Record Reviews

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The Independent Culture
Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Simmer, Reduce, Garnish & Serve - the Warner Bros Recordings (Warner Archives, CD). There is such a thing as being too accomplished. The great blind jazzman Kirk's ability to play three wind instruments at once has tended to mis-diagnose him as a novelty act in the ears of history. This exuberant and captivating selection from his last three albums, book-ended with two fine, previously unreleased cuts, the frenetic "Lunatic Danza" and the elegiac "Thunder & Lightning Goodbye", testifies both to the profusion of Kirk's talents and - given that he was already more or less immobilised by the strokes that would eventually end his life - the indomitability of his life-force. It's the vitality of the music itself, not the bravery of its making, that leaves the strongest impression here. It seems appropriate that these mighty swoops and flukes of sax-and-flute fancy were originally recorded in 1976- 77, as their inspiring blend of playfulness and solemnity is wholly in tune with the best spirit of the punk era. Ben Thompson

Schubert: Die Schone Mullerin. Brigitte Fassbander/Aribert Reimann (DG, CD). If you haven't liked the way this forceful mezzo has annexed male heterosexual lieder repertory in the past - projecting Winterreise and Schwanengesang into the realms of lesbian fantasy - then stay clear of her Schone Mullerin. Otherwise, you may be taken aback by the chancing boyishness she manages to inject into the early songs in the cycle, and the poignancy of young love spurned that registers very effectively in the voice as the narrative moves on. That she reads (in German of course) the poet's prologue and epilogue is an equivocal extra on disc that you probably won't want to hear more than once; and Aribert Reimann's accompaniment, too, is open to question: it can be heavy, angular, obtrusive. But weighing all things in the balance, the sheer musical intelligence of Fassbander wins through. She makes a fine and spirited young miller. And when all those Cherubinos and Octavians get away with wearing trousers on the opera stage, why not in lieder-hosen in recital? Michael White

Steve Earle: Train a Comin' (Transatlantic, CD). Wonderful post-detox comeback album by the new-country star featuring heart-defrosting ballads in the hillbilly tradition, outlaw tales from Cormac McCarthy country, a cover of the Beatles' "I'm Looking Through You" and a country version of "By the Rivers of Babylon". Every track's a winner and the lo-tech backing (with thumping stand-up bass) is superb. Phil Johnson

Michael Jackson: Stranger in Moscow (track on HIStory, Epic, CD/LP/tape). Disembodied, stately and celestial - the loveliest song Jackson has ever recorded. BT

Joy Division: Permanent (London, CD/LP/ tape). Solemn phosphorescence: ideal for the idle thrill-seeker as well as the lonely and lost. BT

Charlie Haden and Hank Jones: Steal Away (Verve, CD). Wholly delightful bass and piano re-workings of spirituals, protest songs and campfire favourites. PJ

Bartok: Piano Works. Zoltan Kocsis (Philips, 4 CDs). Establishes Kocsis as the Bartok pianist. MW

Neil Young: Mirrorball (Reprise, CD/LP/ tape). At his grungey best, plain and simple. And with Pearl Jam in tow. Nicholas Barber

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