Music and Recording Features

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Robert Baird  |  May 03, 2016  |  5 comments
Don't get me wrong—it was a nice surprise. It's always good to find another member of the cult, someone else interested in music and sound, and proud to be called an audiophile. But . . . Peter Wolf?

"What's John Atkinson like?"

"Here's the $64,000 question: What's in your system?"

John Atkinson, Richard Lehnert, Denis Stevens  |  Sep 03, 1989  |  0 comments
Why had a high-end hi-fi magazine felt the need to produce a classical LP when the thrust of real record companies in 1989 is almost exclusively toward CD and cassette? Why did the magazine's editors think they had a better chance than most experienced professional engineers in making a record with audiophile sound quality? Were they guilty of hubris in thinking that the many years between them spent practicing the profession of critic would qualify them as record producers?
John Atkinson  |  Jul 18, 2004  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2004  |  0 comments
The upbeat is the most magic moment in classical music making. Before the conductor brings down his baton for the downbeat, anything and everything are possible in the musical journey that is about to begin. And the upbeat to Mozart's sublime Clarinet Concerto that conductor Robert Bailey was about to give in London's Henry Wood Hall last November gave me an extra frisson—as producer of the recording sessions, I would have to pronounce instant judgment on everything I was about to hear.
Robert Baird  |  Oct 08, 2014  |  1 comments
Fifty-four years after it was recorded, Hank Mobley's immortal Soul Station has become a tale of two LPs.

One, the original pressing (mono or stereo), is an artifact, an insanely valuable antique, the object of fevered jazz collectors the world over.

The other is a fresh vinyl reissue, cut from a high-resolution digital remastering of the original master tapes, that's meant to bring in younger listeners, or those interested enough in the music that they'll pay $19.95 for a new LP.

John Swenson  |  Feb 07, 2017  |  First Published: May 01, 1997  |  14 comments
1996 was a banner year for Ray Davies—one of the most talented writers and conceptualists rock has ever produced. After more than 30 years with The Kinks, the group he has led off and on along with his younger brother Dave, Ray was enjoying a new career as a solo artist. His keen wit and storytelling ability enabled him to take his remarkable one-man play, 20th Century Man, to packed houses and critical acclaim all over the United States. The play, based loosely on his equally remarkable fictionalized autobiography, X-Ray, provided a unique insight into the forces that have shaped Ray Davies's long, prolific career as a rock songwriter.
Various  |  May 03, 1990  |  0 comments
In the Fall of 1989, Stereophile magazine released its first recording, of Gary Woodward and Brooks Smith playing flute sonatas by Prokofiev and Reinecke, and a work by American composer Griffes that gave the LP its title: Poem (footnote 1). The full story was published in the September 1989 issue (p.66). We wanted to offer our readers an LP of acoustic music made with the minimum of electronics and processing—the sounds of the instruments would be as true to reality as possible. The images of the instruments were also captured with a purist microphone technique so that, with even a halfway decent system, a true soundstage would be created between and behind the loudspeakers when the recording was played back.
Stereophile Staff  |  Jan 26, 2017  |  23 comments
Never in the history of our venerable "Records To Die For" feature has the word Die come to mean as much as it has in the past year. Merle Haggard, Phife Dawg, Rudy Van Gelder, Maurice White, Glenn Frey, Otis Clay, Blowfly, Bob Cranshaw, George Martin, Steve Young, Chips Moman, Lonnie Mack, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones, Leon Russell, Ralph Stanley, David Bowie—all died in the past year. So to drive away any evil spirits that may be hovering over this year's R2D4 extravaganza, we may need to think of this 2017 installment more as "Records to Live For."
Robert Baird  |  May 06, 2014  |  First Published: May 01, 2014  |  0 comments
Making a recording is always a personal journey—everyone has a story to tell. Jazz violinist Regina Carter's latest, Southern Comfort, is an eloquent musical expression of Carter tracing the roots of her paternal lineage back five generations. For the project's sound engineer, Joe Ferla, it's the final project of a engineering career, and the beginning point of his new life as a practicing musician. The entwining of these journeys gives the album's music and sound a rare honesty.
Sam Tellig  |  Sep 22, 2011  |  1 comments
Kurt Sanderling died on September 17 in Berlin, just two days shy of his 99th birthday—of "old age," according to his eldest son Stefan. Sanderling was the last of a generation of conductors displaced by Hitler—an exodus that included Otto Klemperer, Josef Krips, Sir George Solti, Erich Leinsdorf, Bruno Walter, who all went West. (Never mind that Klemperer had converted to Catholicism and that Krips was half-Jewish.) Sanderling fled East, to the Soviet Union.
Richard J. Rosen  |  Jul 16, 2000  |  0 comments
Who the heck is this guy? Is he David Johansen, the lipstick-wearing front man of the seminal glam-rock, proto-punk New York Dolls? Is he Buster Poindexter, the pompadoured and tuxedoed "Hot, Hot, Hot" soca stylist? Is he a lounge singer? A Latin artist? Johansen is all of the above, having achieved success in each incarnation.
Robert Baird  |  Jul 08, 2011  |  1 comments
"Sometimes I can evoke the breathless rush of feeling that I experienced the first time that I ever really heard Robert Johnson's music. Sometimes a note will suggest just a hint of the realms of emotion that opened up to me in that moment, the sense of utter wonder, the shattering revelation."—Peter Guralnick, from Searching for Robert Johnson (New York: Dutton Obelisk, 1989)

It's an experience that all true blues fans need to savor. Fly into Memphis, drive south on US 61, into Coahoma County, Mississippi, down to the Delta, down to Robert Johnson country. There, on one of those steamy nights when the moon is full and fog, or maybe restless spirits, rise from the cotton fields, you can drive down to his two graves, in two churchyards nearly within sight of each other. You can sit in the dark and listen to the trains that were his constant mode of transportation. And on the way back to Clarksdale, the Delta burgh where Bessie Smith passed, you can go down to the crossroads and judge for yourself. Romantics say you can feel, smell, and even hear Robert Johnson's music, if not his desperate deal, still hanging in the humid Mississippi air.

Robert Baird  |  Aug 21, 2012  |  First Published: Sep 01, 2012  |  3 comments
"We tried to do some work between the legs of . . .

"Ummmm . . . that sounds weird."

Rock musicians—do they ever think about anything but sex?

Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson chuckles. He explains that what he meant to say was that he, singer-bassist Geddy Lee, and the exalted, formerly mustachioed object of Planet Earth's most fervent drummer cult, Neil Peart, were trying to write songs during a break in a recent tour.

Robert Baird  |  Mar 16, 2003  |  0 comments
"Where can you go in the world anymore where you can be in any kind of atmosphere other than the post-media, post-consumer world that we live in now—one that's available and that's musically rich? So it's very attractive in that way."
Robert Baird  |  Feb 02, 2016  |  1 comments
"With all due respect, what the hell is the matter with you?"

Over the years, I've felt obligated to ask this question of several friends who somehow concluded that their life's work involved founding a record label.

"That is the best question isn't it?" Shane Buettner said with a big laugh. "Why do I want to hurt myself this badly and spend a lot of money doing it?" He smiled again, with a mild shake of the head.

"Actually, yes—that's exactly what I mean."

Robert Baird  |  Jun 06, 2011  |  1 comments
To write about music, you must first come to terms with your fanboy urges. You must brush off the fairy dust and see your heroes for who they really are—a picture that in many cases is all too human. Yet that first blush of idolatry is an experience you never quite forget, no matter how many times you interview a person.

There was a time, back in the St. Elmo's Fire 1980s, when Steve Earle's first album, Guitar Town, was an object of abject slobbery for a generation of rock critics. Turning a near-mint LP copy of that album over in his hands, Earle begins to reminisce about a record that changed Nashville and country-rock music and, for many, remains his undisputed career masterpiece.

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