Records to Die For 2017 Page 6

Robert Schryer


John Fogerty: Revival
Fantasy FCD-30001 (CD). 2007. John Fogerty, prod.; Robert Ludwig, Kevin Dean, Dave Colvin, engs. DDD.? TT: 40:41

This album's title works as both a nod to Creedence Clearwater Revival's legacy and to truth in advertising. Revival was a return to form for John Fogerty—to the sort of catchy, barroom-friendly tunes he became famous for but could no longer write. Add to its musical themes equal parts nostalgia and political outrage, and you've got a country-rock album to revitalize the troops. Revival reflects a comfortable juncture in Fogerty's personal life, and in his identities as both ex-CCR frontman and evolving solo artist. Every song here is a well-crafted gem—contemporary, but imprinted with the past to remind us where we've all been.


Soul Coughing: Irresistible Bliss
Slash CDW 46175 (CD). 1996. Soul Coughing, Steve Fisk, prods.; David Kahne, prod., eng.; Chris Shaw, Tchad Blake, engs. ADD ? TT: 45:19

Released in the summer of 1996, this second full-length album from NYC-based Soul Coughing, whose members met as performers at Manhattan's famed nightclub Knitting Factory, is a swank-and-swagger, beat-thumpin', white-funk slice of pop that stylistically sounds so of its time that, two decades later, it's hard to believe it could still sound fresh and original. But it does, thanks to its mix of irrepressible bass grooves, inspired musical excursions, trippy studio effects, and singer Mike Doughty's frenetic quasi-raps. It's not perfect, but when it hits its mark—which is often—it's king of the hill. Irresistible bliss indeed.

Jason Victor Serinus


Leontyne Price: Prima Donna Assoluta
Bizet: Carmen. Mozart: Così fan tutte. Puccini: Madama Butterfly, Il Tabarro, Tosca.
Verdi: Aida, Ernani, Il Trovatore, La Forza del Destino, Un Ballo in Maschera.
Leontyne Price, soprano; many other singers; Herbert von Karajan, Erich Leinsdorf, Zubin Mehta, Thomas Schippers, conductors; various orchestras
Sony Classical 531134 (22 CDs). 1962–1971/2016. Remastered in 24/96 (Madama Butterfly in DSD64). Robert Russ, prod.; Andreas K. Meyer, Rebekah Wineman, Martin Kistner, Hansjörg Seiler, Mark Donahue, mix, mastering. ADD. TT: 19:41:00

Although soprano Leontyne Price was not the first African-American to break the color barrier in opera—Todd Duncan sang Tonio at New York City Opera in 1945, Helen L. Phillips joined the Metropolitan Opera Chorus in 1947, and Mattiwilda Dobbs and Marian Anderson sang leads at La Scala and the Met in 1953 and 1955—she was the first to appear on TV, in 1955, and then at a string of opera houses, beginning with San Francisco. Fueling her triumphs was one of the most sensual, soaring, luxurious sopranos on record, with a dramatic component ideal for Verdi and Puccini. At last, 10 of Price's glorious complete opera recordings have been digitally remastered, including the essential Carmen (with Franco Corelli), the second and most wonderful of her three Il Trovatores, and her second Aida. An indispensable tribute to a great artist who this year turns 90.


Elisabeth Schwarzkopf: The Complete Recitals 1952–74
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano; various singers, orchestras, conductors
Warner Classics 553028 (31 CDs). 1952–74/2015. Walter Legge, orig. prod.; Allan Ramsay, Christophe Hénault, Simon Gibson, Andrew Walter, remastering. ADD. TT: 24:77:00

Not only did Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (1915–2006) possess one of the finest lyric sopranos of her time, she also reigned as one of the supreme postwar champions of lieder and art song. She was unceasingly coached to perfection by her British husband, EMI record producer Walter Legge, and championed by conductors Furtwängler and Karajan; her EMI recitals began with an irreplaceable Schubert disc with pianist Edwin Fischer, and ended with two Schumann cycles. While Schwarzkopf's arch mannerisms can infuriate, virtually every time you wish she'd get out of her head and sing from the heart, she wins you over with her vocal and interpretive brilliance. These are all of Schwarzkopf's commercial recitals for EMI, including two live recordings, with Furtwängler and Gerald Moore, all superbly remastered in 24/96.

David Sokol


The Beach Boys: Today! & Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!)
Capitol CDP 7 93694 2 (CD). 1965/1990. Brian Wilson, prod.; Chuck Britz, eng.; Joe Gastwirt, digital remastering; Mark Linnett, digital remastering, reissue compilation & coordination. AAD? TT: 67:19

When the Beach Boys' Today! entered the Billboard album chart in March 1965, the Beatles' "Eight Days a Week" had just ended its run atop the Hot 100. It was a time of blossoming musical possibilities, and although Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys had been turning out hits since 1962, mostly about surfing and girls, Today! marked a giant creative step forward for them. Essentially, it's structured between side 1, mostly hits—"Dance, Dance, Dance," "When I Grow Up," and a quirky early version of "Help Me Ronda" (sic)—and the ballad-heavy side 2, which sounds like the template for the fabulous Pet Sounds, which followed a year later. Wilson's meticulously crafted arrangements and gorgeous melodies and harmonies abound. Clocking in at 2:30, "Kiss Me, Baby" might be the finest song about teenage angst and redemption ever written.

In his liner notes to this 1990 CD, reissue compiler and coordinator Mark Linett explains how numerous tapes were auditioned "in order to find the original album masters," and that "no remixing was attempted." This to-die-for twofer also includes Today!'s follow-up, Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!), released in late June 1965, with such hits as "California Girls" and its sublime B side, "Let Him Run Wild"—as well as the single "The Little Girl I Once Knew" and several alternate takes. (Vol.39 No.3)


Brian Wilson: Live at the Roxy Theatre
Brimel 1001 (2 CDs). 2000. Brian Wilson, prod.; Mark Linett, eng., mix. AAD? TT: 94:46

Brian Wilson released his self-titled first solo album in 1988, but it then took him nearly a dozen years before launching his first tour, and this musical souvenir of those performances, recorded during two shows at the Roxy, the venerable Sunset Strip club, is an underappreciated gem. Not only is Wilson in fine voice, backed by a crack 10-piece band that included members of the Wondermints, but his selection of 28 songs is a perfect mix of lighthearted banter, Beach Boys hits and album tracks, and later solo material. Beginning with a punched-up version of "The Little Girl I Once Knew," the set continues with poignant versions of "Don't Worry Baby," "Good Vibrations," "Love and Mercy," and even a good-natured snippet of the Barenaked Ladies' "Brian Wilson," which segues into the lovely "'Til I Die." The sound is sparkling and intimate throughout. The cozy Roxy seats only about 500, but this remarkable and timeless recording will make you feel as if you were there that historic weekend. (Vol.23 No.10)

John Swenson


Mark Bingham: I Passed for Human
Sky Ranch SR 652305 (CD). 1989. Mark Bingham, Hal Willner, prods.; Don Christensen, Brenden Harkin, engs. TT: 46:57

Weird scenes inside the gold mine, ca 1989, from a musician and producer who would help shape improvised music and songwriting in New Orleans music for the next 25 years. "New Orleans was a place where I could play music and enjoy doing it and musicians had friends other than musicians and artists, people who actually worked for a living as plumbers and carpenters. It was real." One of the highlights is an extraordinary instrumental, "Blood Music," featuring John Mooney on slide guitar, John Scofield on lead guitar, and Jon Cleary on organ. Cleary and Scofield wrap things up with a gorgeous turn.


The Neville Brothers: Yellow Moon
A&M CD5240 (CD). 1989. Daniel Lanois, prod., mix; Malcolm Burn, eng., mix; Mark Howard, Charles Brady, engs.; George Horn, mastering. AAD. TT: 53:01

Arguably the Nevilles' greatest record, Yellow Moon was the soundtrack for that year in New Orleans. Cyril's contributions stand out: "My Blood," a passionate plea to end apartheid in South Africa, was an instant anthem picked up by numerous other bands and frequently heard during Jazz Fest; "Sister Rosa," a tribute to American Civil Rights heroine Rosa Parks, struck a similar chord. Art's title track has gone on to become a New Orleans classic. (Vol.12 No.7, Vol.29 No.2)

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.