2007 has been a banner year for Goldbergs; no less than five recorded versions of the piece had appeared by the end of July, including a digitally reinterpreted incarnation of Glenn Gould's famous 1955 recording and Wilhelm Middelschulte's bizarre, psychedelic 1924 transcription of the work for organ. In the face of such circumstances, no one would blame music critics for throwing up their hands and saying something like "enough already!" Nevertheless, thankfully the Goldberg Variations is not that kind of a piece, its appeal is both immutable and universal. Ultimately it comes down to the personality of the keyboard player to make something out of the Goldberg Variations that stands apart from the pack, and young pianist Simone Dinnerstein has managed to do that with her glorious rendering of Bach's cycle for Telarc. Her rendering of the Aria is slower than the norm and her approach to tempo throughout is very elastic; there is nothing rigid about her interpretation of the work. Dinnerstein's reading involves a great deal of give and take, seeking to deepen the expressive potential of Bach's music without losing sight of its basic shape.
Simple Minds signed to Chrysalis for Néapolis and saw the return of Derek Forbes on bass. Néapolis signals a return to form while remaining on the cutting edge. Unlike U2, the band they have been most often compared to, Simple Minds have not lost themselves in techno beats and processed samples. Longtime fans will embrace this album; from the opening track, "Song for the Tribes," through the two singles, "Glitterball" and "War Babies," one immediately recognizes that classic sound. Other standout tracks include "Tears of a Guy," "Superman V Supersoul," and a potential third single, "Killing Andy Warhol." The biggest surprise on the album is "Androgyny," a welcomed instrumental in the tradition of their earlier works (see Empires and Dance, Sister Feelings Call, and Sons and Fascination). It's nice to know that in the 1990s, one classic new wave band hasn't forgotten what it is all about. Unfortunately, Chrysalis felt there was not enough of a following outside of Europe to justify the worldwide release of the album.
Eddi Reader's voice falls like a soft autumn rain. Despite its cleansing nature, it carries a touch of melancholy for the coming darkness of winter; it bears a hint of sadness and solitude for the one who longs for sunshine and warmth. Simple Soul is a sweet setting for Reader. Although it's not overflowing with catchy pop songs, it's the kind of soothing record you might listen to while making a quiet, candlelight dinner or meandering around the house on a lazy Sunday morn. While Reader's honey voice swirls beautifully around, the pristine acoustic guitar sounds dance with Indian tamboura and harmonium, creating an almost mystical ambience. Again, don't expect to tie on your dancing shoes. This is definitely more of a slipper and robe kind of thing. The main musical and production support comes from Boo Hewerdine, Roy Dodds, and Teddy Borowiecki – talented fellows one and all.
Duke Robillard pays homage to T-Bone Walker with this collection of swing, big band and blues songs. The bubbly and bouncy "Lonesome Woman Blues" has a be-bop Count Basie feeling as his supporting players are given brief solos to shine, particularly the horn section. There is far more substance and style to this approach than a rehashed run-through à la Brian Setzer. This fluidity continues, albeit a bit slower in tempo with the swinging "T-Bone Shuffle" which carries the same head-bobbing groove. Here the horns lead the way but Robillard makes his presence felt on guitar near the homestretch, and throughout the stellar "Pony Tail." The barroom blues and drum brushes on "Love Is a Gamble" takes things down to a creepy crawl, bringing to mind Dr. John or Delbert McClinton. An early favorite has to be the rousing and toe-tapping "Alimony Blues," an indication that Robillard wants to pay tribute in the right way by nailing each song beautifully.