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Product: Audio CD
Title: Beethoven: Fidelio / Halasz
Label: Naxos
Artist: Inga Nielsen, Gosta Winbergh, Michael Halasz, Nicolaus Esterhazy Sinfonia, Kurt Moll, Alan Titus, Edith Lienbacher, Herwig Pecoraro
Rating: 4/5
Customer rating - 4 out of 5
One of two new releases

Beethoven lovers take note: there are two new "Fidelio's" available, neither of which is perfect but both of which are quite good in their own ways.
The <Fidelio> from Naxos (8.660070-71) follows the last revision and uses the "Fidelio" Overture, followed by the Gilbert & Sullivan-like duet. It also has just enough dialogue to let you follow the plot, provided you read German, since there is no English translation of the libretto. The offering from Teldec (3984-25249-2) uses the "Leonore No.2," followed by Marzelline's aria and then the duet. It omits the dialogue entirely, based as it is on a Chicago production that had the Leonore narrate the plot between her entrances. The booklet inconveniently supplies these notes in the introduction and not in the libretto, which is tri-lingual in case you need a French as well as an English translation of the German.
Each set has a good Florestan in Gosta Winbergh (Nax.) and Placido Domingo (Tel.). In general, the Naxos cast is lighter voiced with a good Leonore in Inga Nielsen and a more than adequate Pizzaro in Alan Titus. The only sour note is the terribly sounding Fernando (Wolfgang Glashof) who seems to have been given the part because someone owed it to him. And how good it is to hear the deep bass of Kurt Moll as Rocco. The Telarc set has Domingo, I think, to thank for its existence, and he is splendid. The rest of the cast is fine, except--and this is fatal--for Waltraud Meier, who used to sing mezzo and does not seem up to the demands of the title role.
The Naxos set has the Hungarian Radio Chorus and Nicolaus Esterhazy Sinfonia under Michael Halasz in a nicely paced, (again) somewhat lightweight but very enjoyable rendering. On Telarc, we have the chorus of the Deutschen Staatsoper Berlin and the Staatskapelle Berlin under Daniel Barenboim, who plays as an appendix the other three overtures Beethoven wrote for the different versions of this work.
Which one to buy? Domingo fans will of course go for the Teldec.. Others might opt for the Naxos at about half the price. I plan to enjoy both.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Room for Squares
Label: Sony
Artist: John Mayer
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
Pleasant, Youthful Pop rock

This guy rocks. This CD rocks! Its amazing, the songs just stick in your head! Anyone who may be going through a quarter life crisis needs this CD!!
I rock out to this everyday - its a great mix between jazzy rock and jam...
The only thing better then the music on this CD is hearing it live played by John.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Duran Duran 2 (The Wedding Album)
Label: Capitol
Artist: Duran Duran
Rating: 4/5
Customer rating - 4 out of 5
DD's re-emergence onto the popular scene

It's always funny to read the mainstream reviews for your favorite artists, and how they make not so ancient hits (Big Thing) sound like they happened decades ago. After a short hiatus, the boys returned to the airwaves with yet more proof that they had some staying power.

Just before the album was released, the band performed 'Orindary World' live on NBC's The Today Show, and I was enthralled. After the ho-hum of the single 'Too Much Information', I was blown away by this song's simplicity, and its depth. And the follow up 'Come Undone' was equally beautiful and powerful. So I went out and purchased the album.

Half of the album I flat out don't like - songs like 'Shotgun' and 'Femme Fatale' are just filler, and others are just mainstream pop blather, lacking in real creativity and interest. But then there are songs like 'Love Voodoo' with its pervasive bass and catchy hooks, and the penultimate power track, 'Sin of the City', which, when clustered along side the singles, make this album a must-have for fans of Duran Duran.

Is it as good as previous DD albums? No. And I don't think it's as good as their newest offering, Astronaut. But its an excellent album nonetheless.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Return of the Jedi: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Special Edition)
Label: RCA
Artist: John Williams, London Symphony Orchestra
Rating: 3/5
Customer rating - 3 out of 5

Star Wars was great, The Empire Strikes Back was good, this was cheesy. Everything, especvially the conclusions to the various conflicts, seemed forced and contrived to me. The sense of wonder was gone.