Top Picks: Phantom at 25, Hugh Laurie hosts 'Great Performances,' and more

London theater production of Phantom of the Opera shown in US movie theaters for musical's 25th anniversary, Hugh Laurie hosts New Orleans blues episode of PBS' 'Great Performances,' Al Kooper writes online music column for 'old people' and more top picks.

"Hugh Laurie: Let Them Talk", the Sept. 30 season opener for PBS’s “Great Performances” series.
Al Kooper's online music column "New Music for Old People"
NCM Fathom brings the all-star Royal Albert Hall London production of "Phantom of the Opera."

Kooper's weekly

The Zelig of pop music – session ace, producer, and rock raconteur Al Kooper – writes a fab online music column. Its title? New Music for Old People. The author says it best: "Its intention is to fill the gap for those of us who were satiated musically in the '60s and then searched desperately as we aged for music we could relate to and get the same buzz from nowadaze." Kooper mines iTunes's new releases and culls from his six-decade record collection to unearth hits that shoulda been. He also provides a 10-song jukebox so we can listen to his picks. Kooper's weekly column can be found at

Unique soundscapes

Respected electronica producers/DJs Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer got full access to the ECM Records catalog for this fascinating two-CD set Re: ECM, in which they not so much remix as re-imagine ECM tracks by such luminaries as Arvo Pärt, John Abercrombie, Christian Wallumrød, and Alexander Knaifel. The results are otherworldly, blending the abstract musical languages of contemporary jazz and classical with the production techniques of minimal techno. Subtly brilliant.

A Brit among the blues

Hugh Laurie: Let Them Talk, the Sept. 30 season opener for PBS's "Great Performances" series, is a joyful, quirky, personal journey through the heart of New Orleans blues. Most well known for his role as the cranky doctor on "House," the British actor follows his passion for this quintessential American music genre as it takes him through the hot spots in this Louisiana city, including a performance by Sir Tom Jones.

The mother of punk

REM's frontman Michael Stipe may not be much of a photographer but Two Times Intro: On the Road with Patti Smith is a loving tribute to the mother of punk. The writings are the key to this book with testaments from poet William S. Burroughs to Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon. The legends claim her as one of theirs. The younger rockers recognize their own yearnings in her raucous and soulful sound. The anti-rock star's star continues to shine brightly.

Tenor talent

Vittorio Grigolo has been hailed as the most exciting new tenor in opera today. With Arrivederci, he follows up his debut album, "The Italian Tenor." This collection is a charming stroll through some of the best-loved Italian repertoire by a dynamic young talent, including "La Donna e Mobile" from "Rigoletto."

Phantom at 25

In honor of the 25th anniversary of the stage megahit Phantom of the Opera, NCM Fathom brings the all-star Royal Albert Hall London production of the musical to US movie theaters on Oct. 2. For those who miss that first afternoon, the production reprises in three more broadcasts on Oct. 5, 6, and 11. Check online at for the theater nearest you.

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