-winning album is included on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.

The downside to a success like Thriller is that it’s nearly impossible to follow, but Michael Jackson approached Bad much the same way he approached Thriller — take the basic formula of the predecessor, expand it slightly, and move it outward. This meant that he moved deeper into hard rock, deeper into schmaltzy adult contemporary, deeper into hard dance — essentially taking each portion of Thriller to an extreme, while increasing the quotient of immaculate studiocraft. He wound up with a sleeker, slicker Thriller, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not a rousing success, either. For one thing, the material just isn’t as good. Look at the singles: only three can stand alongside album tracks from its predecessor (“Bad,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”), another is simply OK (“Smooth Criminal”), with the other two showcasing Jackson at his worst (the saccharine “Man in the Mirror,” the misogynistic “Dirty Diana”). Then, there are the album tracks themselves, something that virtually didn’t exist on Thriller but bog down Bad not just because they’re bad, but because they reveal that Jackson’s state of the art is not hip. And they constitute a near-fatal dead spot on the record — songs three through six, from “Speed Demon” to “Another Part of Me,” a sequence that’s utterly faceless, lacking memorable hooks and melodies, even when Stevie Wonder steps in for “Just Good Friends,” relying on nothing but studiocraft. Part of the joy of Off the Wall and Thriller was that craft was enhanced with tremendous songs, performances, and fresh, vivacious beats. For this dreadful stretch, everything is mechanical, and while the album rebounds with songs that prove mechanical can be tolerable if delivered with hooks and panache, it still makes Bad feel like an artifact of its time instead a piece of music that transcends it. And if that wasn’t evident proof that Jackson was losing touch, consider this — the best song on the album is “Leave Me Alone” (why are all of his best songs paranoid anthems?), a tune tacked on to the end of the CD and never released as a single, apart from a weirdly claustrophobic video that, not coincidentally, was the best video from the album.

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Felix Mendelssohn: Symphony No 3 ‘Scottish’ / Robert Schumann: Piano Concerto – London Symphony Orchestra, Sir John Eliot Gardiner (2014) [24-96]

Felix Mendelssohn: Symphony No 3 ‘Scottish’ / Robert Schumann: Piano Concerto – London Symphony Orchestra, Sir John Eliot Gardiner (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96kHz | Time – 79:17 minutes | 1.62 GB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: hyperion-records.co.uk | © LSO Live
Recorded: January 2014 at Barbican, London, United Kingdom

Inspired by his travels to the British Isles and full of the influence of the rolling Scottish landscape, both Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 3 ‘Scottish’ and his overture The Hebrides (‘Fingal’s Cave’) are amongst the composer’s most popular and admired works. The London Symphony Orchestra present us with inspiring performances of these works, as well as a performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto, featuring the celebrated pianist, Maria João Pires.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner writes of this coupling; ‘Even if they spoke with different accents these genial Romantics were united in their ambitious fervour for ‘abstract’ music to be acknowledged as having the same expressive force as poetry, drama or the literary novel. The three works on this album exemplify the endeavour and range of invention of two of them, friends and colleagues in Leipzig’.

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Mein Weihnachten: Gedichte & Songs – Thomas Quasthoff (2014) [HRA 24-96]

Mein Weihnachten: Gedichte & Songs – Thomas Quasthoff (2014)

FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 38:56 | 489 MB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: highresaudio.com | Digital Booklet , Front Cover | © Deutsche Grammophon
Recorded: March 2014 at Teldex Studio, Berlin, Germany

‘Mein Weihnachten’ – Thomas Quasthoff singt US-Standards und liest deutsche Gedichte Incl. It’s beginning to look like Christmas, White Christmas und Gedichten von Bonhoeffer, Brecht, Rilke u.a. mit Frank Chastenier, Dieter Ilg, Wolfgang Haffner, Bruno Müller.
Dass Thomas Quasthoff sein Karriereende als Lied- und Opernsänger bekannt gegeben hat, bedeutet nicht, dass seine Stimme verstummt ist. Diesen Sommer hat er in Baden-Baden an der Seite von Rolando Villazón den Bassa Selim aus Mozarts Entführung aus dem Serail gesprochen, regelmäßig tritt er mit seiner Jazz-Combo auf, und immer wieder rezitiert er öffentlich aus Büchern oder Gedichten. Schließlich hat die Karriere dieses Ausnahme-Baritons ja nicht als Sänger begonnen: Quasthoff war eine der charakteristischsten Stimmen im Norddeutschen Rundfunk.
Nun hat Quasthoff den lässigen Song-Sound seiner Jazzkarriere und seinen Faible für gute Gedichte in einem neuen, konzeptionellen Album vereinigt: Mein Weihnachten ist ein vokaler Ausflug in die cool-beschwingte Vorweihnachtszeit der USA und ein literarischer Blick auf unsere deutsche Weihnacht: Bing Crosby und White Christmas treffen Ringelnatz, Rilke und Bertolt Brecht. Und natürlich ist Mein Weihnachten auch ein Blick zurück in die eigene Kindheit.

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Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood – Juice (2014) [HDTracks 24-88.2]

Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood – Juice (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/88.2 kHz | Time – 01:03:35 minutes |  1,16 GB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Master, Official Digital Download |  Source:HDTracks |  Digital Booklet , Front cover
Label:  @ Indirecto Records

When Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood joined forces again to record a new album, they sought common ground and inspiration in the intersection of improvisation and rhythms from the Afro-Latin diaspora. Their kinship both onstage and off has fostered an escalating degree of musical interplay, exquisitely captured on Juice – their third studio effort and fourth album overall.

The third studio meeting in nearly 17 years between Medeski, Martin & Wood and guitarist John Scofield has no easy referent to their earlier recordings — purposely. This quartet sounds like a real band on Juice, which is a mixed blessing. The positive aspect is that this longtime collaboration creates near instinctive communication. This is a much more inside date, though the rhythmic interplay between bassist Chris Wood and drummer Billy Martin is outstanding throughout. There are four covers from the 1960s scattered among the various originals; some work better than others. One is “Sham Time,” an Eddie Harris tune. The obvious inspiration, though, is Willie Bobo’s version from the 1968 album A New Dimension. This quartet does it justice with spark, crackle, groove, and grease. The driving organ vamp on Scofield’s “New London” offers a British rave-up wedded to Brazilian funk and Latin boogaloo. The solos by the guitarist and John Medeski are lyrical, tight, and flow right out of one another. Martin’s “Louis the Shoplifter” is populated with killer interlocking salsa grooves between him and Medeski (who evokes Eddie Palmieri’s experimetnal side in his playing) amid knotty changes. Wood’s bassline develops along the drummer’s pumping, double-time snare and syncopated breaks. Scofield’s solo roils with serpentine post-bop shards. “Juicy Lucy,” a group composition, finds Scofield taking “Louie Louie” as inspiration. Medeski builds on it with excellent montunos, contrasting mid-’60s Latin R&B with early rock & roll. The fingerpopping exchanges between Wood, Martin, and guest conguero Pedrito Martinez are nasty and tight. Wood’s “Helium” is the strangest, perhaps most compelling thing here, comprised of angular harmonies, arpeggiated, nearly fusion-esque statements from guitarist and pianist, and a whomping bassline. Martin’s forro-esque pulse — that borders on the martial — locks it down. The cultural baggage associated with the Doors’ “Light My Fire” is too great for even these musicians to transcend, and with a straight rock chart, it feels tossed off. Conversely, the reading of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love,” at nearly 11 minutes, contains an imaginative arrangement that makes the listener almost forget the original. Martin’s and Wood’s slow, rocksteady reggae groove is downright steamy. Scofield works a spooky blues vamp that unwinds slowly into fragmented solos while Medeski gets swampy on the organ, stating the melody tersely with one hand, and improvising with the other. Finally, engineer Danny Bloom adds a remix with loads of reverb and echo, making it a tripped-out dubwise jam. The guitarist’s funky “Stovetop” is an excellent modernist revisioning of post-tropicalia samba jazz with all members finding plenty of room to move inside it, Martinez’s congas add fand heat. While Juice is mostly engaging and satisfying, the pervasive “let’s just see what happens” approach MSMW took here also has a downside: it delivers a self-contented vibe rather than one of discovery that their previous records revealed in spades. –Thom Jurek, AllMusic

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Max Reger – Violin Concertos – Tanja Becker-Bender, Lothar Zagrosek, Konzerthausorchester Berlin (2012) [24-44.1]

Max Reger – Violin Concertos – Tanja Becker-Bender, Lothar Zagrosek, Konzerthausorchester Berlin (2012)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44.1 kHz | Time – 1:14:37  | 760 MB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: hyperion-records | Digital Booklet , Front Cover | © Hyperion Records
Recorded: February 2011 at Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany

Reger is one of those composers more talked about than listened to—caricatured as a prolific writer of organ music with a penchant for dense musical textures. But he certainly wasn’t averse to a good tune: the two Romances abound in lush lyricism, while the magnificent A major Violin Concerto shows him continuing in the tradition of the violin concertos of Beethoven and Brahms. An unashamedly symphonic work, it’s nearly an hour long—around the same length as the nearly-contemporary Elgar Violin Concerto. No less a figure than Adolf Busch championed it—first performing it when he was just sixteen.
The young German violinist Tanja Becker-Bender, who has already made such an impact in Schulhoff and Paganini, is joined by Lothar Zagrosek and the Berlin Konzerthausorchester for this 11th volume in the Romantic Violin Concerto series—a series that is triumphantly demonstrating how much great music there is out there just waiting to be rediscovered.

‘Full of craft and a lyricism often of inspired quality … Tanja Becker-Bender is more than equal to the demands of the solo part, and Lothar Zagrosek’s masterly articulation of Reger’s Klangstrom (stream of sound), in all its transparency and modulated colour and variety of incident is, if anything, an even more distinguished contribution’ (Gramophone)

‘Reger’s Violin Concerto … is one of his most heart-warming works, allowing his intensely lyrical streak free rein. It’s also superbly written for the soloist … aided by first-rate orchestral playing, Zagrosek finds transparency in Reger’s original, bringing out a wealth of significant detail in its rich polyphonic tapestry. Chief honours, of course, go to Tanja Becker-Bender: she not only shows stamina, but also technical command, beauty of tone and clear sympathetic identification with the music’ (BBC Music Magazine)

‘[Violin Concerto] On its own terms it’s remarkably beautiful, and Tanja Becker-Bender does wonderful things with it, shaping its lines with great lyrical force and a tremendous sense of drama. There’s strong playing from the Konzerthausorchester Berlin under Lothar Zagrosek, too’ (The Guardian)

‘Reger’s Violin Concerto is probably the longest by a major composer … but such is the beauty of its themes and the master of its developmental invention, to say nothing of the committed nature of Tanja Becker-Bender’s playing that … I was unaware an hour had passed … this is a truly outstanding CD of very fine music, excellently performed and recorded’ (International Record Review)

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Pietro Mascagni – Cavalleria Rusticana – Maria Callas, Orch del Teatro alla Scala di Milano, Tullio Serafin (1953/2014) [HRA 24-96]

Pietro Mascagni – Cavalleria Rusticana – Maria Callas, Orch del Teatro alla Scala di Milano, Tullio Serafin (1953/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 1:18:00 | 650 MB | Genre: Classical, Opera
Official Digital Download – Source: highresaudio.com | Digital Booklet , Front Cover | © Warner Classics
Recorded: 16–25.VI & 3–4.VIII.1953, Basilica di Sant’Eufemia, Milan

Playing Santuzza in a student production of Cavalleria rusticana in Athens in April 1939 was the very first time that Maria Callas, then aged 15, appeared in a leading role in a complete opera, albeit a short one. Her performance went well, both vocally and histrionically, despite the fact that she was suffering from toothache, and her shortsightedness on stage proved to be a problem that needed to be overcome, both then and throughout her career. She later sang Santuzza professionally with the Greek National Opera Company in 1944. After her sensational triumph in I puritani in Venice in 1949 she embarked on a glittering international career and became established as the leading star of La Scala, Milan, which became her artistic home throughout the 1950s. It was with the forces of La Scala that she would go on to make a series of opera recordings that remain unsurpassed to this day, beginning with I puritani in March 1953. Her next recording at La Scala was to be Tosca in August, but before then a recording of Cavalleria rusticana was being made in June at La Scala with a distinguished mezzo-soprano as Santuzza. Despite the fact that this singer was appearing in the role successfully in live performances around that time, she spectacularly failed to hit the top note at the recording sessions, even after repeated tries. The mezzo was given a period of rest and the sessions were postponed until early August, but just before they were about to resume she announced that she was ill and was dropped completely from the project. In a desperate attempt to save the situation, Callas was asked to step in and, despite pressing engagements elsewhere, she agreed. After two days’ rehearsal with Maestro Serafin, she ran through the performance in fine style and the recording now takes its rightful place in the Callas catalogue. –TONY LOCANTRO, 2014

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Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1971) [HDTracks 24-192]

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1971)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz | Time – 44:46 minutes | 1,63 GB | Genre: R&B , Soul
Official Digital Download – Source: HDTracks.com | Front cover

One of the most celebrated and commercially successful artists of Motown’s catalogue, Marvin Gaye’s prolific songwriting yielded a number of massive hits. 1971’s What’s Going On remains one of the most critically acclaimed albums of 20th Century popular music. Rolling Stone included Gaye both in its list of “The Greatest Singers of All Time” and “The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time”.

Marvin Gaye’s 1971 landmark recording, What’s Going On, revolutionized music history. The brilliant concept album featured politically charge anthems tackling themes of urban decay, environmental issues, police brutality, unemployment and poverty. The album not only topped the Billboard R&B charts, it was featured on countless “Best of” lists including Spin magazine, Q magazine, Mojo and NME. The album ranked #6 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” The album received high regards from Billboard, the Chicago Tribune, The Observer, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Slant Magazine, Uncut and Q. Included were the monster hits, “What’s Going On” and “Inner City Blues.”

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Mark Ronson – Uptown Special (2015) [24-88.2]

Mark Ronson – Uptown Special (2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/88.2 kHz | Time – 38:45 minutes | 754 MB | Genre: R&B, Retro-Soul, Deep Funk Revival, Neo-Disco
Official Digital Download – Source: WEB | Front Cover | © Columbia

Uptown Special is the fourth album from Mark Ronson. Another star-studded affair from the producer, it was preceded by a handful of singles, including a pair of throwback funk numbers in “Uptown Funk” (a Bruno Mars collaboration that reached number one on several charts, including Billboard’s Hot 100 in the U.S., and the U.K. singles chart) and “Feel Right” (fronted by Mystikal), as well as a spacy synth-disco workout in “Daffodils” (featuring Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker). On other songs, Ronson is joined by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Andrew Wyatt (of Miike Snow), and high-profile producer Jeff Bhasker. –Andy Kellman

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Marius Neset – Pinball (2015) [HRA 24-88.2]

Marius Neset – Pinball (2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/88.2 kHz | Time – 01:01:18 minutes | 1,14 GB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Master, Official Digital Download |  Source:highresaudio.com |  Digital Booklet , Front cover
Label: @ ACT Music | Recorded: Henning Vatne Svoren at Ocean Sound Recordings, 30th June – 2nd July 2014

Artists prize certain recording studios as much as they do producers or players. The room that adequately captures sound and provides optimal conditions for musicians working at the highest creative level is much in demand, and in some instances it is the location that can be something of a game changer. A studio in an unusual place with a unique ambience or history can greatly affect the act of making music.

Ocean Sound Recordings is a case in point. Built on the Norwegian island of Giske, it wears its name well, offering those who come to blow horns, strike keys or beat drums a grandiose view of the Atlantic.
It was here that Marius Neset, the 29 year-old Norwegian saxophone prodigy who has made major waves on the European jazz scene in the past three years following the release of the lavishly acclaimed albums, 2011’s Golden Explosion, 2013’s Birds and 2014’s Lion, a collaboration with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, spent five days with his band in the spring of 2014. The experience has hardly ebbed from his mind. “The studio is in a big house, and the musicians who use it, get to live on the second floor,” Neset explains. “It’s the most amazing feeling to be in this space where you’re surrounded by nature. We all worked from early morning until late night but you’re aware of this unique environment all the time. I mean it’s just two minutes walk from the studio to the beach, so it was a very special place to make music.”

Pinball, the fruit of those endeavours, is arguably the strongest artistic statement Neset has made to date insofar as it acts as a dual showcase for his gifts as an improviser and composer. It also unveils an international band where the whole is greater than the sum of the not inconsiderable parts. The long-running creative relationship between the players has no doubt been a major contributory factor to this cohesion. Norwegian drummer Anton Eger, who also co-produced the album, is a long-term associate of Neset’s, having worked with him on Golden Explosion and Birds. The two musicians previously lined up with the Swedish double bassist Petter Eldh in People Are Machines. Furthermore, Eger gigs regularly with pianist Ivo Neame in the highly successful trio Phronesis, so Neset’s core rhythm section hardly comprises strangers washing up on an unknown musical shore. As for vibraphonist Jim Hart he has been playing with Neame for many years.
Neset was more than happy to dive head first into this talent pool. “It felt really good to be right in the middle of a band again. I loved doing the project with the Trondheim Orchestra, but that was more about composing and arranging. This is my group. I love being right in the middle of the music. I’m playing much more here and that’s what I really I love to do. But they’re great to play with, so it makes sense.” This move back into a soloist spotlight is a timely reminder of why the jazz world pricked up its ears when Neset emerged several years ago. His virtuosity, from the bedrock strength of tone to the torrents of phrasal ideas, extends a rich lineage of sax giants that runs from Chris Potter to Michael Brecker back to one of their key role models, Joe Henderson, but also references the more serene ways of Jan Garbarek. While Neset’s improvising has lost none of its cascading verve his new compositions mark a considerable shift compared to previous material.

Rhythmically and harmonically, there are constant flashes of the multi-layered vocabulary of the pioneers who bridge jazz and non-western folk music, namely Hermeto Pascoal, Joe Zawinul or Trilok Gurtu, above all in collaboration with the aforesaid Garbarek. Yet there is a distinct digital age slant to the groove, a kind of sharply quantized jitter that offsets the lyricism of many of the themes. This flows from Neset’s key aim: the clarity of the song amid all the choppy percussive action. “I think the focus is on strong melody compared to my other work, though the music is still complex. There are still difficult polyrhythms and challenging harmony, but I think that the melody is kind of holding things together. You know, I was able to sing them a lot myself. So at times the music can be complex and almost a bit chaotic, but there is a melody, sometimes a simple thing, really, that keeps it all together.

“Pinball is about the fact that anything can happen in the music. We have to react to each other and to ideas in the moment, and that’s what I love about jazz. That’s what keeps it fresh. Golden Explosion and Birds were both albums that were planned as suites, but Pinball is more like a set of songs where every piece can really just stand on its own.” Each of the twelve tracks does indeed have a sense of individual life cycle, which is effectively served by production from Neset and Eger that entailed a considerable amount of work both before and after the studio sessions. The comprehensive involvement of the two players in the recording process has lent the album an identity and character every bit as distinctive as a triangle of earth in a great circle of water. –Kevin Le Gendre

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