2012 Records To Die For

At a time in history when the music business seems less interested in making anything of lasting value than in churning out disposable music—hits intended to be consumed for a few days via iPod, then left behind—the notion of cherishing the masterpieces, the records to die for, seems a lost art. Yet it's exactly that state of being—as when Lady Gaga's latest outfit commands a bigger spotlight than the recent Pink Floyd reissues—that makes our annual "Records To Die For" feature that much more essential.

Most audiophiles first amass a pile of music, then go out and get them some high-end gear. They may love their brushed knobs and pretty lights, but ultimately it's about consuming the music—letting that timeless, resonant stuff fill your head and your heart with an endless supply of endlessly varied thoughts and feelings. Somehow, real music—the melodies you'd die for—doesn't get old or lose its power. A new era gives it new meanings, and amplifies those you'd discovered in the past. It's art you can count on—tunes that stand the test of time.

Every year, we ask our contributing editors, both hardware and music, to chose two collections of music they cherish, and to (briefly) tell us why. What follows are their impressions for 2012. Being truthful and unswayed by fashion are hallmarks of this magazine, and things are no different here in "R2D4." So please enjoy these self-evident musical truths. Hopefully, they'll remind you of some of your own. Keep listening!—Robert Baird

Note: If a recording listed here has previously been reviewed in Stereophile, whether in "Record Reviews" or in past editions of "Records To Die For," the volume and number of the pertinent issue appear in parentheses at the end of the review. For example, a listing of "(XXXIV-11)" means that a review of the recording appeared in Vol.34 No.1 (November 2011).

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COMMENTS
soulful.terrain's picture

lady gaga???

Since when did this auto-tune freak show become worthy of any recognition as a singer?

I'd rather listen to 60 minutes of white noise..

Watthead's picture

Hahahaha

+1 on that one

Ariel Bitran's picture

but the girl can actually sing.

 

and write well-constructed/melodically innovative pop songs.

himynameisjuan's picture

but what's up with the Lady Gaga cover art? There's a random "H" in there, and the image is eerily photoshopped. The image should look something like this, though not really, because the CD has entirely different artwork.

Regardless, Born This Way is too uplifting for my tastes. The first LP of The Fame or the entire The Fame Monster LP are much more listenable. They're far from my favorite albums of all time, but when playing records for friends I start with something familiar then move to more eclectic stuff.

Also, why do you guys post R2D4 lists a year behind? It took me a while to realize this a different list from the one in the latest issue.

John Atkinson's picture

Quote:
why do you guys post R2D4 lists a year behind? It took me a while to realize this a different list from the one in the latest issue.

We started doing this 15 years ago, so that R2D4 being on-line free would not cannibalize sales of the February issue of the paper magazine. We've run a year behind ever since.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

John Atkinson's picture

Quote:
We've run a year behind ever since.

Following a brief discussion with Web Monkey Jon Iverson, we will post the 2013 R2D4 in February and stay up-to-date in subsequent years. Just don't stop buying the paper magazine!

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

deckeda's picture

... that revolved around having current content increase SEO which drives site and therefore advertiser traffic and that the print product is what it is either way.

Rust's picture

Seriously, Led Zep 4 should be replaced by Celebration in your soon to be posted list. Who would have thought that in their 60's the boys would have put on such a performance. The sound quality of the CD's is adaquate at best, the blue ray is much better. The various guest covers of Zep at the Kennedy Center were awful, on the other hand Beth Harts performance was stellar although she was rather constrained compared to...

......her "Live at Paradiso" of 2004. Get the DVD. One of the cleanest if not THE cleanest live rock preformance I've ever seen. What a live rock perfrormance in a smaller venue should be. She has that very rare thing missing in every other female rocker with the sole exception of Janis, power. IMO the best female rock artist ever, with the sole exception of Janis. The woman is a beautiful train wreck, I'm grateful her early success didn't kill her, a close thing.

Hendrix. Winterland. Live. The latest reissue sounds better than some, with the best performances (I rhink?) of a multi-night gig selected. It isn't just his use of feedback and tone, it's his phrasing. The best Hendrix release.

Holly Cole. "Romantically Helpless". She doesn't sound like anyone else. Quirky in a very original way. A different vocal range than you would normally expect. Unique phrasing. Her interpretations of classics like "Come Fly With Me" and "Loving You" are prime  examples.

Try listning to Sonny Landreth Live at the Grant Street Saloon. The best slide guitar player ever.

Try listening to pretty much anything Adrain Legg has done, brilliant technique.

Try going to Wolfgangs Vault, literally thousands of live performances, many filmed, from the Filmores East and West, Winterland and many other venues. Before huge arenas became the norm. Some of the recordings are very good indeed. Thank you Bill Graham.

On the very broad subject of Rock. Led Zeppelin and even Hendrix have been accused of raiding the music of others. Duh. Even Robert Johnson expanded on those who came before him. But Willie Dixon never sounded like Zep, and no one ever sounded like Hendrix.

If you want to see an enormous amount of roots americana, try Document Records. Leave it to the Brits to have the largest collection old blues and jazz commercially available anywhere I know of. You'd be surprised at how many of the 40's, 50's and 60's jazz greats dipped into the well of those who had gone before them.

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