Picks and Pans Review: Echoes & Images

updated 02/15/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/15/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

Sylvia St. James

Her primary sound is basic disco/funk with synthesizer undercurrents, lots of "oooh, baby" backgrounds, overdubbing and throbbing. But St. James, whose eclectic apprenticeship includes singing backups with Eddy Arnold, Tina Turner and Connie Stevens, has some vocal resources to go with the packaging. When she slows down a little on The Way to Your Heart, the quavery fabric of her voice becomes more involving. A Chicagoan, she lived for two years on a Malibu ashram, but her mystical pretensions aren't apparent on this album, her second.

BRAHMS: FOUR BALLADES, OP. 10 SCHUBERT: PIANO SONATA, D. 537 ARTURO BENEDETTI MICHELANGELI, PIANO

One of the biggest gambles in music is buying a ticket to a Michelangeli concert. The Italian piano virtuoso, 62, who lives reclusively in Lugano, Switzerland, is known for sometimes canceling his rare appearances at the last moment with no explanation. When he does show up, audiences discover a big-boned, brooding figure who strides onstage with barely a nod and sits grandly at the keyboard, his mustache drooping, his long locks swept back over his head in the style of a latter-day Liszt. That's when the gamble pays off, for Michelangeli's impeccable technique is surpassed only by the delicacy of his sound. He has said he finds the piano too percussive in tone and strives to attain the flowing quality of the violin and organ. Michelangeli makes records only slightly more often than he performs, but rest assured: There is music in these grooves. His renditions of the Brahms ballades are as comforting as a hot toddy and slippers. The Schubert is bracing, substantial, memorably melodic. Should this record be filed under B or under S? Better file it under M, between the Horowitzes and the Rubinsteins; Michelangeli is that much a master.

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