LIVE IN EUROPE 1969: THE BOOTLEG SERIES VOL. 2
Miles Davis Quintet (Columbia/Legacy)
Miles Davis had a raw, multi-syllable name for his group from 1969, and it wasn't one we can print in this newspaper.
Known in various jazz-obsessive circles as the Lost Band, the powerful quintet of all-stars Davis assembled between the release of plate-shifting albums "In a Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew" included keyboardist Chick Corea, bassist Dave Holland, drummer Jack DeJohnette, and saxophonist Wayne Shorter.
Though the group famously was never documented in the studio, its legacy is enhanced with "Live in Europe 1969," a four-disc set that marks the second volume in Columbia/ Legacy's Bootleg Series.
This look back through Davis' concert archives began last year with the box set "Live in Europe 1967." It was greeted with a justifiable avalanche of acclaim upon release for showcasing Davis at another of his many peaks with his influential "second great quintet," which included Shorter along with Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and Ron Carter.
If that group could be considered the moment when the rockets were all firing for Davis, "Live in Europe 1969" documents the trumpeter's restless exploration at liftoff. Two of the CDs are recordings taken a day apart in France, and while hearing the band tear through early takes on pillars from the trumpeter's electric period such as "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" and "Spanish Key," it's hearing the band upend some of Davis' older material that may be most striking.
After a pensive beginning, "Footprints" speeds toward the outer limits, highlighted by an abstract, quicksilver turn from Corea, and 1967's "Masqualero" enters with something like a kick through the door after a broad, fluttering tone from Davis so unfamiliar it briefly sounds like an electronic hiccup. Shorter also sounds exceptional throughout, locking on the trance-like opening to "No Blues" and the sprawling "Milestones," which madly pulses and swings ahead after a twisting lead from Davis atop Holland's elastic bassline.
The two remaining discs include an intriguing date from Stockholm that features Corea on acoustic piano and a DVD documenting a burning 45-minute Berlin performance.
-- CHRIS BARTON, Los Angeles Times
Tegan and Sara (Vapor/Warner)
Tegan and Sara Quin were once the darlings of the indie-rock set, charming Canadian twins known for their raw, guitar-driven confessionals packed with emotion.
On "Heartthrob," the Quins' seventh album, they let their inner dance-pop divas loose. Instead of Cat Power teamed with Ani DiFranco, they now sound like Kelly Clarkson paired with Gwen Stefani. And, in a bigger surprise, they sound pretty great doing it.
Tegan and Sara teamed with producer Greg Kurstin, best known for his work with Clarkson and Ke$ha, to build a shiny dance pop album that still includes their personal lyrics and memorable melodies.
The single "Closer" announces the change of direction and their broader commercial ambitions -- a catchy, stomping dance number that would be at home on a Katy Perry album and, more important, at the top of the pop charts. The synthy "Drove Me Wild" has slightly more of an edge, moving into Ellie Goulding territory.
Where Tegan and Sara really shine on "Heartthrob," though, is when they reimagine songs that would previously have worked on their own albums and add some pop gloss. "I'm Not Your Hero" could have been on "The Con," but it has received a Clarkson-esque makeover with "Since U Been Gone"-ish guitar and the synth-pop swoosh of "Stronger."
"How Come You Don't Want Me" shows how Tegan and Sara can keep their history of deep feelings and weave it into their bright, poppier future.
-- GLENN GAMBOA, Newsday
Justin Bieber (Island)
The instincts behind Justin Bieber's "Believe Acoustic" are understandable. Biebs wants to be taken seriously as an artist and as a man.
However, applying the same simple acoustic arrangement to the big pop productions of his "Believe" album doesn't help his cause. The stripped-back takes on "Beauty and a Beat" or even "Boyfriend" are interesting because they differ so much from the originals. But the other acoustic takes quickly become unnecessary since the vocals and tempo barely change.
"Believe Acoustic" feels like a shortcut to seriousness that he didn't need to take. Relax, Biebs, your life is great.
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