HOWARD POPECK: Musical explorations during the previous week

Howard Popeck writes .....

My office system is a pair of JPW bookshelf speakers, a Denon DRA-445 receiver, a Yamaha CDX-496 CD player, a STAX SRD-6 energiser and a pair of SRX Mk3 STAX earspeakers. I use the cheapest possible cable. The combination works to my complete satisfaction – given the constraints of the room size and my low expectations of budget equipment. Anyway, so much for the hardware. In the past 7 days I have listened to all of these recordings, and vast amounts of BBC Radio 4.

All of these were from eBay at an average of £2.50 each

Jeff Beck – “Who Else!”. The first Jeff Beck disc I’ve truly enjoyed for a long while. Odd, inasmuch as the AMG review on the face of it seemed to predict otherwise. All in all, a decent surprise. My rating is 8/10. MORE. I agree with the AMG review 80%. Would I pay full price for this? PROBABLY.

Pete Townshend – “Empty Glass” Yes, yes, I know I have a critical blind spot where this man is concerned. Actually, I don’t. but if that’s what people think...... Anyway, again a very pleasant surprise. Some of tracks are a bit naff, possibly naive and in some senses a bit undeveloped. However at eBay prices, very worth it. My rating is 7/10. MORE. I agree with the AMG review 90%. Would I pay full price for this? NO.

Marianne Faithfull – “A Secret Life.” I cannot over praise this. A terrific effort all round. I can, by and large take or leave her stuff. So I approached this cheap purchase with curiosity. The first play was so compelling that it remained on endless play for 7 repeats. Can’t see a weak track here. My rating is 9/10. MORE. I agree with the AMG review 60% - simply because I feel they undervalued this one. Would I pay full price for this? YES.

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble – “Greatest Hits” My rating is 6/10. The AMG review say it all for me: “Stevie Ray Vaughan was a great guitarist, but he had trouble making consistent albums. Greatest Hits rectifies that problem by collecting all of his best-known tracks, from "Pride and Joy" to "Crossfire." Not only is it a terrific introduction, it's his most consistent album, demonstrating exactly why he was one of the most important guitarists of the '80s.” MORE. I agree with the AMG review 100%. Would I pay full price for this? NO.

Robert Cray – “Some Rainy Morning” Candidly, even if my life depended on it I truly could not distinguish one RC album from another. Utterly smooth and consistently smooth. None the worst for that, but I wouldn’t date have it on my car CD for a long night’s drive. Not particularly memorable. My rating is 5/10. MORE. I agree with the AMG review 100%. Would I pay full price for this? NO.

Chet Baker – “The Definitive Chet Baker”. Really? Well, as far as I can tell he really didn’t have much of a singing voice. But wow – he really could play. My rating is 5/10. MORE. I agree with the AMG review 90%. Would I pay full price for this? NO.

JJ Cale – “The Millennium Collection." Not particularly memorable, but very fine value at £2.00 from eBay. A good introduction. My rating is 7/10. MORE I agree with the AMG review 100%. Would I pay full price for this? NO.

Suzanne Vega – “Nine Objects Of Desire”. The standout tracks are, well, standout. A bit too much filler here for me. But some of the tracks (you choose) are well worth the price of admission. As this was bought dirt cheap I’ll rate it as 6/10. MORE. I agree with the AMG review 100%. Would I pay full price for this? NOT SURE.

Miles Davis – “Blue Moods”. Loved it., from the first play. My rating is 9/10. MORE. I agree with the AMG review 100%. Would I pay full price for this? YES.

Ella Fitzgerald – "The Best Of the Song Books." I am unworthy. For me, this is perfection. My rating is 10/10. MORE. I agree with the AMG review 100%. Would I pay full price for this? YES.

No classical music comments from me. I do listen to quite a lot – and very enthusiastically too. I just can’t articulate my emotions about this. It would read a bit like a GCSE Music essay. So why bother?

More next week – hopefully.

Howard.

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