- Dan DeLuca
Take Me Home
With this epically energetic follow-up, flash-in-the-pan boy band One Direction threatens to take over the kitchen. The CD is loaded with revved-up pop anthems like "Live While We're Young," "C'mon C'mon," and "Kiss You," all with rousing, chanted choruses. The lyrics are more boldly hedonistic this time around: "Let's go crazy, crazy, crazy till we see the sun / I know we only met but let's pretend it's love." The material is expertly tailored for their voices - all pleasant, but none exceptional, which is why they work so well in a homogenized group setting. One Direction is actually best suited to sugary ballads such as "They Don't Know About Us," the standout track on the adorable quintet's stronger and more consistent sophomore effort.
- David Hiltbrand
Music From Another Dimension
For its first album of new compositions in 11 years, Boston's Glimmer Twins, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, do what they do best: turn up the raunchiness and pitch its catchy melodies toward full-tilt boogie. Rather than solely recall its dirtiest galloping '70s classics (as contemporaries Kiss did on their new Monster), Aerosmith takes several pages from their glossily epic '80s period of big ballads.
Coproduced by Jack Douglas, the guy who steered Aerosmith's strutting first hits, Another Dimension has a clean, nifty sting. There's the cock-of-the-walk cool of "Oh Yeah" and "Can't Stop Loving You," the latter with thick, dipping guitar lines and Tyler's chattering monkey imitation. Aerosmith's languid blues side comes out on the slow "Closer" and the crunching "Luv XXX," in which the-ex- American Idol judge does his lecherous-guy shtick. Isn't he too fragile for "love three times a day" after breaking several bones in the last few years?
The ballads are OK, some boring, some soaring. The best is the strangest: "Can't Stop Loving You." Sung as a duet between Tyler and Carrie Underwood, the grand affair has a chamber-country feel, as if the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour stopped overnight in Nashville.
Apparently, old dogs can learn new tricks.
- A.D. Amorosi
The Amsterdam Concert - December 1960
(First Hand, ****)
You might call this "The Road to Carnegie Hall Part 2." After a near-death experience from hepatitis late in 1959, Garland decamped to London, where a series of recording sessions and concerts led up to her return to New York in her famous Live at Carnegie Hall concert and album. This live set, the second volume released by First Hand, was recorded by Dutch radio four months before New York with Garland in excellent voice and sounding incredibly relaxed and playful.
The repertoire is close to Carnegie Hall, but tempos are less driven. After an uncertain beginning, there are superior readings of such songs as "You Go to My Head" and "Come Rain or Come Shine." During the latter, she runs out of breath on the final note (as at Carnegie Hall) but later explains how she usually disguises such things. It's all very candid and homey, especially during encores: "We've got an old thing that I sang in 1783 in a movie - and that was the last one I was in, by the way ... ."
- David Patrick Stearns
Darker Than Light
He has scored more than 30 Top 20 hits, but at 77 Bobby Bare has maintained a lower profile, and been lioned less, than such contemporaries as Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. This album, his first in seven years, is a reminder of how good he is.
With backing that features members of Robert Plant's Band of Joy, including Buddy Miller on guitar, and covers of U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and Dylan's "Farewell, Angelina" (not the first time Bare has covered the Bard), Darker Than Light obviously aims to earn Bare some cachet among hip tastemakers. Yet he remains his unpretentious, down-home self.
The two aforementioned numbers notwithstanding, the album relies heavily on folk and blues standards. It's a measure of the still-robust Bare's deeply engaging manner and expressive abilities that he can make such familiar fare as "House of the Rising Sun," "Dark as a Dungeon," and "Tom Dooley" sound fresh and compelling. Meanwhile, his own poignant "I Was a Young Man Once" showcases songwriting skills that remain sharp, and "The Devil and Billy Markham," a poem by Shel Silverstein set to music, echoes the pair's landmark collaborations of the '70s.
- Nick Cristiano
Somewhere in the Night
(Kind of Blue Records ***)
Vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson was 68 when he recorded this set with organist Joey DeFrancesco's trio in New York. Hutcherson's playing has long ranged from free to mainstream, with an occasional fusion dalliance, and straight-ahead prevails here.
The set, recorded live at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola in October 2009, is by turns beautiful and smoking. DeFrancesco, a Philly native, shows up with so much energy that his presence on the Hammond B-3 organ almost ensures the session will be interesting. Guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Byron Landham share that creative vibe, and so the quartet has plenty to say on a handsome take of the leader's best-known tune, "Little B's Poem," a tribute to Hutcherson's first son, now nearly 50 years old.
Hutcherson raises the blues temperature on "SKJ," written by his mallet mentor Milt Jackson, while his intro to Duke Ellington's "Take the Coltrane" proves to be humorous and light.
- Karl Stark
The Well Tempered Clavier Books I and II
Andras Schiff, piano.
(ECM, four discs, ****)
In his first recordings of Bach in the 1980s, Andras Schiff changed the way the world heard the composer. Schiff reaffirmed the validity of playing Bach on modern piano with a radiance and naturalness that have influenced a generation of musicians. Now, he returns to this repertoire, but with the perspective of having devoted several seasons to Beethoven.
Though his playing has maintained his trademark polish, there are sharper edges, less exterior sheen, a more severe sense of counterpoint, and, in general, much more happening between the notes. Schiff is too much of a classicist to take the idiosyncratic route of Sviatoslav Richter, but his characterization of any given phrase has great expressive precision that doesn't require any elongated tempos. Comparisons with his early recordings are flattering to the new ones: The younger Schiff sometimes glossed over passages with which he perhaps didn't fully connect. But you don't hear any of that now.