Recording of the Month

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Robert Baird Posted: Feb 12, 2010 0 comments
Pat Metheny Orchestrion
Pat Metheny, guitars, orchestrion programming.
Nonesuch 516668-2/-1 (CD/LP). 2010. Pat Metheny, prod.; eng. AAD? TT: 52:06
Performance ****
Sonics ****
Robert Baird Posted: Feb 15, 2011 0 comments
Markus Schwartz, Haitian Rada & Petwo drums, miscellaneous percussion, loop sampler, conch, vocals; Jean Caze, trumpet, flugelhorn, conch, vocals; Monvelyno Alexis, electric guitar, percussion, vocals; Paul Beaudry, double bass, percussion
Soundkeeper SR1002 (CD). 2010. Barry Diament, prod., eng. DDD. TT: 43:16
Performance ****
Sonics *****

Think of flat, one-dimensional downloads of soulless, AutoTuned music that sounds more manufactured than played. Then feast on this.

Robert Baird Posted: Feb 03, 2012 1 comments
Dusty Springfield: Dusty in Memphis
Atlantic/Analogue Productions APP 8214-45 (two 45rpm LPs). 1969/2011. Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin, prods.; Ed Kollis, eng.; Kevin Gray, 45rpm mastering. AAA. TT: 76:40
Performance *****
Sonics *****

Coaxing a singer to "stretch" always sounds like a good idea—that is, until the singer is standing in the same recording booth used by Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett, and suddenly her confidence, never brimming to start with, drops through the floor and she can't or won't sing a note. Add to this that Dusty Springfield was already a sticky perfectionist who'd self-produced most of her records and wasn't happy with the songs to be recorded—despite the fact that most of them were straight out of the Brill Building—and you have the recipe for an all-time classic record, right?

Robert Baird Posted: Jan 30, 2013 Published: Feb 01, 2013 2 comments
Clifford Brown/Max Roach: The Clifford Brown/Max Roach Emarcy Albums
Clifford Brown, trumpet; Max Roach, drums; Harold Land, Sonny Rollins, tenor saxophone; Richie Powell, piano; George Morrow, bass
Mosaic MRLP 3004 (4 LPs). 1954–56/2012. Bob Shad, orig. prod.; Michael Cuscuna, reissue prod.; Ryan Smith, remastering. ADA.
Performance *****
Sonics *****

Trumpeter Clifford Brown's death in a car accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on June 26, 1956—his second wedding anniversary—set up an eternity of unanswerables headed by the belief, among many, that had Brownie lived, his star would now be as high as or higher than that of Miles Davis.

Robert Baird Posted: Jan 26, 2014 Published: Feb 01, 2014 2 comments
James Booker: Classified: Remixed and Expanded Rounder 11661-9175-1 (2 LPs). 1983/2013. Scott Billington, John Parsons, prods.; Jay Gallagher, eng.; Jonathan Wyner, transfer eng.; David Farrell, remix. ADA. TT: 68:12 Performance ***** Sonics ****½

Before anything else, there's his musicality. No one has ever played the piano like James Carroll Booker III. If the piano is New Orleans' preeminent musical instrument, then Booker is its most talented virtuoso. A child prodigy who went on the road as part of Little Richard's band when he was 14, the Ivory Emperor, the Bronze Liberace, Li'l Booker, Little Chopin in Living Color (as he was variously known throughout his life) was breathtakingly gifted.

Robert Levine Posted: Jan 28, 2015 Published: Feb 01, 2015 0 comments
Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen
Greer Grimsley, Wotan; Alwyn Mellor, Brünnhilde; Stefan Vinke, Siegfried; Stuart Skelton, Siegmund; Stephanie Blythe, Fricka, Waltraute; Margaret Jane Wray, Sieglinde; Richard Paul Fink, Alberich; Dennis Petersen, Mime; Wendy Bryn Hammer, Freia, Gutrune; Daniel Sumegi, Fafner, Hagen; Andrea Silvestrelli, Fasolt, Hunding; Markus Brück, Gunther; Mark Schowalter, Loge; others; Seattle Symphony Orchestra & Seattle Opera Chorus, Asher Fisch
Avie AV2313 (14 CDs). 2014. Evans Mirageas, prod.; Rick Fisher, mastering. DDD. TT: 14:35:33
Performance ****
Sonics ****

Judging from the pictures in the booklet accompanying these 14 CDs, Seattle's "green" Ring was quite beautiful. What we have to go by is audio only, but even without the visuals, it's very impressive.

Is there a movement toward de-monumentalizing the Ring? The Frankfurt Opera's (on Oehms), recently released on CDs and DVDs (different performances), is similar: the accent is on the behavior and interactions of those who inhabit the world of the Ring. The orchestral emphases are on transparency, not bombast.

Margaret Graham Posted: Jul 16, 2014 Published: Jan 01, 1979 1 comments
Bach-Malloch: The Art of Fuguing
The Sheffield Ensemble and California Boy's Choir, Lukas Foss, cond., recorded live at First Presbyterian Church, Hollywood.
Town Hall Records S-20 & S-21 (each 2 LPs, 1979), Sheffield Lab 10047-2-G (CD, 1995). Lincoln Mayorga, prod., Ron Hitchcock, eng., Lincoln Mayorga Doug Sax, CD mastering eng. AAA (LP), AAD (CD).

These 2-disc albums are of unusual interest for several reasons. First, although both are of exactly the same program material, there were recorded with completely different microphone techniques. One was done with the usual (for commercial recordings) multi-microphone set-up and mixdown (S-20). The other (S-21) was done with a single stereo mike—the technique preferred by most audio perfectionists. [This is the version on the 1995 CD reissue—Ed.]

Margaret Graham Posted: Aug 16, 2013 Published: Jan 01, 1983 0 comments
669rotmwild.jpgEARL WILD: The Art of the Transcription
Earl Wild, piano, recorded live at Carnegie Hall on November 1, 1981
Audiofon 2008-2 (2 LPs). Julian Kreeger, prod., Peter McGrath, eng. AAA

It takes nerve for a performer to allow an entire concert to be recorded for release on disc. It also takes extraordinary confidence in one's technique. Mistakes that are overlooked in the live experience become snags for the ear in the recorded version. One starts to listen for them and loses the musical experience in its totality.

J. Gordon Holt Posted: Sep 03, 2014 Published: Jan 01, 1984 2 comments
rotm184.pjil.jpgDebussy: Three Nocturnes; Jeux
Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, Bernard Haitink conducting.
Philips ACD 400-023-2 (CD).

This is the first classical CD I have heard that was originally mastered on analog tape, and the sound is quite different from what I'm accustomed to hearing from the silver discs.

I had read so many critics' complaints about excessive background (tape) hiss from analog-mastered CDs that I was fully prepared to be appalled. I wasn't. Perhaps my speakers (Watkins WE-1s as of now) are smoother than what some other critics listen to, perhaps I prefer a more subdued high end than some, but I did not find hiss to be a problem with this Philips disc. Yes, it is audible at high listening levels, but it is not a ssss, it is a hhhh, like the sound of a very gentle rain far off in the background. I have heard worse hiss from microphone preamps.

J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jun 09, 2014 Published: Jan 01, 1985 1 comments
Performance Recordings is the closest thing to a one-man label. James Boyk is president, A&R director, musical director, recording engineer, production manager, jacket notes author, and the star performer. He is also Artist in Residence and lecturer in music and engineering (specifically sound recording and reproduction) at Cal Tech. And he happens to be one of digital's most ardent detractors, having conducted, and widely publicized, several controlled listening tests that proved to his satisfaction that digital recordings are destructive to musical sound. (I will not question his methodology or conclusions here; suffice it to say that James is as stalwartly pro-analog and anti-digital as it is possible to be.)
Richard Lehnert Posted: Apr 26, 2012 Published: Jan 01, 1988 0 comments
Branford Marsalis: Renaissance
Branford Marsalis, tenor & soprano sax; Kenny Kirkland & Herbie Hancock, piano; Bob Hurst & Buster Williams, bass; Tony Williams, drums
CBS FC 40711 (LP). Dennis Ferrante, Bob Margoleff, Howard Siegel, engs.; Delfeayo Marsalis, prod. DDA. TT: 57:09

These are heady days for those who believe that jazz may have reached its height in the mid- to late '60s, before its disastrous 15-year romance with fusion. With such strong new talents as the Marsalis and Brecker brothers and Chico Freeman embracing the spirit of that time, and fusion-scarred veterans like Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson returning to the basics of acoustic trios, quartets, and quintets in recent recordings and concerts, jazz has attained a new and cherished seriousness valued all the more for its unexpectedness.

Richard Lehnert Posted: Apr 28, 2011 Published: Jan 01, 1989 1 comments
BOBBY KING & TERRY EVANS: Live and Let Live!
Rounder 2089 (LP), CD 2089 (CD). Larry Hirsch, eng.; Ry Cooder, prod. AAA/AAD. TT: 44:42

If you've heard a Ry Cooder album in the last 12 years, you've heard Bobby King and Terry Evans—they're the gorgeously voiced gospel/R&B singers who've backed up Ry while he's learned to sing in public—and from whom he can't help but have learned a lot. To crib from the liner notes, King is from a Louisiana gospel background, while Evans sang R&B in Mississippi. Their music together is a seamless blend of the best of both sides of the churchyard gate, smack dab in the middle of the strongest undercurrents of American music. Virtually every tune is a gem, but "Let Love Begin," so warm and lovingly sensual it'll melt your speakers, and the best version I've ever heard of "Dark End of the Street," are instant classics. "Saturday Night" has a hint of sprung Cajun rhythm, and "Let Me Go Back to the Country" has that vital feel of a pick-up band one by one sitting down to sit in, music made for the sheer joy of singing and playing. Only "Bald Head," another misogynistic Cooder tune, falls flat, though not for lack of trying by King & Evans.

Richard Lehnert Posted: May 03, 2010 Published: Jan 03, 1990 0 comments
Opal/Warner Bros. 25969-1 (LP), -2 (CD). Daniel Lanois, prod.; Malcolm Burn, Mark Howard, engs. AAA/AAD. TT: 41:19
Ken Kessler Posted: May 11, 2009 Published: Jan 11, 1991 0 comments
Glasnost Mondial Supergroup: 1990 Aragon Jam Sessions
Anthony Federici, Michael Fremer, Roland Marconi, Bob Reina, Paul Rosenberg, Rob Sample, vocals; Frank Doris, Steve Harris, Roland Marconi, Paul Rosenberg, guitars; Elliot Kallen, Bob Reina, keyboards; John Atkinson, bass; Allen Perkins, Neil Sinclair, drums
Bainbridge GMS-1 (CD only). PJ Littleton, Michael Kusiak, Jr., engs.; PJ Littleton, Paul Rosenberg, prods. Recorded live with direct feed to the Colossus Digital Audio System from a single MS-4 surround 4-channel microphone. DDD. TT: 71:42
Corey Greenberg Posted: Jun 03, 2008 Published: Jan 03, 1992 0 comments
THE COMMITMENTS: Original Soundtrack
MCA MCAD-10286 (CD only). Paul Bushnell, Kevin Killen, Alan Parker, prods.; Kevin Killen, eng. AAD. TT: 46:54.


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