Monthly Archives: October 2012

One of my favorite classic Jazz albums is Ray Brown’s Soular Energy, featuring Gene Harris on Piano (as well as others).

http://www.elusivedisc.com/prodinfo.asp?number=HRDA2011

Unfortunately, although it has been released in various hi-res formats, including SACD and DVD-A, it is frustratingly hard to come by. The DVD features one side with a 24/96 ‘HDCD’ recording (whatever that is), and one side with a 24/192 DVD-A version. I prefer the 24/192, ripped to HD, but I haven’t heard the SACD yet.

Brown was one of the all-time great acoustic bass players in the Jazz world, and Soular Energy encapsulates the very essence of his talent. It also features another jazz great, pianist Gene Harris, who once labored in relative obscurity until Brown convinced him to join him on tour. And don’t forget, it was Ray Brown who, arguably, introduced Montreal’s Oscar Peterson to the jazz world.

When a casual listener drops by and asks to hear some “Jazz”, I will invariably cue up “Cry Me A River” from this recording, and usually the listener is pretty much spellbound by the end of the tune. High-end sales people take note!!!

The recording is one of those that has the capacity to draw you totally into the performance, and if you are lucky enough to be able to hear it through Light Harmonic’s incredible Da Vinci DAC, it does so in a way that – in my experience – only Vinyl has ever managed before. And all that without the aid of “recreational assistance“, if I may put it that way….

Highly, highly recommended.

One of my favorite classic Jazz albums is Ray Brown’s Soular Energy, featuring Gene Harris on Piano (as well as others).

http://www.elusivedisc.com/prodinfo.asp?number=HRDA2011

Unfortunately, although it has been released in various hi-res formats, including SACD and DVD-A, it is frustratingly hard to come by. The DVD features one side with a 24/96 ‘HDCD’ recording (whatever that is), and one side with a 24/192 DVD-A version. I prefer the 24/192, ripped to HD, but I haven’t heard the SACD yet.

Brown was one of the all-time great acoustic bass players in the Jazz world, and Soular Energy encapsulates the very essence of his talent. It also features another jazz great, pianist Gene Harris, who once labored in relative obscurity until Brown convinced him to join him on tour. And don’t forget, it was Ray Brown who, arguably, introduced Montreal’s Oscar Peterson to the jazz world.

When a casual listener drops by and asks to hear some “Jazz”, I will invariably cue up “Cry Me A River” from this recording, and usually the listener is pretty much spellbound by the end of the tune. High-end sales people take note!!!

The recording is one of those that has the capacity to draw you totally into the performance, and if you are lucky enough to be able to hear it through Light Harmonic’s incredible Da Vinci DAC, it does so in a way that – in my experience – only Vinyl has ever managed before. And all that without the aid of “recreational assistance“, if I may put it that way….

Highly, highly recommended.

Joe Strummer, like many polarizing musicians, was a difficult character to package into a neat box. He came out of the British punk movement, but – to these ears at least – the Clash’s take on the punk movement was much more deeply nuanced, thoughtful, and constructively provocative. Compare with the Sex Pistols, or the Stranglers.  Strummer’s post-Clash career was far more rock than punk, with elements of Folk in the Dylan/Baez/Mitchell vein.

http://www.allmusic.com/album/streetcore-mw0000317945

Strummer’s last album – Streetcore – is to my ears his finest since London Calling, and possibly even surpasses it.  Joe died suddenly before it was completed, and it was sadly released posthumously in 2003.  Supposedly, Joe was working on more material for the album at the time of his death, and it is likely that two songs “Redemption Song” and “Silver and Gold” were not intended to be part of it. When you get to know the album, though, they become inseparable from it, lending key elements to its layered character.

Another consequence of Strummer’s sudden death is that the final takes for most of the vocals had not been laid down, and so the album uses material from intermediate takes.  This lends them a freshness and authenticity that jumps from the soundstage, and makes you wonder how a “final take” could possibly have improved upon it.  Technically, maybe.  But emotionally, no way.

Joe Strummer was a character of endless contradictions.  Always politically a vocal proponent of strong left-leaning views, he espoused both environmental and social causes.  He claimed to be an anarchist, yet worked single-mindedly – the cause of much friction with his band-mates – to achieve both critical and commercial success.  And having achieved it he then dismantled whatever he had built and moved on – an act of self-loathing, it would appear.

Please make a point of tracking down one of the most important albums of the last decade.

Joe Strummer, like many polarizing musicians, was a difficult character to package into a neat box. He came out of the British punk movement, but – to these ears at least – the Clash’s take on the punk movement was much more deeply nuanced, thoughtful, and constructively provocative. Compare with the Sex Pistols, or the Stranglers.  Strummer’s post-Clash career was far more rock than punk, with elements of Folk in the Dylan/Baez/Mitchell vein.

http://www.allmusic.com/album/streetcore-mw0000317945

Strummer’s last album – Streetcore – is to my ears his finest since London Calling, and possibly even surpasses it.  Joe died suddenly before it was completed, and it was sadly released posthumously in 2003.  Supposedly, Joe was working on more material for the album at the time of his death, and it is likely that two songs “Redemption Song” and “Silver and Gold” were not intended to be part of it. When you get to know the album, though, they become inseparable from it, lending key elements to its layered character.

Another consequence of Strummer’s sudden death is that the final takes for most of the vocals had not been laid down, and so the album uses material from intermediate takes.  This lends them a freshness and authenticity that jumps from the soundstage, and makes you wonder how a “final take” could possibly have improved upon it.  Technically, maybe.  But emotionally, no way.

Joe Strummer was a character of endless contradictions.  Always politically a vocal proponent of strong left-leaning views, he espoused both environmental and social causes.  He claimed to be an anarchist, yet worked single-mindedly – the cause of much friction with his band-mates – to achieve both critical and commercial success.  And having achieved it he then dismantled whatever he had built and moved on – an act of self-loathing, it would appear.

Please make a point of tracking down one of the most important albums of the last decade.

What happens to your digital music library when you die?….

http://www.audiostream.com/content/what-your-digital-music-library-worth-pending-redigi-case

What happens to your digital music library when you die?….

http://www.audiostream.com/content/what-your-digital-music-library-worth-pending-redigi-case

What are the hallmarks of a truly great album?  For me, it would have to have a sense of timelessness.  That an album is of a time and place does not have to mean that it loses its relevance, its message, or its communicative power as the years role by.  Although almost all of them do.

One album that – to these tired ears – still seems to get better every time I hear it is Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions.

https://www.hdtracks.com/index.php?file=catalogdetail&valbum_code=HD00601215735529

Stevie Wonder wrote, sang, and played most of the instruments on Innervisions, already his 16th album.  As the title implies, it is an introspective opus that addresses the world that the blind Stevie lives in.  It should not surprise anybody that it is pretty much the same world that we all perceive.  Being blind does not prevent him from seeing, and Stevie’s world view is one of the same hopes, fears, ambitions, and frustrations that characterize our own lives.  Avoiding bumping into the piano is not what keeps Stevie up at nights!  So much of what Stevie sings of in 1973 seems as fresh and relevant 40 years later.

Surprisingly, for an album that seems so quintessentially of its time,  Innervisions does not sound at all dated.  Now available as a 24/96 download from HDTracks, taken directly from the original master tapes, we finally get to hear the full glory of the album that won the Grammy Awards for Best Album and for Best Engineered Non-Classical Album.  What we hear is Stevie at the absolute height of his vocal powers, and arguably, at the height of his creative powers.  “Living For The City” (every instrument you hear was played by Stevie) was a track we played regularly at SSI – it never failed to amaze listeners with its power and presence, and with the stark soul of its message.

Shortly after releasing Innervisions, Stevie was in a very serious car accident, and remained in a coma for four days.  The accident had a profound affect on him, and his music became more sentimental and lost much of its biting edge.  Compare Innervisions to Songs In The Key Of Life (another highly successful album) and you’ll see what I mean.

What are the hallmarks of a truly great album?  For me, it would have to have a sense of timelessness.  That an album is of a time and place does not have to mean that it loses its relevance, its message, or its communicative power as the years role by.  Although almost all of them do.

One album that – to these tired ears – still seems to get better every time I hear it is Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions.

https://www.hdtracks.com/index.php?file=catalogdetail&valbum_code=HD00601215735529

Stevie Wonder wrote, sang, and played most of the instruments on Innervisions, already his 16th album.  As the title implies, it is an introspective opus that addresses the world that the blind Stevie lives in.  It should not surprise anybody that it is pretty much the same world that we all perceive.  Being blind does not prevent him from seeing, and Stevie’s world view is one of the same hopes, fears, ambitions, and frustrations that characterize our own lives.  Avoiding bumping into the piano is not what keeps Stevie up at nights!  So much of what Stevie sings of in 1973 seems as fresh and relevant 40 years later.

Surprisingly, for an album that seems so quintessentially of its time,  Innervisions does not sound at all dated.  Now available as a 24/96 download from HDTracks, taken directly from the original master tapes, we finally get to hear the full glory of the album that won the Grammy Awards for Best Album and for Best Engineered Non-Classical Album.  What we hear is Stevie at the absolute height of his vocal powers, and arguably, at the height of his creative powers.  “Living For The City” (every instrument you hear was played by Stevie) was a track we played regularly at SSI – it never failed to amaze listeners with its power and presence, and with the stark soul of its message.

Shortly after releasing Innervisions, Stevie was in a very serious car accident, and remained in a coma for four days.  The accident had a profound affect on him, and his music became more sentimental and lost much of its biting edge.  Compare Innervisions to Songs In The Key Of Life (another highly successful album) and you’ll see what I mean.

This recommended recording is not going to win me many friends – but here goes anyway. Alban Berg’s opera Lulu is – far more than any other piece of 20th Century music – widely, loudly, and almost universally reviled.  And for the most part by people who have never actually heard it.  Yet whenever a serious production is put on, it plays to packed opera houses around the world.   Lulu is an atonal composition, a 12-tone work, with more apparently to do with mathematics than musicianship.  In principle, the whole idea is quite preposterous…

http://www.chandos.net/details06.asp?CNumber=CHAN+3130

Lulu is widely held to be a piece which is impossible to conduct, impossible to play, impossible to sing, and – according to the probably apocryphal observation of Alban Berg himself – impossible to whistle on your way out of the opera house (“Vy don’t zey vissle my tunes???“).  So what’s the big deal here?

Well, for one thing, Lulu has without peer the most ambitious, complex, nuanced, and far-reaching plot of any opera yet undertaken.  And compositionally, it is a mathematical tour-de-force – unlike Monty Python’s “Bolton/Ipswich”, it essentially Palindromic – something that plays the same backwards as forwards.  Listen to the “film music” in the middle of Act II, where you can easily spot the center point (played on the piano) around which the music reverses itself and unfolds backwards to the end of the opera.  The plot is convolutedly palindromic – characters appear in Act I and disappear at the corresponding points in Act III, and so on throughout the opera. The palindromic aspects further tie into the characters, acts, and motivations of the dramatis personae, and the general development of the plot and sub-plots.

OK, so it’s a great piece to study.  But how about to listen to?  Well, frankly, it is not as totally and completely cacophonous as you might imagine.   Sure, it can be a bit of an assault, but once you give the piece some time, you can become surely drawn into it. I am actually getting to the point where I can recognize occasional snippets – although I won’t be able to whistle any of them!

Here I am recommending a version in English (the original is sung in German), offered for download by Chandos.  It is a very assured performance, and probably the best way to make a first-time introduction to what is arguably the most formidable piece of music ever written.  The sound is cleanly captured, and the vocals delivered clearly and with conviction.  Paul Daniel conducts the English National Opera.

The only version available for download is in 16/44.  Although the original recoding is supposedly done in DSD, I cannot get a straight answer from Chandos as to why they won’t make a high-resolution version available.  Perhaps you can pester them too!

In any case, I seriously recommend this recording to anybody with the desire and ambition to broaden their personal horizons.

This recommended recording is not going to win me many friends – but here goes anyway. Alban Berg’s opera Lulu is – far more than any other piece of 20th Century music – widely, loudly, and almost universally reviled.  And for the most part by people who have never actually heard it.  Yet whenever a serious production is put on, it plays to packed opera houses around the world.   Lulu is an atonal composition, a 12-tone work, with more apparently to do with mathematics than musicianship.  In principle, the whole idea is quite preposterous…

http://www.chandos.net/details06.asp?CNumber=CHAN+3130

Lulu is widely held to be a piece which is impossible to conduct, impossible to play, impossible to sing, and – according to the probably apocryphal observation of Alban Berg himself – impossible to whistle on your way out of the opera house (“Vy don’t zey vissle my tunes???“).  So what’s the big deal here?

Well, for one thing, Lulu has without peer the most ambitious, complex, nuanced, and far-reaching plot of any opera yet undertaken.  And compositionally, it is a mathematical tour-de-force – unlike Monty Python’s “Bolton/Ipswich”, it essentially Palindromic – something that plays the same backwards as forwards.  Listen to the “film music” in the middle of Act II, where you can easily spot the center point (played on the piano) around which the music reverses itself and unfolds backwards to the end of the opera.  The plot is convolutedly palindromic – characters appear in Act I and disappear at the corresponding points in Act III, and so on throughout the opera. The palindromic aspects further tie into the characters, acts, and motivations of the dramatis personae, and the general development of the plot and sub-plots.

OK, so it’s a great piece to study.  But how about to listen to?  Well, frankly, it is not as totally and completely cacophonous as you might imagine.   Sure, it can be a bit of an assault, but once you give the piece some time, you can become surely drawn into it. I am actually getting to the point where I can recognize occasional snippets – although I won’t be able to whistle any of them!

Here I am recommending a version in English (the original is sung in German), offered for download by Chandos.  It is a very assured performance, and probably the best way to make a first-time introduction to what is arguably the most formidable piece of music ever written.  The sound is cleanly captured, and the vocals delivered clearly and with conviction.  Paul Daniel conducts the English National Opera.

The only version available for download is in 16/44.  Although the original recoding is supposedly done in DSD, I cannot get a straight answer from Chandos as to why they won’t make a high-resolution version available.  Perhaps you can pester them too!

In any case, I seriously recommend this recording to anybody with the desire and ambition to broaden their personal horizons.