Aural Robert

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Robert Baird  |  Sep 13, 2023  |  0 comments
Resurrecting musical treasures is a tough business. The explosion of vinyl-reissue labels, ranging from superlative to second-rate, has made it increasingly difficult for newcomers to stand out—to make the kind of splash that serious LP buyers will notice. Even more elusive is endurance and turning a profit. The affable, musically savvy James Batsford, owner of a pair of vinyl-only UK labels, New Land Records and Omerta Records, can't help but laugh over our New York–to–London Zoom connection when I ask why an obviously intelligent person with taste, like himself, would jump into the vinyl-reissue tarpit?
Robert Baird  |  Aug 21, 2023  |  2 comments
If music reflects the life of the person who created it—if, for example, we can hear Mozart's inner turmoil in his operas—then Warren Zevon's song catalog is uncommonly revealing. Headless mercenaries, killer rapists, and yes, impeccably dressed werewolves with a taste for pina coladas are all part of the colorful world of WZ's twisted imagination and especially of his masterpiece, 1978's Excitable Boy, recently reissued by Mobile Fidelity on two 180gm LPs cut at 45rpm.
Robert Baird  |  Aug 02, 2023  |  4 comments
Photo by Reinout Bos

Audio engineers never get the credit they deserve. The same is true for music arrangers, who are also an unheralded but hugely fundamental part of any musical success. As a composer, conductor, and inventive arranger of popular music, the modest but multitalented Vince Mendoza says he's most focused on enhancing the song he is arranging and the story it is trying to tell.

"Young arrangers are very concerned with their own voice and spinning their own melodies and turning things upside down and backwards, and they forget what a song really is about," he told me in a recent Zoom conversation from his home in Los Angeles. "You could be writing about heartbreak, and there are a million and one ways to tell that story, but the listener still has to feel it."

Robert Baird  |  Jul 01, 2023  |  2 comments
In 1973, Elton John and Bernie Taupin capped one of pop music's most epic periods of sustained creativity by writing, recording, and releasing the 10-track single disc Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player and the 17-track double album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, both of which are now celebrating their 50th anniversary. As two of the strongest entries among the many classics that make 1972–73 the peak years for rock albums, both went #1 in the US and UK and arguably stand as the dual highpoints of John's recorded legacy.
Robert Baird  |  Apr 25, 2023  |  0 comments
Back in 2003, in an uptown New York City studio, a man who epitomized cool in the 1960s waited patiently for my next question. Well into his 70s but still thin and handsome, Burt Bacharach was casually dapper in his contrasting sweater and polo shirt. In town to perform with Ronald Isley in support of their new record together, Here I Am—Isley Meets Bacharach, the songwriter extraordinaire is warm and approachable, wary but unusually guileless when answering the questions of a lifelong fan of his melodies, a fan who's trying hard to be professional and hide the fact that he's utterly starstruck.

As rhythm has become predominant in pop music and melody has receded in importance, Bacharach and lyricist Hal David's brand of sleek, memorable tune craft has slipped into history. Yet despite Bacharach's death in February 2023, at age 94, their body of work is timeless.

Robert Baird  |  Feb 27, 2023  |  1 comments
At this point in the vinyl revival, it's hard to believe there are many undiscovered masterpieces left that are worth discovering. Record Store Day (RSD), a much-ballyhooed source of unique and unreleased music on vinyl, has been a major spur in the drive to plumb the vaults, but even though it has an excellent reputation, most RSD unearthings have turned out to be less than essential.

The increasingly rare exceptions are to be celebrated. Here's one. Just before the year turned to 2023, on what would have been Donald Byrd's 90th birthday, a smoldering, untapped artifact surfaced after 50 years in the can.

Robert Baird  |  Jan 03, 2023  |  1 comments
It's time to address a snarky rumor, a persistent urban legend surrounding music fans who care about listening in the highest quality sound possible. It's been posited from time to time that quality gear and heavy, quiet LP pressings go better with a certain intoxicant—that you have to get high to truly have the fullest possible listening experience.
Robert Baird  |  Nov 08, 2022  |  0 comments
Professor Longhair in his living room! Etta James—live—at Tipitina's!! Previously unknown James Booker recordings!!! All of it unreleased and unheard???

In the music world, spare time spurred by COVID closures led to many good ideas and side projects. Few have been better than Tipitina's Record Club (TRC).

Robert Baird  |  Jun 05, 2005  |  First Published: Jan 05, 1997  |  0 comments
Please let me explain. Because I've never been especially adept at making lifelong commitments and irrevocable decisions, when it came to naming this new column, Managing Editor Debbie Starr and I decided that we would gather the passionate (and supremely efficient) minds of the Stereophile production staff, add a near–life-threatening amount of margaritas, and put the question to them.
Robert Baird  |  Dec 16, 2001  |  0 comments
As I sit down to write a year's-end musical retrospective, I feel that the old column-writing joke between Stereophile editor John Atkinson and myself about first needing a subject and, second, needing it to make sense, will not be a problem this time out. For me, the music and almost everything else about 2001 have been dwarfed in importance by the mayhem wreaked on New York on September 11.