Openly ironic and cleverly entertaining
Vargiu Riccardo James | Bologna, Italy | 02/25/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This extra-ordinary album was a real delight for me to get my hands on! Indeed, it's a one-of-a-kind CD, unlike anything I've ever listened to before.It's well known that the Kronos Quartet has a predilection for bizarre music, but of all the recordings by KQ I have acquired knowledge of so far (at present I own eleven), this one is without a doubt the most openly ironic and cleverly entertaining. The scratchy wit this album directs against the U.S.A. tickles me with pleasure, for I often have the impression that self-criticism isn't a typical American quality. I'm happy the Kronos Quartet proved to be better than that.The words of J. Edgar Hoover, those inscribed on a highway railing in California, those of I. F. Stone and - last but not least - those from Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl, U.S.A.," are accompanied by KQ's performance, which comments on those very words, either reinforcing their meaning or ridiculing them mercilessly. Although from a strictly aesthetic point of view the compositions on this album may not appeal to all classical music lovers, the openly descriptive nature of these string quartets certainly gives KQ members a great opportunity to exhibit their matchless virtuosity. Once again, their ability to reproduce natural sounds, to give body to the unprecedented ideas of inspired composers and to express an amazing range of feelings comes to light with incredible force.Before I bring this to a close, I want to stress the beauty of this CD's package. Not surprisingly, "Howl, U.S.A." won the 1997 Certificate of Excellence from The American Association of Graphic Arts. The liner notes are also very complete."
Excellent, if slightly uneven
S. Hawkins | New York, NY | 09/23/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While we can never accuse the Kronos Quartet of boring us, we can occasionally gripe about the frequently uneven nature of their CDs. They have released incredible albums, like "Black Angels" the Philip Glass and the Schnittke quartets; they have also released somewhat disappointing works, like the jazz albums and "Pieces of Africa.""Howl USA" is not one of their best, although it is definitely up there as a near great. "Sing Sing J Edgar Hoover" is an excellent piece, combining excellent composing with wry humor and top notch sampling skills (Kronos plays wonderfully on it). "Howl" itself is reason alone to buy this disc - Kronos provides a sympathetic accompaniment/commentary to Ginsberg's reading of his masterpiece.However, then there's the middle of the album. "Cold War Suite" is a good work, but it's nothing great, and it certainly pales in comparison to "Sing Sing J Edgar Hoover" and "Howl." The Harry Partch work is, well, just plain lacking. When I heard it I was surprised that Partch had composed this - it's not a particularly moving or interesting work in any way (in fact, it's somewhat annoying). This track is why I haven't given this album 5 stars - it just pulls the album down a little too much.Regardless, this is still an excellent album, and a must for Kronos Quartet fans - I highly recommend it."
A c-d for testing the musical waters of kronos quartet
ron sterzinger | MINNEAPOLIS MN | 11/26/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"i am a big fan of the late poet allen ginsberg, and i originally got this recording from my local public library just to hear allen's voice. but allen is only half of this c-d and yet it is the whole c-d that has become enduring to me. this music is challenging, exciting and well as entertaining. their music as well as the music of philip glass has sent my musical interests into a totally new directions.in fact i eventually bought my own copy of this recording after seeing the two of them in concert a the northrup auditorium in minneapolis. if you love classical or avante garde check the kronos quartet out. also if you love ginsberg check out hydrogen jukebox with philip glass another great recording."