Robert Baird
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Robert Baird Oct 10, 2012 7 comments
It's the first rule of being a stereophile: sound quality is serious business. Simon Gibson, one of the engineers at Abbey Road Studios who worked on EMI's new Signature Collection of hybrid SACD/CDs, knows the drill: remaster and change the sound of a much-loved classical recording from the label's glorious back catalog and you risk becoming a target of blogs and forums. Gibson's aware that the more hallowed the recording, the more quickly knives come out at the mention of remastering.
Recording of the Month
Robert Baird, Kalman Rubinson Sep 25, 2012 Published: Oct 01, 2012 1 comments
Patricia Barber: Nightclub & Modern Cool
Nightclub
Premonition 90763-1 (2 LPs). Patricia Barber, prod.; Michael Friedman, exec. prod.; Jim Anderson, eng.; Bob Ludwig, mastering; Doug Sax, mastering (LP). AAA? TT: 51:20
Performance ****
Sonics *****

Modern Cool
Premonition 90761-4 (BD-A). Patricia Barber, prod.; Michael Friedman, exec. & surround prod.; Jim Anderson, eng. & surround eng. Robert Gatley, asst. surround eng. ADD? TT: 67:49
Performance ****
Sonics *****

Much as the music world at large supremely values so-called original compositions (as if . . . but then that's a discussion for another day), it takes a special talent to make a song written by someone else—in common parlance, a cover—your very own. Take Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "Alfie," from the 1966 film with Michael Caine in the title role. Recorded for the soundtrack by Cilla Black, and later cut by everyone from Babs and Bill Evans to the Delfonics and Sarah Vaughan—not to mention a pair of laughably bad versions from Cher—the song is nothing if not overexposed. Bacharach's own soaring arrangement for the film sticks in the world's collective head. For lesser performers, that alone would be more than enough to keep them well clear of trying to cover it.

Robert Baird
Robert Baird Sep 19, 2012 6 comments
First, let’s talk about that voice.
Robert Baird Aug 21, 2012 Published: Sep 01, 2012 3 comments
"We tried to do some work between the legs of . . .

"Ummmm . . . that sounds weird."

Rock musicians—do they ever think about anything but sex?

Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson chuckles. He explains that what he meant to say was that he, singer-bassist Geddy Lee, and the exalted, formerly mustachioed object of Planet Earth's most fervent drummer cult, Neil Peart, were trying to write songs during a break in a recent tour.

Robert Baird Jul 10, 2012 1 comments
It is perhaps the most cherished tale from hi-fi's primordial past: In 1951—when music was first being recorded on magnetic tape, when the use of much-improved microphones became a mix of science and art, and when Stereophile's founder, J. Gordon Holt, was still a little nipper, years away from his first martini (though I wouldn't swear to that)—the team of Robert (Bob) and Wilma Cozart Fine began to build a legendary catalog of recordings of classical music. It eventually included the work of conductors Rafael Kubelik, Antal Doráti, and Frederick Fennell; the Chicago and Minneapolis symphony orchestras; the pianists Byron Janis and Gina Bachauer; and the cellists Mstislav Rostropovich and János Starker—all released with often wildly colorful covers under the still-evocative title of Mercury Living Presence.
Robert Baird
Robert Baird Jul 05, 2012 2 comments
One of the real coups of Holger Peterson’s Stony Plain Records which is the subject of my Aural Robert column in the July issue of Stereophile was signing the great Canadian blues guitar player Jeff Healy to a deal late in Healy’s too short life to make both blues and jazz albums.
Recording of the Month
Robert Baird Jun 28, 2012 Published: Jul 01, 2012 0 comments
Bill Evans: Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of the Gate
Bill Evans, piano; Eddie Gomez, bass; Marty Morrell, drums
Resonance HLP-2012 (2 LPs/2 CDs, HDTracks 24/44.1k download). 1968/2012. George Klabin, exec. prod., mix, sound restoration; Zev Feldman, prod.; Fran Gala, mix, sound restoration, mastering. ADA/ADD. TT: 49:12/40:50
Performance *****
Sonics * to ***

Complain if you will, analog lovers, about the evils of digital technology, but in one area there isn't a whiff of argument: the esoteric pursuit of rescuing live recordings with marginal sound. Without question, manipulating ones and zeros has cleaned up a lot of nearly unlistenable bootlegs. This bit of buried treasure, while never unlistenable, has been rendered in sound that is, at times, very good. The two-star sonics rating, which may seem shocking for a "Recording of the Month," is an average—while the sound quality rates a single star in the opening, it's nearly up to four stars by Disc 2. The long-ago sounds of these two live sets of the Bill Evans trio playing mostly standards, recorded in a long-gone Greenwich Village club, Top of the Gate (it was literally above the better-known Village Gate jazz club), are, if not the holy grail, then a very gilded cup.

Robert Baird
Robert Baird Jun 15, 2012 3 comments
If piles upon piles of LPs bring you joy, and you’re within striking distance of Pittsburgh, Pa. this weekend, you need to head for the Pittsburgh Irish Centre on Forward Avenue to check out the first annual Vinylpalooza
Recording of the Month
Robert Baird May 29, 2012 2 comments
Krzysztof Penderecki/Jonny Greenwood
Threnody for the victims of Hiroshima, Popcorn Superhet Receiver, Polymorphia, 48 Responses to Polymorphia
Aukso Orchestra, Penderecki, Marek Mos, conductors
Nonesuch 530223-2 (CD) Filip Berkowicz, Michal Merczynski, prods. Barbara Orzechowska, associate prod. Ewa Guziotek-Tubelewicz, Pitor Witkowski, engs. Performance ***** Sonics *****

For the past two decades, the "C" word in classical music— crossover—has been a bone of both hope and contention. Lured by the supposed riches that lurk amongst classical fans who want to slum it and popular music fans with upscale intellectual curiosities, artists from Caruso to Domingo to Joshua Bell have given in this concept in search of a success to mostly disappointing results. And then of course there's humble Gordon Sumner (aka Feyd Rautha Harkonnen) who blithely smeared his meager powers onto the work of poor John Dowland in Songs From the Labyrinth—an apt title if ever there was. In 2010 the great Renee Fleming, no stranger to taking risks and a jazz singer during her college years, dipped her toes, fairly disastrously it turns out, into the classical/rock crossover pool with Dark Hope, a record whose title again seems to carry a less than promising message.

Robert Baird
Robert Baird May 11, 2012 10 comments
Many if not most of the world’s most admired albums attained their fame slowly. In the case of Exile on Main Street which was released forty years ago on May 12, 1972, it took years for its ragged, bluesy charms to percolate into the collective psyche and eventually emerge as if not the best, then one of the contenders in the Stones catalog.
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