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Product: Audio CD
Title: Best of-Original Hits
Label: Paradiso
Artist: Michael Nesmith
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5

This talented but obscure musician was a member of the Monkees and in the early seventies became a successful singer/songwriter. This collection includes his greatest hits plus other very memorable tracks. Silver Moon is a brilliant piece of country pop, Listen To The Band is very tuneful and Harmony Constant has an uplifting spiritual undertone. Most tracks, but especially I've Just Begun To Care, the poignant Keys To The Car, Joanne and I Fall To Pieces are out and out country, but others like Some Of Shelley's Blues and Nevada Fighter with its innovative drumming, have a rock vibe. Different Drum was a huge hit for Linda Ronstadt but his original version is great too. All of these songs are tuneful and Nesmith came up with some truly poetic lyrics. His is an original talent that made exceptional music deserving of more recognition.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Brian Blade Fellowship
Label: Blue Note Records
Artist: Brian Blade
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
fresh air!

I bought Brian Blade's album on the strength of his work with Joshua Redman and Kenny Garrett, but was surprised to find that, not only was he a great player, but his writing is extrememly strong, he has a wonderful ensemble (tenor/soprano sax, alto sax, upright bass, Grand Piano/Wurlitzer, electric guitar and pedal (yes, pedal!) steel guitar.
The album is nothin short of wonderful. The playing is sublime and, considering the size of the ensemble, nobody gets in anyone's way.
I just saw the group at the Montreal Jazz Fest and it was identical to the album, with the exception of the guitarist, who was replaced by Kurt Rosenwinkle (who I actually preferred). They took the material to even further heights. This is a band that came together quickly, but has an obvious chemistry. I saw them twice at the fest - once in a sort of Quebec version of MTV unplugged in front of a studio audience of about 75 people, and then in a theatre, packed to the rafters. The group played for two solid hours and, having spent 5 days at the festival, was a highlight (the only other show that was close was John Scofield's A Go Go performance).
Brian Blade is being considered the drummer of the new millenium. He reminds me, in some ways, of the late Tony Williams, not so much in the what he plays, but in his complete abandon and open-minded approach. Buy the album, see the band, and watch out for this guy - he's going to be one of the great leaders of the next 50 years (he's only 27!), considering his musical maturity at so young an age.
There is not a weak track on the album. One last thing that amazed me, both live and on record - with an ensemble that large, there was never a clash - everyone had their place and the sound, while lush and warm, was never cluttered.
Finally, Brian and his mates are very spiritual people, and it comes out in their music. Brian, when speaking, is exceedingly humble, and perhaps a bit overwhelmed by the reception he has received, but there is no lack of confidence when he ge! ts behind a kit!
Oh yes - the album is produced by Daniel Lanois, yet for once it does not have that recognizable signature Lanois sound (not that I mind it, but it is nice to see him abandoning it when appropriate). A must have album , and surely one of the best of 1998!

Product: Audio CD
Title: Room for Squares
Label: Sony
Artist: John Mayer
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
Room For Squares-a true original

Room For Squares is an original sounding blend of musical styles that defies logical description,reminiscent of Jazz on tracks like Neon and 83, uniquely appealing in pop-folk on tracks like Why georgia,and My Stupid mouth. These songs are universal snapshots of the human spirit on the rise, the angst of growth and love of a sensitive and empathetic individual, and a genius on par with such artists as Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, and Paul Simon. This song while reminiscent of other artists has acquired its own sound, the landmark of any true artist. In my opinion this is one of the ten best albums of the Rock era,and my favorite of all 310 in my personal collection and I do not buy often. I had to have this one.You will too.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Big: The Musical (1996 Original Broadway Cast)
Label: Decca U.S.
Artist: Richard Maltby Jr.
Rating: 2/5
Customer rating - 2 out of 5
Not very good

Often (too often), the musical numbers seem clunky and awkward. While I'm sure it's heart is the right place, some songs seem ridiculously banal and artificial. For example, "Talk to Her" & "It's Time" sounds like an adult trying to recapture childhood--and failing. I think this is an prime example of over-production. Some songs survive; they don't fall into this trap, like "Stars" and "Stop, Time" both of which I found actually moving, in a "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown" kinda way. Too bad the rest of the musical didn't do anything for me.