The rare sequel that improves upon its predecessor, Rocky II expands on the uplifting approach exemplified by Bill Conti's immortal "Gonna Fly Now" to create a score that's both more cohesive and more emotional. Writer/director/star Sylvester Stallone affords Conti a wider emotional berth this time around, allowing for poignant, melancholy themes like "Vigil" alongside fist-pumping anthems like the climactic "Overture" – as before, Conti employs little more than solo piano, a small string ensemble, and a potent brass section, and it's to the composer's enormous credit that he can forge such larger-than-life music from relatively few instrumental elements. "Gonna Fly Now" even reappears, this time with a children's choir in tow, and sounds better than ever. Not even Frank Stallone's "Two Kinds of Love" can torpedo this one.
Bill Fay returns with the third album in the celebrated second phase of his recording career. A prime Fay song is a deceptively simple thing which carries more emotional weight than its concision and brevity might imply. There are ten of these musical haikus on Countless Branches, as pointed and as poignant as anything he’s ever recorded. For decades now - it’s almost 50 years since he cut his classic albums “Bill Fay” and “Time of the Last Persecution” - songs like these have been Fay’s ambassadors helping rave reviews and endorsements from the likes of Jim O’Rourke (Tortoise) and Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) which led to a huge revival of interest in his music. He had continued to make music almost every day in the intervening decades. For Countless Branches he’s completed new toplines over some of his cache of backing tracks, most of them 20 to 40 years old.
Portrait In Jazz (1960). The first of two studio albums by the Bill Evans-Scott LaFaro-Paul Motian trio (both of which preceded their famous engagement at the Village Vanguard), this Portrait in Jazz reissue contains some wondrous interplay, particularly between pianist Evans and bassist LaFaro, on the two versions of "Autumn Leaves." Other than introducing Evans' "Peri's Scope," the music is comprised of standards, but the influential interpretations were far from routine or predictable at the time. LaFaro and Motian were nearly equal partners with the pianist in the ensembles and their versions of such tunes as "Come Rain or Come Shine," "When I Fall in Love," and "Someday My Prince Will Come" (which preceded Miles Davis' famous recording by a couple years) are full of subtle and surprising creativity. A gem…
Although Chess didn't bother to anthologize these sides into album form until the early '60s, this marvelous collection actually dates from 1953. Broonzy and Sam are both in great form here, sharing the vocals throughout and recalling their earlier days as Bluebird label and session mates. The sound is fleshed out by the addition of guitarist Lee Cooper (who at times almost sounds a bit too modern for the genre being explored here, throwing in what can only be described as Chuck Berry licks) and Big Crawford on upright bass.