After the stripped-back collection I Often Dream of Trains, Robyn Hitchcock slowly formed a backing band called the Egyptians with ex-Soft Boys Andy Metcalfe and Morris Windsor, and keyboardist Roger Jackson over the course of the next year. Fegmania!, the Egyptians' first album, was a distinct departure from both the Soft Boys and Hitchcock's previous solo work, featuring layered, intertwining guitars and keyboards that created lush and thick sonic textures. Even with the more detailed arrangements, the songs remained twitchy and off-kilter, with melodies that usually went in willfully unpredictable directions, yet remained catchy all the while. Fegmania! was Hitchcock's most consistent work to date, featuring such highlights as the Eastern-tinged "Egyptian Cream", and the creepy "My Wife & My Dead Wife", and the relatively straightforward "The Man with the Lightbulb Head".
The years have seen Pierre Boulez record for CBS, Erato, EMI, and Philips, among other labels, but his most consistent and critically praised work has appeared on Deutsche Grammophon, where he has conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, and his own Ensemble InterContemporain in many successful performances. These ensembles are heard on this trimline, six-CD box set of Igor Stravinsky's major works, which brings together Boulez's recordings of L'oiseau de feu, Petrushka, Le Sacre du printemps, L'histoire du Soldat, the symphonies, concertos, and other works, recorded between 1980 and 1996. As one of the leading champions of modernism, first as a composer and essayist, then as a prominent conductor, Boulez is regarded as an authority on Stravinsky's oeuvre, and it is difficult to imagine many conductors who have a better understanding of the technical and stylistic issues that affect performances. Boulez is also famous for his precision and meticulousness, which make the details stand out clearly in the rhythmically complex and texturally dense orchestral scores of the ballets, and yet seem so delicate and exact in the concertos and pieces for smaller ensembles.
Dave McKenna made a remarkably piano solo debut in 1955 with the fifteen tunes he recorded for ABC Paramount (1-15). The remaining tracks on this compilation also come from a solo album, one he cut almost eight years later for the label Realm. Playing without a rhythm section, a key challenge for a jazz pianist, McKenna accomplished a recital of lasting value and pleasure. He plays with strength, individuality, fine beat and technique, and constant taste in all tempos. He is a wonderfully co-ordinated two-handed pianist.
Kim Wilde's number one cover of the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On" gave her a number one hit back in 1987, but she gained chart life five years earlier with the glitzy bounce of "Kids in America," allied with the new decade's keyboard-laden pop sound and peaking at number 25 on Billboard's Top 40. The Singles Collection 1981-1993 is easily the most opportune avenue available to investigate the rest of Wilde's material. While video may have been her best friend throughout her career, sporting her attractive looks and modest Brit attitude, Wilde's music does contain some pleasing dance hooks and catchy melodies. "Another Step (Closer to You)" and "Love Is Holy" are bright and lively with typical yet congenial pop melodies, while "You Came" mixes a clean, keyboard-aided backdrop to Wilde's sheer vocal style. "Chequered Love" and "Water on Glass" aren't genius, but their arrant pop melodies and simplistic beats are anything but standstill.
The daughter of the late bluesman Johnny Copeland steps up to the plate with this, her debut album for the Alligator imprint. Although only 19 at the time of this recording, Copeland comes to this album with a mature style and vast amounts of assuredness. While comparisons to Koko Taylor and Etta James will be plentiful, Shemekia has enough tricks up her sleeve to make this a disc well worth checking out. Eight of the 14 tunes aboard are co-written by producer John Hahn and strong musical support is summoned up from guitarist Jimmy Vivino, with guest turns from Joe Louis Walker and "Monster" Mike Welch, while the Uptown Horns show up on three tunes, including the title track. Highlights are numerous on this disc, but special attention should be paid to Copeland's "Ghetto Child," a nice cover of Don Covay's "Have Mercy"; Walker's "Your Mama's Talking"; and the strutting "I Always Get My Man." This is one very impressive debut.