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Product: Audio CD
Title: Hold Me [Vinyl Single]
Label: Motown / Pgd
Artist: Brian McKnight
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
I love it!

Brian McKnight is undoubtly a true artist. He sings with feeling and emotion. Hold Me is a definate hit. Up-beat, and smooth. This single has a nice groove. Puts me right in a lively spirit. You can't help turning up the volume everytime you hear it coming on. Just what you'd expect from Mr.McKnight.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Mahler - Symphony No. 8 / Popp · Augér · Minton · Harper · Kollo · Shirley-Quirk · Talvela · Chicago SO · Solti
Label: Decca
Artist: Martti Talvela
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
Nearly 30 Years Old, And Still One of The Best!

I remember well this recording from my LP days. Regrettably, in my conversion over time from LPs to CDs, this somehow got lost in the shuffle. Truly dumb! But Decca has saved the day with a totally fresh remastering on a single CD, and at a bargain price to boot!

I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing with some of the previous reviewers (but, in the main, agreeing). Over the years, I've owned, listened to, and eventually discarded, several versions (Abravanel, Kubelik, Mitropolous, Scherchen come quickly to mind) and have put the two Bernstein recordings in storage for at least a while pending some time to rethink those performances through. The only other one remaining active in my collection is the Shaw, about which I make some brief comparisons to Sir Georg's along the way.

I think that, in my time, only Bernstein and Solti really got it all together in this monster piece. To a true Mahlerite (as opposed to someone who simply gets off on the wall of sound and the "occasion" nature of the work), this may be the most difficult of all Mahler symphonies to pull off with the right conviction, because it is equal parts cerebral and visceral. And it can fail in a major way if any one of the required elements (soloists, choruses, orchestra, dynamics, pacing, coherence and "the catching of the long arc" that is essential in the second part) is lacking.

In the cold, hard light of day, Solti is the winner. He is the disciplinarian that Bernstein is not, with an absolutely hair-trigger performance from the orchestra, and he is afforded better sound than either Bernstein recording. The presence of Kollo, Shirley-Quirk and Talvela guarantee a performance for the ages. Solti gauges the dynamics in the second section absolutely perfectly. I will listen to it again and again. The new "Legends" transfer is a marvel when one considers its date (1971).

Not having heard the LP version in a number of years, there were a few minor "reacquaintance" adjustments I found myself having to make:

- The sound stage comes across in a way which I do not remember from the LP version. The brass (except for the horns) sound as if they were behind a fairly heavy scrim except for when the choruses are not singing. Perhaps this is simply a matter of the singers sitting down and getting out of the way, a subtlety that was not apparent on LP nearly 30 years ago.

- The soloists are miked a little too closely for my taste. But they are unquestionably the greatest group of soloists ever assembled for a performance of this work, so I can readily look past this minor point.

- The chorus runs out of gas at the end of Veni, Creator Spiritus and thereby loses some of the cumulative impact that this "rush to an ecstatic finish" needs to have.

These are all very minor points, and should deter no one from acquiring this enduring performance.

I find myself agreeing with rac22 on the "good" and "less than good" Mahler from Solti and that this is the best Mahler that Solti ever did, because he did get the cerebral details correct (as in the long orchestral introduction to the Faust scene). I also find myself agreeing with Conrad Weisert on the matter of the performances of the choruses. Had the work been recorded in Chicago instead of Vienna, we would have had the benefit of the contributions of Margaret Hillis, which are exceeded only by those of her mentor, Robert Shaw.

For those wanting a third version behind the Solti and either Bernstein, I recommend the Shaw for both the choruses and for his own sense of dynamics and pacing (which largely mirror Solti's, with a total timing difference of only nine seconds spread out over nearly 80 minutes). Shaw's choruses win out easily, and do lift the roof off the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta at the end of Veni, Creator Spiritus. The sound is the usual Telarc state-of-the-art. But the organ is anemic, the ASO is not the CSO, and Shaw, while having excellent and sympathetic female soloists, does not have Kollo, Shirley-Quirk and Talvela.

Bob Zeidler

Product: Audio CD
Title: Songs from the West Coast
Label: Universal
Artist: Elton John
Rating: 4/5
Customer rating - 4 out of 5
Elton's back

So Elton John spent several years stuck in the morass of yucky stuff like "There's Something About the Way You Look Tonight" and musical songs like "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" from "The Lion King." Finally, though, Elton has clued himself in- let's sound like my good stuff again! "Tiny Dancer!" "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road!" Hallelujah, and congratulations to Elton-he's never sounded better than on here.
Really, songs like "The Emperor's New Clothes" and "Ballad of the Boy in the Red Shoes" return Elton back to the '70s, and it's a great thing. Elton plays the piano, his backup band is playing great, everyone's happy. "I Want Love" is the best ballad of the year, "Dark Diamond" brings in old buddy Stevie Wonder on harmonica, "This Train..." is another sign that Elton's aging-but gracefully.
Mind you, there is some bad stuff on here-"American Triangle" has Rufus Wainwright in a barely-there cameo and some of the worst, awkwardest (is that a word?) lyrics I may have ever heard. I realize that this song was written for Matthew Shephard, the gay student brutally and horribly murdered a few years back, but this song is a painfully embarrassing effort from Elton John, and "American Triangle" needed some more time in the making. "Original Sin" doesn't make much sense-and here, that's a bad thing.
Nonetheless, Elton John is back-and thank God-I was worried that we would have to endure another "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," and I know the vast majority of us wouldn't want to do that under any circumstances. Great job, Elton-and welcome back.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Saving Private Ryan: Music From The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Label: Dreamworks
Artist: John Williams
Rating: 2/5
Customer rating - 2 out of 5
Sounds like a typical movie soundtrack album...

The soundtrack to Saving Private shows John Williams at his best. The "Hymn to the Fallen" and "The Last Battle" are songs that will be remembered forever as the best pieces of music ever made for a war movie. "Omaha Beach" and "Approaching the Enemy" are also great pieces of music that bring together themes of heroism, tragedy, and victory. This soundtrack didn't just focus on the depression and pschological elements of World War II, but it also brought out themes that seemed to claim a purpose. Every piece of music in this soundtrack seemed to help bring out that this particular war (even though the most deadly and horrific the world had ever seen since) had a purpose and it's veterans should be honored for liberating and saving western democracy. Above all "Saving Private Ryan" is the best soundtrack i've ever heard and probably will stay that way for a very long time.