Recording of the Month

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J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jun 30, 2015 Published: May 01, 1982 0 comments
666shefdrum.jpgThe Sheffield Drum Record
Improvisations by Jim Keltner and Ron Tutt (drums)
Sheffield LAB-14 (LP) (1981). Reissued as FIM DXD 001 (CD) (2010). Bill Schnee, Doug Sax, prods.; Lincoln Mayorga, exec. prod.; Steve Haselton, Bill Schnee, engs. TT: 13:49.

There was a time when drum records were as common as records of steam locomotives and thunderstorms. It has been so long since anyone has tackled any of them that a lot of technology has gone over the dam, but they are precisely the kind of program material which illuminate the state of the audio art like nothing else. Thus, Sheffield's Drum Record emerges as a landmark—a technological tour de force that should discourage anyone else from issuing a similar disc until the state of the art advances by a few more years.

Robert Baird Posted: Jun 23, 2015 1 comments
Vivaldi: L'Estro Armonico: 12 Concertos for Violins, Op.3
Rachel Podger, Bojan Cicic, Johannes Pramsohler, violin; Brecon Baroque, Rachel Podger
Channel Classics CCS SA 36515 (2 SACD/CDs). 2015. Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, prod.; Jared Sacks, eng.; Ernst Coutinho, asst. eng. DDD. TT: 96:54
Performance *****
Sonics *****

It's no big secret that classical music is in trouble. At a time when selling a few hundred CDs will land you squarely in the upper reaches of the classical music chart, and the venerable New York Philharmonic faces an unsettled future in terms of its endowment, future conductor and hall renovation, many say that what the genre most lacks are genuine shining stars. It's been a long time since maestros like Leonard Bernstein or Georg Solti trod the boards, or a brilliant instrumentalist like Jacqueline du Pré became a celebrity and attracted the attention of a larger public that then might actually buy a record or attend a concert. In 2015, building an audience is classical music's central dilemma—so having a dominant player like baroque violinist Rachel Podger is a much-needed development. It's a sign of our fragmented times that a baroque violinist, rather than one who concentrates on the classical and romantic repertoire, has now become a leading light in the classical world.

Margaret Graham Posted: Jun 16, 2015 Published: Jun 01, 1982 0 comments
682rotm250.jpgMichael Murray: Encores à la Française Works by Couperin, Dupré, Gigout, Franck, Widor, J.S. Bach, Vierne, Lemmens
Organ at Symphony Hall, Boston
Telarc Digital DG10069 (LP), 80104 (CD, released in 1990). Robert Woods, prod., Elaine Martone, assistant prod., Jack Renner, eng. TT: 65:46 (CD).

This is another winner. Michael Murray's superior performances are or should be well known to all by this time. This recording of Encores in the French style covers a wide gamut of registration and mood, ranging from the large and full-blown sonorities of Franck's Pièce Héroique, the Toccata from Widor's Organ Symphony 5, and Vierne's Final from the Symphony 1 in d to the light and nimble Scherzo of Eugene Gigout and the technically demanding Musette by Marcel Dupré.

Robert Baird Posted: May 21, 2015 0 comments
José James: Yesterday I Had the Blues, The Music of Billie Holiday
Blue Note B002283102 (CD). 2015. Yoshihisa Saito, exec. prod.; Don Was, prod.; Chris Allen, eng., mix. DDD? TT: 49:33
Performance ****
Sonics *****

Unlike the conundrum of today's country music, whose lyrics celebrate family and tradition even as the country-music community ignores and disrespects the giants of the music's past, jazz and rock have for the most part remembered and celebrated their musical pioneers and game changers, and the singular, monumental virtuosity of artists like Billie Holiday.

Margaret Graham Posted: May 13, 2015 Published: Jul 01, 1982 0 comments
Paul Winter: Callings
The Paul Winter Consort: Paul Winter, soprano sax, E-flat contrabass sarrusophone, conch shell; Nancy Rumbel, oboe, English horn, C contrabass sarrusophone, double ocarina; Eugene Friesen, cello; Jim Scott, classical and 12-string guitars; Ted Moore, timpani, surdos, berimbau, caixixi, pao de chuva, ganza, gongs, cymbals, triangles, handbells, whistles; Paul Halley, pipe organ, harpsichord, piano.
Recorded with the 3M Digital System in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City. Paul Winter, prod., Dixon Van Winkle, Chris Brown, engs. Additional recording by Richard Blakin and Mickey Houlihan. CD mastered by Clete Baker.
Living Music Records LMR-1 (LP). DAA. Living Music Records LD0001 (10488 00012-6) (CD). DAD. TT: 49:42.

It is hard for me to be objective about a record such as this. My very being responds to it, not only to the music but to the ideas and feelings behind it. Fortunately for me, this happens to be an excellent recording, with some extraordinary low end on it, so I need not compromise either my critical faculties or my sentiments.

Richard Lehnert Posted: Apr 15, 2015 Published: May 01, 2015 5 comments
Bruckner: Symphony 8
Rémy Ballot, Upper Austrian Youth Symphony Orchestra
Gramola 99054 (2 SACD/CDs). 2015. John Proffitt, prod., eng.; Richard Winter, prod.; Rémy Ballot, Matthias Kronsteiner, eds., mastering. DDD. TT: 103:44
Performance ****½
Sonics *****

This performance of Bruckner's greatest, most generous work, his Symphony 8, took place in August 2014 in the basilica of St. Florian, the Austrian monastery where Bruckner was schooled and served as organist. It was taped before an audience, directly above the crypt in which Bruckner is buried. The band was the Upper Austrian Youth Symphony Orchestra: 130 players, average age 17, conducted by Rémy Ballot, a student of the late Sergiù Celibidache.

Margaret Graham Posted: Apr 02, 2015 Published: Aug 01, 1982 0 comments
Prokofiev: Piano Sonata No.6 Op.82
James Boyk, piano
Performance Recordings PR-3 (LP). James Boyk, prod., Michael Fraser, eng., Doug Sax, mastering eng.

James Boyk has become something of a phenomenon. Not only is he a Professor of Music (at Cal Tech) who teaches how to listen to reproduced sound and writes articles about sound reproduction (for New West magazine), he is also a virtuosic pianist who produces perfectionist-caliber recordings of his own recitals. This recording, Mr. Boyk's third LP (footnote 1), is of one of Prokofiev's later works, and is a magnificent piano recording. Much credit must be given to both Mr. Boyk and his recording engineer, Michael Fraser. The instrument seems to be right in front of one, with as accurate a sound as any piano reproduction I have heard. It is interesting to note that the recording was made with ribbon mikes (the legendary Coles 4038s, perhaps?) and all-tube electronics "from mike to grooves."

Robert Baird Posted: Mar 16, 2015 Published: Apr 01, 2015 5 comments
Sasha Matson: Cooperstown: Jazz Opera in Nine Innings
Julie Adams (Lilly Young), soprano; Carin Gilfry (Jan Green), mezzo-soprano; Daniel Favela (Marvin Wilder), Daniel Montenegro (Angel Corazon), tenors; Rod Gilfry (Dutch Schulhaus), baritone; Jason Rigby, saxophones; Russ Johnson, trumpets; Sean Wayland, keyboards; Rich Mollin, double bass; Gernot Bernroider, drums; Sasha Matson, conductor
Albany TROY1553/54A (2 CDs). 2015. John Atkinson, prod., mastering; Mike Marciano, eng., mix; Bill Schnee, Kenton Fukuda, engs. DDD TT: 101:63
Performance ****½
Sonics *****

A jazz opera about baseball? Uh-huh. Sung in colloquial English? A recording produced by the editor of this magazine? Sounds like the kind of situation where I should have nodded politely and just said No. What about ethics—all the folks who already think that review-based outlets like Stereophile are bought and paid for? Pony up and we'll write you a rave, right? Well, no. Absolutely not. But—Recording of the Month?

Margaret Graham Posted: Mar 10, 2015 Published: Sep 01, 1982 4 comments
Schumann: Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op.26
Liszt: Reminiscences de Norma (1841)

Ivan Davis, piano.
Audiofon 2004 (LP, subsequently released on CD as CD 72004) Julian Kreeger, prod., Peter McGrath, eng.

Beethoven: 33 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op.120. Piano Sonata No.31 in A-Flat, Op.110.
Leonard Shure, piano
Audiofon 2001 (LP, subsequently released on CD as CD 72001) Julian Kreeger, prod., Peter McGrath, eng.

Audiofon is an audiophile record company with a difference. Instead of going for good sound and hoping the performance is satisfactory, Audiofon goes for performing excellence (usually at live performances) and gives it the best recordings possible. The result to date has been several recordings which may prove to be definitive.

Robert Baird Posted: Feb 24, 2015 Published: Mar 01, 2015 4 comments
Estrella Morente: Amar en Paz
Estrella Morente, voice; Niño Josele, guitar
Calle 54/Sony Music 88875011922 (CD). 2014. Fernando Trueba, prod., exec. prod.; Nat Chediak, exec. prod.; Jose Luis Crespo, eng.; Jim Anderson, mix; Alan Silverman, mastering. DDD? TT: 66:29
Performance ****
Sonics ****½

What makes a great singer great is a magical combination of virtuosic physical skills with mental and emotional powers of interpretation that allow you to hear and feel a lyric's subtext: the emotions the songwriter hoped to evoke by a turn in the melody.

J. Gordon Holt Posted: Feb 24, 2015 Published: Oct 01, 1982 2 comments
The Sheffield Track Record
Robbie Buchanan and James Newton Howard, keyboards; Lennie Castro, percussion; Nathan East, bass guitar; Mike Landau, guitar; Carlos Vega, drums. Ron Tutt, and Jim Keltner, drum solos. TT: 22:13.
Sheffield LAB-20.

What, a recording of rock backup tracks? Who could care less? Me, is who. Quibble over the program if you will (actually, it isn't all that dull, and two of the numbers are fun to listen to), but this wasn't released for the program material. You might call it a tantalizing sample of where a lot of rock sound begins, before it is fuzzed, reverbed, and cross-dubbed God knows how many times before the final mess is released for the edification of the peons. This has to be one of the most astonishing rock recordings ever issued! The Absolute Sound's Harry Pearson (who obviously got his before we got ours, as you are reading this 9 weeks after our copy arrived) is quoted on the jacket as declaring this to be "Absolutely the best-sounding rock record ever made." He's right.

Margaret Graham Posted: Feb 09, 2015 Published: Dec 01, 1982 6 comments
COPLAND: Appalachian Spring, Rodeo, Fanfare for the Common Man
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Louis Lane, cond.
Telarc Digital DG-10078 (LP). Robert Woods, prod., Jack Renner, eng. DAA. TT: 44:11.

I predict that this Fanfare for the Common Man will suffer the same fate as the opening measures of Also Sprach Zarathustra. The impact of the opening brass and tympani is stupendous. Even when I know it is coming, I tend to leap from my chair in surprise. All audiophile copies of this disc will become grey and worn on Band One of Side One.

Audiophile impact aside, please don't neglect the other two works on this disc. Both Rodeo and Appalachian Spring receive excellent interpretations, and they too contain sufficient brass and drum to excite a jaded audiophile.

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.

John Swenson Posted: Dec 22, 2014 Published: Jan 01, 2015 1 comments
Bob Dylan and the Band: The Bootleg Series Vol.11: The Basement Tapes Complete
Columbia/Legacy 88875016122 (6 CDs). 2014. Garth Hudson, orig. eng., tape restoration; Jeff Rosen, Steve Berkowitz, reissue prods.; Jan Haust, reissue prod., tape restoration; Peter J. Moore, tape restoration, remastering; Mark Wilder, prod., add'l. mastering. A-D? TT: 6:27:56
Music *****
Sonics ***

The Basement Tapes are, as musician and archivist Sid Griffin writes in the liner notes, a kind of Rosetta Stone codifying the interface of myths, folktales, and song stories that inform the restless spirit of Bob Dylan's work. All the ingredients of American folklore, from blues and gospel to country, R&B, and rock'n'roll, went into this home brew distilled in the Catskill Mountains by Dylan and the Band over the course of these sessions.

Margaret Graham Posted: Dec 16, 2014 Published: Apr 01, 1983 0 comments
Art Pepper: Darn That Dream
Art Pepper, alto sax; Joe Farrell, tenor sax; George Cables, piano; John Dentz, drums; Tony Dumas, acoustic bass.
M&K RealTime Digital RT-309 (LP). Ken Kreisel and John Dentz, prods., Ken Kreisel and Scott Simon, engs. Recorded at The Annex Studio, Hollywood, CA, March 23, 1982. 37:36.

Earl Wild: Works for Piano
Cesar Franck: Prelude, Chorale and Fugue; Gabriel Fauré: Barcarolle No.3 in G Flat, Op.42. Maurice Ravel: Gaspard de la Nuit.
Earl Wild, piano.
Audiofon Stereo 207 (LP). Julian H. Kreeger, prod., Peter McGrath, eng.

Darn That Dream should be of great interest to jazz buffs, as it is one of Art Pepper's last recordings, and a superb recording it is. One hardly feels that one is listening to a disc. Close your eyes and you are in the room with the players. For anyone who enjoys jazz, this record is a must.

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