Up On The Roof

Hard as it is to believe today, the music business, now as economically desiccated as apricot, was once a gushing fountain of cash. When the great LP to CD conversion was in full swing, the money literally poured in. There are those observers who would say that all that cash is why the business got distracted, took their eye off the ball and allowed piracy to sneak in, but that’s a story for another time.

Money in the music business meant parties, and no one could throw parties like those once-awash-in-cash major labels. While the film business went for the splash of red carpets, floodlights and big stars, the music biz went for copious amounts of food, booze and all the dark corners you could handle. Alas, all of that is a distant memory today, but the scent of those days wafted across a very lovely party held on the rooftop of Battery Mastering that was thrown by Sony Legacy in honor of CE Week in NYC and Sony’s very commendable and continuing commitment to high resolution audio. There was decent wine, cold beer and even edible food. And the white chocolate macadamia nut cookies were dynamite! Kalman Rubinson, Fred Kaplan, John Swenson, John Atkinson and myself attended this soiree during which Sony Legacy was given a certificate from NARAS for “Dedication to excellence in sound quality and the art and craft of recording, producing and archiving thousands of digitally remastered titles.” Three rooms were utilized to play high resolution tracks from the Sony and RCA catalogs. While JA was impressed by the hi rez Elvis and AC/DC files that he heard, I was pleasantly surprised by Lou Reed tracks and John Swenson dove into the dizzying soup that is the neverending discussion of what is the real and final master of Kind of Blue

Battery Mastering, whose rooftop space is absolutely gorgeous, is located within the space once occupied by The Record Plant. Opened in 1968 at 321 W. 44th Street, this is the studio where Electric Ladyland was recorded, where the Woodstock Tapes were mixed and where on the evening of December 8, 1980, John Lennon who’d been working on the tune “Walking On Thin Ice,” shut down and headed back to the Dakota and Mark David Chapman.

Perhaps the greatest strength left in the music business these days, and the major labels in particular, is their catalogs of recordings and on the reissue side of the business, no one has been better at exploiting a catalog and actually creating new releases of older unreleased music than Sony Legacy. Their ongoing programs of releasing for the first time, live and studio material from Miles Davis and Bob Dylan has been nothing short of revelatory. Listening to the 2014 issue of Dylan’s The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 is like hearing the Americana genre being born. Similarly, The Miles Davis at Newport 1955-75: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 which will be released in July is a triumph.

Another new release from Sony Legacy, Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City is yet another example of creative thinking. Done in concert with an exhibit that will run for the next two years at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, this two CD set (no high resolution downloads or vinyl as of yet) documents what happened after Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, who’d become friends at Newport in 1964, and later recorded “Girl From The North Country” (and nearly a dozen other duets) in Nashville during the sessions for the Nashville Skyline album. The legacy, no pun intended, of Cash’s television show which was filmed in Nashville at the Ryman Auditorium and what can be called the Nashville house band, Nashville studio musicians, “cats,” like Kenny Buttrey, Norbert Putnam, David Briggs, Ben Keith, Jerry Reed and others are the other facets of what this three-pronged concept celebrates. Although it sounds complicated, sonically it makes for a veritable Americana feast of a collection. While “Girl From The North Country,” is here other tracks complied include such recorded-in-Nashville classics as “Hickory Wind” (The Byrds), “Heart of Gold” (Neil Young), “Bird on a Wire” (Leonard Cohen) and a 1972 version of Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road.” There some oddities as well including “Sally G” from Sir Paul and Wings and a radio ad cut to promote The Byrds Sweetheart of the Rodeo album. As the crowning touch, the cover art is the work of Jon Langford who has gone from a member of punk band The Mekons to the alt-country, Americana visual artist of choice. Good show Sony Legacy!

Allen Fant's picture

I concur- RB. Sony legacy and the other companies that release deluxe editions of well-known albums are outstanding!

Jackblues's picture

Which Elvis songs were played in hi rez?

John Atkinson's picture
Jackblues wrote:
Which Elvis songs were played in hi rez?

I listened to "Little Sister," and very good it sounded too.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Volti's picture