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A celebration of sex

The lounge at the East of the Ryan Motel on 79th Street is not what you’d expect from a nightclub with a reputation for elegance and sophistication. The ceiling is low, the wooden walls mostly unadorned. Customers sit at long, cafeteria-style tables. Despite a few sparkling chandeliers, which add a touch of class to the […]

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Surprise Performances

THE MONTEVERDI CHOIR AND THE ENGLISH BAROQUE SOLOISTS at Orchestra Hall February 20 ORPHEUS CHAMBER ORCHESTRA at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall February 26 The world of live musical performance is full of surprises. It’s a question not only of big names turning in disappointing performances, but also of the rare treat when a little-known performer (or […]

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Solti Showing Off

CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at Orchestra Hall January 26 and 28 and February 2 How ironic that as all the media attention suddenly turned to Georg Solti’s announced successor, Daniel Barenboim, Solti should turn in two of the most adventuresome and flawless performances of his entire Chicago tenure. Solti’s stay was short this season–only two weeks […]

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The Master Programmer

CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at Orchestra Hall January 5 and 12 It is all too sad but true that symphonic concerts are often given with little involvement on either side of the podium. On one side are the musicians, who are usually going through a score that they have done more times than most of them […]

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Year of the void: 1988’s greatest hits

Nineteen eighty-eight was devoid of any overarching theme, trend, or happening, rockwise; the vacuum itself has to be seen as the year’s big news. We did have a sales winner: George Michael, whose solo debut, Faith, and its five singles gave him the biggest blanket on the Billboard year-end charts to be seen in nearly […]

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Welcome Bach

CHRISTMAS ORATORIO Basically Bach at First United Church of Oak Park January 8 Basically Bach’s recent performances of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio represent the first time the work has been heard in Chicago on period instruments, although Music of the Baroque has performed the work on modern instruments twice that I recall, once about ten years […]

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Two True Messiahs

MESSIAH The City Musick at the James Simpson Theater, Field Museum of Natural History December 21 MESSIAH Handel & Haydn Society Chorus and Period Orchestra at Orchestra Hall December 22 When Handel began work in late August of 1741 on a new oratorio brilliantly set to scriptural texts by librettist Charles Jennens, his imagination took […]

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Traveling Wilburys–Volume One

TRAVELING WILBURYS VOLUME ONE Traveling Wilburys Wilbury Records 25796-1 There was a time when the rock ‘n’ roll super session seemed almost meaningful. Clapton and Winwood–together! Beck and Stewart and Truth! Crosby and Stills and Nash and Young! It was thought that opposites–John and Paul-style–could somehow attract, calm each other’s excesses, and produce good music. […]

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Ho and Hum: Is success spoiling U2?

To every garage band, basement jammer, and Stratocaster-copy basher in America, U2 must be the Dream personified. With scant, almost minimal musical resources, vocalist “Bono,” bassist Adam Clayton, drummer Larry Mullen, and guitarist “The Edge” have carved out a solid and distinct artistic identity, a huge international audience, and a critical reputation as the band […]

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Keith Richards–Talk Is Cheap

TALK IS CHEAP Keith Richards Virgin Records America 790973-2 There is no freedom without constraint, no innocence without guilt; paradise exists only as paradise lost. If we lived in paradise, there would be no need to define these things: in paradise, freedom and innocence are the status quo. In music, syncopation–the lifeblood of rock ‘n’ […]

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Midnight Oil: rock around the apocalypse

Australian popular art–or at least the Australian popular art that becomes popular in the Western world these days–relies heavily on images of the apocalypse. This appears to come naturally to many Australian rock bands and movie directors, but it also tends to be what we expect them to deliver us. The most popular Australian band […]

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The well-trained pianist

From the early days in the Mississippi Delta and New Orleans, blues and jazz have always provided both entertainment and an opportunity for personal expression. A kind of ecstatic longing that informs both the most joyful and the most mournful blues–as it did the spirituals that were the blues’ immediate precursor–brings the two poles together. […]

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Let’s Active

On his third full-length record, Every Dog Has Its Day, prodigy producer and ultrapop songster Mitch Easter continues his search for the perfect hook. There’s a drama to his efforts and a poiignancy as well: it’s a noble task but a hopeless one too, and sooner or later one realizes that that’s not really what […]