A review of the CD's that most influenced my composing, arranging, or life in general. What are your top 10 CD's?
God Bless America - Rochester, Houston, Denver & San Diego Pops
Favorite Tracks: American Salute, Variations on "America", America the Beautiful
I picked up this CD at a Goodwill a few years ago and its one of the more refreshing patriotic collections I've heard. It doesn't try to ram tunes with "America" in the title down your throat for an hour - it invites you musically with diverse selections. Charles Ive's Variations on America, Morton Gould's American Salute, and the Victory at Sea Suite by Richard Rodgers help break up the monotony other patriotic tributes trap themselves with. Well written pieces combined with old favorites is the way to go.
South Pacific - The New Broadway Cast Recording
(Sony BMG Music Entertainment/Masterworks Broadway 2008)
Favorite Tracks: All of it.
I can attribute a good portion of my development on the euphonium during high school to my love of Broadway. I bought a sheet music book with hundreds of songs in it and Some Enchanted Evening was a favorite. I got the New Broadway Cast Recording for South Pacific for Christmas later that year and bought the sheet music for the show soon after.
I challenged myself to memorize each song on euphonium while playing along to the recording. Most days I made it all the way to This Nearly Was Mine before messing up - so close yet so far! Trying to emulate Paulo Szot's sensitivity, Kelli O'Hara's shaping, and Matthew Morrison's energy helped shape my playing. The added burden of memorization has helped me when learning a part quickly is a must.
I got to see the show the summer after and bought second-row tickets. I got to meet Kelli O'Hara and she signed my Playbill (though she wasn't performing and I could've been a little less intrusive - something an excited kid can't help!(sorry)). It was the finest production I've ever seen and a musical I'll treasure for life.
From using Richard Rodgers' original orchestrations to bringing back removed songs the producers truly kept the spirit of the show alive. In a time when it's easier to use keyboards to cover entire sections the orchestra couldn't have been fuller. Supporting characters shined as well - there wasn't an untalented or unprepared performer in that theater.
1989 - Taylor Swift
(Big Machine Records 2014)
Favorite Tracks: This Love, Shake it Off, Out of the Woods
Taylor Swift. Songwriter, performer, and recently musical ambassador for fledgling artists. If there's a titan of the music industry right now it's her. Fortunately this doesn't seem to have gone to her head - or her music. Despite the fact that Max Martin and Shellback help her write/produce some songs she stays true to her roots while expanding her horizons.
1989 came at a great time in my life. It was a time when Shake it Off related to both personal and professional developments. That first listen to this CD both hurt like hell and made it easier to get myself together and get on with life.
I do wish that This Love got more attention. It's a dreamy and atmospheric song that is ignored with the more upbeat Shake it Off and Bad Blood. If you have great speakers/headphones turn this one up and go for a swim in synth heaven.
T-Swift's also got herself a backbone. She recently wrote a letter to Apple bashing them for not paying artists while users listened to their music. She's also an advocate for music therapy, apparently. When somebody can help others while releasing quality music you know they're gonna be around for awhile.
3 - Marosi, Szepesi, Szentpali (with the Gyor Symphonic Band)
(Pro MediArt 2014)
Favorite Tracks: All of it.
This CD will blow your mind.
You've not only got two stellar performers you have a world-class conductor teaming up for a trilogy of fantastic pieces.
Roland Szentpali's Concerto starts the show and is quite an impressive blow for the tubist. The band itself is quite capable and shines the most on this piece.
The next piece is Rhapsody for Clarinet featuring Bence Szepesi on clarinet, tárogató, and saxophone. The slight timbre shifts make for an interesting performance and Szepesi handles all finely.
The last work are the 3 Dances for saxhorn and saxophone. All I can say is WHOAH. If you want an example of fine teamwork and playing this is it. This
I had the honor of working with Dr. Laszlo Marosi during my undergrad at the University of Central Florida. I was able to perform Pictures at an Exhibition under his direction. I miss having an always enthusiastic and knowledgeable conductor like him to play under. This recording is a testament not only to the playing of Szentpali and Szepesi but also to the leadership of Marosi.
Demon Days - Gorillaz
(2005 EMI Records)
Favorite Tracks: O Green World, Feel Good, Inc. Last Livin' Souls
When my family moved back to Florida this was the first CD I bought. My cousin had introduced me to the Gorillaz and I had hear more of them. I can remember riding in the back of a car with my siblings while listening to this in a portable CD player.
Each song seems like its own world - no two songs are dangerously close and everything is still as fresh as the first listen. It's an album with equal sides energetic and relaxing. The Fire Coming out of the Monkey's Head is a rather haunting narrative that is a must-listen. The Gorillaz haven't released a "dud" album thus far and they won't any time soon.
The Blue Flower - Original Cast Recording
Favorite Tracks: Eiffel Tower, Wild Horse Dancing, Angels on the Levy
The Blue Flower was a small Off-Off Broadway show that fortunately revived years later to sterling reviews. Comprised of piano, slide guitar, percussion, bassoon, violin, and much more the band accompanying the soloists perfectly added to the Dada atmosphere the show revolves around.
I first heard a few songs from this album after a rough day at school. After telling my mom I didn't feel like going to school the next day I spent hours listening to it.
"Do you need anything while I'm out, sweetie?"
"Just a $10 iTunes gift card."
From then on it was musical heaven.
The opening number is a bassoon-laden and jaunty piece between two of the leading men.
Nothing But the Beat - David Guetta
(Capitol Records 2011)
Favorite Tracks: Without You, Repeat, Titanium
I received this album for Christmas and the next night listened to it for the first time. It was an impressive testament to the power of electronic dance music and Guetta's songwriting ability. Some tracks are WAY more adult than others but none of them are interesting or poorly done. Usher, Jessie J., and Sia's stunning vocal performances are worth hearing.
American Idiot - The Original Broadway Cast Recording
(Reprise Records 2010)
Favorite Tracks: Jesus of Suburbia, Last Night on Earth, Letterbomb
The first time I heard Green Day's American Idiot was soon after its 2004 release when me and some friends played Halo multiplayer one afternoon. I thought it was pretty good but it wasn't my cup of tea at the time. Fast forward about five years and my interest in musicals steered my listening.
When I heard a Green Day musical was being formulated I was skeptical. Why....? They're ok but how will such a show do on Broadway? Apparently pretty damn well.
So I bought the Cast Recording and I was blown away. The soloists are incredible - Tony Vincent (St. Jimmy) especially. It was the gateway that re-introduced me to Green Day and it showed me how well written their songs are. Soon after I purchased most every album from Kerplunk and 1,000 Hours/Slappy to Uno, Dos, and Tres.
Hearing Billie Joe Armstrong's progression as a writer - and the group for that matter - was impressive. This CD helped me both as a composer and as an arranger as my earliest (non-performed) arrangements were a few of these songs.
the rain is a handsome animal - Tin Hat
Favorite Tracks: buffalo bill, yes is a pleasant country, anyone lived in a pretty how town
One day I was cruising around emusic.com looking for euphonium music. This album was the featured album and so I previewed everything (most of the time the featured albums are a trainwreck). I was pleasantly surprised and soon bought this album later that day. It's a disjunctly beautiful collection of songs on the poems of e.e. cummings - a man known for his beautiful and disjunct work.
The instrumentation is fascinating and the female lead floats over accordions, clarinets, guitars, and whatever else was in reach on recording day. Each get featured in the instrumental tracks in awesome displays of virtuosity and sensitivity.
If you love your word-porn in addition to complex instrument backgrounds this album is for you. Say yes to this album - it's a pleasant country.
Favorite Tracks: An Epic Symphony, A Severn Suite, Sinfonietta: The Wayfarer
From the opening notes of Percy Fletcher's An Epic Symphony this recording of five of brass band's earlier pieces is well handled by the Black Dyke Band. Fletcher, Elgar, Ball, Rubbra, and Vinter make appearances on this CD. Such a high quality collection of works is rare and no piece gets short changed by the ensemble.
If you're new to the brass band atmosphere this is definitely for you. If you're a brass player these are recordings you need to hear at least once.
Sucker Punch Soundtrack
(Water Tower Music 2011)
Favorite Tracks: I Want it All/We Will Rock You Mash-Up, Tomorrow Never Knows, Army of Me
Sucker punch was a film that received two opposing reactions: either you thought it was a brilliant piece of film or you thought it was garbage. The soundtrack, however, is nothing but brilliant.
What makes this album for me is the additional writing that went on past each track. For example, Bjork's Army of Me makes an appearance but the producers had to add more musical content for the duration of the fight scene it appears in. What you get is a complex motif-laden track that rocks. One of particular interest is the Queen Mash-Up (go hit play on the preview to the right!). If that doesn't intrigue you I don't know what will. It's a rockin' soundtrack to a raucous film.