The Fifth Element #31 Rives Gems

Sidebar: Sonic and Musical Gems from Richard Rives Bird's Playlist

J.S. Bach, Goldberg Variations; Ito Ema, piano. M•A Recordings MO24 (LP, CD, gold CD). It's no longer just the "Gouldberg" Variations." This is a fabulous performance, and possibly the best audiophile piano recording.

Dave's True Story, Sex without Bodies, Chesky JD164 (CD). Remarkable clarity—a really fun recording.

Peter Gabriel, 3, Classic PG-3 (200gm LP; also available on CD, InterScope 493622). If you want a really great rock album that covers the full range of both macro- and microdynamics, this is it.

Janis Ian, Breaking Silence, Analogue Productions CAPPG 027 (gold CD, out-of-print LP; also available on CD, Morgan Creek 2959-20023-2). A longtime audiophile favorite, and count us in. The depth of the lyrics, coupled with one of the best recordings and masterings, is truly stellar.

Ben Webster, At the Renaissance, Analogue Productions AJAZ 7646 (45rpm LP; also available on Analogue Productions Gold CD, CAPJG 011; Fantasy Original Jazz Classics LP, AOJC 390; and Fantasy Original Jazz Classics CD, OJCCD-390-2). A live recording with clarity, imaging, and performances that are breathtaking. I treasure this recording as an all-time milestone in jazz. It was a tough call between this and Sonny Rollins' Saxophone Colossus, another breakthrough album.—Richard Rives Bird