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Profile for GARY J HIGGINS > Reviews

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There's a Star Above the Manger Tonight
There's a Star Above the Manger Tonight
3 used & new from CDN$ 2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic heresy..., Aug. 23 2002
Easily among the best in the Sub Pop catalog, and for that matter all of the '90's, Red Red Meat drove further out across the windswept earth than most, but with consistently better results. While the field of the past 25 years is littered with aggressively experimental groups, the vast majority were wildly uneven in the quality of their output (Sun City Girls, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, Sebadoh, and the Donner Party spring immediately to mind, as does the more "musicianly" Praxis). Then along comes Rutili's outfit--far better than R.E.M. ever dreamed of being, completing Keith Richard's unfinished sentences for him--this last disc is a dense, circuitous wonder. From the hauntingly beautiful title track to the spiralling wash of sound that marks the 17-minute closer "Just Like An Egg On Stilts," there's never a dull moment. Taking a page from the secret life of John Cale, they disassemble the spaces hinted at on earlier discs with giddy determination. A must-have among must-haves.

Innocence & Despair
Innocence & Despair
Price: CDN$ 20.00
32 used & new from CDN$ 4.47

5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful record..., July 28 2002
This review is from: Innocence & Despair (Audio CD)
This record is an astounding find. Many of the works compiled here consist of insipid tunes I've been trying to forget all this time ("Wildfire," "Rhiannon," "Mandy") and yet, unprepossessingly, there is beauty underneath. Two LPs of skeletal choral arrangements of mid-70's FM pop fodder, sung by western Canadian schoolkids 25 years ago, live to 2-track. I'd go so far as to say some of these songs don't deserve the tributary gesture these students bestow--but then let's recall the silk purses turned out by the glorious Billie Holiday in her early years, all from mediocre to downright horrendous sow's ears. Fenger, what loveliness have you wrought?
Worth the price for these two alone: Bowie's great "Space Oddity," made still greater here, and the hapless Klaatu's "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft," a goofy and otherwise forgettable pap fragment wrought into a shimmering masterpiece by a young girl named Tina van de Weteringe Buys.
While I own, promote and enjoy large quantities of ethnic, folk and so-called "fringe" music, I despise the term "outsider art," and have even less patience for "cute kids" marketing. I doubt these vocalists would have described themselves as simple farm kids. I also find nothing remarkable about recordings of grade-school children as such: I've heard many, and usually it's just yammering, mewling waifs tripping over themselves and each other. This disc is different. To sum Irwin Chusid: "these are gorgeous, heavenly artifacts. Period."

Live at Martyrs
Live at Martyrs
Price: CDN$ 17.63
7 used & new from CDN$ 11.66

5.0 out of 5 stars a gritty and forceful outing, April 29 2002
This review is from: Live at Martyrs (Audio CD)
Whitley's vocals and clanging Duolian rise from the ether with a surplus of sharp songwriting skills and assured delivery. Tunes like "Firefighter" and "Living With the Law" don't require explanation; they state their case admirably. Few so-called singer-songwriters these days actually come across well with a voice and guitar. Whitley is one.

Orff: Carmina Burana
Orff: Carmina Burana
Price: CDN$ 18.82
19 used & new from CDN$ 1.37

1.0 out of 5 stars Pathetic and pasteurized..., Feb. 28 2002
This review is from: Orff: Carmina Burana (Audio CD)
In the classical world there are great conductors: Toscanini, Solti, Karajan, Kondrashin, Boulez, Levine, Furtwangler, Klemperer, Rozhdestvensky, Previn, Ozawa, etc. There are also poor conductors, among which Fiedler and Slatkin spring instantly to mind.
Leonard Slatkin is characteristically anemic in this outing. This fatuous release, cursed by facility, only serves to undermine composers as gifted as Orff. John Aler and the St Louis Orchestra are brilliant performers, and not served well by this outing. Even the cover [bites]. Avoid this dreck at all costs... CAVEAT EMPTOR!

6 Str Qrts
6 Str Qrts
Price: CDN$ 33.85
23 used & new from CDN$ 8.21

4.0 out of 5 stars Exceedingly close..., Feb. 21 2002
This review is from: 6 Str Qrts (Audio CD)
Emerson Quartet makes stunning interpretations; they are not at the pinnacle, but very close to it. DG tend to overprice their selections: for the price of their Shostakovich, you could have both the Borodin (Melodiya) AND Fitzwilliam (London) Quartets, giving superior performances to those of Emerson. As for Beethoven, the Quartetto Italiano (Philips) is unsurpassed.
However, Emerson are gorgeous with their early 20th century repertoire of Eastern Europe. Their Webern is the most consistent and fascinating of the Boulez box, and this Bartok is haunting and lovely. Recommended.

Beethoven: Complete String Quartets
Beethoven: Complete String Quartets
Price: CDN$ 88.69
32 used & new from CDN$ 45.75

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a masterful compendium, Nov. 25 2001
Little needs to be added about a series of recordings of such depth and breadth, so let's be brief: this is an exalted collection of chamber pieces that rank among the very best in the history of Western music. In particular, the Grosse Fuge stands out as the great dividing line of its era, prefiguring Shoenberg, Webern, Berg, and scores of others a century later. Unlike anything produced in its day, the Fuge represented a technical and conceptual quantum leap from compositional methodologies of the past, and survives today with its power and complexity undiminished. Quartetto Italiano perform magic on these scores, and these sessions should be a foundation for any collection of classical music.

Play Feldman String Quartet
Play Feldman String Quartet
6 used & new from CDN$ 20.68

5.0 out of 5 stars Gary J Higgins, Nov. 18 2001
Owners of the shimmering Kronos box set will likely find the Feldman disc the most played of the ten; those with the original discs must include this riveting opus...Catrina and Zachary say it all. If this existed on vinyl, I would have worn it out ages ago.
In the notes for 1968's Concerto for Prepared Piano and Orchestra, John Cage wrote about the purpose of music being "to sober and quiet the mind, thus rendering it susceptible to divine influences." Feldman achieves this aim with exquisite grace and discipline.
My first listening was on a road trip, alone in my car on a cold day: my involvement with the piece completely immersed me to the point that I was jarred at the end by brake lights in front of me. I had no recollection of the past 50 miles or so, nor a clear memory of having gotten in the vehicle in the first place; what remained was merely a faint idea of my destination. In short, I was autopiloted by a dead composer and five exemplary musicians.
There are pieces with this level of emotional and intellectual density: Om Kalsoum's live recording of "Zekriat," for example, or Karajan's 1959 "Missa Solemnis"--withering, luminous masterpieces. However, Feldman is a singular wonder who gave so much to 20th century music. We find his apotheosis on this disc by Kronos and Takahashi.

Earbox - a 10 CD Retrospective
Earbox - a 10 CD Retrospective
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 210.67
4 used & new from CDN$ 168.54

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars harmonia in excelsis, Nov. 11 2001
I must agree with Mr. Bartlett, particularly with regard to "Ceiling." It may well be because his Violin Concerto and Harmonielehre are so powerful. 4.5 stars.
Interesting, and likely intentional, is that two names in the extensive liner book fail to mention two great and glaringly obvious precursors: Carl Orff and Raymond Scott. Without "Carmina Burana," there would be no "Harmonium." Orff has his mark all over Adams's gifted and epic compositions. Similarly, though there are glib references to "cartoon music," the polymath engineer/musician Scott is a seminal figure in American music, and casts a large shadow over the witty juxtapositions and sense of play one loves in Adams's work. In all, an excellent career overview.

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