Tag Archives: Vinyl

Listening Report: 1975 Bill Evans Trio Concert, On A Friday Evening, 180-Gram Vinyl, Qobuz / Tidal Streams

There is often a great divide between “audiophiles” and “fans” when it comes to archival releases. The former want their music to sound as good as possible with the performance often being only of secondary importance while the latter appreciate the full performances delivered in any format possible, warts ’n all…

I really first came to understand this notion back in my days as active Dead Head and collector of their live concerts. It was always a joy to get new shows but when you got a tape of a great performance that also sounded amazing, well that was the heavenly crossroads everyone dreamed about.  

In recent years there have been some wonderful archival releases issued as producers and archival sleuths like Zev Feldman dig deep into the recesses  of private collections and other previously unknown or long-rumored archival treasures which have presented themselves to the universe. 

I’ve reviewed a number of them by no less than Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus and Bill Evans. To read some of those reviews, click on the artists names to jump to the reviews I’ve done over the years.

Regarding the last name on that list, there happily seems to be a well spring of great recordings surfacing of late. Last year I wrote about the fabulous and rare 1968 set from Ronnie Scott’s club in London (click here for that) and there have been numerous others over the years.  In May, my associate Ken Micallef wrote about the new Bill Evans CD boxed set — Everybody Still Digs Bill Evans: A Career Retrospective (1956-1980) — which includes a 1975 live set of very high quality.  You can click here to read Ken’s review of the set but in short I concur with his perspective on the recording and performance. 

The good folks at Craft Recordings kindly sent me the new two-LP 180-gram vinyl version of that concert — recorded at Oil Can Harry’s in Vancouver, B.C. — which has been released separately, titled On A Friday Evening.  It is a wonderful recording which sounds to my ear like it was professionally engineered through a mixing board and onto analog tape (this was years before digital tape, folks). I can tell its not an audience recording because there is stereo panning on Evans’ piano apparent at times.  

However, part of the reason On A Friday Evening sounds as good as it does is because of a restoration step the producers wisely used from Plangent Processes.  This is a terrific technology and service that has been used by no less than Bruce Springsteen, The Grateful Dead and many others to correct issues — often significant issues — with the original tape due to motor speed fluctuations in the original recording, electrical variances (which can, again, affect motor speed) and other anomalies inherent to the tape and specific machines on which it was recorded. 

The result is a very tight sounding and in-tune recording that effectively brings the listener that much closer to what the original performance sounded like.  I have written about Plangent Processes before but if you want a fairly technical dive into it click here to read an article our former Editor Steven Stone wrote several years ago.

Kudos to Jamie Howarth at Plangent Processes for his work and to mastering engineer Paul Blakemore who clearly did an exemplary job on this nearly 50 year old recording. 

The whole set here is excellent but I particularly like “Saren Jurer,” “T.T.T. (Twelve Tone Tune)” and Miles Davis’ “Nardis” (Eddie Gomez’ bowed bass solo is wonderful!)

The 180-gram vinyl pressing made at RTI is dark, well centered and quiet, so no problems on that front either.

If you don’t have a turntable but are into the high resolution streaming experience and have both a DAC plus certain subscriptions, you can find On A Friday Evening streaming on Tidal in MQA format and on Qobuz Hi Res (both stream at 192 kHz, 24-bits). The music sounds exemplary there and very warm as digital streams go (click here to jump to it on Tidal and here for Qobuz).  

Both the streams and vinyl versions have their pluses and minuses so I’m not going to rank one over the other. But for a couple quick examples, on the streams the stereo separation seemed more distinct to where it becomes very apparent that Evans’ piano was likely mic’d in Stereo, allowing you to hear the pan of his playing across the keyboard (left to right across your speakers). However, I preferred how the drums sounded on the vinyl version, particularly how the cymbals decayed.  So, not surprisingly there is a give and take on different platforms and services. Use your ears and go with what ultimately feels best to you. 

All that said, On A Friday Evening  should be high on your must get list if you are fan of Evans’ music or if you are simply an audiophile seeking high quality live recordings to show off your system.  This one is a keeper. 

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

The Flaming Lips’ Soft Bulletin Companion On Record Store Day Edition Silver Vinyl

One of my most wanted albums for this last Record Store Day was The Soft Bulletin Companion by The Flaming Lips. This is a first-time vinyl pressing of a recording that was only issued on home-made CD-Rs by the band to industry insiders back around the time of the release of their landmark album The Soft Bulletin.  I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get a copy but it did turn out to be quite readily available. This is good news for you, Dear Readers, in case you decide to get this sweet compilation. 

A few things on The Soft Bulletin Companion have been released before on the DVD Audio Disc format, as bonus outtakes on the 5.1 surround sound version of The Soft Bulletin (“1000 Ft. Hands,” “The Captain” and “Satellite Of You.”).

As much as I love that DVD Audio Disc, it is so great to finally have “The Captain” on vinyl. I fell in love with this song again a couple of years ago when the band issued a new video for it. It is one of those epic Flaming Lips songs that gets under your skin and into the deep recesses of your brain after a few listens. It is an earworm in the best sense of the word, especially the last half of the song. 

There is some amazing material on The Soft Bulletin Companion such as the Stereo mix of “Okay, I Admit That I Really Don’t Understand” from Zaireeka, an album that was issued on four separate channels (one on each of four discs) designed to be played on four different stereos simultaneously. So for some who have not heard the Stereo mixes at all (there are versions circulating around the web if you poke around a bit), this has a haunting presence about it. The drum and bass hook is killer tied together by some wonderfully eerie vocal treatments this side of Radiohead around the time of OK Computer

My copy of The Soft Bulletin Companion sounds generally excellent even though it is pressed on spiffy looking silver vinyl. The only time I heard any noise was in the run out groove at the end of the record on one side. I do have a friend who had a surface noise problem with one side of his copy of the album so I’m hoping his was just a one-off anomaly. 

Good news for CD fans: this week The Soft Bulletin Companion is also being issued on regular compact disc, bringing the release almost full circle to its roots.  The album hasn’t appeared in full on streaming services but there is one preview track (“Satellite of You”) on each of them in high resolution form. I suspect those will go live once the CD is released so as soon as it does I’ll be sure to update this review with those links.

The Soft Bulletin Companion is a fun album and very much a heady side show for appreciating The Soft Bulletin album. And keep in mind that there was a second volume of The Soft Bulletin Companion on CD-R (I have a copy of that one!) so maybe next year we’ll get that issued on vinyl. Fingers crossed.

“Race For The Prize” (from the original album The Soft Bulletin)

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Dedicated To You, Record Store Day Lowrider Vinyl Love From Craft Recordings

I assume that most of you have heard the classic soul hit by War from 1975 called “Lowrider.” If not, you should skip to the end of this review and watch the promo video from this iconic hit song which will give you an idea about what the lowrider scene is about. 

But it goes back much further to the 1940s and 1950s. From the Wiki, we learn

“The lowrider car serves no practical purpose. Lowrider car culture began in Los Angeles, California in the mid-to-late 1940s and during the post-war prosperity of the 1950s. Initially, some Mexican-American youths lowered blocks, cut spring coils, z’ed the frames and dropped spindles. The aim of the low-riders is to cruise as slowly as possible, “Low and Slow” being their motto. By redesigning these cars in ways that go against their intended purposes and in painting their cars so that they reflect and hold meanings from Mexican-American culture, low-riders create cultural and political statements that go against the more prevalent Anglo culture.” 

Lowrider culture grew and through the 1970s had an initial peak. By the 1990s, low-riders were associated with West Coast hip hop and its even expanded to Japan!  And I know it is alive and well in California as I’ve seen massive lowrider parades happening in some small cities near Monterey and Santa Cruz, safe spots where people clearly want to have fun showing off their cars. Its fun and makes me want to get my own lowrider someday soon!

The music of choice played in many low-riders when cruising is equally low and slow, often from the Doo Wop era of the 1950s and some slow soul jams from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. And if you don’t know about the joys of Doo Wop music, you owe it to yourself to do a little research as it is one of the backbones of a lot of pop, soul and rock ’n roll sounds as we know them today, often popping up in seemingly unexpected places — Frank Zappa and Lou Reed were huge Doo Wop fans! 

I’m using all this history to set up my review of a new release that came out on Record Store Day which you may have overlooked if you weren’t up on the vibe. Dedicated To You : Lowrider Love is a pleasant surprise from the good folks at Craft Recordings, culled from the archives of legendary labels in the catalog of parent company Concord Music, including Vee Jay, Fania, Double Shot Records and more. 

Mastered by George Horn and Anne-Marie Suenram at Fantasy Studios the album is a fun listen, presenting a lot of sides I’ve not heard before. I really liked The Tempree’s slow 1972 take on the classic “Dedicated To The One I Love.” 

Ralph Robles’ version of The Chantels’ “Maybe” is beautiful. “Oh What A Night” by The Dells is a classic and an early Curtis Mayfield side from the Abner Records label is a special treat, “That You Love Me.” 

So, all this is great on its own. However, it may also help some of you to appreciate the intrinsic value of a curated set of rare sides like Dedicated To You : Lowrider Love when you poke around on record collecting marketplaces like Discogs to see what it might cost you to get some of the original 45 RPM singles included here.  The Serenaders’ “Two Lovers Make One Fool” starts at $25 and goes up from there.  There are exactly zero copies available of that early Curtis Mayfield / The Impressions single I mentioned earlier. There are two copies of that Ralph Robles single which begin at $66 and go upwards in price!!

The point is: this collection is a great value and it is a fun listen.  Plus it looks super cool too — the special smoke-colored vinyl is actually quiet and well centered. So colored-vinyl-phobic collectors needn’t worry.

If you like vintage sounds, Dedicated To You : Lowrider Love should be a no brainer for you to pick up. Of course, all you need now is a turntable in the back of your low rider…

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Why Are People Collecting Tomorrow’s Lowrider Rarities Today Via Colemine Records’ Soul Slabs?

There is a street level phenomenon that seems to be happening in real time around us: young musicians across the nation are crafting a new era of 21st Century soul which pay homage to the past while looking ahead to the future.  I first caught wind of this when Leon Bridges’ debut actually got a big push from its major label Sony Music (click here for my review of that album). A bit earlier (for me at least) Toro Y Moi hinted at it a bit too, mixing up vintage sounds in his grooves. And I’ve been tickled to see Bruno Mars & Anderson .Paak’s Silk Sonic project capturing peoples imaginations and topping the charts (I’m late to the party on .Paak, admittedly). 

The point is:  there is no doubt a classic soul renaissance going on for sure.  Recently, I’ve been learning about bands across the country who are mining rich vintage soul and R ’n B sounds, issuing singles — and by that I mean 45 RPM vinyl records — some of which have become almost instant collector’s items.

My first real “ah ha” moment in that regard came earlier this year when the midwestern label Colemine Records put out one of my favorite albums of the year so far called Brighter Days Ahead (click here for my review). There I was more or less gobsmacked by the barrage of melodic, heartfelt music which mostly sounded like it was recorded between 1967 and 1973.  Rich instrumental hip shaker grooves, pop soul, even some Gospel-tinged songs that will have you rejoicing in even if you are not particularly religious. 

Now when I started digging into this fine label I had to reign in my inner impulsive record collector self to start instantly snapping up some of those original 45 RPM singles of my favorite songs from the compilation. Knowing that I have literally thousands of 45s which I don’t get to play enough as it is — I let my wiser reality-based, apartment-dwelling adult-self remind me I have no room to start adding in more singles. That is, until I start purging some of the old stuff I don’t necessarily need to physically own anymore (which I do plan to do at some point soon). 

Thankfully, I noticed that Colemine Records has a series of compilation albums called Soul Slabs, pulling together many of these A-sides and perhaps some B-sides too of the multitude of bands they work with.  On Record Store Day this year one of the more in-demand albums was indeed their collection Soul Slabs Vol. 3, issued on translucent red vinyl. I got the last copy Amoeba Music had! And I’m mostly not disappointed, in fact, I’m ultimately happy. 

I did get a wee bit of a surprise when I put this grand new compilation of already-rare singles from the label on my turntable to discover that it included quite a number of duplicated tracks which appeared on the aforementioned Brighter Days Ahead.  In one of my Record Store Day posts on social media I mentioned this and the label kindly explained in one threat that Brighter Days Ahead was a special one-off release celebrating a sense of hope they found amidst the Covid pandemic from their artists and the music that was planned for physical release in 2020 but never got beyond a digital distribution.

So, while Soul Slabs Vol. 3 does duplicate some tracks from that other compilation, it is its own thing and I take solace knowing that many of my favorite tracks are reaching a broader audience.

Some of my favorites of the new (to me) tracks include the quirky-funky instrumental by Black Market Brass called “Omega” which feels like a lost outtake from Captain Beefheart’s Shiny Beast Bat Chain Puller by way of some of those wonderful moody instrumental pieces Terry Kath-era Chicago peppered their early albums with. “Slipshot” by Jungle Fire is another groovy instrumental and Aaron Frazer’s “Over You” a standout driving soul driver (note to self: pick up a copy of his album).  

Bubaza opens the album with a kickin’ Latin-tinged soul groover appropriately titled “Ice Breaker.” Ikebe Shakedown’s “Unqualified” is driving horn-driven soul rocker with a nifty reverbed surf-guitar twist.

But then there are those other tracks I first heard on the Brighter Days Ahead collection, some of which could be modern day classic lowrider jams (and might well be depending on where you live) such as The Resonaires’ “Standing With You” and one of my all time favorites “What’s His Name” by Thee Sinseers.  The Harlem Gospel Traveler’s “Nothing But His Love” could have been a hit on AM radio back in the early ‘70s when spiritually-themed songs were flooding the airwaves with hopeful positivity in the face of Vietnam War horrors and post-Woodstock bleakness.

Soul Slabs Vol. 3 is still available at some stores and you can certainly get black vinyl copies from the label (click here) or on Amazon. And now more than ever I need to get Volumes 1 and 2 of this series!   So much great music coming from this great indie label to watch. 

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Record Store Day Preview: Roy Hargrove & Mulgrew Miller’s In Harmony

We know the work of trumpeter Roy Hargrove and pianist Mulgrew Miller, who passed in 2018 and 2013, respectively, largely from their work as leaders and sidemen. Not often are we made privy to exceptional performances by past jazz masters in settings other than those for which they were typically known. But sometimes a golden thread remains long after the artist(s) has passed.

Culled from in-concert performances at Merkin Hall in New York City (January 15, 2006) and Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania (September 11, 2007), In Harmony finds two jazz masters in brilliant form, in rare duo setting. The first posthumous Hargrove release since the trumpeter’s passing, the limited-edition, two-LP Record Store Day (7/17) gatefold album will be followed by release of its counterpart two-CD set. In Harmony includes liner notes by jazz journalist, Ted Panken, and remembrances from Sonny Rollins, Jon Batiste, Keyon Harrold, Christian McBride, Ambrose Akinmusire, Kenny Barron and others. The vinyl edition was mastered by Bernie Grundman and pressed at Record Technology Inc. (RTI), and sounds excellent: full, rich, and clear (on a Thorens/Ayre/DeVore Fidelity system).

Perhaps the greatest musician to surpass the greatly hyped “Young Lions” movement of the late 1980s, Mississippi-born Roy Hargrove was a trumpeter on par with Hubbard, Morgan, Marsalis and Faddis. He possessed a gorgeous tone, giant sound, startling technical ability, and tremendous lyricism. When not sidelined by drugs, Hargrove gave inspired performances from large concert halls to intimate jam sessions, as witnessed by this writer at Smalls Jazz Club in New York City. For all his gifts, Hargrove was a humble, lighthearted musician.

Mulgrew Miller’s persona looms large from his associations with Art Blakey and Tony Williams, as well as his solo recordings for Landmark, Novus, and MaxJazz. But even given Miller’s pedigree as a modern piano giant, I wasn’t prepared for the sheer, total mastery and breadth of his talent as revealed on this double LP set.  

In Harmony finds the two referring to the great jazz standards canon, from song choices to improvisational embellishments to spontaneous, yet seamlessly placed arranging details. While Hargrove could hang with the greats including Clifford Brown and Blue Mitchell, Miller’s depth is even more profound, his performances recalling not only such contemporary piano heroes as Hancock, Tyner, Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan and Bill Evans, but he brings forth the spirit of stride piano masters Willie the Lion Smith and Earl Hines, as well as the effortless genius of Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, and Erroll Garner, often bringing jazz history alive in the scope of one tune.

Though it’s unclear if disc one is from the earlier Lafayette College concert (2006) and disc two from Merkin Hall (2007), Hargrove sounds occasionally unsure during the first disc, his lines sometimes faltering or not entirely rock solid. Though Hargrove’s tone is true, his improvisations rapt and daring, there’s a note of apprehension. Here, Miller often acts as safety net, his empathy and brilliant accompanist skills bursting forth in vivid colors. Disc two presents a more level playing field, Hargrove’s mastery: tone, ideas, imagination and lyricism, confirmed. Miller only broadens his game, his performance sublime, life affirming.

“What Is This Thing Called Love?” opens disc one, Hargrove searching; Miller delivering beautiful, flowing diversions throughout. The pianist provides a captivating introduction to ballad, “This Is Always,” Hargrove following with gliding, textured tones. The duo’s reading of “I Remember Clifford” is languorous and lyrical. Things heat up slightly with a medium tempo, bossa nova version of Jobim’s “Triste,” followed by a sublime, serene reading of “Invitation,” Hargrove delivering graceful glissandos, scorching blasts of sound, and hard swing. Miller matches Hargrove with chunky syncopations and potent lyricism, his mastery of the 88s stunning and complete.

It’s hard to define exactly why, but Hargrove sounds more assured and polished on disc two, resulting in his blindingly swift, effortlessly coherent solo on “Never Let Me Go,” and his spit-fire combination of trills, wails, slides and general joyousness in Blue Mitchell’s Afro-Cuban workout, “Fungi Mama.” The duo tackles Monk’s “Monk’s Dream” and “Ruby, My Dear” with equal parts boldness, inventiveness, and easy grandeur. They perform as a tight ensemble, trading inspired fours throughout. The slow grooving “Blues For Mr. Hill” reveals Hargrove scalding with Armstrong-like blasts, gymnastic flights, and sassy, punchy notes.

In Harmony is a master class in jazz profundity, two masters locking wits and charms, their ample gifts in full force, their skills exchanged with warmth and empathy. If there’s a better retrospective release paying tribute to jazz greats lost, I don’t know it. 

When children of the year 2050 ask what jazz sounded like in the mid- ‘00s, drop this record on the platter and say nothing. Virtuosity speaks louder than words.

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Why Do I Prefer Discovering Vintage Artists Like Lee Moses At Record Stores?

I’ll tell you what folks:  I love going to music stores, places where I get to interact with real people in the flesh, in real time and where I get exchange real information in a meaningful way.  The experience can be akin to capturing lighting in a bottle, personal sea-change moments which spur impulse purchases based on a song being played or trusted friend telling me: “hey, this is good!” 

This is something that the online world can only begin to approximate, purchases usually triggered mostly by pricing, immediacy of availability and occasionally the impact of a review by someone like yours truly! 

But seriously, if I sound like a broken record about this record store thing, I apologize but I have been turned onto so much good music at music stores and in other public listening venues that I find it more valuable than radio or streaming. Shazam is a favorite App I keep at the ready on my iPhone for me for this reason.

Case in point, last week I was looking through the bins at Tunnel Records here in San Francisco and noticed an album called Time And Place displayed on the wall. It looked really interesting, made by a fellow named Lee Moses whose name sounded familiar but I couldn’t place it. So, I inquired with the owner of the shop, Ben. His eyes lit up!

Apparently this very rare 1971 recording had been scouted out and scoured by wise DJs and remix artists for years (check whosampled to backwards engineer this). Accordingly, finding original copies of this album is next to impossible and if you do find one online it’s typically very expensive. There are at time of this writing three VG condition copies on Discogs which begin at $600 and go up to over $1000 (yikes!).

So the reissue of Time And Place appeared too enticing to leave behind and even with the promise of fancy multi-colored vinyl I decided to give it a shot. Apparently it was first issued in 2016 and there have been numerous color variants issued over the past several years.  

I was pleased to find out when I happened to post about this album on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram that a friend of mine actually produced this re-issue! Pat Thomas, a musician, producer, writer and all around great guy has worked on many other archival releases for a variety of labels (this one is issued through Light In The Attic). I reached out to Pat and while its not surprising that the original tapes are long lost, it turns out that this new edition was likely crafted from best available sources (including possibly a clean copy of the original LP and even a CD). 

Don’t get too freaked out audiophiles, as it sounds remarkably good especially given that this was an indie release from 1971 to begin with and has its own raw vibe going on. The music sounds generally very clean with distinct stereo separation and a surprisingly warm and round mid range.  You might hear some distortion here and there but that may well be the sound of an oversaturated original tape, a technique that is sometimes actually employed for effect. It sounds perfectly wonderful, with that sort of misty murkiness one might expect for an independent release, probably done in a small studio back in the day on a non-existent budget.

That said, kudos to the mastering engineers on Time And Place for ensuring that the sound of the final reissued album is consistent from track to track. 

Overall this album sounds great and the pressing sounds remarkably good even though it’s on frequently-problematic splatter colored vinyl. The standard weight record is quiet and it is well centered. 

Musically, Time And Place finds the guitarist/singer working his way through deep jams with a hint of soulful funk and a healthy dose of bluesy rock ‘n’ roll.  Vocally, his style falls somewhere between Otis Redding, Janis Joplin and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. So if you like that sort of super-emotive, howl-at-the-moon vocal style, you may find this album totally in your wheelhouse.  

I love it. 

Moses does a great job owning the cover tunes he tackles. His slow burn version of “California Dreaming” is super passionate with a full horn section driving the ascending vibe. His slightly funky take on “Hey Joe” works just great even in the face of by-then-iconic versions by the likes of Jimi Hendrix.

Speaking of Hendrix, apparently Moses jammed with him in his early pre-fame days! He also reportedly played shows opening for Gladys Knight and the Pips and shared stages successfully with no less than James Brown.

Time And Place is not without its sense of heartbreak in a song like “Got That Will” which explores the artist’s anticipation for a successful future and making it big like some of his heroes whom he name checks. Sadly, Moses never got even close to the kind of success his heroes and peers like Sly Stone, Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, The Allman Brothers Band and Jimi Hendrix. 

Moses only made this one album, preceded by a handful of singles in the 1960s. 

Fortunately, his music lives on so if you like your soulful funk flavored rock sounds coming at you deep and wide, and you should pick up this album by Lee Moses. 

Time And Place is a keeper!

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Blue Note’s Classic Vinyl Reissue Series

One of the great pleasures of listening to vintage Blue Note albums on vinyl, along with the incredible, groundbreaking music and the sumptuous tones that legendary engineer Rudy Van Gelder was able to capture in his famed Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey studio, is looking at the striking black and white images taken by Francis Wolff, Blue Note’s resident photographer and partner with fellow Berliner Albert Lion of the hallowed jazz label.  As producer and Blue Note archivist Michael Cuscuna noted, “He not only preserved a major part of jazz history, but with his remarkable eye he captured amazing candid portraits of great artists that reveal the joy and intensity of jazz at the point of creation.” Added Herbie Hancock, “Francis Wolff’s images of musicians at work are so relaxed and intimate that they capture the spirit not just of the moment but also the era.” 

But beyond the beautifully crafted packaging, featuring Wolff’s photos and Reid Miles’s signature design style, a look that continues to be imitated to this day, is the timeless music, the likes of which represents some of the greatest in the history of jazz. The label’s latest rollout, the Classic Vinyl Reissue Series, is a continuation of the Blue Note 80 Vinyl Series, which was launched in 2019 to commemorate its 80th anniversary. The series, comprising many of Blue Note’s most enduring titles, was newly remastered directly from the original master tapes by Kevin Gray of Cohearent Audio with all-analog 180-gram vinyl pressings done at Optimal in Germany. The Classic Vinyl Reissue series runs parallel to the acclaimed Tone Poet Audiophile Vinyl Reissue Series.

The series kicked off in December with two important titles that definitely merit the term Classics. First up is Lee Morgan’s 1964 The Sidewinder, a commercial hit for the great trumpeter on the strength of the irrepressible, boogaloo-flavored title track, fueled by Billy Higgins’ syncopated backbeat, Barry Harris’ funky piano comping, Bob Crenshaw’s buoyant bass line, and the taut harmonies and interplay on the frontline between the trumpeter and Blue Note regular Joe Henderson on tenor sax. McCoy Tyner’s The Real McCoy, the great pianist’s 1967 Blue Note debut featuring saxophonist Henderson, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Elvin Jones, his former partner in the legendary John Coltrane Quartet, includes such timeless Tyner originals as the energetic “Passion Dance,” the somber “Search for Peace,” and  the earthy, oft-covered “Blues on the Corner.”

Horace Silvers Song for My Father

January saw the release of Horace Silver’s Song for My Father, a 1965 release which contains his best-known composition, the memorable title track, along with a rousing hard bop staple in “The Kicker” and his melancholic ballad “Lonely Woman” (not to be confused with Ornette Coleman’s song of the same name from 1959’s The Shape of Jazz to Come). Wayne Shorter’s Speak No Evil, the tenor saxophonist’s 1964 masterpiece, features stellar performances from trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, resident Blue Note tenorman Henderson, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Carter, and drummer Jones and such memorable Shorter compositions as “Witch Hunt,” “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum,” and “Infant Eyes.” 

The sound on the first four releases in the Classic Vinyl Reissue Series is remarkably clear, allowing for top-notch dynamics. The low end is outstanding, producing a warm, woody presence from the upright bass and a resounding depth in the low register of the piano, while the high notes issuing forth from trumpets and saxes are swathed in a very natural blanket of sound. Regarding the drum kit, the nuance of brushwork on the snare, as Roger Humphries demonstrates on Silver’s “Lonely Woman” or Elvin Jones delivers on Tyner’s “Search for Peace,” registers with clarity and adds an alluring quality to the mix. And the ride cymbal, the veritable heartbeat of these swinging jazz classics, rings out with authority, particularly when Jones is fueling the proceedings. Overall, the sound is gorgeous on this Classic Vinyl Reissue Series. 

The rollout, which will see two releases per month through 2021, continued in February with Cannonball Adderley’s Somethin’ Else, which featured a rare sideman appearance by Miles Davis, and Joe Henderson’s Page One. March saw the release of Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers’ Moanin’ and Hank Mobley’s Soul Station. Other Blue Note classics to be released in coming months include Jimmy Smith’s Back at The Chicken Shack, Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch, Freddie Hubbard’s Ready for Freddie, and Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage. Along with appealing to veteran Blue Note fans eager to fill gaps in their collections, the remastered Blue Note vinyl is pulling in younger record collectors who more recently discovered the joys of listening to historic jazz recordings on vinyl.

The post Blue Note’s Classic Vinyl Reissue Series appeared first on The Absolute Sound.

Original Resource is Articles – The Absolute Sound

Why Do You Need The Zombies’ Oddities & Extras On Vinyl?

If you are a deep Zombies fan chances are you have the wonderful four CD box set called Zombie Heaven. At the time of its release this set was applauded by most as it was a very overdue collection for fans. Compiling  B-sides, A-sides, studio outtakes, demos and radio broadcasts all in one place for the first time, the set was pretty much an instant classic. And, it will remain so until the time when we get a version that is remastered or, better still, delivered to us in a higher resolution format than the simple compact disc (ie Blu-ray).

That said, I have been enjoying a number of the Record Store Day special editions which the band has been putting out over the years, mostly through the Varese Sarabande label. Generally these have been pretty good sounding affairs, likely sourced from digital masters as far as I can tell. And for the most part they sound like a bit of a step up from the CD in terms of fidelity.

Of course in the back of my mind I can’t help but wonder how these new LPs might sound if they were crafted from original master tapes…

But that is neither here nor there.  Coming back to earth from dreamland, on deck now for this review is the new single disc collection issued on Record Store Day called Oddities & Extras. This is a fine compilation including rare singles and songs that only appeared in the UK on certain albums back in the day. Previously it was included in a five disc boxed set called The Complete Studio Recordings

No doubt many of these tracks are on the Zombie Heaven boxed set. And if you are like me, and you have that, you may be wondering whether you need to own Oddities & Extras on vinyl. 

I think you do and here’s why: one of the downsides of the 70-plus minute capacity on a standard compact disc is that the music tends to blur after a while. This is especially true when you’re dealing with a barrage of two-minute pop songs such as crafted by the zombies especially in the early days. Don’t get me wrong, they are wonderful and essential to have if you’re a completist fan (as I am!). But as a listening experience, sometimes a more focused vinyl collection can be more immediate and rewarding. 

And this is where the new Record Store Day edition of Oddities & Extras comes in to play: as a single LP, it is a great listen with just enough songs to give you that dose of Zombies joy that you may need without playing all the obvious hits. Yet, its not too much!

Producer Andrew Sandoval has done a great job curating this collection and he provides detailed liner notes explaining why the songs included are significant and essential.  Some of my favorites here are “Just Out Of Reach” (which appeared on the soundtrack to the movie Bunny Lake Is Missing), 

Also, as somebody commented on one of the Facebook music forums, Oddities & Extras is remarkable because it plays end-to-end like a very strong Zombies album, not just a collection of cast off remainders. And there in lies the rub and the joy of being a Zombies fan… There is so much great material!

Also, I love the cover concept which playfully references the deleted alternate U.S. second cover of the group’s classic Odessey & Oracle

So should you buy it? I would… I did! And it will hold you on over until we get that all-analog or high quality Plangent Process restored version of all this archival material. 

Maybe someday will get an all analog Zombie Heaven box set on vinyl (done all analog like The Beatles inMono boxed set)

That indeed would be a little bit of heaven!

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Do You Need The Latest Deluxe Edition Double LP Version of The Who Sell Out In Stereo?

One of my favorite albums by The Who — The Who Sell Out — recently received a sweet sonic upgrade and I’m quite pleased. 

The last time there was a run of upgrades on this album it was a big deal.  Around 2005 Classic Records had put out some sweet 200 gram editions of the early who albums in Mono and Stereo (the Mono versions are quite collectible in their own right these days!).

That version of The Who Sell Out replicated the rare poster that only came with the original UK editions and generally I was very happy with that (especially as finding UK versions of the Mono mix are difficult to find here in the US and expensive if you can find one — right now there are exactly zero copies available on Discogs!).  In 2015 Universal issued their own 180-gram edition of the Stereo mix which was quite nice if simple in its presentation (it did include the poster however!). 

Still, the newly expanded two-LP vinyl edition is quite welcome. 

Getting into the nitty gritty: the new pressing sounds much better than the 2015 version (which sounded better than my original US Decca vinyl). The balance feels better on this new version, and the sense of openness is significant. It also somehow doesn’t feel quite so extreme in the stereo panning. The bass sounds richer, the vocals rounder, the cymbals more airy and guitars full bodied.  The thick black 180-gram vinyl is well centered and quiet so the music just pops nicely. Kudos to mastering engineer Miles Showell!

“Sunrise,” one of my all time favorite Pete Townshend songs is positively glorious, the multi-tracked acoustic guitars chiming hauntingly. 

The production values are more nuanced and curious on this deluxe edition of The Who Sell Out: each label on the four sides presents a different variation on the Track Records label. The reproduction of the original poster is also a bit fancier than the 2015 version, reproduced on semi gloss paper instead of flat stock — the new one looks sharper and more detailed.  Each LP in the set comes in a sleeve with copious liner notes giving track-by-track details on the songs and what went into making them. 

The bonus disc is something of a revelation as well.  While many of these tracks have appeared on various compilation albums (both on vinyl and CD on earlier expanded editions of The Who Sell Out and Odds & Sods).  Some of my favorites here are the super fast version of “Summertime Blues”  and the should-have-been single “Glittering Girl.”  Once lost gems like “Early Morning Cold Taxi” shine nicely on this set. 

Going back to that opening question in the headline, I think this new version of The Who Sell Out is a no brainer to pick up if you are a fan of the band and this album. It certainly sounds better than my original US Decca pressing and the production improvements over the 2015 version make this worth adding to your collection.  

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Flamin’ Groovies, Dave Edmunds, Rock ’n Roll & Record Store Day

I almost missed out on this Record Store Day release, a 10-inch EP of 1972 recordings by San Francisco’s own Flamin’ Groovies called I’ll Have A Bucket Of Brains. I hadn’t heard about it’s release and then when I saw it in one of the stores I went to I thought I’d probably had the recordings already somewhere. The Groovies’ catalog is notoriously erratic so I figured this was probably another one of those dubious releases on a questionable label delivering less than great quality recordings with fanboy gusto and enthusiasm. 

Happily on this one I was wrong. 

Again, when I finally had a copy of this in my hands I almost didn’t buy it. The cover art looked super dubious. But then I read on the back cover it was issued by Parlophone Records, originally an EMI Records imprint which is now controlled by Warner Music.  So… I took the $20 risk. Maybe it’d be good.

I’m glad I got it.

Here we have real good quality versions of a fantastic series of recordings the band made with none other than Rockpile’s Dave Edmunds in 1972 at his Rockfield Studio in Wales. Some of these tracks were issued as singles in the UK and Europe in 1972 (but they didn’t do well at the time and are now rare collector’s items).  

I don’t know if these are “best” quality definitive versions, but they are clearly made from a very clean sounding source. There are none of the typical tell-tale artifacts one might expect from one of those bootleg quality releases which populate the Flamin’ Groovies back catalog — tape hiss, too much compression, distortion, digital crunchiness, etc.  

That said, if you are familiar with Dave Edmunds’ home brewed recordings he made at that time — he had a smash in 1970 with a cover of the 1955 Smiley Lewis hit “I Hear You Knockin’” — you know what to expect. There is a certain wonderfully claustrophobic charm to these recordings which are not muddy but pack a sort of mid-range punch which sounds real great when you play the music up loud. I’ll bet these would sound great out of a transistor radio speaker.

Manufactured in Germany, the ten-inch vinyl album pressing is excellent  thick, dark black and well centered with fun (and different) picture labels of the band on each side. It even comes in a poly-lined inner sleeve, something you rarely get with a 10-incher!  Clearly some care went into this record’s creation. 

I do wish it had better cover art, knowing that head Groovie Cyril Jordan is a fantastic artist who probably could have made a better cover in his sleep with his eyes closed (its apparently based on a 1995 CD release, which riffs off the logo used on the original United Artists singles issued in the UK and Europe around 1972).  

Ah well, its ultimately about the music and here that shines brightly. 

There are some fantastic tunes here you’ll want to play loud including the original nearly five-minute original slower version of the Groovies’ later breakthrough hit “Shake Some Action.”  Here they cover “Get A Shot Of Rhythm & Blues,” a song which The Beatles played in their early Cavern and Star Club days, in Liverpool and Hamburg respectively.  

There is an absolutely killer version of “Slow Death” here and the version of “You Tore Me Down” is fantastic with Edmunds apparently playing the acoustic guitar that just lifts up the tune into Rubber Soul territory (this song would fit neatly into the U.S. version). These are probably the best versions of those songs I’ve heard. Great guitar and amplifier tones come through the speakers, here. If you want to get I’ll Have A Bucket Of Brains you’ll have to find it at one of your favorite stores or look for it on Discogs (its not on Amazon thus far, at least on vinyl)

What is tragic is that United Artists didn’t really get behind the music and left the band to hang on the fence after the singles stalled upon a limited issue (a pattern which plagued their career). You can read more about these sessions and how they came to be named “I’ll Have A Bucket Of Brains” at the wiki (click here). I’ll give you a clue: the reference is not as Zombie-grotesque as you might think.

Seriously, read the story there and you’ll get a sense of Cyril Jordan’s determination and belief in The Flamin’ Groovies’ music. He made journeys in 1972 from San Francisco to London to Wales to London to LA and back again. There were probably many more flights and much hard pounding of the pavement to try to secure label interest. Eventually they made a good connection and signed to Seymour Stein’s fledgling Sire Records label, issuing the proto-New Wave power pop classic album Shake Some Action in 1976.

I’m reminded about that old music business line: It takes ten years to make an overnight sensation.  

But really for most folks it takes a lifetime of trying to catch the big break. I hope as things settle down once the pandemic is more under control we’ll get to see the band playing live again and putting out some new music. Their last album called Fantastic Plastic was fabulous (click here to read my review). 

Long live The Flamin’ Groovies! 

Original Resource is Audiophile Review