Stephen Bennett, "The Nutcracker Suite for Guitar Orchestra,"(New Vision Cimirron/Rainbird Records) If you're looking for that last-minute musical addition for your small family holiday gathering or for something simply to help you get right with the season, Bennett's Christmas recording could be for you. For this primarily acoustic project, Bennett used a host of vintage guitars to create a warm and shimmering sound that's just right for sitting around with loved ones or for decorating the tree. The project was first released in the early '90s but Bennett and co-producer Kim Person recently went back into the studio armed with improved recording technology to add new parts to the original. What they've produced is a joyous and timeless recording. Though many old favorites such as "The Nutcracker Suite," "Silver Bells," "Auld Lang Syne," and "Joy to the World" are included, they're wrapped in a mood that veers away from the all-too-typical commercial assault of the season. "Guitar Orchestra" is available for $15 plus shipping through (757) 898-8155. Ames Arnold
Bob Margolin, "Hold Me To It,"(Blind Pig) - Bob Margolin's estimable position in the blues community is set. His career as both a seven-year member of Muddy Waters' band and his ensuing 20-year gig as band leader and standard bearer for the "old school" blues style ensure his status as a respected player. This considered, I was surprised to be disappointed by Margolin's first Blind Pig release. No doubt, there is great playing aplenty here; "All You Left Behind" opens the record with tough slide and full-bodied vocals. "Wee Baby Blues" captures Margolin and Muddy's son Big Bill Morganfield laying down a 4 a.m. feel and "Mean Old Chicago" gets deep in a Chicago groove. But for the most part Bob's choice of self-penned material just doesn't click; the lyrics take a stab at simple blues poetry but come off as cute or wandering and his inclusion of Bob Dylan's "Not Dark Yet" is truly mystifying. Margolin says the focus here is the band's sound and that's indeed the strength of the CD. Put this powerhouse playing together with a better choice of material and Margolin would have the project his talent deserves. Ames Arnold
Bauhaus, "Gotham,"(Metropolis) When the founding fathers of goth reunited for a limited tour last year, the spark and passion seemed as bright as ever. The successful careers of Bauhaus' individual members, evident on this double CD, made them more confident and capable players.
Recorded in New York, "Gotham" is simply the band's best material recorded live. "The Passion of Lovers" comes across with great power. "Bela Lugosi's Dead," the most eerie of goth classics, is stretched out with added guitar noise and a faster tempo.
Bauhaus has always chosen its covers well. In addition to David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust," and the altered "Telegram Sam" of T-Rex, the quartet pays respect to Dead Can Dance with "Severance." Peter Murphy's voice resonates with the same tone as Brendan Perry's. The second disc ends with a new studio version of the song.
Hopes for a complete re-formation of Bauhaus are still up in the air. In the meantime, "Gotham" is a great way to keep the faith. Jeff Maisey, The Virginian-Pilot
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