Soundtakes

CLASSICAL Richard Wagner: ``Tristan und Isolde''; ``Tannh"auser''; ``Die Meistersinger von N"urnberg.'' (Orchestral selections.) Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan, conductor. (Deutsche Grammophon digital 413 754-1 [LP]; 413 754-2 [CD]) -- This release holds few surprises for anyone familiar with Karajan's slow, textured approach to Wagner. Nevertheless, it is a deeply satisfying release, from the majestic power of the ``Tannh"auser'' overture and Bacchanale through the hushed, contemplative ``Meistersinger'' thi rd-act Prelude -- a great conductor and great orchestra responding to great music. The ``Tristan'' excerpts -- the standard Prelude and ``Liebestod'' -- are more richly rendered than ever, with a weariness suffusing the ``Liebestod'' that is resolved only in the final moments, for a hushed but epic feeling of release. With 50 minutes of playing time, this is not the most generous of recordings. But it is handsomely engineered and offers a vivid representation of Karajan in an autumnal mood. -- Thor Eckert Jr. JAZZ/POP/ROCK Carly Simon: ``Spoiled Girl'' (Epic Records FE 39970) -- What have they done to Carly Simon's voice? Singing her propulsive song ``My New Boyfriend,'' she sounds in spots positively electronic -- thanks to some wizard in a recording studio. And the drum machine sounds like someone pounding on an oil tanker. Yet it's a new and remarkably pleasing tune for Simon on an album that's otherwise mostly a rehash of past work. But that doesn't mean there isn't plenty to enjoy here -- especially for her devotees. Th ere's the poignant, nostalgic ``Make Me Feel Something.'' Or the sympathetic ``Interview,'' a disco-ish song about a celebrity-scared reporter. And if you like Simon, you'll love ``Tired of Being Blonde,'' a discovering-herself song in a time warp from the '70s with a splendidly powerful refrain. While her voice -- so resonant and full of character on the lower notes -- is a welcome friend, we would have liked more newness to this new LP. But this is solid pop -- stuff we'd happily accompany on the car radio. -- David Hugh Smith

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