Music and Recording Features

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John Atkinson Art Dudley Posted: Apr 14, 2017 1 comments
It has been six years since we last released a recording on the Stereophile label—a jazz album featuring Attention Screen, the late Bob Reina's free-jazz ensemble. This dry spell was mainly due to the increasing demands made on our editorial team's time by social media and the magazine's website, but also by John Atkinson's recording activities with the Portland State Chamber Choir, who issue their recordings on their own label. Nevertheless, we've been keeping our eyes and ears open for suitable opportunities.
Robert Baird Posted: Mar 07, 2017 0 comments
One is a well-established reissue label, known the world over for its completist black boxes filled with beautifully remastered jazz recordings from the 1930s through the 1960s.

The other is a new label that records only new jazz, released in elaborate packages that include a poem and original artwork, not to mention transparent 180gm pressings, tying into the newly fashionable idea of a vinyl lifestyle.

In both cases, hope truly springs eternal.

John Swenson Posted: Feb 07, 2017 Published: May 01, 1997 14 comments
1996 was a banner year for Ray Davies—one of the most talented writers and conceptualists rock has ever produced. After more than 30 years with The Kinks, the group he has led off and on along with his younger brother Dave, Ray was enjoying a new career as a solo artist. His keen wit and storytelling ability enabled him to take his remarkable one-man play, 20th Century Man, to packed houses and critical acclaim all over the United States. The play, based loosely on his equally remarkable fictionalized autobiography, X-Ray, provided a unique insight into the forces that have shaped Ray Davies's long, prolific career as a rock songwriter.
Stereophile Staff Posted: Jan 26, 2017 23 comments
Never in the history of our venerable "Records To Die For" feature has the word Die come to mean as much as it has in the past year. Merle Haggard, Phife Dawg, Rudy Van Gelder, Maurice White, Glenn Frey, Otis Clay, Blowfly, Bob Cranshaw, George Martin, Steve Young, Chips Moman, Lonnie Mack, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones, Leon Russell, Ralph Stanley, David Bowie—all died in the past year. So to drive away any evil spirits that may be hovering over this year's R2D4 extravaganza, we may need to think of this 2017 installment more as "Records to Live For."
John Atkinson Posted: Nov 22, 2016 6 comments
I am sad to report that, 19 years to the day after I recorded her performing Schulhoff's Sonata for Solo Violin for Stereophile's Duet CD, Ida Levin passed away on Friday November 18, after a lengthy battle with leukemia. She was 53. Our condolences to her family, her fellow musicians, her students, and to all who, like me, were thrilled by her playing. As a tribute to Ida, from now until January 1, 2017, we are offering Duet to our readers free of charge (though we will still have to charge shipping and handling).
Robert Baird Posted: Jun 10, 2016 1 comments
Eine kleine Nachtmusik it ain't. And yet, in 1992, lightning struck, tectonic plates shifted, and the third symphony of Polish composer Henryk Mikolaj Górecki (1933–2010) became a bona-fide hit. Defying both skeptics and logic, a recording of this decidedly sepia-toned work, subtitled The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, by the London Sinfonietta conducted by American maestro David Zinman, and featuring soprano soloist Dawn Upshaw, eventually sold over a million copies, making it the largest-selling recording of modern classical music ever.
Robert Baird Posted: May 03, 2016 5 comments
Don't get me wrong—it was a nice surprise. It's always good to find another member of the cult, someone else interested in music and sound, and proud to be called an audiophile. But . . . Peter Wolf?

"What's John Atkinson like?"

"Here's the $64,000 question: What's in your system?"

Robert Baird Posted: Apr 07, 2016 3 comments
In conversation with Bonnie Raitt these days, one word continually jumps out: groove. She's speaking of her music, of course, but the blues singer and guitarist—her gifts as commanding as ever on her latest, Dig In Deep—has also survived some family struggles in the past decade that nearly forced her out of her personal groove.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Feb 28, 2016 4 comments
Ever since I encountered Wilson Audio Specialties' Peter McGrath (above) playing his own digital recordings at audio shows, hanging out in the Wilson Audio room has proven the consistent highlight of my show coverage experience. Nor is it simply the quality of the musicianship that continues to draw me to McGrath's rooms. As anyone who has heard his work can attest, the man's ability to capture the unique characteristics of a performance venue, as well as the natural sound of voice and instruments, is second to none.
Robert Baird Posted: Feb 24, 2016 3 comments
All band photos copyright Capitol Photo Archives

Although there was a fall chill in the air, the front windows were open, and the sounds of perhaps the greatest Beach Boys ballad of all wafted into the Massachusetts night.

Perched on the edge of the couch, dear friend and Stereophile contributing music editor David Sokol—former editor-in-chief of New Country and Disney magazines, a man who's written about music for over 40 years and has yet to lose his passion for the stuff—was waxing poetic and weeping, ever so slightly, as the room filled with the intricate mix of voices that is "Kiss Me, Baby."

Robert Baird Posted: Feb 02, 2016 1 comments
"With all due respect, what the hell is the matter with you?"

Over the years, I've felt obligated to ask this question of several friends who somehow concluded that their life's work involved founding a record label.

"That is the best question isn't it?" Shane Buettner said with a big laugh. "Why do I want to hurt myself this badly and spend a lot of money doing it?" He smiled again, with a mild shake of the head.

"Actually, yes—that's exactly what I mean."

Robert Baird Posted: Jan 04, 2016 2 comments
Let's face it: If you're one of those sedentary audiophilic types or you have a genetic disposition to growing pear-shaped later in life (genetic . . . right, that's it: nothing to do with couches or hooch), it's wise to adjust your fashion sense accordingly. And nothing says "portly gentleman in disguise" like a guayabera—a shirt that, I have just discovered, blues guitarist Bob Margolin and I both love. He even wears one on the cover of his new record, My Road.
Robert Baird Posted: Dec 02, 2015 22 comments
Talk dirty to me!

"I had to master this record 11 times to get it to sound the way I wanted," Joanna Newsom growled with the knowing grit of someone who's worked through a sonic ordeal.

"Instead of test pressings, we had test lacquers for this one."

"I have no way to listen to music digitally in my house."

Oooh, baby!

At a time when the future of print is troubled, Newsom can make even a magazine editor feel slightly more secure.

"I love your magazine. I love your publication."

Robert Baird Posted: Nov 04, 2015 2 comments
Tinseltown. La-La Land. Smell-A. First, of course, there's the climate. No way to hate sunshine and ocean breezes. And if you were somehow able to erase all the people in Southern California, the land itself—rising from the blue Pacific to high desert to timbered, sometimes even snowy mountaintops—is gorgeous. Then, of course, there's the unusually attractive human flora and fauna roaming SoCal. How did Brian Wilson put it . . . ? "Dolls by a palm tree in the sand."
Robert Baird Posted: Oct 15, 2015 1 comments
Playing the blues gets old fast. Since this most fundamental American popular music, stopped being the African-American party music of choice, and became a traditional music, celebrated as the precursor of rock'n'roll, blues players face a stark choice: change, or be content with playing small clubs and bars.

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