The Survivors: Part Nine

The Moody Blues
On the Threshold of a Dream

It’s amazing that a band as innovative as the Moody Blues were in their time can end up sounding so tacky. Threshold is probably the album that’s aged the best of the lot, and it’s still embarrassing. 
Measure of gratitude: Very small. Thank you. 

The Moog Cookbook
Plays the Classic Rock Hits

Listen, I’m the kind of person who enjoys Wendy Carlos, but this is a pure novelty and kind of an annoying one. 
Measure of gratitude: Tiny. Thank you. 

Paul Moravec
Northern Lights Electric (Gil Rose, Boston Modern Orchestra Project)

Moravec is an interesting composer, but I can’t remember anything about the one time I listened to this. 
Measure of gratitude: Small. Thank you. 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The Last Five Symphonies (Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Neville Marriner)

I’ve always struggled with Mozart. One of my colleagues says it’s because I distrust simplicity. She may be onto something. But it doesn’t explain why I don’t connect with the Jupiter, which is a pretty complex, formalist piece of work. It also doesn’t explain why I like number 40, which opens with one of the most direct and memorable melodies ever. I’ll probably never be a Mozart person the same way I’m a Beethoven person. I’m resigned to that. But I haven’t totally shut the door. 
Measure of gratitude: Middling. Thank you. 

Mr. Bungle
Disco Volante 

I loved this album as a kid, but I don’t remember listening to it all that much. I wonder why. One of these days I’ll get it on vinyl and wear out the grooves. I feel like my love for black midi, Between the Buried and Me, etc. indicate that I’d like this even better nowadays. 
Measure of gratitude: Large. Thank you. 

Modest Mussorgsky
Panorama (Herbert von Karajan, Carlo Maria Giulini, Claudio Abbado, etc.)

This is a budget priced compilation of music by a composer who’s become a low-key favourite of mine. I have a constantly shifting opinion on the symphonic version of Pictures at an Exhibition. Some days it’s a tiresome old warhorse, and some days it’s a glorious sensory feast. The piano version, however, is always welcome. The live recording here by Sviatoslav Richter is pretty messy, but I grew up with it and I love it anyway. Much later, I came to love Boris Godunov, but I don’t remember having strong feelings about much else on this at the time. 
Measure of gratitude: Substantial. Thank you. 

Sergei Nakariakov
Baroque Trumpet Concertos (with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Hugh Wolff)
From Moscow with Love (with the Jenaer Philharmonie and Andrey Boreyko)

Nakariakov was tied with Hardenberger for the title of my favourite classical trumpet soloist, back when that sort of thing mattered to me. Honestly, I would still listen to the Baroque one: it’s full of lovely, spirited playing and beautiful cadenzas. His recording of the Neruda is an all-timer, and I can forgive the fact that it isn’t actually a Baroque concerto. The Russian recording is mostly notable for the Arutiunian concerto, which is great fun to play. But with several years hindsight, it fucking sucks. Tepid Soviet kitsch. Doesn’t even matter that Nakariakov nails it. 
Measure of gratitude: Moderate. Thank you. 

Fats Navarro
Goin to Minton’s

This is a cheap and dirty compilation. One day I’ll have to seek these tracks out in a decent remaster. But Navarro’s playing is undeniable: he’s the one clear forerunner of Clifford Brown. 
Measure of gratitude: Moderate. Thank you. 

Michael Nyman
Peter Greenaway Film Music

Forget Hitchcock/Hermann. Get outta here with your Spielberg/Williams. I don’t even want to hear about Cronenberg/Shore right now, okay? The greatest filmmaker/composer collaboration of all time is Greenaway/Nyman. Michael Nyman’s music for the early Greenaway films is as fussy and Baroque as the images, and the I can’t imagine them scored any other way. Each cue is a self-sufficient little minimalist wind-up toy, so they also work just fine without the images. I bought this after seeing The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, and it encouraged me to go watch Greenaway’s other films. Drowning By Numbers is a desert island movie for me, and a big part of the reason is that it has the best Nyman score of all, and maybe the best film score of all time. I love this. They need to press it to vinyl. I still listen to it all the time. 
Measure of gratitude: Immense. Thank you. 

Mike Oldfield
Tubular Bells

There are some great bits in this. I love the sailor’s hornpipe at the end. I love the Piltdown Man bit. Viv Stanshall introducing all the instruments is a seminal moment, though I wish the tubular bells themselves were a little more emphatic. Mainly though, this is the album that’s connected to one of my favourite stories in music history, which is how this weird album getting played by John Peel kickstarted Richard Branson’s business career. Good story, I tell it all the time. 
Measure of gratitude: Middling. Thank you. 

Still Life
The Roundhouse Tapes

Some of the best Opeth albums didn’t make it through to become Survivors, because their bare bones packaging didn’t fit my weird criteria for keeping stuff. But let it be known: Opeth is at the top of my vinyl collecting priority list, because there is no band in any genre that was as consistently great as them during the crucial years of 1998-2008. I don’t think there’s ever been a band that’s matched their ability to bring together pastoral acoustic folk with the heaviest riffs imaginable, and not make it seem like a stunt. They are also the only band I ever loved so much that I genuinely resented their sudden stylistic about face. Heritage was a mistake they never learned from, and now they’re a band with a back catalogue featuring at least seven of the best metal albums ever, and probably nothing interesting in their future. Alas. But what a great run it was. 
Measure of gratitude: Massive. Thank you.

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