Various Artists

Sound City – Real to Reel


Three stars (Out of four)

Dave Grohl’s film and attendant soundtrack for “Sound City – Real to Reel” are both love letters – not just to a time in rock ’n’ roll history when bands recorded mostly live-to-tape in recording studios, but also to the recording and mixing board housed in the now-closed Sound City Recorders, where Nirvana recorded “Nevermind,” and everyone from Cheap Trick and Tom Petty to Guns ’n’ Roses and Metallica made records. Grohl loved that Neve recording console so much, he bought it. And with this collection of “Jams with Dave” that serves as the documentary’s soundtrack, he put it to good use.

Don’t expect some painstakingly assembled masterwork here – these songs were written and recorded quickly, performed live and left as they were, warts and all. Which was the point. Grohl and the guests he assembled wanted to make a record like they used to make when Sound City was still open for business.

Those guests are all over the rock map, to be sure. There are seasoned rockers, (Stevie Nicks, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, Rick Springfield), indie-rock mavericks, (members of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Alain Johannes of the criminally overlooked art-rock outfit Eleven), alternative icons (Trent Reznor, members of Queens of the Stone Age) and more metal-oriented acts (members of Slipknot and Rage Against the Machine). But all share a certain nostalgia for warm, organic tones of the sort Sound City produced regularly during the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.

The glue that holds all of this disparate music together is the terminally effusive Grohl, who is the only musician who plays on every track. All but miraculously, “Real to Reel” works as an album, its sonic continuity acting as connective tissue binding together the works of stylistically diverse artists.

The best tracks – opener “Heaven and All,” a collaboration between Grohl and two-thirds of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club; Nicks’ haunting Fleetwood Mac-meets-Foo Fighters’ parable “You Can’t Fix This”; the Paul McCartney/Nirvana corker “Cut Me Some Slack”; the surprisingly awesome Springfield-steered power-pop gem “The Man That Never Was” – sound like glorious jam sessions, strong songs recorded quickly before the initial glow of inspiration dissipated amid the focus of forensic, mistake-free recording. Which is to suggest that “Real to Reel” strikes a blow against the empire of contemporary record making.

Roughshod in spots, but never lacking in passion, this beautifully recorded collection isn’t just a celebration of what once was – it’s a reminder of just what is lost when technology is allowed to stand in for actual talent.

No, they really don’t make ’em like this any more. But they should.

–Jeff Miers


Jonathan Biss

Beethoven, Piano Sonatas Vol 2


Three and a half stars

I feel proprietary about Jonathan Biss because, thanks to an appearance he gave courtesy of the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, I can say I knew him when.

When he spoke with The News it was 10 years ago; he was 22. At 32, he is growing nicely into the artist everyone predicted that he would be. Biss has a refreshing lack of ego. You do not get the sense that he thinks that the music is all about him. He even has a Kindle Single book out about his love for the Beethoven sonatas. There’s humor in it, and struggle.

So it isn’t pretentious of him to be working on a Beethoven recording cycle. You can imagine this as the first of several tries. I do not think he would mind that.

This disc comprises the Sonata No. 4 in E flat, Op. 7; the “Moonlight” Sonata Op. 27, No. 2; the Fantasy in G Minor, Op. 77 and the Sonata No. 24 in F sharp, Op. 78. Biss’ playing is direct and unfussy; high praise in my book. It is great to hear a pianist who does not sound as if he wants to reinvent the wheel. He gives the music sincerity, the best you can ask when it comes to these masterpieces. I like his style; always have.

– Mary Kunz Goldman



Lorraine Hunt Lieberson with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

[Yarlung Records]

Three and a half stars

Since her death from cancer in 2006, mezzo soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson has been endlessly eulogized in word, song and recording. Now, she is known simply by “Lorraine.” She was associated with intense projects, many with director Peter Sellars (including a performance of “Ich Habe Genug,” Bach’s famous cantata about death, in which she was scripted to perform in a hospital gown). “Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut” (“My Heart Swims in Blood”) is characteristically uncompromising.

She announces the cantata’s grim opening line with stark, fevered drama and continues in her uniquely committed way – it’s as if she steps into the music. Interestingly the cantata was recorded in one giant track, encouraging you to sit through all the parts of sorrow, confession and penance before the sun finally comes out with the joyous, dancing aria of forgiveness.

It’s a wonderful performance, perfect for Holy Week. Music Director Jeffrey Kahane and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra are graciously attentive throughout – oboist Allen Vogel partners Lieberson beautifully – and preface the cantata with a bouncy, light-filled performance of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3.

– M.K.G.