Friday, March 30, 2018

Kacey Musgraves' Golden Hour released

Golden Hour

Kacey Musgraves

Released: March 30, 2018

Peak: 4 US, 12 CW, 6 UK, 11 CN, 25 AU

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.06 UK

Genre: country

Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. Slow Burn [4:06] (10/16/18, 38 CW, gold single)
  2. Lonely Weekend [3:46]
  3. Butterflies [3:39] (2/23/18, 32 CW)
  4. Oh, What a World [4:01]
  5. Mother [1:18]
  6. Love Is a Wild Thing [4:16]
  7. Space Cowboy [3:36] (2/23/18, 30 CW, gold single)
  8. Happy & Sad [4:03]
  9. Velvet Elvis [2:34]
  10. Wonder Woman [4:00]
  11. High Horse [3:33] (6/25/18, 36 CW, gold single)
  12. Golden Hour [3:18]
  13. Rainbow [3:34] (2/11/19, 98 US, 17 CW, gold single)

All songs are co-written by Musgraves. Co-writers include producers Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk as well as Luke Laird, Natalie Hemby, Shane McAnally, Luke Dick, Jesse Frasure, Hillary Lindsey, Amy Wadge, Tommy Schleiter, and Trent Dabbs.

Total Running Time: 45:44


4.351 out of 5.00 (average of 16 ratings)

Quotable: It isn’t “classicist, but perhaps it might be classic.” – Katherine St. Asaph, Spin magazine

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

Kacey Musgraves “became Nashville’s most compelling crossover star since Taylor Swift” RS’20 by winning critics over with three previous albums in which she “enlivened traditional country with her sly synthesis of old sounds” AMG and her “clever wordplay and witty turns of phrase about small-town life.” AZ However, she didn’t “fit the standard archetypes for women in country: not a Southern belle like countless ingenues, not a brash spitfire like Miranda Lambert, not a maternal elder like Dolly or Reba.” SP She sang about “homesickness, and falling wildly in love with the witty precision of her earlier small-town polemics” RS’20 but also about “such un-conservative topics topics as gay rights and marijuana” SP and acid trips.

That was never more apparent than when she won a Country Music Association Song of the Year award for “Follow Your Arrow.” That song pointed the way for an unconventional country artist who, on her fourth album, Golden Hour, still turns out “classic country constructions” AMG from a writing standpoint, but with music that “doesn’t scan country.” AMG A song like High Horse “gallops along with a Shania Twain conceit and lite disco licks that sound more like pop-radio Pharrell than what one might think of as country.” SP

Throughout this album, Musgraves integrates “the smooth grooves of yacht rock and the glitterball pulse of disco” AMG as well as country pop, electropop, and electronica. WK She cited influences from the Bee Gees to Sade to Neil Young. AZ She said, “I’ve always loved Sade, but I also love Dolly Parton…There’s got to be a world where all these things can live together.” RS’20 As Spin magazine’s Katherine St. Asaph said, it isn’t “classicist, but perhaps it might be classic.” SPGolden Hour’s lush yacht-country production re-envisioned what millennial pop might sound like.” RS’20

Not only did she explore diverse sounds, but she wrote “some of the most honest and genuine tunes of her career.” AZ The album is “warm and enveloping, pitched halfway between heartbreak and healing – but the album lingers in the mind because the songs are so sharp, buttressed by long, loping melodies and Musgraves’ affectless soul baring.” AMG The songs sway “between casual confessions and songs about faded love.” AMG Musgraves said she wrote more love songs for this album as a result of getting married and finding herself “inspired to write about this person and all these things he brought out in me that weren’t there before.” WK

Musgraves’ voice “is reminiscent of folkies like Suzanne Vega or Sheryl Crow…it’s not a belting voice, but it’s a remarkable instrument, capable of imbuing with winsom empathy songs like Lonely Weekend and Happy & Sad that might otherwise be tweenish sap.” SP “Even the druggy tracks” SP like Mother and Oh, What a World “approach Disney levels of earnestness.” SP

Not only did Golden Hour take home the Country Music Association’s award for Album of the Year, but she landed Grammy gold with awards for Album of the Year and Best Country Album. She also took home Grammys for Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Song for her first two singles, Butterflies and Space Cowboy, respectively.


The Japanese version of the album included three bonus tracks – “Merry Go ‘Round” and “Follow Your Arrow” from her 2013 Same Trailer, Different Park album and the Violents Remix of “High Horse.”

Review Sources:

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First posted 8/17/2020; last updated 4/24/2022.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Johann Sebastian Bach's 6 Cello Suites

Last updated August 31, 2018.

Cello Suites

Johann Sebastian Bach (composer)

Composed: 1717-1723

First performed: ?

Sales: - NA -

Peak: - NA -

Quotable: “Considered to be among the most profound of all classical musical works.” WK

Genre: classical > chamber music > cello solos

Suites/Average Length:

  • Suite for solo cello No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007 [17:40]
  • Suite for solo cello No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1008 [20:00]
  • Suite for solo cello No. 3 in C major, BWV 1009 [22:00]
  • Suite for solo cello No. 4 in E flat major, BWV 1010 [23:40]
  • Suite for solo cello No. 5 in C minor, BWV 1011 [24:20]
  • Suite for solo cello No. 6 in D major, BWV 1012 [28:30]


Bach’s six suites for unaccompanied cello are “are some of the most frequently performed and recognizable solo compositions ever written for cello.” WK He most likely composed them while “in the employ of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen.” L1 “A chronological order is difficult to prove, though one guesses that these suites were composed in numerical order from the way that they gradually evolve and deepen, both technically and musically.” L1

“A Baroque suite is typically a collection of dance movements…Bach took these typical dance forms and abstracted them,” L1 creating “the first, and arguably still the finest, solo works for a relatively new instrument.” L1

“The suites were not widely known before the 1900s.” WK Catalan cellist Pablo Casals began studying them at age 13 after discovering the sheet music in a thrift shop in Barcelona, Spain. WK He “essentially rescued the suites from the tedium of the practice room and presented them to the world as fully-fledged works of invention and virtuosity.” BS He didn’t record them until 1936, when he was 60 years old. By 1939, he “became the first to record all six suites. Their popularity soared soon after, and Casals’ original recording is still widely available and respected today.” WK He “seems to be the standard against which other performances are measured.” BS His recordings were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1985.

“The first suite, in G major, gives the feel of innocent simplicity, and serves as a marvelous opening to these extraordinary works…[It] may have been inspired by viol writing in France and cello writing in Italy, but there was nothing like it before the first suite, and little like it after, except for the five suites that followed.” L1

In the second suite, “Bach seems to aspire to an almost Beethovenian mixture of tragedy and defiance, all within his usual framework of strict procedures.” L2 “This suite, perhaps above all the others, compels the listener’s attention through the contrast between the graceful and courtly language of the French dances that constitute the suite form and the dark, sinewy meat of Bach’s own compositional thinking…But Bach isn’t done with us yet; this movement prepares for the sunniness of the next suite in the set.” L2

The third suite “is probably the most popular of Bach’s six suites for solo cello, among cellists and listeners alike. How could one resist the work’s mix of nobility, exuberance, and relative contrapuntal simplicity?” L3 It is a “bouncy, virtuosic suite, perhaps the most idiomatic to the cello of all six suites.” L3

“The six Bach suites for solo cello may be arranged according to their modern, galant dance movements into three pairs (Nos. 1 and 2 use Minuets, Nos. 3 and 4 Bourrées, and Nos. 5 and 6 Gavottes). They also form two sequences of three in terms of key and mood (major-minor-major).” L4

“Bach’s fifth cello suite, in C minor, continues the experiments with texture, style, and counterpoint undertaken in the first four works in the set of six.” L5 However, “as unique and extraordinary as each of Bach’s other five cello suites are, the Suite No. 6 is perhaps the most ambitious, strangest, richest of all.” L6 “With each suite Bach continues his progression away from simple dance-like structural roots. Melodic leaps are introduced in the fourth suite, chords in the fifth suite, and a subtle mix of chords, leaps, and implied harmonies, which become as important as the melodies, in the sixth suite.” L6

Review Source(s):


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Saturday, March 24, 2018

March 4, 1721: Bach writes the dedication for the Brandenburg concertos

Last updated August 31, 2018.

The Brandenburg Concertos

Johann Sebastian Bach (composer)

Composed: 1719-1721

Dedicated on: 3/24/1721

Sales: - NA -

Peak: - NA -

Quotable: “A benchmark of Baroque music…[with] the power to move people almost three centuries later.” NPR

Genre: classical > concertos

Concertos/Average Length: 1. Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F major, BWV 1046 [20:20] 2. Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F major, BWV 1047 [12:00] 3. Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048 [11:30] 4. Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G major, BWV 1049 [15:40] 5. Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major, BWV 1050 [21:20] 6. Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B flat major, BWV 1051 [17:10]


The Brandenburg Concertos “add up the most complex and artistically successful failed job application in recorded history.” K1 They were written “for Christian Ludwig, the Margrave of Brandenburg,” JR who Bach probably met “on his 1719 trip to Berlin to select a new harpsichord,” RD but Ludwig may have first heard Bach “at the spas in Carlsbad, where Prince Leopold would have Bach accompany him.” K1 “Suspecting that the royal might be interested in giving him a job,” K1 Bach composed these “six lively concertos for chamber orchestra” NPR between 1719 and 1721, although the pieces “he appears to have selected…from concertos he had composed over a number of years while Kapellmeister at Köthen, and possibly extending back to his employment at Weimar (1708–17).” WK

They were “based on an Italian Concerto Gross style” NPR and “display a lighter side of Bach’s imperishable genius.” NPR “Bach wrote out the music himself for presentation to the Margrave rather than leaving it to a copyist.” WK He prepared them in a bound manuscript NPR with a dedication dated March 24, 1721. WK “The Margrave never thanked Bach, paid him a fee, staged a performance of the works, or offered him a position.” AS Eventually Bach’s score “came into the possession of Frederick the Great’s sister, Princess Amalie, who bequeathed it to a school library in Berlin.” RD

“These pieces display a variety of styles, influences, and musical preoccupations,” AS but “the diversified character of these six concertos implies random composition” RD and that they “were probably not conceived of as a set.” AS “It was common practice in the Baroque era to use whatever instruments were available at any given time.” RD “However, all of them share in Bach’s great talent for absorbing new styles…and then expanding and improving upon them.” AS In particular, he modeled the Italian composers’ style of creating “concertos for widely varying combinations of instruments.” K1

The first concerto is marked by “Bach’s use of hunting horns” K1 blended “into the ensemble through the use of multiple winds,” K1 including “three oboes and a bassoon, as well as continuo strings and the violino piccolo.” K1 The second concerto features “four prominent instruments – trumpet, recorder, oboe, and violin – against a foundation of strings and continuo.” JR

The third concerto “is reminiscent of the Italian concerto,” AS which Bach was fascinated with during his time at Weimar. AS It was “written for three violins, three violas, and three cellos, with bass and continuo.” AS Its “motoric rhythm, clear melodic outline, and motivic construction owe a lot to the comparable works of Vivaldi, but the clarified harmony and more interesting counterpoint are unmistakably Bach’s” AS with their “kaleidoscopic range of colors and shades.” AS

“No. 4 is scored for a concertino of solo violin and two flûtes à bec (i.e. recorders) and a ripieno of violins, violas, cellos, and continuo.” RD The “fifth concerto is scored for flute, solo violin, obbligato harpsichord, and strings. It is the only one of the six pieces to have any solo material given to the harpsichord.” K5

The sixth concerto displays “Bach’s sonic imagination…In the early eighteenth century the lower members of the violin family were considered orchestral instruments with supporting roles…Bach chose to reverse the level of difficulty, giving the viola and cello the tough solo parts.” K6 “No other composer of the Baroque era could write through the constraints of form as if it was not there at all.” K5

Review Source(s):


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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Beethoven's Piano Sonatas among the new entries to the 2018 National Recording Registry

Last updated 11/16/2020.

Piano Sonatas (32)

Ludwig van Beethoven (composer)

Composed: 1795-1822

Peak: -- US, -- UK, -- CN, -- AU

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)

Genre: classical

Early Sonatas:

Opus 2: Three Piano Sonatas (1795)

  • No. 1: Piano Sonata No. 1 in F minor
  • No. 2: Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major
  • No. 3: Piano Sonata No. 3 in C major

Opus 7: Piano Sonata No. 4 in E-flat major ("Grand Sonata") (1797)

Opus 10: Three Piano Sonatas (1798)

  • No. 1: Piano Sonata No. 5 in C minor
  • No. 2: Piano Sonata No. 6 in F major
  • No. 3: Piano Sonata No. 7 in D major

Opus 13: Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor ("Pathétique") (1798)

Opus 14: Two Piano Sonatas (1799)

  • No. 1: Piano Sonata No. 9 in E major (Also arranged by the composer for String Quartet in F major (H 34) in 1801)
  • No. 2: Piano Sonata No. 10 in G major

Opus 22: Piano Sonata No. 11 in B-flat major (1800)

Middle Sonatas:

Opus 26: Piano Sonata No. 12 in A-flat major ("Funeral March") (1801)

Opus 27: Two Piano Sonatas (1801)

  • No. 1: Piano Sonata No. 13 in E-flat major 'Sonata quasi una fantasia'
  • No. 2: Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor 'Sonata quasi una fantasia' ("Moonlight")

Opus 28: Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major ("Pastoral") (1801)

Opus 31: Three Piano Sonatas (1802)

  • No. 1: Piano Sonata No. 16 in G major
  • No. 2: Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor ("Tempest")
  • No. 3: Piano Sonata No. 18 in E-flat major ("The Hunt")

Opus 49: Two Piano Sonatas (composed 1795–6, published 1805)

  • No. 1: Piano Sonata No. 19 in G minor
  • No. 2: Piano Sonata No. 20 in G major

Opus 53: Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major ("Waldstein") (1803)

  • WoO 57: Andante Favori — Original middle movement of the "Waldstein" sonata (1804)

Opus 54: Piano Sonata No. 22 in F major (1804)

Opus 57: Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor ("Appassionata") (1805)

Opus 78: Piano Sonata No. 24 in F-sharp major ("A Thérèse") (1809)

Opus 79: Piano Sonata No. 25 in G major (1809)

Opus 81a: Piano Sonata No. 26 in E-flat major ("Les adieux/Das Lebewohl") (1810)

Opus 90: Piano Sonata No. 27 in E minor (1814)

Late Sonatas:

Opus 101: Piano Sonata No. 28 in A major (1816)

Opus 106: Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat major ("Hammerklavier") (1818)

Opus 109: Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major (1820)

Opus 110: Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-flat major (1821)

Opus 111: Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor (1822)

Average Duration: 10-11 hours


4.625 out of 5.00 (average of 4 ratings)


About the Sonatas:

Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, written over more than a quarter century, were not originally intended as “a meaningful whole,” WK but “as a set they compose one of the most important collections of works in the history of music. Hans von Bülow called them ‘The New Testament’ of music (Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier being ‘The Old Testament’).” WK

“Beethoven's piano sonatas came to be seen as the first cycle of major piano pieces suited to concert hall performance. Being suitable for both private and public performance, Beethoven’s sonatas form a bridge between the worlds of the salon and the concert hall.” WK

The sonatas have been grouped as the early sonatas (1-11), middle sonatas (12-27) and late sonatas (28-32). The early sonatas “were highly influenced by those of Haydn and Mozart.” WK His middle sonatas “are very different from his earlier ones;” WK “his experimentation in modifications to the common sonata form of Haydn and Mozart became more daring, as did the depth of expression.” WK The late sonatas comprise “some of today's most difficult repertoire. Yet again, his music found a new path, often incorporating fugal technique and displaying radical departure from conventional sonata form. The Hammerklavier was deemed to be Beethoven's most difficult sonata yet. In fact, it was considered unplayable until almost 15 years later, when Liszt played it in a concert.” WK

“In a single concert cycle, the whole 32 sonatas were first performed by Hans von Bülow. A number of other pianists have emulated this feat, including Artur Schnabel (the first since Bülow to play the complete cycle in concert from memory),” WK who was also the first pianist to make a complete recording of the sonatas. He recorded them between 1932 and 1935 for EMI. WK His recordings were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1975 and the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2018.

Resources and Related Links:

Friday, March 16, 2018

50 years ago: Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” hit #1

Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay

Otis Redding

Writer(s): Steve Cropper, Otis Redding (see lyrics here)

Released: January 8, 1968

First Charted: January 27, 1968

Peak: 14 US, 3 CB, 2 HR, 13 RB, 3 UK, 7 CN, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 1.0 UK, 4.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 7.0 radio, 127.0 video, 391.98 streaming

Awards (Redding):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Pearl Jam):

Awards (Sting):

About the Song:

There’s never been a better epitaph. Redding and six others died when his charter plane crashed into Lake Monona, near Madison, Wisconsin on December 10, 1967. WK On November 22, he‘d recorded “Dock of the Bay,” adding overdubs two days before his death. “Using road weariness as its metaphor,” MA Redding wrote what is “ostensibly a homesick ballad” TC about his journey from Georgia to stardom, protesting against the guilt of wasting time, arguing in favor of relaxing, doing nothing, and just “watching the tide roll in and out.” PW

Fresh off the Monterey Pop Festival, Redding was playing the Fillmore in San Francisco while staying on a houseboat. Producer and guitarist Steve Cropper says this is where Otis “‘got the idea of the ship coming in...I took that and finished the lyrics. If you listen to the songs I wrote with Otis, most of the lyrics are about him…’Dock of the Bay’ was exactly that: ‘I left my home in Georgia, headed for the Frisco Bay’ was all about him going out to San Francisco to perform.’” WK

To add to the song’s coastal vibe, Cropper added seaside noises. One aspect of the song that wasn’t finished but was left alone was the now iconic whistling. Redding had hoped to add another verse, but after he died Cropper left the whistling in. BBC

Redding wasn’t new to the pop charts, having hit the top 40 more than a half dozen times, but most of his success had come on the R&B charts. However, this song topped the pop and R&B charts and became “the first posthumous number one single.” FB Cropper said, “Elvis was the king of rock & roll and Otis was the king of soul. Had he lived, I think he would have been king of them all.” TC

The song has been covered many times. Some of my personal favorites include renditions by Pearl Jam and Sting.


  • BBC BBC Radio 2 (1999). “Songs of the Century
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 238.
  • TC Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 546.
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 175.
  • MA Dave Marsh (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Page 18.
  • PW Paul Williams (1993). Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles. New York, NY; Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc. Page 128.
  • WK Wikipedia

Related Links:

First posted 1/8/2014; last updated 11/6/2022.