Records to Die For 2017 Page 3

Jana Dagdagan


Kidkanevil & Daisuke Tanabe: Kidsuke
Project Mooncircle PMC107 (2 LPs). 2012. Gerard Roberts, Daisuke Tanabe, Rod Buchanan-Dunlop, mix; Sven Friederichs, mastering. AAA. TT: 46:27

I first fell in love with the UK's Kidkanevil (Gerard Roberts) and Japan's Daisuke Tanabe separately, while scouring a massive list of Red Bull Music Academy artists. Discovering their collaborative project Kidsuke turned my entire world upside down. Combine Kidkanevil's driving hip-hop feel with Tanabe's supreme intricacy, and the result is an unparalleled beat-driven offering. Their driving forces of shy sensitivity and strong melodies are especially evident in "The Other Day We Thought of Our Friends . . ." Kidsuke's unique soundscape pulls at the otaku in me who grew up on video games, animé, and wind-up toys, re-creating a pixelated childhood world on the border between the delicate and the bold.


Bibio: Silver Wilkinson
Warp WARPLP235 (LP). 2013. Stephen James Wilkinson, prod.; Guy Davie, mastering. AAA. TT: 48:54

Silver Wilkinson is a downtempo electro-pop dream. It's comfortingly acoustic, with the subtle kick of electronic echo. Bibio, aka Stephen James Wilkinson, recorded most of the album in his home studio, but also incorporated samples recorded in his sunny garden using a 12-string guitar, MPC sampler, microphone, and a cassette recorder. The last track, "You Won't Remember," is a beautifully melancholy composition that will stab you in the heart-wrenching vein reserved for the likes of Elliott Smith and Nick Drake. Layers upon layers of chill, gentle, atmospheric samples come together to form what I think is Bibio's best album.

Brian Damkroger


Georg Solti: Venice
Works by Offenbach, Ponchielli, Rossini, Verdi
Georg Solti, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
RCA Living Stereo LSC-2313 (LP). 1959. Michael Bremner, prod.; Kenneth Wilkinson, eng. AAA. TT: 54:21

I admit it: The original attraction of Venice was the sound of the London Underground—which, I kept reading in equipment reviews, was audible. Whenever I tweaked my system or bought a new component, I listened to Venice over and over, painstakingly assessing how clearly I could hear the subway. But somewhere along the way I noticed that I was listening to the music. I began humming the excerpts from La Traviata, and still do—but I love all of this music, from beginning to end. Reissues and releases of Venice have appeared over the years, some of them excellent, but it's this original RCA Living Stereo LP that I'll die for.


John Fogerty: Premonition
Reprise 46902-2 (CD). 1998. John Fogerty, prod.; Elliot Scheiner, prod., eng., mastering; David Nottingham, eng.; Stan Ricker, mastering. DDD. TT: 68:33

For those of us too young to have heard Creedence Clearwater Revival live, Premonition was a gift from the gods, and nothing at all like some nostalgic bone thrown to true believers. It was John Fogerty stepping back onstage and picking up right where he'd left off. Somehow dodging the passage of time, both he and his songs were as strong and powerful as they'd been 25 years earlier, and the band he'd assembled sounded like nothing so much as a better CCR. Premonition is a perfect mix of material from across Fogerty's career, and the sound is as good as a live rock record gets.

Robert Deutsch


Kristin Chenoweth: The Art of Elegance
Concord CRE00148 (CD). 2016. Steve Tyrell, prod.; Jon Allen, Nick Cavalieri, Frank Nadasi, Woody Woodruff, engs. DDD. TT: 50:50

For any singer, doing a recording of classic songs from the Great American Songbook is at once enticing and daunting: enticing because these are wonderful songs, daunting because they've been recorded so many times by so many great singers. Kristin Chenoweth was up to the challenge. In this album's liner note, she says that "this particular group of composers and lyricists has spoken to me my whole life."

Listening, I can well believe it. Her love of this music is evident in her performance of every song. She has the voice and technique to do just about anything she wants, but while the technique allows her to sing long phrases without taking a breath, she's able to put technique aside and sing from the heart. She gets great support from conductor Alan Broadbent's arrangements, which sound fresh without trying to sound "different." The sound quality is topnotch, placing Chenoweth's voice front and center, as it should be, but in effective balance with the accompaniment.


She Loves Me: 2016 Broadway Cast Recording
Jerry Bock, music; Sheldon Harnick, lyrics; Larry Hochman, orchestrations; Paul Gemignani, musical director
Ghostlight 84502 (CD). 2016. Kurt Deutsch, prod.; Lawrence Manchester, eng. DDD. TT: 67:17

Theater critic Peter Filichia describes She Loves Me as "the platinum show in the Golden Age of Musicals." I heartily agree. I never tire of seeing it—most recently, the 2016 Broadway revival that was the basis of this recording. I not only have all five audio recordings of She Loves Me, but a treasured VHS tape of the BBC's 1978 TV production, broadcast on PBS.

Although I admire and enjoy listening to all of the recordings of She Loves Me, for me this newest one is now No.1. Laura Benanti and Zachary Levy comfortably inhabit the roles played by Barbara Cook and Daniel Massey in the 1963 original; Gavin Creel successfully emulates Jack Cassidy's charming cad, Kodaly, and Jane Krakowski gives unexpected depth to the lovelorn Ilona. And Paul Gemignani conducts with a lilt that evokes the Hungarian-Viennese operettas of Lehár and Kálmán. Excellent sound.

Art Dudley


Hank Mobley: Mobley's Message
Hank Mobley, tenor saxophone; Jackie McLean, alto saxophone; Donald Byrd, trumpet; Barry Harris, piano; Doug Watkins, bass; Art Taylor, drums
Prestige 7061 (LP). 1956. Bob Weinstock, prod.; Rudy Van Gelder, eng. AAA. TT: 41:47
Electric Recording Company ERC023 (LP). 2016. Pete Hutchison, reissue prod.; C.J. Potter, G.D. Davie, reissue engs. AAA. TT: 41:47

Less a landmark in innovation than a compelling snapshot of mid- to late-1950s hard bop, Mobley's Message predates the tenor saxophonist's more famous Soul Station and offers an interesting contrast of styles between bebop musicians Donald Byrd (trumpet) and Barry Harris (piano) on the one hand, and the more laid-back Mobley on the other—a distinction especially evident in the group's performance of Charlie Parker's "Au Privave," with Jackie McLean guesting on alto sax. But the real standouts are an inspired reading of Thelonious Monk's "52nd Street Theme" and the up-tempo Mobley original "Alternating Current." That said, Art Taylor's drumming in "Bouncin' with Bud," captured in vivid, impactful mono sound by the late, great Rudy Van Gelder, may itself be worth the asking price, which, in the case of the wonderful-sounding ERC reissue, is considerable: ú300, in a limited edition of 300 copies. Mobley's Message has been reissued on LP before now, in both the US and Japan, but this all-tube British version would seem to stand alongside the original as an investment.


Leonard Cohen: Songs of Love and Hate
Columbia C 30103 (LP). 1971. Bob Johnston, prod.; Neil Wilburn, Ed Hudson, Robin Cable, engs. AAA. TT: 44:25

Although the first pressing of this less-than-commercially-successful album included an insert—on black paper, to match the black inner sleeve—that credited a backing band called The Army, those musicians are clearly audible only in "Sing Another Song, Boys," recorded live at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival, and "Diamonds in the Mine," the latter possibly the worst arrangement ever to smudge a Leonard Cohen album. The rest is pure, dark genius, from Cohen's richly brilliant songwriting to the inspired contrast between the eerie relentlessness of his three-finger picking style and the dramatic ebbs and swells of Paul Buckmaster's string and horn arrangements. And while Cohen was famously dismissive of the production of his early albums—Songs of Love and Hate was his third—no one before or since has better served a Leonard Cohen song than whoever was responsible for the sparing use of a children's chorus in songs about suicide ("Dress Rehearsal Rag") and artistic impotence ("Last Year's Man"). From the day in 1971 when I bought my copy until now, this record remains indispensable.

Michael Fremer


Santana: Abraxas
Columbia/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UD1S 2-001 (2 45rpm LPs). 1970/2016. Fred Catero, prod.; Dave Brown, John Fiore, engs. AAA. TT: 37:32

The sinewy cover of Peter Green's "Black Magic Woman" pushed Santana's second album to the top of the album charts in 1970. The mix of rock, salsa, jazz, and blues placed this percussion-heavy record at a cultural crossroads that eventually led the National Recording Registry, established by an act of Congress in 2000, to select Abraxas for preservation. Though it's musically and sonically uneven, this Mobile Fidelity "one-step" reissue, in which the metal part produced by the plated lacquer is used as a stamper rather than going through the usual two additional steps, results in one of the best-sounding LPs ever made, and one well worth its list price of $99.99.


Randy Newman: The Randy Newman Songbook
Nonesuch 7559 79496 5 (4 LPs). 2003/2011/2016. Mitchell Froom, Lenny Waronker, prods.; David C. Boucher, eng. DDA. TT: N/A

This limited-edition boxed set of four LPs comprises solo recordings by Newman, singing and playing piano, of songs from throughout his five-decade career. The set includes all three volumes of The Randy Newman Songbook, respectively released in 2003, 2011, and 2016, as well as five bonus tracks. The sequencing, however, is new, and the lacquers were cut by Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman's, from high-resolution files mastered by Bob Ludwig. Only Newman's voice and piano present these songs, fully exposing their raw, stinging, often tender emotions. The attractively packaged set includes an LP-sized booklet and a digital download card.

Larry Greenhill


I Ching: Of the Marsh and the Moon
Sisi Chen, Yang Sing, Chinese dulcimer; Tao Chen, bamboo flute; Bao Li Zhang, er-hu; Joel Goodman, synthesizer, sampler
Chesky W0144 (CD). 1996. David Chesky, Joel Goodman, Steve Guttenberg, prods.; Bob Katz, Phillip Sztenderowicz, engs.; Nicholas Prout, editing, mix. ADD. TT: 52:17

Of the Marsh and the Moon is one of the remarkable recordings produced by Chesky Records that I've collected over the years. Since its arrival 17 years ago in my listening room, I've used it in 14 reviews of preamplifiers, subwoofers, amplifiers, and loudspeakers.

Bob Katz recorded it at St. Peter's Church, and Nicholas Prout edited and mastered—the recording's ambience is serene, still, calm, and meditative. Tao Chen's reedy bamboo flute, Sisi Chen's stunningly resonant Chinese dulcimer, and the drone of Bao Li Zhang's two-string er-hu, a Chinese violin, weave together intricately and atmospherically. The timbre of each instrument is accurately rendered, accompanied by Joel Goodman's bass drum and rumbling synthesizer effects. "Running Water" begins with the startlingly clear image of a waterfall spilling into a pool. Only speakers with clean, fast midrange reproduction can make that waterfall sound real. This disc has atmospherics that test the limits of the best equipment I've heard.


Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon
Capitol CDP 5 83136 2 (LP, SACD/CD). 1973/2003. Pink Floyd, prods.; Alan Parsons, Peter James, engs.; James Guthrie, 5.1-channel remix. AAA/AAD. TT: 43:00

Dark Side of the Moon, described in these pages as "a classic work of mythic proportions," goes beyond the typical 1970s rock recording to build a story like an opera. Jon Iverson, in his June 2003 "Recording of the Month" review, stated that this SACD/CD, the album's 30th-anniversary reissue, offers "everything the format can offer: two-channel CD and SACD layers, as well as a 5.1-channel surround mix." The album's universal appeal is shown by its many mentions in these pages: at least seven of our writers, including me, have used DSOTM as a tool to review subwoofers, class-D monoblocks, and floorstanding speakers. Recently, I've been able to retrieve the two-channel DSD64 signal from SACD in digital form, which enhances the recording's three-dimensionality—I can separately follow the instruments, voices, and sound effects in the mix of "Breathe."

The soundstage is as vast, wide, and bottomless as that of any other recording I own. In the remarkable opening of track 1, "Speak to Me," at first there's silence. Then, the faintest thumping is audible, before building into an ominously thunderous heartbeat. This track segues into "Breathe," with Roger Waters's brilliant lyrics, and then the album spins out of control in "On the Run," a whirlpool of jackhammers, train-station PA-system bulletins that are almost understandable, subterranean detonations, and footsteps and heavy breathing crisscrossing the soundstage. Then silence again—until the faint ticking of multiple clocks mounts until they explode into jarring, ear-ripping alarms. Much, much more follows on this extraordinary disc. If ever there was a record to die for, Dark Side of the Moon is it. (Vol.26 No.6, Vol.38 No.2)

Steve Guttenberg


The Nice: Live at the Fillmore East December 1969
Virgin 693 1432 (2 CDs). 2009. Eddie Kramer, orig. eng.; Libby Jones, Chris Maj, project coordinators; Mark Powell, Ben Wiseman, mastering, mix. ADD? TT: 93:51

The Nice's studio albums weren't too shabby, but Keith Emerson's band never sounded better than they did in these live Fillmore East shows in late 1969. I love the from-the-audience perspective, but this is no amateur endeavor: engineer Eddie Kramer was manning the eight-track tape deck. As for the music, it's nascent prog rock infused with classical, and played with ferocious abandon on keyboards, bass, and drums. With quieter fare like Tim Hardin's "Hang On to a Dream," the range of textures and sounds Emerson ripped from his keyboards never failed to keep me on the edge of my seat.


Andy Hull & Robert McDowell: Swiss Army Man: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Lakeshore LKS 346932 (CD). 2016. Brian McNeils, Skip Williamson, prods.; Robert McDowell, Jacob Gorski, Brent Kiser, Kevin Peters, Perry Levy, Elliot Thompson, engs. DDD? TT: 47:11

Swiss Army Man is a remarkable little film about a desert-island love affair between a man and a profusely farting corpse. No worries—the score comes up smelling like a rose. Andy Hull and Robert McDowell composed the mostly a cappella music for their two voices, singing individually or layered into heavenly choirs in a deep, reverberant soundfield. Later tracks add synths, handclaps, drums, and other instruments, but the voices always hold down center stage. Many film scores aren't strong enough to stand on their own; this one does because it's flat-out gorgeous.

BradleyP's picture

If you like Jon Iverson's recommendation of Tikiyaki Orchestra, you'll also like "The Exotic Moods of Les Baxter." Only it's 50 years older. It's one of those 50s recordings that leaves you shaking your head convinced that stereo recording hasn't gotten ANY better since then. It's a beauty.

dalethorn's picture

Interesting collection! It sounds almost like they used a different studio for each track, so you not only get a different composition each time, but a different presentation too. BTW, the Baxter album in question is one of the most highly reviewed albums on Amazon.

Bluejimbop's picture

We lost the universally admired Bobby Hutcherson in August of 2016.

Allen Fant's picture

Another great list of recordings. Stick with R2D4.

alank's picture

I picked up a quad pressing several years ago in great condition which was manufactured in Germany.I had an sq
set in the 70's.I still have a cartridge for four channel with a shibata stylus.I'm thinking of perusing ebay for a decoder for sq.The record sounds great in stereo and I might plug it into my home theater receiver and see how it sounds in surround mode.

Mrubey's picture

For those of us lucky enough to live in the Texas Hill Country this album is one of our treasures. Back in the day I played it until the grooves wore out. I have always assumed that the elderly right hand on the cover belonged to Johnny "Hondo" Crouch. Hondo owned Luckenbach and was the spiritual inspiration to much of the Texas creative impulse of the time. I was blessed to have known Hondo when I was just a boy. His influence has never left me. I can still picture him whittling a ball inside a cage while chewing plug tobacco and opening doors to secret worlds in a oak leaf. Hondo let me know that there are such a things as magical people in the world. It is due to him that my faith in humanity has endured.

freejazz00's picture

What serious record collector or audiophile would leave records un-sleeved sitting flat on the floor? This is not a well-thought-out image for a Stereophile article.


That's how cats get to appreciate your LPs.

Bluejimbop's picture

Liquor is a harsh mistress.

Herb Reichert's picture

Hello John Swenson . . . interesting pairing. Way back in the 1970s in New York City, Mark Bingham (post Indiana pre-New Orleans), hung with old friend Kevin Teare (MX-80 Sound) and my artist/painter gang in Tribeca. Late late nights Mark would play the Meters, Longhair, and the Nevilles. Mark, Kevin, and Brian Kelly turned me on to a lot of the music I love now. That's is one of the ways music binds us all together.

Anon2's picture

I have seen this periodic summary before. While the assessment has always been excellent, the Stereophile staff has assembled the broadest, and most interesting, range of recordings that I've seen yet.

I look forward to seeing this line-up in greater detail. I also look forward to purchasing some of these recordings.

For fans of the Tiki-torch orchestra, Youtube put this full album of a related theme in the "you might like this" section of their webpage. It appears to be another classic of the late 1950s early 1960s exotica:

gbroagfran's picture


Should this be titled

"records that died 30 years ago?"

rschryer's picture

Great music floats above the pap-du-jour to live on indefinitely. That's how you know for sure it's a R2D4.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Not only is Robert Schryer's comment about the timelessness of music right on, but I'm afraid you've missed a helluva lot of the listings. The first page alone has 4 recent issues, and one newly available historical issue. The second page has 5 recent issues, plus several newly available remasterings that show the music in best light. The third page has four new recordings, and others that are certainly less than 30 years old. My two choices are of retired classical sopranos, one now dead, who have never sounded this good since their original LP issues... which is to say, that the digital engineering has finally begun to catch up to the original analog sound.

gbroagfran's picture

What I meant by new music is not a recording that is from 1967 and reissued. I mean new music, that which has been written and recorded in the past year or two. Something that someone younger than 60 might have heard of.

rschryer's picture

You like to exaggerate, don't you?

gbroagfran's picture

Well, I am on cheap, crappy drugs, so I guess I must have hallucinated that new would mean a year or two old.

Maybe to you, records to die for means new copies of the same old stuff, but not for me. I already have lots of classic rock and jazz albums. The records to die for in my life are the ones that make me stand up and say," Wow, what was that?" It isn't the job of these reviewers to find just technically good records, but stuff you have never seen or heard. They are record reviewers, but apparently, not very adventurous.

rschryer's picture

"The records to die for in my life are the ones that make me stand up and say," Wow, what was that?"
Couldn't agree more. It's exactly what I asked myself when I heard Paul Messenger's R2D4 pick of The Incredible String Band's 5000 Spirits... album. It came out in 1967.

gbroagfran's picture

Ah, 1967. I had a Weathers turntable, old dual-mono tube electronics and custom speakers. I also had two hits of good acid, a handful of joints, a cute, furry hippie gal with no underwear and every record the String Band had made. I still have the records. I like them. That's my point. Now, in 2017, for "oldies", I want to hear Hank Three and Kammerflimmer Kollecteif.

In the last couple of months, I have purchased vinyl by the following artists;

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Goat, Kadaver, Dave Alvin, Seasick Steve, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Fat Boy Slim, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Doc Pomus, SCOTS, and a compilation of 40s-50s voodoo music from the Caribbean.

What have your purchased that might interest the readers?

rschryer's picture

As a music lover, I enjoy the familiarity of the old and discovering the new. But here's the thing, as far as I'm concerned: It's all about context. This segment is called R2D4, not Album that Caught My Fancy in 2017. There's a weightiness at play here that I think should not be overlooked.

I believe that for a record to merit the distinction of being one to die for, hyperbole aside, its music has to have proven itself with the listener/R2D4 judge OVER TIME. Like true love.

The albums you've listed may be great, but will they stand the test of time FOR YOU? Those that continue to find a place in your heart over, say, a 10 year period, will have earned their nomination as a R2D4. The rest, however fun they may have been to listen to in the spring of 2016 but never again, will not.

Bottom line: I believe that time is of the essence when it comes to choosing one's R2D4.

gbroagfran's picture

1. I clearly stated that I like the Incredible String Band and have listened to their albums for 50 years. I have been a stereo fan since 1959. I have seen more than most.

2. Hundreds of other albums, none of which appear on these lists, have stood the test of time of 5-50 years for me, but most audiophiles have never heard of them because they only listen to 100 albums, over and over. They are generally looking for the records that make their systems sound better. My system exists to make my records, all of them, sound better.

3. How about a "rule" that a piece of music can only appear once on these lists? Once a record has appeared, you can easily go back and look at the previous years' lists. Personally, I find almost all remixes and remastered records worse than the originals. Elvis should sound like he is coming out of a car radio. Pink Floyd should sound very loud, bass and 60's. Phoebe Snow should be played on a Quad system from the 70's. That's historically relevant.

rschryer's picture

"My system exists to make my records, all of them, sound better." This statement, as far as my experience goes, better sums up the audiophile ethos than your 100-album cliche that precedes it.

And again, R2D4 is not a list of arbitrary album reviews. It represents albums that are, for personal and unique reasons, meaningful to those who picked them. On this basis, it wouldn't be fair to prohibit a writer from listing a R2D4 because someone else beat him or her to the punch.

gbroagfran's picture

My friend has a collection of 60,000 records. Even he says he listens to the same 100 over and over. Everyone does.

rcwortman's picture

I bought the Cecile McLorin Salvant record that two people recommended months ago after I ran accross a rave review from MF. Once again I was disappointed by audiophile approved vinyl. The record had areas in it that were inexcusably noisy for a new pressing and frankly the music left me flat. Old standards reinterpreted and stylistically butchered to the point of being unrecognizable are not my cup of tea. I need to find someone who likes this sort of melodically jarring wretchedness to give it away to.