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  Listen Up! 9/27/02 Listen Up!

Friday, Sept. 27

Martin Carthy, “Martin Carthy,” Topic Records. I think this was Carthy’s first album, definitely it was recorded and originally released in 1965, when he was a young, albeit seasoned “folksong singer” (as described in the liner notes). Certainly, he was thinking of himself more as a singer than a guitarist at this point. Not that his guitar playing wasn’t gorgeous, full of delicate arpeggios and finger picked melodic runs. But, the vocals are so far up front. I find this a fascinating document. I’ve seen Carthy play live some 25 times, but I only go back with him to about 1985. He was much less distinctive at this early phase of his career. His vocals were more earnest, and yet curiously more detached. He sometimes sounds breathless, he always sounds more determined here. And his guitar playing had yet to develop the thrilling and highly personal rhythmic punch that became his trademark. Still, these songs are good – heck “Sovay” is one he still does in concert after all these years, and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard him do “The Handsome Cabin Boy” before. It’s also interesting to realize Carthy’s original version of “Scarborough Fair” is here, the one that Paul Simon ripped off virtually note for note.

Chuco Valdes, “Fantasia Cubana,” Blue Note Records. I suppose I’d be a lot more use to you if I actually knew enogh Chopin, Debussy, and Ravel to compare the originals with Valdes’ interpretations here. I definitely know enough to hear the romantic piano strains in his playing, and I can’t miss the Cuban rhythms that he brings along for the ride. The one thing I can tell you is this is a very pretty, and energetic, album of solo piano.

--Steve Pick



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