1. Thelonious Monk- 5 By Monk By 5, SACD hybrid The latest hybrid jazz release in Analogue Production's batch of new classic albums on SACD is a must-buy. For those unfamiliar with Monk, he is one of the prime figures of modern/bop jazz. As both an innovative piano player and a composer, he set the standard for melody and the song in the fierce musicality of bop jazz. His quirky playing style is not for everyone's taste- his fingers are very straight, contrary to "proper" piano technique, resulting in a very percussive, angular approach. He insists on using syncopation and odd chords. The songs he writes, however, are very symmetrical, logical, and melodically accessible and melodic. This mixture is a never-ending source of joy to his fans. While his usual instrumentation was a quartert with a sax player, this album also features a trumpet player. Lineup: Art Taylor- drums Sam Jones- bass Charlie Rouse- sax Thad Jones- cornet This album features all Monk originals, so it's a great one to start with for Monk newbies and an essential one for fans. Jackie-ing and Played Twice are recorded for the first time here. Jackie-ing features Monk's composing skills at his sharpest, a real trip for the musicians. As evidenced by their participation in many Monk projects before and since, they perform with a lot of invention and respect for the music. Monk had a reputation for demanding a high level of creativity from his musicians. There are actually three versions of Played Twice presented here. As in most Monk albums, the rest of the tracks are not new, but it's in the interpretations that the fun lies. Straight, No Chaser can never be heard enough, and the moderate tempo fits in with the rest of the album nicely. It's also the only version I've heard with a trumpet outside of Miles Davis' performances. I Mean You is one of those classic Monk pieces with a hummable theme that is always a joy to hear. I've never heard the original CD release, so I can't compare it. The SACD of course sounds great- Analogue Productions never dissappoints. Smooth bass, clear horns, and especially the brilliant piano sound that Monk diserves. 2. Opeth- Deliverance, CD My favorite death metal band has released another great album, but not quite the masterpiece as the previous two. The most common weakness of metal bands with a "progressive" bent is that they don't connect their various musical ideas well. A riff here, a riff there, different time signatures, but no rhyme or reason for it. Opeth's strength is that they managed to solved this problem admirably. A typical Opeth song runs pretty long, like 10 minutes. A riff or theme will be presented as a screaching death metal, then inverted in an acoustic thing with "normal" melodic vocals (performed by the same singer). At its best, the tempo is kept constant (usually mid-tempo) with a fluidity between the seemingly disparate sections, so that it isn't jarring and everything makes sense. It seems that they've put some of that aside on the new album. As brilliant as the music is, it doesn't quite have the unified feel of Still Life. I think this may be because Still Life and My Arms, Your Hearse are concept albums, while Deliverance is not. Other than that, these are some killer songs. The album opens with a burst of noise and a deep growl, letting you know what to expect. In fact, this album seems to emphasise the nasty, metal-head side of the band (contrast that to Blackwater Park which actually had a near-pure acoustic song). Keeping with their pattern, the second track is, IMO, the great masterpiece of the album. Starting off with a vicious riff, the song goes on a marvelous journey of lyrical and musical themes, voices, and ends on a phenomenal start-stop percussive attack (think One by Metallica). Except for one 2 minute acoustic guitar thing, the album consists of 5 epic songs. Each should be listened to on its own to appreciate its identity. Opeth continues to set the standard for what metal can be.