Revinylization

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Fred Kaplan  |  Apr 01, 2021  |  1 comments
George Russell was a major innovator in modern jazz: a pianist-composer-theoretician who profoundly influenced Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Gil Evans, and the "modal revolution" that propelled so much music of the 1960s and beyond. But he's largely been forgotten. He was also the leader of ensembles, big and small, on more than two dozen albums. A few of those albums are acknowledged masterpieces, but they too have been overshadowed by some of his acolytes' classics.
Jim Austin  |  Mar 05, 2021  |  10 comments
I shall always recall fondly the hours I spent shopping for used vinyl at my "local," my favorite Portland, Maine, used record store. If you wanted great-sounding records of great music in very good condition, for just a few bucks, this was the place. My local did not carry much collectible vinyl, but that was okay: I was never really interested in the high-dollar stuff. It wasn't until I moved to New York City that I started to wonder where it had all gone. The proprietor, I knew, traveled the country buying up collections. It was the '00s; he would have encountered many valuable records—so where did they go? He was a total luddite—not the type to sell on eBay, I knew.
John Swenson  |  Jan 27, 2021  |  3 comments
The Story of the Grateful Dead, a 14-LP, 8-album collection of Grateful Dead recordings with booklet and deluxe packaging, from Vinyl Me, Please (VMP-A006, 2020), is intended as a curated sampling of the high points in the Dead's extensive catalog. The first seven albums were cut from analog tape, while Without a Net comes from the original digital master. The sound is breathtaking.
Jim Austin  |  Jan 08, 2021  |  5 comments
For jazz fans, a new batch of releases in Blue Note's Tone Poet series—vinyl reissues remastered with care and cut from the original analog tapes—is reason for celebration. Fortunately, the batches come frequently. The latest releases, as I write in late October 2020, are very solid, musically and sonically.
Tom Fine  |  Dec 01, 2020  |  5 comments
Lou Reed: New York
Rhino/Sire R2 628762/603497847556. 1988/2020. Lou Reed, Fred Maher, prods.; Jeffrey Lesser, eng.
Performance *****
Sonics **** (Because vinyl should have been sourced from analog tape.)

It's déjà vu all over again in New York City.

1988: The bankrupt Fear City NYC of the 1970s had given way to the go-go '80s, with many missing the fruits of the Wall Street boom. AIDS ravaged the city, unabated, and a rash of violence and crime fueled by the crack-cocaine epidemic made for a grim underbelly of urban blight and neglect.

Jim Austin  |  Oct 21, 2020  |  3 comments
Last month, I received so few vinyl reissues that I had to invite a guest writer—jazz critic and political commentator Fred Kaplan—to fill in. Fred had managed to grab an early copy of the excellent Analogue Productions 45rpm reissue of Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival. I didn't get mine until a week or so after his review was submitted.

This month, I have a tall stack to choose from, so I'll mention several.

Fred Kaplan  |  Sep 22, 2020  |  11 comments
The late pianist Bill Evans may be the most reissued jazz musician in the catalogs of audiophile record labels. There are reasons for that: He played standards, mainly ballads (many audiophiles shun the avantgarde), almost never in groups larger than trios (stereo systems often do best with small-scale ensembles). Whether by design or chance, his best recordings were miked by superb engineers. Perhaps because of that, proprietors of high-end labels have cherished Evans's music with heightened passion.
Jim Austin  |  Aug 21, 2020  |  20 comments
Used copies of Sonny Rollins's classic 1957 record Way Out West are easy enough to find. The album has been reissued some 30 times on vinyl, most recently in 2018 on Craft Recordings (but read Michael Fremer's take on that reissue before buying). You can still buy Original Jazz Classics reissues from 1988—sealed —for about $20.

If you want an early pressing, though, your opportunities are limited. If you want an early pressing in collectable condition, expect to pay real money. And if you want that early pressing in pristine condition, good luck with that.

Jim Austin  |  Jul 23, 2020  |  26 comments
I consider Charles Mingus one of the great American composers, at least on par with the most celebrated American classical dudes. With apologies to fans of that music, I'd much rather listen to this record, or any of several other Mingus recordings, than, say, Billy the Kid or Rhapsody in Blue. What makes Mingus great is precisely that, in contrast to Copland and Gershwin, when he explored the vernacular, it wasn't some pale imitation.
Jim Austin  |  Jun 23, 2020  |  18 comments
Jazz collecting has an archaeological aspect to it; it's one of my favorite aspects of the hobby. Far more than most other genres, jazz evolved over its first several decades, and it did so on record. Every musician was distinctive, changed from session to session, and interacted with other musicians in ways specific to the ensemble, the time, the place, and the mood. Every record, live or from a studio, is a snapshot of where jazz was precisely then and there. You can get to know musicians' styles, and with practice, you can really hear what's going on.
Art Dudley  |  May 20, 2020  |  8 comments
I'm not in perfect agreement with my colleagues and friends who believe that RCA's Living Stereo LPs from the late 1950s and '60s are the best-sounding commercial classical recordings ever made. To me, the Decca SXL catalog outshines them sonically, in addition to showcasing the talents of an even greater roster of artists. But that's not to say I'm immune to their charms.

The RCA catalog contains some real gems.

Art Dudley  |  Apr 30, 2020  |  18 comments
I was well over 50 when I first heard an original copy of Charlie Parker's "Ko-Ko." It was a happy accident. I received a call from the family of a well-to-do neighbor who had recently passed away, asking if I'd be interested in having his record collection. Three minutes later, I was parked near the servants' entrance of their centuries-old brick mansion—how quickly we forget our proletariat resentment when there's vinyl to be had—loading a few cartons of LPs and 78s into my car.
Art Dudley  |  Apr 09, 2020  |  2 comments
Singer/actress Nancy Priddy's sole commercial recording, a 1968 album titled You've Come This Way Before—originally issued on Dot Records and now reissued by Sundazed Music/Modern Harmonic (Dot/Modern Harmonic MH-8044)—is a period piece. The arrangements, in which strings, flutes, Herb Alpert–esque trumpets, a harpsichord, a Vox Continental organ, and New Christy Minstrel–style backing singers all appear, are somewhat dated. (Indeed, the opening bars of the title song sound like the sort of cheesy electric pop that the producers of This American Life use as incidental music, apparently to express their limitless stockpiles of irony.) And some of Priddy's lyrics make the listener thankful for her poor enunciation.
Art Dudley  |  Mar 11, 2020  |  24 comments
In the January 2020 Stereophile, I described my transformation from John Fahey skeptic to John Fahey fan; suffice it to say, the late guitarist was far from the only musical artist whose work I came to enjoy only after a number of failed attempts. Another was the English band Yes, which I saw in concert in 1977, at New York's Madison Square Garden: I was so bored by the many lengthy instrumental solos, each one remarkable only for the sheer number of notes being squirted at me, that I literally nodded off. (In my defense, it was also very warm in there.)
Art Dudley  |  Feb 05, 2020  |  7 comments
Next to Christmas carols, Sousa marches, and the collected works of Bobby "Boris" Pickett, there's no more seasonal music than bluegrass, which comes to life at the 30 or so major outdoor festivals and scores of smaller events that take place every summer throughout the US. As I write this, on the day after Thanksgiving, 2019's bluegrass season is only a memory, and the 2020 season is more than a half a year away.

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