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The Essential Leon Fleisher: Essentially great

Daily Staff ReportVail, CO, Colorado
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The Essential Leon Fleisher, Sony Classics5 of 5 starsWhat can you say about a man who started playing piano when he was four and played with the New York Philharmonic at the age of 16 a time when most of us are chasing girls or worried about getting our drivers license? Leon Fleishers impressive catalogue should say it all but this collection of his most notable works a beautiful and powerful display of his piano-playing ability will do. The two-disc set features Fleishers playing on works spanning from the Baroque period to the Impressionistic period and much in between. Disc one opens with Fleishers fluttering fingers on Beethovens Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-Flat Major, then launches into the Cleveland Orchestras exploding string movement until the spotlight is once again shined on Fleisher mid-way through the piece. And then there is his simply magnificent work on piano concertos by Mozart, Brahms, Grieg and Ravel.Most notable in this collection is the inclusion of some of Fleishers left-handed works. His right hand was afflicted with focal dystonia a crippling muscle disorder in his late thirties, causing him to focus on playing with only his left hand for much of his career. You can listen to his incredible left handed playing on Ravels Concerto for the Left Hand and other works in this collection. The Essential Leon Fleisher is, quite simply, a moving look at a genius career.For: Fans of classical music and piano aficionados. Charlie Owen, High Life writer

Sing! Consider It Correspondence4 stars of 5There is something enchanting about Sing!, the latest release from Minnesotas Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank. There is simply no reason not to like the simple pleasure of these eleven tracks and the lazy, rainy summer images they provoke.The Hobo Nephews are not a cheap imitation of folk-rock legends nor are they the messiahs of a musical revolution. They are of the same breed of songwriters that put folk on the map and Ill be damned if they havent written some of the most beautiful and captivating songs Ive heard in a long time.From the romping, stomping opener Uncle Franks Basement to the melancholy, vibrato-laden guitar of Rocking Chair, Sing! is a solid country-folk album that can be enjoyed for many repeat listenings. Watch them live at the Sandbar in West Vail on Feb. 19 when they open for Trampled By Turtles. For: Fans of Bob Dylan, Alison Krauss and electric folk music. Charlie Owen, High Life writer

Made in the Dark Astralwerks3.5 stars of 5A track and a half into Made in the Dark, London loop quintet Hot Chip samples Todd Rundgren. What Rundgren says explains every Hot Chip song ever recorded:Before we go any farther, Id like to show you all a game I made up. This game is called sounds of the studio, and it can played with any record, including this one, he monotones, with the same matter-of-fact, were about to hear some samples aridity that makes most Hot Chip songs sound so effortlessly built.What follows is a very simple, very beat-driven dance break. Its not much like the rest of the record, where co-vocalists Joe Goddard and Alexis Taylor are clearly focused on songwriting, not dance music. And what makes that contradiction work is its placement in the middle of the track, close to the front of the record. Its an incredibly inward look at the bands dance-pop song structure, and it allows Goddard and Taylor to sing outwardly everywhere else.So later, we get songs like Wrestlers, with a chorus loop that turns a relationship to a WWE bout: I learned all I know from watching wrestling / I think you think Im about to throw the towel in. That line is driven by Hot Chips sense of melody, which sounds a lot more like mid-90s R&B than it does like 21st century house music the half-involved piano-drawn soul makes Wrestlers a good song.Throughout Made in the Dark, those kinds of tracks are paired with twittering Euro-marches the kind of thing you dance to with your arms and the occasional heel-tap. It can be uneven, but it works well enough. Margaret Hair, Steamboat Pilot & Today



Hernando Songs of the South2.5 stars of 5North Mississippi Allstars songs are straightforward. And even when the Allstars pay homage to folk music from their home state, theyre really just playing blues-rock.Its really in a way more rootsy than other records weve done its kind of a classic blues-rock sound, said front man Luther Dickinson, in an interview before the band played in Steamboat for Ski Jam. On the bands latest record, the classic sound Dickinson describes is exactly what you get. Its full of slide guitars, half-hearted lyrics and deep Southern soul. The songs are R.L. Burnside and Chuck Berry, crafted by a band that understands that those influences are basically the same thing.Theres rockabilly on tracks such as Mizzip, which serves as a clear reminder of where rock n roll can go from the roots music the band has always referenced (the unstated purpose of everything the North Mississippi Allstars do).There are also songs that just dont work, such as the meddling, minor final track, Long Way From Home.Most of Hernando accomplishes what Dickinson said the band set out to do: get back to the part of the blues that makes him want to shout, slap some distortion on the guitar and play a rock song. Margaret Hair, Steamboat Pilot & Today


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