1996 Records To Die For

Records To Die For creates one of two problems for the Stereophile writer: either she can't come up with the names of two (or, in the case of new writers, five) recordings of world-class music in world-class stereo sound, or he comes up with so many his hard-drive crashes trying to narrow down the choices.

Do they complain to me about this? Do they whine, squeal, snivel? Do they drag their heels, turning in copy a month late? Do they refuse the task altogether, naming out-of-print mono LPs by the cutout-bin load, and their favorite badly recorded rock albums from their drug-drenched days of countercultural glory?

You bet.

Am I sympathetic? Do I gently suggest alternatives, guiding quaking neophytes, seasoned but nervous veterans, and curmudgeonly elder audio statesmen alike through the bewildering wilderness of choice, steering them down the narrow passage between the narcosis of mere good taste and the chaos of unbridled self-expression?

Of course I do.

"Not my problem, fella," I purr with all the intellectual grace of Bill Clinton, the sensitivity of Rush Limbaugh, the gravitas of Ross Perot. "Get with the program. Don't tell me you can't think of a measly two records of killer music in killer stereo from the hundreds of thousands released in the last 40 years. I mean, what do you listen to all day---Abba? It is to laugh." And I laugh. Oh, how I laugh.

They have had their revenge. I present to you, The Reader, in all its steaming fulsomeness and in reverse alphabetical order (don't ask), the 1996 edition of Stereophile's "Records To Die For." Read it, love it, hate it, write us nasty letters (as if you weren't already), tear these very pages from the mag---there's something here guaranteed to offend or tickle (or both) the musical and sonic sensibilities of every one of our tens of thousands of fanatical readers.

Which, if I'm not mistaken, is your cue to stand and chant the Stereophile Oath:

I pledge allegiance to the sound
of the united soundstage of the recording venue,
and to the re-creation of the original musical event for which it stands:
one stereo mike, under JGH, crossed-coincident,
with midrange bloom and palpable presence for all.

Remember, it's only music, and Stereophile is just a magazine. You're on your own.
---Richard Lehnert