Simon Rattle, Berlin Philharmonic "Carl Orff: Carmina Burana" (EMI Classics)
Medieval Latin texts hardly seem likely as a source of mass entertainment, but "Carmina Burana," by Carl Orff (1895-1982), has somehow made its way into popular culture. You've probably heard the famous opener, "O Fortuna," in television commercials and movie scores, not to mention ring tones. So is this new recording by Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic really worth a listen? The answer is yes.
Recorded on New Year's Eve (2005) in a live performance, the excitement from the celebration definitely had its effect on the speed with which this version is performed. If you like your Latin operas fast, this CD is for you. The percussion is enthusiastic, the text emotional, and the sound despite the speed is surprisingly clear. The dynamic contrasts are made with gusto: The softs tiptoe into your ears while the louds spit at you in a vulgar fashion, and rightly so. What else could heighten the effects of poetry describing drinking, love, gambling, gluttony and lust? **** Chantal Panozzo
Wayne Shorter "Beyond the Sound Barrier" (Universal/Verve)
Listeners have been introduced to Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" band (bassist John Patitucci, drummer Brian Blade and pianist Danilo Perez) over two very engaging CDs, "Footprints Live!" and "Alegria." These releases (along with the collection "Footprints," which includes appearances with Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan) display the formidable Shorter at his most approachable.
The going gets a bit more bracing on the new "Beyond the Sound Barrier." The selections are less familiar, the playing more abstract. Four of the eight selections are new; two are drawn from Shorter's long-out-of-print 1988 "Joy Rider" album; the others are a 1941 movie theme by Arthur Penn ("Smilin' Through") and a piece by Felix Mendelssohn.
The last few CDs have been consolidations of the past, but this one strikes out confidently into new territory. If the wider audience is as appreciative as the one on this live recording, "Beyond the Sound Barrier" will be the saxophonist's real comeback. **** Peter McElhinney
Oasis "Don't Believe the Truth" (Sony)
It's been 10 years since Oasis made a genuinely good album, "(What's the Story) Morning Glory?" This latest attempt at a return to form comes closer than previous lackluster efforts, but still not close enough. The lineup has changed again, with Zak "son of Ringo" Starkey featured on drums, but the meaningless lyrics haven't, as indicated by the album's laughable title. The Gallagher brothers prove they are still the best mimics in showbiz and offer up perfectly hummable facsimiles of their favorite '60s bands. "Mucky Fingers" borrows its stomptastic rhythm from The Velvet Underground's "Waiting for My Man," while other tracks echo The Kinks, The Who and The Rolling Stones. The midtempo dirge that was becoming the band's trademark is mostly absent, replaced by bouncier rhythms and a sunnier disposition, but Oasis is still a frustratingly conservative outfit, either unwilling or unable to think outside the box it's made for itself. *** Daryl Grove
"Rockers: 25th Anniversary Edition" DVD (Music Video Distributors)
A musical film about a reggae drummer in Jamaica who has his motorbike stolen by thugs, "Rockers" is essentially a late-'70s cultural artifact of Jamaican life filmed in gorgeous, deep-colored hues and buoyed by a crucial soundtrack of reggae classics.
It's a modern-day Robin Hood story set in Third World Kingston, with English subtitles to navigate the heavy Rasta-patois dialogue of its everyday stars, including the golden reggae voices of Gregory Isaacs and Burning Spear (Winston Rodney).
Protagonist Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace (playing himself) is a happy-go-lucky Rasta whose travails with greed and thievery illustrate some of the pitfalls of living in an economically depressed area as an oppressed member of society. But what makes the film stand apart is director Ted Bafaloukos' honest and colorful immersion in a culture based on spirituality and music, including spontaneous, viewer-directed sermons on righteousness, as well as memorable scenes like the river baptism, which features some of the most joyous religious music you're likely to hear in a movie.
This 25th anniversary version is the best yet, offering better picture, a fully restored soundtrack and insightful commentary about the making of this cult classic. **** Brent Baldwin
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