Neil Young was on a songwriting binge in 1971, cranking out songs at a pace that would be considered a creative high-water mark if posterity didn't prove he was naturally prolific over the next 30-odd years of his career.
Now as he digs around in his archives and unearths discs like this remarkable acoustic show from 1971, it's difficult not to genuflect at the man's prowess as a writer and composer.
Over the course of 17 songs in one live show before a rapt, worshipful audience in Toronto, Young wanders around in his own rapidly growing catalog, plucking out gems like "Helpless," "Old Man," and "Don't Let It Bring You Down." He explores them with just guitar or piano for instrumentation, infusing the songs with childlike wonder.
These are old, old songs and, truth be told, a little frayed around the edges these days. Thanks to "Live at Massey Hall," though your can hear them in their fresh state. Young was not only playing them, but as he says in his between-song patter, "living them."
The intimacy and pristine audio quality makes this disc more than just a curiosity like last year's excellent-but-sparse "Live at the Fillmore East." Instead, it's an essential addition to any Young collection.
- Rod Lockwood
With her first solo effort, Baillie is making her comeback a most welcome event. As the crystal-voiced lead singer of the 80s trio, Baillie and the Boys, she was the heart of six successful country albums and 10 Top-10 hits. Thankfully for fans, her voice is as good as ever.
Baillie got her start singing background for such artists as Dan Seals, Lynn Anderson, Randy Travis, and others. Then, with her future husband Michael Bonagura and pal Alan LeBeouf, formed a group specializing in close harmonies and catchy tunes. After the group's skyrocket with RCA fizzled, Baillie spent a couple years as a co-host and performer on the Nashville Network.
Baillie's sound now, as then, is passionate, with vocals that seem geuninely heartfelt as they wring emotion out of the lyrics. The 10 numbers on this album are, without exception, very good. One special treat is "Old Glass Case," done with Baillie's daughter Alyssa Bonagura and the song's creator, Paulette Carlson. Another worth mention is Vince Gill's "Never Knew Lonely," with a vocal assist from Gill himself.
- Ken Rosenbaum
Cross-cultural influences and musical mash-ups joyously collide on Ozomatli's new disc, due for release Tuesday. There are no boundaries here as Latin and hip-hop, rock, and funky R&B coalesce on tracks that have in common a vibrant energy and an enthusiasm for the beat.
Cramming 12 songs into 40 minutes, the band begins with "Can't Stop" that mixes a latin rhythm, punchy guitar chords, and rap and rock vocals. Hard rock goes head-to-head with rap on "City Of Angels;" "La Gallina" and "La Temperatura" are robust and vibrant latin songs, and old-school funk fuels "Magnolia Soul."
Refusing to stick to one musical style, to be pigeon-holed, Ozomatli makes music that is unrestrained and fun.
- Richard Paton
This tribute album to Italian composer Ennio Morricone features a diverse all-star lineup that includes Bruce Springsteen, Quincy Jones, Celine Dion, Herbie Hancock, Yo-Yo Ma, Metallica, and Roger Waters.
A noble idea, except that Morricone's style, and the heavily orchestrated music that it takes to breathe life into it, keeps many of the guest musicians hemmed in. Case in point: Springsteen has no vocals and strums a few guitar riffs on "Once Upon A Time In The West," but his part was recorded separately and later mixed in with a recording from an orchestra in Rome. It's hard to distinguish it as a Springsteen performance.
Dion's voice, of course, is hard to miss, and Ma's cello blends well in any symphony. Waters struggles, while Metallica is perhaps the most pleasant surprise.
- Tom Henry
GUETTA BLASTER, David Guetta (Perfecto/Ultra) Guetta sets himself apart from many other DJs-turned-artists with a disc that on several tracks mixes a rock-and-roll sound and attitude with dance beats. There also are plenty of soulful vocals, pumping rhythms, and electro highlights. But most of all, there is the way this reaches out from the rock club to the dance club and shows there can be a link between them. R.P.
WHAT'S UP? THE VERY TALL BAND, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown and Milt Jackson (Telarc) Culled from the trio's historic shows at New York City's Blue Note in 1998, the album is a follow-up to the first release from that summit. Peterson's piano, Brown's bass, and Jackson's vibes all come together for a great time. Included is a cool rendition of "Salt Peanuts," Dizzy Gillespie's standard. Two of the three jazz giants have since died - Jackson in 1999 and Brown in 2002. T.H.