KEITH JARRETT: At the Blue Note: The Complete Recordings Keith Jarrett, piano; Gary Peacock, bass; Jack DeJohnette, drums ECM 1575-80 (78118-21575-2, 6 CDs only). Manfred Eicher, prod.; Jan Erik Kongshaug, eng. DDD. TT: 7:03:37
As I trundled the WATT/Puppys off to the Stereophile laboratory complex for our test procedures (see my review in the last issue), I idly wondered to myself, "Gee, what am I going to do for an encore?" Visions of exotic butterfly-like horns danced in my head (nope, J-10 Scull gets those babies). I was tantalized by the call of ambitiously designed behemoths (Major Tom gets those, he's got the room for 'em). Maybe some jewel-like, state-of-the-art minimonitors? (JA glommed 'em—editor's prerogative, y'know.) So what does that leave me?
Walking through the circus that was WCES '95 was like undergoing total neural-synaptic overload. I felt hard-pressed to just keep my head above water separating good sound from bad. Trying to piece together a coherent picture of the show, I jotted down the components in the best systems that I'd heard, and a few items popped up with astonishing regularity. One of these was Audio Research's single-chassis CD player, the CD-1.
BIG SUGAR: 500 Pounds Silvertone 42160-2 (CD). Geordie Johnson, prod.; Peter Prilesnik, prod., eng. TT: 47:42 BIG SUGAR: Ride Like Hell EP Silvertone 42287-2 (CD). Geordie Johnson, Peter Prilesnik, Dan Gallagher, prods.; Alfie Annabelini, T. Murray, M. Peters, engs. TT: 20:50
Some products are destined never to be seen for what they are. Instead, they exist as avatars, the very embodiment of their ages or concepts. The Wilson Audio WATT (Wilson Audio Tiny Tot) and its nigh-unto-ubiquitous subwoofer, the Puppy, have achieved this legendary status—no, have manifested it almost from their creation 10 years ago—to such a degree that they've come to stand for the entire class of no-holds-barred-monitor loudspeaker. They serve as the focus for a whole realm of the industry; indeed, to show any customer an expensive speaker possessing a modest footprint and not to invoke the incantation "better than a WATT" seems to abjure any pretense of serious sales strategy. At the same time, this speaker system has polarized the industry and its followers, strongly praised by some for its staggering accuracy, and equally dismissed by others for having little soul (musicality, to the initiated).
I was cruising at 36,000 feet, totally relaxed, listening to Richard Thompson. Looking down at my lap, I caught sight of a little box with a glowing green light. Switching off this light was like turning on the noise—the 767 was roaring like a locomotive and the ambient sound hit me like a fist. Thompson's crisp Celtic chordings turned mushy, undetailed, and dull. I felt weary. Whoa, I wouldn't do that again if I were you, laddie! I fumbled for the switch and reactivated the NoiseGuard circuitry on my Sennheiser HDC 451 noise-canceling headsets. Thompson's guitar rang out clearly, the airplane quieted to sound like an S-class Benz, and I relaxed into a calm reverie with only one worry clouding my contentment. But I patted my pocket: yup, still two cognacs left. Everything would be all right.
The cab's outside, the plane leaves in 50 minutes. Let's see...HeadRoom Supreme, HeadRoom Bag, portable CD player, CDs, Etymotic ER-4S Canal Phones....Oh, yeah—mustn't forget luggage or plane tickets. Guess I'm set to go.
MEDESKI MARTIN & WOOD: Friday Afternoon in the Universe John Medeski, organs, piano, wurlitzer, clavinet; Billy Martin, drums, percussion; Chris Wood, acoustic bass, harmonica, wood flute Gramavision GCD 79503 (CD only). MMW, David Baker, Jim Payne, prods.; David Baker, eng.; Dr. Toby Mountain, mastering. DDD? TT: 57:06