2013 Records To Die For Page 2



David Gilmore: Numerology: Live at Jazz Standard
David Gilmore, guitar; Claudia Acu§a, voice; Miguel Zen¢n, alto saxophone; Luis Perdomo, piano; Christian McBride, bass; Jeff "Tain" Watts, drums; Mino Cinelu, percussion
Evolutionary Music EVMU001 (CD). 2012. David Gilmore, prod.; Tyler McDiarmid, Geoff Countryman, engs. DDD? TT: 56:24

David Gilmore's a busy and versatile cat, which could explain why he's recorded only three discs as a leader. This extended suite, presented in two multipart movements and inspired by the likes of Pythagoras and Einstein, was worth the wait. The rhythm section is unrivaled, and even the most complex material feels effortless. It's deeply funky, with Latin elements and a certain dark quality amid the buoyant polyrhythmic grooves. Zen¢n and Perdomo battle the leader for the title of most vicious soloist. Acu§a sings all of Gilmore's trickiest written lines and gives the music an aura of seductive soul.


Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts: An Attitude for Gratitude
Matt Wilson, drums, recitation; Terell Stafford, trumpet, flugelhorn; Gary Versace, piano, organ, accordion; Martin Wind, bass
Palmetto PM 2154 (CD). 2012. Matt Balitsaris, prod., eng.; Matt Wilson, eng. DDD? TT: 59:36

Put a killer hard-bop trumpeter like Terell Stafford next to an eclectic keyboard whiz like Gary Versace and great things happen. Find "Happy Days Are Here Again" (as a poignant ballad) on the same album as Jaco Pastorius's "Teen Town" and you know you're dealing with Matt Wilson, whose irreverence is always matched by an ironclad sense of purpose. From the ripping swing of Nat Adderley's "Little Boy with the Sad Eyes" to the piano-trio farewell of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," An Attitude for Gratitude defies boundaries and sings from deep in the soul.



Elgar: Cello Concerto, Sea Pictures
Jacqueline du Pré, cello; Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano; London Symphony Orchestra, Sir John Barbirolli
HMV ASD 655 (LP), EMI CDC 7 47329 2 (CD), 24-bit/96kHz FLAC files from HDtracks. 1965. Ronald Kinloch Anderson, prod.; Christopher Parker, eng. AAA/AAD. TT: 54:04

From the cello's muscular declamation that opens Elgar's Cello Concerto to the soaring flights of melody in the third movement and the contrasts between skittish optimism and contemplative melancholy in the finale, you are aware that this emotionally laden masterpiece, the last great work from the Edwardian English composer, was being performed by a mature master of the instrument. Yet when she made this recording in 1965, Jacqueline du Pré was a slightly built 20-year-old, musically wise beyond her years. I was fortunate enough to attend a master class she gave 10 years after she made this recording, when, crippled by multiple sclerosis and no longer able to play, she talked and sang the audience through the concerto's first movement; it was one of the most intensely musical performances I have experienced to this date. The late Peter W. Mitchell named the CD reissue of this best-selling recording one of his 1991 "Records to Die For," but the reissue of the recently remastered version as a hi-rez download from HDtracks justifies its inclusion in this year's list. The sound of the 24/96 files is clear and open, but reveals some analog tape saturation in the orchestral climaxes. The coupling since the second issue on LP (the original coupling, on HMV ASD 2764, was the Delius Cello Concerto), Dame Janet Baker's reading of Elgar's five-song Sea Pictures cycle, is overshadowed by the concerto—but it, too, is sublime music making. (XIV-1)


Bill Frisell: All We Are Saying . . .
Bill Frisell, guitar; Jenny Scheinman, violin; Greg Leisz, pedal steel guitar; Tony Scherr, bass; Kenny Wollesen, drums
Savoy Jazz SVY17836 (CD). 2011. Lee Townsend, prod.; Adam Blombert, prod. asst.; Adam Munoz, eng.; Greg Calbi, mastering. AAD? TT: 68:12

I came late to Bill Frisell. It was only at the urging of Stereophile's self-proclaimed Web Monkey, Jon Iverson, that I began to pay attention to this extraordinarily inventive electric guitarist and his various bands. This, our December 2011 "Recording of the Month"—imaginative, beautifully recorded arrangements of songs by John Lennon—not only features Frisell's longtime rhythm section of Tony Scherr on double bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums, but continues the telepathic interplay between Frisell and pedal-steel player Greg Leisz heard on such earlier albums as The Intercontinentals and Blues Dream. Violinist Jenny Scheinman adds a fiddlish flavor, but her tone, lacking vibrato almost all of the time, is somewhat of an acquired taste, especially when the arrangement leaves it exposed, as in "No.9 Dream." Nevertheless, All We Are Saying . . . has been in regular rotation on the Mac mini the past year, Frisell and his band breathing new life into these chestnuts, and will continue to do so as I uncover new depths in their music making. (XXXIV-12)



Lynyrd Skynyrd: Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd
MCA 1685 (LP). 1973. Al Kooper, prod.; Bobby Langford, Rodney Mills, Danny Rurbervill, Dan Turbeville, engs. AAA. TT: 43:03
Sometimes, when life drags you down, you sit down between your speakers and you don't know what to play. What do you do then? One solution, at least for those of us who were born in Alabama, is to have another bourbon. Then have another. Then another. Then have one more, and put on some Lynyrd Skynyrd, preferably Pronounced. You'll be okay after that, I promise. Another solution: accept that, as we get older, we get spiritually heavier. It's not as easy to move us as it used to be, and that's okay. Then put on some music that's satisfying, even if it doesn't turn us into sloppy, giddy adolescents.


J.S. Bach: Sonatas for Unaccompanied Violin
Nathan Milstein, violin
EMI CDM 5 66869 2 (mono CD). 1957/1959/2001. Richard Jones, prod.; Frank Abbey, eng.; Wayne Hileman, 2001 remastering. ADD. TT: 57:12

For those choosing Solution 2 above, a very good music choice is Nathan Milstein's recordings of Bach's Sonatas for Unaccompanied Violin, which I have on a 2001 CD, along with the Partitas, on a Capitol LP (PCR 8370) that apparently would be valuable if it were in better condition. Take note: These are Milstein's late-1950s recordings, in mono, not the widely distributed 1970s stereo versions on Deutsche Grammophon. Getting old may not be exactly fun, but it has its consolations.



The Beatles: Stereo Vinyl Box Set
EMI 33809 (14 LPs). 2012. George Martin, Phil Spector, orig. prods.; Norman Smith, Geoff Emerick, Ken Scott, Philip McDonald, Glyn Johns, orig. engs.; Allan Rouse, project coordinator; Paul Hicks, Steve Rooke, Guy Massey, Sean Magee, Sam Okell, remastering. ADA.

Half the fun of anything to do with the Beatles is the inevitable arguing. Nothing in the world of music can whip up a howling cataclysm of controversy like the mention of the band and its remarkable universe of music, which to my ears gets more singular and more predominant with every passing year. After 2009's wonderful boxed set of original albums on CD, all re-remastered—not remixed, which would have provoked worldwide rioting—comes the mother of all provocations, the spark to the Liverpudlian powder, as it were: the Beatles' Stereo Vinyl Box Set. Months before it appeared, when it was still just a glint in the eye of the folks at EMI, the voices for and against began to chatter. There is no fanaticism like Beatle fanaticism, and everyone has now chosen a side and pitched in (for the full story, check out www.analogplanet.com). No, the LPs were not pressed at RTI or a similarly high-quality facility. Yes, there is a raging debate about the merits of the sound quality. Some of the new LPs do indeed sound better than others. No, the record sleeves were not laminated. No, nothing will ever top the original UK pressings—or will it? Some retailers shipped the sets to customers in oversized boxes that damaged them. Some devotees find the outer sleeve that slips down over the entire set annoying. Almost everyone except the purist contrarians agree that the 252-page book that comes with the set is the finest individual Beatle collectible yet devised. Whatever your convictions, this set is beyond essential. Gorgeously packaged and remastered with great care—don't be silly—this music is where the phrase "to die for" began!


Steely Dan: Can't Buy a Thrill
ABC/Speakers Corner 111886-1 (LP). 2000. Gary Katz, prod.; Roger Nichols, eng.; Tim Weston, asst. eng. AAA. TT: 40:39

In the now-teeming world of new LP reissues, there are the cheapies, the reasonably heavy, and the big boys: sumo vinyl. If it's those extra-heavy pressings that make you salivate, this weighty gem is a Joe Louis of the reissue world. While the sound of the original was always good, this hard, carefully pressed platter seems to have more detail and presence. Of the 44 different CD and LP pressings of Can't Buy a Thrill, this is the one to have: you'll never need or want another. Then there's that glorious music. Most bands tend to pack all their best ideas into their first recordings, and this one is no exception, though Donald Fagen and Walter Becker would come up with many more rewarding twists and turns in their short but glorious career. While FM radio play back in the day may have worn out certain tracks, such as the two side openers, "Do it Again," and "Reelin' in the Years," it's the deeper tracks that make this album such a classic—such as the rambunctious harmony vocals and Elliot Randall's solo in "Kings," Skunk Baxter's moaning steel guitar and the line "Am I myself or just another freak" in "Fire in the Hole," and David Palmer's plaintive vocal in the sublime "Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)." There's not a wrong melodic turn on the entire album, which was recorded in L.A. by a band of New Yorkers who would forever change the definition of soul music.



Hank Mobley: Workout
Hank Mobley, tenor saxophone; Grant Green, guitar; Wynton Kelly, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Philly Joe Jones, drums
Blue Note 3-37771-2 (CD). 1961/2006. Alfred Lion, orig. prod.; Michael Cuscuna, reissue prod.; Rudy van Gelder, orig. eng., remastering. AAD. TT: 46:13

Workout is a Blue Note classic in every sense, from its recording by Rudy van Gelder to its cover photography by Francis Wolff. Label stalwarts Mobley and Grant Green, backed by an illustrious rhythm section, meld bebop and blues into pure hard bop, investing every note with soulful feeling. Only "Smokin'" and "Greasin' Easy" are actual 12-bar blues, but even the standards "Three Coins in the Fountain" (not included on the original LP) and "The Best Things in Life Are Free" are steeped in bluesy spirit. Most effective are the extended 32-bar blowing vehicles "Uh Huh" and the title track, elegantly funky Mobley originals that allow the mellow-toned saxophonist and the mordant-toned guitarist to stretch out to the fullest.


Tshala Muana: Soukous Siren
Shanachie 64031 (CD). 1991. Tshala Muana, Lou Deprijck, prods.; Robert Vosgien, remastering. AAD? TT: 49:38

Despite her album's title, this Congolese pop diva specializes in the mutuashi rhythm of the Luba people—not, strictly speaking, soukous. Of course, the traditional mutuashi beat has been thoroughly slicked up here, mostly by guitarist-arranger Souzy Kasseya, who practically deserves equal billing, even though Muana wrote most of the catchy-as-Velcro songs. Muana's buoyant African melodies—in "Tshibola" and "Lwa-Touye," for example—ride Kasseya's hypnotically twining guitar as the musicians lock in to compelling dance grooves. Every track is a winner, but the first and longest, the joint Muana-Kasseya composition "Ndeka Ya Samuel," stands out, grinding ineluctably to an exhilarating climax.



The Gap Band: Gap Band IV
Total Experience TE-1-3001 (LP). 1982. Lonnie Simmons, prod.; Michael Evans, Jack Rouben, Scott Simon, Lonnie Kelem, engs. AAA. TT: 42:05

The Gap Band's IV inspires a wider range of emotions than your average funk album. Like the album cover, "Early in the Morning" is gray yet hopeful, like waking to a dark morning with focused vision, like charging the New York City sidewalk to a storm of handclaps through the misty dawn. The day is yours to take. But "Season's No Reason to Change" takes the hopefulness out of your hands. Does the key change at the end ease your pain? Probably not, but the ecstatic "Outstanding" sure does, exuding the skin-tingling excitement of meeting your soul's equal. And that's just side 1. Ironically, the Gap Band's most ubiquitous number, "You Dropped a Bomb on Me," is buried between tracks on side 2.


The Posies: Blood/Candy
Rykodisc RCD 11094 (LP). 2010. Jon Auer, Ken Stringfellow, prods., engs.; Paco Loco, Scott Greiner, others, engs.; Greg Calbi, mastering. AAA. TT: 42:39

On their post-hiatus Blood/Candy, Stereophile's December 2010 "Recording of the Month," the Posies return with a tasteful use of melodrama, story-fueled lyrics, and hooky yet mature melodies reflecting a time off well spent. The first song, "Plastic Paperbacks," with bombastic drums and low-register harmonies, offers a darker Posies. But when the chorus hits, it hits hard. Though plaintive at the start, "The Glitter Prize" shines like daylight, and "So Caroline" offers a song about friendship, a relationship often forgotten in the world of rock'n'roll. It asks, "With friends like you, who needs anyone else?" Honest and humble. Their years apart served the Posies well. (XXXIII-12)

dalethorn's picture

When I first saw this post I had a thought - what if I weren't familiar with Stereophile and just found this on the Web by chance? It's like finding money and not having to pay taxes on it, or finding love and not having to stay home at night.

Edit: Ordered the Saint-Saens. Now who would have dreamed in 1959 that someone would be ordering this to rip to WAV/FLAC tracks to play on a USB DAC in 2013?

volvic's picture

Kudos to Fred Mills for chosing Grime's Visions album as one of his 2013's records to die for.  A fantastic album and group.  


Not Scroggins's picture

I love the idea of posting your favorite albums and musicians. It's a great way to find music I wouldn't have seen or heard any other way. 

If you were to post links to the albums being presented that would be an amazing help for us. Instead, copy and pasting and then trying to find the artist on a site that can then be played on my mobile device is tedious and deters me from wanting to continue. 

I read your articles online and in print. When I have free time when I'm away from home I love to glance at your site and see what's new. Please help us expand our musical understanding and knowledge!

Ariel Bitran's picture

hi not,

thanks for your suggestion.

a link to which source would be helpful for you?



or were you thinking something totally different?


dalethorn's picture

Saint-Saens with Munch/Boston Symphony arrived today - an RCA Victor "Living Stereo" CD. Recorded in 1959, it was apparently one of the first true stereo recordings to enjoy widespread distribution on Long Playing (LP) records. There's a detailed description of the planning process for this recording in the liner notes, and given what we know about stereo recording today, it's an informative and entertaining read. The digital restoration was apparently done circa 1993, which I presume would allow the newer and better analog-to-digital converters to be used for the final master.

I use headphones only, but I imagine from what I've heard in four playings today, this would sound really great on a high end loudspeaker system. I started with the ATH ESW11 and thought the stereo image wasn't good, at least at the beginning. Switched to the new Soundmagic HP200 and it didn't get any better, and the sound was strident in places. Then for the third try, Earpods with Dirac music player. Heavenly - real depth - it sounded like I was there. Lastly a spin with the Sennheiser IE800 - better yet.

I wouldn't necessarily recommend this recording on most mid-fi gear, since I think the sound (massed violins especially) can get a little hard or steely in places. It might play better on a valve/tube amplifier, but even on low-budget solid state gear the Dirac/Earpods and IE800 make it sound real. Highly recommended.