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Tuesday, February 4, 2020


The Thelonious Monk Quartet 
Monk's Dream 

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UD1S 2-011, Columbia 19075930421, Limited Edition, SuperVinyl, Box Set (2019, Sept.), # P001 of 6000.
Originally released on Columbia – CS 8765 (1963, March).

Evaluated by Claude Lemaire
Global Appreciation: 9.9
- Music: A+ (10)
- Recording: 9.6
- Remastering + Lacquer Cutting: 10
- Pressing: 9.8
- Packaging: Deluxe

Category: jazz, mostly cool with minor bop touches.

Format: Vinyl (2x180 gram LPs at 45 rpm).

Thelonious Monk – piano. Charlie Rouse – tenor sax. John Ore – bass. Frankie Dunlop – drums.

Additional credits:
Produced by Teo Macero
Recorded October 31, November 1, 2 and 6, 1962 at Columbia 30th Street Studio, NYC.
Engineered by Frank Laico.

Remastered and lacquer cut by Krieg Wunderlich and Shawn R. Britton at Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab in Sebastopol, CA.

Plated and Pressed by RTI, CA, USA.

Photography Don Hunstein.

Just as the needle dropped, so did our jaw; and within the first seconds, we knew we were witnessing something special, read, was that all a dream?

Along with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Charlie Christian, and Kenny Clarke–re-inventing jazz in the early-1940s through a new musical language–pianist and composer Thelonious Sphere Monk stands out as one of the leading pillars of what would become known as bebop.

Monday Celebrity Nights at Minton's in Harlem was the place where all the cool cats would hang out, counting on cutting contests to pierce through the fray, fog, and noise of the late hours. Bearing exotic hats, shades, and goatee, no other musician better epitomized the beatnik look–with Dizzy doubling down by his side. Not only was he famous fashion wise, his mumbling, dancing, and prancing at and around the piano provided a great sideshow for all to see. But even blindfolded there is no mistaking such a unique colossal jazz figure.

Just as The Duke and Count proved royally important, both remained stylistically very distinct from each other for five decades or so. Like a metronome, you could count on Basie's blues invigorating the Kansas City swing style sometimes through the use of block chords, and stomping rhythms. Whereas Ellington elegantly transitioned back and forth between consonance and dissonance, exploring emotions and tensions via major and minor intervals and scales like a lithe ballet dancer, while skilfully mastering the resolve response returning to the consonant world. In contrast, Monk mainly mired in minor intervals or threw tone clusters throughout entire pieces; "Introspection", "Off Minor", and "Bright Mississippi"–the latter featured here opening side B–being perfect examples. Angular, oblique, dissonant, more staccato than legato; his hammering of the ivories never left one indifferent. To the untrained or unaccustomed listener, one might be forgiven for believing the record was cut or pressed off-center. If Duke dug Debussy and Ravel, Monk mingled with Schoenberg, Berg, and Bartók. But make no mistake, Monk's many celebrated compositions are not cerebral head music, this is toe-tapping music coming from the heart, going hand in hand with open minds and open ears.

During a four-decade span, and similar to Miles' music path, Monk moved from label to label, starting at Blue Note with Genius of Modern Music [BLP 5002] recorded in 1947-48, and released in 1952 on 10-inch, which included many of his most covered, and signature songs including "Round Midnight"–sometimes titled "Round About Midnight"–"Off Minor", and "Rudy My Dear" just to name a few.

Followed by the "big three" of that era: Prestige, Riverside, and Columbia, with a few others of smaller footprint scattered in between and afterwards–only Verve didn't make the cut. Releasing fourteen albums for the label in five years, Monk's Dream marked his Columbia debut. As such, he shared some of the same production personnel and technical facilities as Davis and Dave Brubeck on their landmark albums–respectively 'Round About Midnight, Porgy and Bess, Someday My Prince Will Come, Miles Smiles, Filles de Kilimanjaro, and Time Out–where on this one, Fred Plaut was the engineer.

Producer extraordinaire Teo Macero and Columbia's 30th Street Studio in Manhattan, New York City are the main ingredients in the winning recipe linking these albums with engineer Frank Laico as the kitchen chef–all part of Columbia's coveted A-list. Recognized as one of the finest recording studios in the world, it was first constructed as a Presbyterian church back in 1875. Its architecture sported 100 foot ceilings and 100 feet by 100 feet of floor space–a perfect cube and normally a sonic disaster as far as spectral distribution and evenly spreading standing waves–most of the first reflections were naturally staggered farther apart in time than in a small room. Lights and drapes dangled down from the ceiling. Regrettably it was demolished in the mid 1980s for prime renting real estate–a repulsive recurring trend it would seem. Though not as big as Davis, Brubeck, nor Ellington as far as record sales go, landing Monk on a major was still quite a coup for Columbia and his own perceived standing, not forgetting financially as well. Soon after signing he received a first check for just over $8600 providing him the means to buy a $3000 Baldwin M Grand piano as a Christmas gift.

Entering '30th Street Studio', they let him choose among a few Steinway Grands. Glenn Gould, also with Columbia at the time, and notorious for being excessively demanding regarding pianos and their tuning–his favorite and famous of which being a Steinway no. CD 318, and chief concert tuner Verne Edquist respectively–would also have his pick. Coincidentally both men shared one thing in common that frustrated recording engineers: their mumbling at the keyboard. And like Macero, Gould would embrace the "art of splicing" to embellish a performance to perfection.

But back to Monk. Macero had a secret weapon to keep him happy and productive: ham sandwiches supposedly between takes. Joining him for the sessions were Charlie Rouse on tenor sax, John Ore on bass, and Frankie Dunlop on drums. Recording started October 31, 1962 continuing November 1, 2, and 6. Often arriving late, Monk kept to himself, having a habit of never talking to his musicians or the engineers, nor taking off his hat. Laico's recording method was pretty straightforward, spectacularly efficient, and musically magnificent. Like the Three Bears, his miking technique was not too close, nor too far away, but just the right distance from the instrument, about a foot or so away in many cases. He kept the musicians close together and angled towards the center, so as they could easily see and hear each other, with some strategic short and tall baffles between and behind them instead of headphones–which he immensely disliked, and became more widespread by the end of the decade.

Seven mics were used: one for each instrument except four for the drums–kick, snare, left, and right overheads–4 to 5 inches in front of the kick, the latter comprising a sandbag for reducing resonances running down the wooden floor. The control room's front wall situated quite close to it, served as sound reinforcement for the drummer and bassist–a passive acoustic monitor so to speak. To best capture the integrity of the double bass, Laico positioned the mic–likely an old RCA 44 ribbon–in front of one of the "f-holes" some 8 to 10 inches away, adding just a bit of EQ to it. On sax he liked the Neumann 67 half way up rather than directly in the bell to get a fuller sound plus a tall baffle in back but not to tight. Finally for the piano, he preferred having the lid open all the way, placing the microphone–a Neumann 49–about three-quarters of the way up, a few feet from the keyboard, to get an open sound in contrast to the "tight" sound often heard in that era.

CBS/Columbia's custom console counted 16 input/rotary controls, and 3 track/meters as 3 and 2 track tape machines were still the typical tape format in the early-1960s. Note that he only recorded the sessions–somebody, somewhere else, also uncredited, mixed the seven inputs to stereo, and mono as well. We can presume that Macero being a very "hands on" producer participated in the latter steps. In an interview, Laico had this to say regarding the room's reverberation:

"The room itself had its own echo, which was very nice, but would be a different-sounding echo with every session that came in. With the chamber, we could regulate the echo by adjusting the volume of each instrument. Every mic had its own send, so we could set its level, and we could also regulate the return. Still, the sound of that return didn’t sustain itself. Then Les Paul told me about how–at his home studio in New Jersey–he smoothed things out nicely by running the sound from the echo chamber through a tape machine. When I tried that, it worked, warming things up and increasing the length of the decay, and afterward everybody in the business–including some engineers from England–showed up, wanting to know how we got that echo chamber sound."

This is the ninth 'UltraDisc One-Step' 45rpm box set released by Mobile Fidelity and the fifth one in my collection after buying Santana's Abraxas [UD1S 2-001] followed by Bill Evans' Sunday at the Village Vanguard [UD1S 2-002]–I skipped Donald Fagen's The Nightfly [UD1S 2-003] and Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge... [UD1S 2-004], finding those selections less interesting to my musical tastes and somewhat odd for this premium format given so many incredible ground-sound-breaking albums instead. Rejoiced with Marvin Gaye's What's Going On [UD1S 2-008]. Skipped SRV's Texas Trouble [UD1S 2-005] 'cause blues rock recorded in the early-1980s is not my texas tea. Bought Bill Evans' Portrait in Jazz [UD1S 2-009], and skipped Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks [UD1S 2-006] for not being a big Dylan fan. After Santana's stunning success selling out its 2500 copy run within its first month, the succeeding special editions kept gaining in limited numbers to reach 7500 at one point–a three-fold increase, and once more they sold out in pre-order status! This one is back down to 6000 and was backorder for a while. As in all cases, the two LP's are housed, and presented in a deluxe one-inch thick, quasi-black-very dark grey, subtly soft-textured carton box with gold-colored lettering and trimmings, framing the original cover art–by photogapher Don Hunstein–in a reduced 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 inch slightly sunken square.

Upon opening, a dark grey foam hides the precious jewels; under which, a 12 x 9 inch horizontal and 8 x 12 vertical B&W archive photos of Monk playing piano by Hunstein.

Next in line is a thin cardboard with pictograms explaining in great detail the unique 'one-step' process. This is followed by a full-size cardboard printed replica of the original front, and back cover art with MoFi's ubiquitous strip added at the top but minus the original's STEREO "360 Sound" rectangular-arrows logo and Columbia's square "eye' logo, both in the top left corner. While the back omits the STEREO "360 Sound" explanation at the top. The original front background tint seemed turquoise-greener–at least on my computer screen–than MoFi's less saturated bluish-grey tint.

Finally we reach the treasured vinyl, inserted in individual numbered cardboard sleeves similar to the box cover art, with the track titles printed on the back side. These are now improved, and better match the outer box in shade and texture. Whereas the former one-step releases were housed in black hard covers that were prone to scuffs or visual blemishes, the new softer ones look more distinguished, and were visually perfect which should please many that found the old ones not commensurate with the premium price. The LP's are further protected, by MoFi's inner HDPE sleeves inside a white folded cardboard. As usual with MoFi, no attempts were made to duplicate the original Columbia '360' label, replaced instead with the same design as their other UD1S LPs.

Lastly a second foam, 'cushions the blow' from box handling. Granted, these boxes make it a bit more cumbersome to store and listen to an LP but I like them for their classy, distinguished look and feel, reinforcing the "collectable special status".

All four sides of the MoFi were stunningly shiny, with no scratches, nor scuff marks. Upon my first listening session, I did encounter some very minor noise floor artifacts at the end of side's A and B, the last seconds of the music just before the dead wax begins but seemed to disappear the second time leading me to believe it was mostly caused by static from sliding in and out of the HDPE sleeves. The second record was noise and static-free. Interestingly the exact same thing happened with the Marvin Gaye UD1S. The new vinyl compound–called SuperVinyl was developed by NEOTECH and RTI purported to reduce the noise floor, and enhance the groove definition–ironically RTI's regular opaque formula which MoFi uses on the rest of their catalogue seems to have a "blacker" background but more on that subject further below. Though carbonless, it retains a traditional black dye as opposed to Classic Records' Clarity formula which ditched the black-dye along with the carbon, making MoFi's formula easier to cue and more classic looking and visually warmer than clear vinyl. Even so with the MoFi, you will still see the glow of a light bulb passed through if held in front of it–similar to the first thinner JVC MoFi pressings. I roughly measured 1.5 inches, 1 inch, 1.75 inches, and 1 inch respectively of runount groove aka dead wax, all sides staying far from the label area, so there should be no high frequency audible deterioration due to the pinch effect and smaller groove radius at this safe distance.
In a nutshell, whereas a normal 'three-step' release utilises the following chain: [lacquer + father + mother + stamper], the 'one-step' method skips the father and mother intermediary steps, going from lacquer directly to stamper or 'convert' in this case. Because of the limited number of pressings that the delicate convert can withstand in the typical press before audible deterioration creeps in–supposedly somewhere around 500 or so for 180g LP's–it implies that a minimum set of 12 converts per side must be created from a set of 12 lacquers per side to meet the expected target of 6000 copies. This not only takes the remastering/cutting job twelve times longer to perform–unless they are able to hook up in parallel more than one cutting lathe–but also exposes the precious original master tape to more wear and tear–the iron oxide, binder (glue), and acetate, mylar or polyester carrier coming apart sometimes with time, aka 'binder breakdown', and remedied only by 'baking' the tapes for precise times and temperatures. Not to mention how boring it must become for the cutting engineer to doing over and over the same music master disc. Considering all of the above, the $125 asking price still seems well justified if the superb quality maintains its previous level.
It also suggest that there could very well be minor differences in sound among the 12 'plate' sets, and as such, differences in sound between box sets, relative to the 'batch' number that the consumer happens to get–more so than the usual MoFi release or any other label following the normal three-step process, all else being equal (which admittedly is rarely the case, especially regarding vinyl because of the multitude of variables from master tape before reaching your platter, and everything subsequent to that). One can also ponder if for example the 12th cutting run is either 'penalized' because of the tape wear or rather privileged for getting the EQ and groove-spacing 'spot-on'; then again are all the parameters/choices 'locked-in' for the total 'project run' to maximize uniformity? What about the cutting stylus–does it get changed for every set?

Following that logic, there are perhaps up to 12 sets of A, B, C, and D. Now one would presume that the first batch (#1 to 500) would be etched 'A1; B1; C1; D1' and the last batch (#5500 to 6000) would be 'A12; B12; C12; D12'. That is not the case for my #P001 copy bore the respective matrix / runout stamper etchings:
'UD1S2-011 A3; B2; C2; D3 KW@MoFi'

The KW initials in the dead wax etchings as usual stands for engineer Krieg Wunderlich, who in this instance was assisted by Shawn R. Britton. For my previous MoFi one-step reviews of the Santana, Bill Evans' SATVV, and Marvin Gaye releases, please go to:,, and

Now pour yourself a brandy, close your eyes, and let the dream begin...

Similar to Santana, the first thing that I experienced in the lead-in groove just before the first note hits, was what I presume is very low level room rumble as one encounters when entering a vast concert area, hinting at Columbia 30th Street's huge volume of recording space, as if a big subwoofer suddenly appeared barely purring, pouring the foundation of what is to come. Then it happens. Monk starts the ball rolling on the 4 before the one on the title track–a cool swinging mid-tempo number–as Dunlop and Ore join in on the one, the three take it for a short spin with Rouse coming on board a few measures later. Let me cut to the chase.

The sound is to die for. Santana was spectacular, and Bill Evans' SATVV was also quite impressive, while Marvin Gaye was the most refined, and perhaps sonically the best of the UD1S boxes...that is up until now. Monk's Dream is at least its equal, or even surpasses them all! Starting with Monk, the sound of his Steinway is the most convincing I have heard on record–it's a Grand alright, and that is the conveyed impression. Forget about Blue Note, we couldn't be further than Van Gelder's typical tiny boxed-in piano sound of the same era. For a fairer and closer comparison, it surpasses Bill Evans' and Monk's own Riverside recordings which are still excellent but do not achieve the level of realism attained here. Even my previous piano references–the 'Three Blind Mice' Japanese trios from the mid-1970s, or Analogue Productions' 45rpm of Basie' 88 Street (see #49 of: fantastic as they are, now face fierce competition. In fact the only record bestowing a piano with such realism that readily comes to mind is the For Duke D2D from M&K (see #106 of:

What impresses so much on this MoFi UD1S, is the sheer strength or force of the hammers striking the strings. It is cleaner, less distorted, more resolute, more stable, better defined and articulated than anything I've ever heard, save for a true live close up performance. Of equal importance is its even tonal balance, acoustic power, presence, and physical scale. When the quartet is playing, Monk is situated front center right but on a few tracks playing solo–such as "Body and Soul", and "Just a Gigolo"–the Grand takes full advantage of the complete left to right stage, simulating Star Trek's holodeck–minus the weak storyline of course. The Steinway's sustain is solid as rock. On these two pieces, the dissonance dominates with no place to hide behind, to the extent that the piano, player, tape or turntable for that matter appear drunk or drifting at sea.

The drums in the left channel, are very well balanced between the four mics allotted to it, and sound utterly natural with just the proper ratio of precision and room ambiance. The cymbals are some of the best sounding, showing correct shimmer and sweetness, with sufficient detail to differentiate the hi-hat foot pattern in tandem with the ride rhythm doubling over it. The acoustic bass placed center stage is generally well captured, especially in the lower tones providing pleasant bottom bounce but lacks a bit of articulation or pitch definition to follow every note–in other words, though it is more generous or plump than your typical RVG Blue Note LP, do not expect the finger-snapping string detail of a Three Blind Mice nor Scott LaFaro's work on SATVV mentioned previously, where your ear seems six inches from the instrument. Not surprisingly it resembles the type of bass presence that we find on other Laico-engineered Columbia sessions of the period such as many Miles Davis recordings done at the same location. It is mainly for that reason that I don't give it a perfect score regarding the recording rating.

Finally the sax also occupies the center stage just barely receded from the midplane. Rouse has a solid presence but at no point does he ever steal the spotlight from his surrounding cool cats. There is no "Coltrane" moment, nor a Colossus Rollins or hawkish Hawkins' bark blowing overboard, and taking full charge! That said, the quartet swings hard and tight while Monk, like Miles, leaves them sufficient space to groove. From a more general perspective, the tonal balance is slightly warm, and perfect at different listening levels. It is one thing to get the lows, mids, and highs broadly in proper proportion, but this is the rare case where I find that the ten audio octaves are exactly spot on–and even if I am extremely difficult on the latter, I would not alter one-tenth of a dB! The dynamic window appears quite natural also. Each instrument is so well defined, clean, and solid as if the intermodulation distortion between them vanished. The resultant is a fatigue-free, exciting performance, and reproduction–a touch more Master Tape sweet than direct-to-disc front and lean.

All four sides were equal in musicality and sound quality. In that context, I feel it is in the same league as my two prior Monk favorites: Brilliant Corners and Monk's Music (see #23 and #24 of: regarding musical significance. As for the subject of the SuperVinyl formula: starting with the Marvin Gaye release I had noticed that it brought a minor improvement mostly in the areas of transparency, leading edge, micro-dynamics in the midrange, and ever so subtle sweetness, and lesser grain to the whole treble. I would add that it seems to make the reproduction medium self-erase, and increase the auditory illusion, making the trade-off–regarding the small static issue–well worth it. I did not have an original US pressing to compare with but the leap in sound quality is so big that a regular 33 1/3 rpm original cannot compete, period. Finally, if you missed your shot with the Bill Evans' Portrait in Jazz [UD1S 2-009] which is sold out since a while, get this Monk instead. In my opinion it is more impressive both musically, and sonically by a significant margin.

To conclude, Mobile Fidelity's ninth UD1S–Monk's Dream–is the audiophile's ultimate dream come true. 'Master cutter' Krieg Wunderlich assisted by Shawn R. Britton outdid themselves once more. Some may think "there he goes again" but let's give praise where praise is due. With these monumental UD1S releases, MoFi is a towering tour de force advancing the state of the art.

And now unfortunately I must wake up.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019


Chosen by Claude Lemaire

"This is a journey into sound. A journey which along the way will bring to you new colour, new dimension, new value..."

For selections #1 to 50, please click here:
For selections #51 to 100, please click here:

101- Curtis Mayfield – Superfly ( The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack). Curtom – CRS-8014-ST (1972), MoFi, Rhino Records – MFSL 2-481 (2019), (2x45 rpm). Genre: funk, soul, blaxploitation soundtrack style, cinematic soul, ghetto soul.

"I'm your mama, I'm your daddy; I'm the alley; I'm your doctor, when in need; Want some coke, have some weed; I'm your pusherman"

In the darkest of night, there's a moon shining bright, MoFi is my man, precious soul for funk fans. Lately the Mobile dudes are playing a winning streak, hustling out solid sound on solid ground. These cats aren't dumb, lotta things goin' on–never satisfied to stake familiar territory, it's always refreshing to see them seek out soul-funk history. It started with some Stevie Wonder releases but what really won me over was their remastering of the Spinners' self-titled LP [MFSL 1-450] back in 2015 (see selection #27 from my Top 500 SuperSonic List HERE: followed by queen Aretha–Aretha's Gold [MFSL 2-479] in 2017 (see below)–and now make way for brother Curtis. Originally released in July 1972 at the height of the blaxploitation movie mania and directed by Gordon Parks, Superfly–along with Shaft the previous year–not only settled scores at the box office via the big screen but set the score for this short-lived subgenre situated at the intersection of Harlem and Chicago, standing at the crossroads of cinematic soul and frenetic funk. This is the third studio release after his departure from the Impressions, spearheading his 1970 debut Curtis [Curtom CRS 8005], and followed by the revelatory Roots [Curtom CRS 8009]. Considered by many to be his best album, Superfly spawned three hits–the title-track, "Freddie's Dead", and the powerful "Pusherman"–with the remaining six songs closely their equal in musical mastery. The original art and fold out die-cut flap jacket was designed by Glen Christensen and Milton Sincoff. Curtis' compositions combined with Johnny Plate's arrangements and orchestrations are expertly engineered by RCA's Roger Anfinsen at RCA studios in Chicago and Bell Sound Studios in New York (for track 2 only) where San Feldman cut the lacquer for the original pressings which stemmed either from the Monarch Record Mfg. plant in Los Angles, CA–wherein Jerry Pines did the plating–or the Sonic Recording Products plant in Long Island, NY. I don't know if there are subtle or substantial differences between both pressings but I can say that my 1972 Sonic pressing sounds only fair–about a 6.7 or so–exhibiting some hard-sounding compression, shelved bass, and slightly harsh highs, especially manifested in the title track that is situated closest to the label, i.e. technically the worse position. On the other hand, this double 45 rpm remastered and cut by Krieg Wunderlich and Rob LoVerde at Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab in Sebastopol, CA and pressed at RTI simply trounces my original in every parameter: bass quantity and quality; treble transparency and delicacy; 3D soundstage; plus a non-compressed fatigue-free tonal balance. Praiseworthy are the realism of the congas and the guitar wah-wah pedal, plus the exquisite finesse of the harp. All in all, a 9.5 winner. The only minor reservation being the ever-slight hi-hat texture that I found a touch rough, for which I suspect is on the original master tape, most probably from specific mic choice or placement; nevertheless it's much better than the original pressing. This is quite a remarkable remastering from MoFi–don't ask no questions why, the only game they know is do or die!

102- Blackrock – "Hey Roots". Black Rock Records – BR-11636 (1977), 12", 45 rpm. Genre: funky disco, afro-funk.

Although they partly share the same title, there is no ancestry between Blackrock's "Roots" and Curtis' Roots cited above. Nor is there much information anywhere on the group, other than they had at least one prior single back in 1975. Released only a few months after ABC's 1977 mini-series Roots based on Alex Haley's 1976 novel, this 12-inch single–by happenstance or not–had a limited run as a minor underground hit in a few major discothèques at the time, such as Montreal's Limelight under the baton of deejay Robert Ouimet. Composed, arranged, and produced by Sonny Casella–S.O.N.N.Y. serving also as an achronym for Sound of New New York–"Hey Roots" appeared as one of only three Black Rock Records releases, masterfully cut by ex-Bell Sound Studios mastering engineer Joe Brescio at the Master Cutting Room in NYC on a Neumann VMS-66 lathe and SX-68 cutterhead, and pressed by North American Music Industries. The rather simple song structure–built on a forceful four on the floor potent pounding beat, complemented by a catchy funky guitar riff, minimal female chorus, sexy sax solo, and synchronized stomping feet–doesn't quite fit the numerous subgenres of the era: Philly sound, Sunshine Sound, Eurodisco, electro-disco, etc. It could almost pass for a melange of Manu Dibango meets Hamilton Bohannon with a subtle proto-leftfield flavor added in. This must be the best disco kick drum ever cut on record showing outstanding dynamic modulation all the way through–perfect sharp attack with rounded sustain to prolong pleasure–plus organic electric bass, clean funky guitar, and fiery saxophone to boot. The overall mix, and tonal balance are 100% spot on; displaying zero-fatigue, you can pump up the volume and it comes out confidently clean, solid, and slamming–given the right system of course. I would probably place this 12-inch single nearly on par with my previously mentioned top contender for stratospheric sonic splendor: the Rockets' "Atomic Control" (see selection #77 from my Top 500 SuperSonic List HERE: 

103- Aretha Franklin – Aretha's Gold. Atlantic – SD-8227 (1969), MoFi – MFSL 2-479 (2017), (2x45 rpm). Genre: soul, southern soul, R&B, blues, gospel + spiritual roots.

"The Queen of Soul" finally got the sonic R.E.S.P.E.C.T. she long deserved, brought to you by the letters MFSL, KW, RML, and RTI. To be sure, never was there any doubt regarding Aretha's pivotal place in the 1960s soul music, civil rights, and rising feminist movement. By comparison, the sound situation seemingly succumbed to the old "Rodney Dangerfield" syndrome, that is until MoFi resurrected and gave it the full royal treatment. Arranged by Arif Mardin and Tom Dowd, and produced by Jerry Wexler; Aretha's Gold originally came out in August 1969, and comprises all of her hit singles up to that point, including: "Respect", "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman", "Chain of Fools", "Think", and her incredible version of Bacharach-David-Warwick's "I Say a Little Payer"–just to name a few. With the exception of Rick Hall partly handling the first two tracks at his FAME recording studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama–the remaining tracks where engineered by Dowd at Atlantic studios in NYC. I do not own an original pressing of Gold to compare with but based on three of the initial albums–all first press Canadian copies–which contained these golden hits, the sonics were far from impressive, lacquing both low end and high end frequencies, and any finesse; in a nutshell quite "mid-band" and bland. What is now clear with this MoFi release is that the original studio stereo recordings were near-fantastic. Dowd got Wexler and Atlantic to purchased one of the first 8-track Ampex model 5258 and by the time they recorded her in February 1967, they had mastered the art of miking and transferring to tape a sensational soul session. Although stemming from different dates, the compilation album is very uniform in sound. The latter is bold, solid, chunky, hard-panned with the entire drumset dynamically punching in one channel–typically on the right–accompanied by the brass convincingly crisp, seeming to suddenly enter and disappear on a whims notice. Engineers Krieg Wunderlich and Rob LoVerde really got it right remastering and cutting at 45 rpm the original master tape, with perfect tonal balance, dynamics, and zero-fatigue musical tone. Aretha would go on having a few good singles such as "Spanish Harlem" and "Rock Steady" both in 1971, but then rapidly declining during the disco decade of the 1970s. For a more in-depth evaluation, you can go HERE:

104- Kid Ory's Creole Jazz Band – Kid Ory's Creole Jazz Band 1954. Good Time Jazz – GTJ L-12004 (mono) (1954), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: Jazz, New Orleans style, dixieland, traditional Creole.

Born in 1886 in LaPlace, Louisiana, trombonist and bandleader Kid Ory–along with cornetists Buddy Bolden and Joe "King" Oliver–were towards the turn of that century at the forefront of merging marching bands, blues, and ragtime into what we collectively now call New Orleans jazz or jass as it originally was spelled. Not only did the French-speaking Ory and his band influence the beginnings of jazz, he judiciously foresaw recruiting a young Louis Armstrong and clarinetist Johnny Dodds before the former rose to fame–both he and Dodds would later participate in Armstrong's original Hot Five formation in a 1927 recording titled "Ory's Creole Trombone". The "Kid" was also associated with the traditional jazz or Dixieland revival of the 1940s and 1950s. Such is the case with this August 1954 afternoon recording featuring the typical instrument line-up of drums, bass, piano, clarinet, trumpet and trombone, with the exception of guitar replacing the ubiquitous banjo. On it the septet performs trad jazz anthems such as "When the Saints Go Marching In", Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag", Jelly Roll's "Wolverine Blues", and Ory's own "Muskrat Ramble", thus representing a good portrait of this truly American artform. Lester Koenig supervised the recording for his Good Time Jazz label which he founded in 1949, two years prior to Contemporary Records which has a stellar reputation regarding sound quality, as happens to be the case here also. Interestingly despite that fact and similarities in sound, Roy DuNann was not the engineer–only joining Koenig two years later after a stint as director of Capitol's Coast recording studio operation. Instead for this LP it was John Palladino–also from Capitol–that was in charge. Employing a multi mic setup, the sound is superbly crisp, dry, dynamic, articulate, with very realistic timbre. The trumpet and trombone's blat brings it a touch of realism and excitement, energizing the room, and showcasing the festive atmosphere. The bass is surprisingly well captured–be it in solos or in background reinforcing the driving beat of the drum–with precision and bounce, especially remarkable given the period. One of the best sounding trad jazz records I have come across.

105- Ken Colyer, Alex Welsh, George Melly, Chris Barber, Lonnie Donegan Skiffle Group – The National Jazz Federation Presents: Traditional Jazz. Decca – LK 4088 (UK), London Records – LL 1184 (mono) (1955), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: Jazz, dixieland, trad jazz, New Orleans style, skiffle.

Situated on the south bank of the River Thames, the then-newly constructed three thousand-seat or so Royal Festival Hall in London, England, would host a number of important concerts and events throughout the years. Recorded in October 1954–barely two months after the previous selection–Traditional Jazz presents "Her Majesty's take" on New Orleans jazz with a snippet of skiffle thrown in for good measure. A who's who of dixie's monarchy, the Decca-based "ffrr" London LP–for the US market–exemplifies the growing British revival movement occuring during the 1950s, instigated by pianist George Webb, with Ken Colyer's Jazzmen featured here leading the pact. Interestingly, Barber, Colyer, and Donegan, all played in the same band starting in 1953, right until May the following year, where there was a major personnel split, a mere six months prior to this concert recording. Regrettably there is no engineering credits listed on the back cover but basically the mono sound is crisp, direct, and dynamic, with plenty of bold and balanced tone to spare, and is on par pretty much with the previous entry. As with most London Records pressed and sold in the States, the label indicates "Made in England" but in reality, this only signified the true recording origin, rather than the actual pressing origin.

106- Bill Berry and His Ellington All-Stars – For Duke. M&K RealTime Records – RT-101 (1978), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: big band swing, jazz. Direct-to-disc lacquer cutting. German pressing.

We have often heard the expression "making a great first impression is the key to success" and that's exactly what Miller and Kreisel Sound Corporation set out and accomplished in January 1978 to inaugurate their newfound audiophile label and parent subwoofer speaker company. I previously selected their seventh release (see entry #6 from my Top 500 SuperSonic List HERE: in this List, and the label's direct-to-disc debut doesn't disappoint but rather delivers in droves. Engineered by Stan Kreisel and Steve McCormack–of McCormack Audio and Mod Squad fame–and cut by lathe operator Steve Drecker–the same team as on Flamenco FeverFor Duke can be regarded as a royal tribute by cornettist Bill Berry and His Ellington All-Stars to the great American maestro, taking us for a ride on an "A" Train through the New Orleans streets of "Perdido" intertwined with "Cotton Tail"s of "Satin Doll"s dyed in deep "Mood Indigo", and more. Berry's arrangements are stunningly beautiful and remain refreshing regardless of having heard these jazz standards so many times before. Unlike many D2D releases that impress on first listen because of their large dynamic range but tend to sit on the shelf due to an aggressive upper-mid forwardness that nearly bites your head off, here the sound is exquisite from start to finish, and definitely to die for. Every instrument of this septet–drums, bass, piano, trombone, cornet, tenor, and alto sax–is presented with the most realistic timbre, tone, clarity, dynamic shadings, and subtle sweetness I've encountered on record reproduced in a home setting. There is a controlled intensity, a forcefulness, a physicality, and substantiveness to the sound–the piano's presence and resonance are unrivalled in my book. Strangely the only quibble I could call out is Ray Brown's bass, which sounds a bit distant, and lacks some precision in the mix, whereas everybody else present were so easy to follow.

107- Earl Hines - Jonah Jones – Back on the Street. Chiaroscuro Records – CR118 (1972), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: jazz, New Orleans style, swing.

WIth Buddy Tate on clarinet and tenor sax, and Cozy Cole on drums–pianist Hines and trumpetist Jones' Back on the Street straddles the fence between New Orleans strut and small scale swing. The quartet are accompanied by John Brown on bass, and Jerome Darr on guitar. Recorded March 1972 in New York for American producer and photographer Hank O'Neal's Chiaroscuro label–distributed by Audiofidelity Enterprises, Inc.–engineer Fred Miller in association with Warp Studios did a fantastic job capturing the sextet's spontaneity with startling dynamics, staccato clarity, and truthful timbres. So stunning are the latter that it could easily pass for a direct-to-disc cutting. The sole sonic reproach lies in the lower octaves unfortunately being rather dimished in level in relation with the rest of the balanced spectrum say over 100Hz. That aside, it does not impede one's immense sonic satisfaction but a full frequency remastering done with care could be quite appealing–anybody out there listening.

108- Big Brother & the Holding Company – Cheap Thrills. Columbia – KCS 9700 (1968), MoFi – MFSL 2-453 (2016), (2x45 rpm). Genre: psychedelic rock, acid rock, blues rock, R&B, soul rock.

"Summertime, time, time, child, the living's easy." One of these mornings the child rose up singing, spread her wings, and took to the sky. That child was of course Janis...
Hard to ever imagine that with such an iconic voice, and name for that matter, that Janis Joplin would make her debut and follow-up LP burried beneath Big Brother's nomenclature. Nevertheless such was the case with the cartoonish-covered Cheap Thrills–designed by counterculture comix artist Crumb. CBS head honcho Clive Davis, dazzled by their performance at the Monterey Pop Festival, quickly signed them to the label after buying out their contract from independent Mainstream Records, responsible for releasing their self-titled debut. The band's second album, released in August 1968 on Columbia is considered a classic staple and statement from the San Francisco Bay Area scene. At the time it was promoted as a live-studio combo "recorded at Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium" when in fact only one song–"Ball and Chain"–was truly a live recording in front of audience done at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco while the remaining six songs were done at Columbia's Studio B in New York with producer John Simon mixing fake crowd effects to (re)create a pseudo-live feel for some of the songs. This technical twist or trick would be recycled in landmark "live" albums from fellow funkster James Brown to Eddie Kramer's technical wizardry on Kiss' 1975 breakthrough LP Alive! [Casablanca NBLP 7020-798] just to name a few. Cheap Thrills explores some of the era's popular rock subgenres without spreading out in all directions such as Sgt. Pepper for example. Side A is definitely leaning heavily towards psychedelica-acid while soulful-blues rock permeates the rest of the album with the tour de force featured on side B, comprising the Gershwin classic jazz standard "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess, now given a stunning second life. It is followed by their definitive interpretation of Erma Franklin's "Peace of My Heart" released the year before. Engineers Fred Catero, Jerry Hochman, Roy Segal, and David Diller did an amazing job capturing Janis and the band with the perfect portion of pure rawness balanced with utter finesse featured in her unadultared voice mixing rage and raspiness with power and pure delicacy. With these two songs she commands the stage like no other singer before or ever since, sowing strong impressions on other rock and soul superstars such as Robert Plant within Led Zep making their debut merely months away, extending through Joss Stone, more than three decades later–especially evident on "I Need a Man to Love". MoFi engineers Krieg Wunderlich and Rob LoVerde nailed it like never before, with tons of tone, immense physicality, dynamics rising through the roof right down to a whisper thanks to RTI's dead silent pristine pressing. Each electric guitar-amp's distinct distortion displays an uncanny realism regarding drive, intensity, sustain, saturation, overtones, and nuance–having intimate sittings with Hiwatt and Mashall tube amps in the past. I did not have an original "360 Sound" Columbia pressing for comparison but am confident it cannot touch the MoFi. Everybody in the complex chain got everything exactly right–a very rare thing. As such this remastered record transcends even their "one-step" releases so far–at least on an emotional level. If you settle for only one of the her albums, child, this is the Janis to get!

109- DK3 – Neutrons. Quarterstick Records – QS48 (1998), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: math rock, experimental, avant-garde jazz, industrial, noise rock, prog, contemporary, electroacoustic.

Our adventurous atom known as DK3 consist of proton duo Duane Denison on guitar and bass, with James Kimball on drums driving the nucleus core of The Denison/Kimball Trio, plus free electron Ken Vandermark on reeds gravitating around them. The electromagnetic field started strengthening with the release in 1995 of Soul Machine [Skin Graft Records GR 22], and ultimately colliding in 1998, creating a shock wave with Neutrons forming one fierce force of nature. Both Denison and Kimball for a certain period were part of the noise rock band The Jesus Lizard, and the radioactive fallout seems to interact with Vandermark's strong avant-jazz explorations in improvised music, provoking a thermonuclear fusion of angular meters, rhythms, and sonorities. The adrenaline runs high from start to finish with no nuclear waste in between. Jeff Lane–who sports a long list of credits as an engineer at the Chicago Recording Company–does an incredible job recording and mixing the band, boasting extremely tight impactful, menacing yet non-fatiguing, tonally balanced sonics. Every instrument remains sharply defined within the mix. The drumset is dynamic and lightning fast as rarely encountered in rock recordings, and more akin with direct-to-disc rise times and attack but fuller sounding for superior slam and punch with the only readily apparent caveat being a bit of cymbal smearing showing up on side A. Note that there are some sonic and stylistic similarities to Shellac and Steve Albini's recording and production aesthetics; and in that context the general sound can best be described as neutrally incisive rather than smooth and warm. Highly recommended for those who appreciate agressive, abrasively-oriented, syncopated, repetitive, explorative challenging musical paths.

110- White Zombie – La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume One. Geffen Records – GEF 24460 (Ger.) (1992), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: groove metal, heavy metal.

Captivated early on by horror films, comic books, sci-fi, and shock rock theatrics, and long before The Walking Dead, Robert Bartleh Cummings aka Rob Zombie formed the band in NYC, launching his debut Soul Crusher [Silent Explosion Records SE-002] in 1987. Produced, engineered, and mixed in May 1991 by non other than Andy Wallace–whose worked on so many of the best albums from the best bands of the mid-1980s and 1990s, such as Slayer, Sepultura, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and Rage Against the Machine just to name a few–and assisted by David Carpenter, La Sexorcisto–his third and best album–was released in March the following year. It grooves from the get-go to the very end with numerous TV show samples or snippets linking the eleven musical tracks together, providing ideal conditions for a develish party atmosphere. Situated at the crossroads of heavy metal and dance-oriented grooves, it straddles the fence between Pantera and Prong's grooviest thrash. Howie Weinberg seems to have mastered it with a mild to strong "smiley face EQ curve" creating a 1970s club-discothèque feel to it–imagine JBL 4520 double-scoop boucing bass and you get the picture. Very punchy and well articulated, and warm with swinging dynamic modulation. This suits the subgenre just fine, permitting us to turn the volume way up–which you'll need to do given the low-level cutting of this 26 to 30 minutes per side German Geffen pressing–so we can get up and dance accompanied by our old strobe and black light. Guaranteed to tap your zombie foot the whole time or your money back! I did not have the original US pressed on "glow in the dark" vinyl for comparison but online comments suggest some were noisy and crackled, perhaps due to that special vinyl formulation.

111- Count Basie – Live at the Sands (Before Frank). MoFi – MFSL 2-401 (2013), (2x33 1/3 rpm). Genre: big band swing, jazz.

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, and apparently that is exactly what happended to this original 1966 recording before Reprise finally release it in 1998–but only on CD at the time. Thankfully MoFi took it upon themselves to cut it on vinyl in 2013. It goes without saying that opening for Frank–flying at the top of the Rat Pack and at the apex of fame back then–must have represented the highlight of the Count's career, and reciprocally the best warm up any cool cat could wish for. In fact, the combination of the Count with the "Chairman" in concert can be found on Sinatra at the Sands released at the time in July 1966 [Reprise 2FS1019], and remastered in 2010 [MoFi MFSL 2-332]. For this LP, the original separate short sessions arranged and conducted by Quincy Jones were produced by Sonny Burke and beautifully recorded on 4-track tape by engineer Lowell Frank in late January and early February. These were later mixed by James Farber at the Hit Factory NYC with post producers Dana Watson and Matt Pierson creating one long set simulating in effect a "normal" flow big band concert. Spread on four silent shiny sides of RTI-pressed black vinyl, Live at the Sands (Before Frank) showcases Basie's band, being both bold and big in sound. From the get-go the Count is seated at stage left and pardon the pun but there is no rush to see him exit. His 88 keys may not sound as weighty as on future Pablo recordings but nevertheless it resonates with worthy realism. Sonny Payne's drums are centered deep in back filling the wide stage with immense solidity, power, drive, dynamics, and speed. The intensity of his strokes seem to show no ceiling range limit on the tape nor the cutter head and appear to move towards us, such is their foreceful impact. The bass is huge and powerful encompassing the stage–slightly less so on side B though perhaps more transparent for the brass. The many trombones–four in all–with or without various mutes steal the show, providing a crisp, crunchy, bold, blat sound, bringing increased realism to the fore like seldom heard on record. Trumpets, saxes, clarinets, and flute follow close behind. My sole sonic criticism lies in the cymbals that sound a bit distant and greyish instead of defined and burnish. With its mild background chatter of clinking glasses the overall sound resembles my own big band jazz analog recordings I sometimes did at L'Air du Temps–since closed–situated in old Montreal, and as such is more raw and direct, reflective of real life, than the sultry polished studio sound of his 88 Basie Street album also in this List (see entry #49 from my Top 500 SuperSonic HERE: MoFi's Krieg Wunderlich did an astounding job maintaining a fine tonal balance; add to that a stupendous dynamic window, even more so considering this is a double-33 1/3 and not a double-45 rpm.

112- The Knack – Get the Knack. Capitol Records – SO-11948 (1979), MoFi – MFSL 1-473 (2017), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: power pop, new wave.

It's as if some bands just have a knack of bursting onto the scene with something so fresh that it marks a before and after moment in time; such was the case with Los Angeles-based The Knack–the latter name recuperated from Richard Lester's 1965 Brit-comedy film The Knack ...and How to Get It. Released in June 1979, their debut LP made a big splash flooding the FM airwaves due to their major hit single "My Sharona" climbing the charts. Inspired by then 16-year-old Sharona Alperin, singer-guitarist Doug Fieger fell hard for his little pretty one, and used an old drum and guitar riff from lead guitarist Berton Averre as the song's template. With its upbeat, high-octane, punchy, syncopated-rhythmic riff, the quartet successfully navigated the new wave waters by channelling the spirit and energy of the early-Beatles, British beat music, and The Who with the toned-down raw energy of punk, providing the perfect blue print for power pop. Predecessors Cheap Trick paved the way with their self-titled debut LP [Epic PE 34400] and follow-up In Color [Epic PE 34884] in February and September 1977 as well as echoes of Elvis Costello's earliest-albums. Producer Mike Chapman–responsible for Blondie's 1978 breakthrough Parallel Lines [Chryalis CHR 1192]–commanded engineers David Tickle and Pete Coleman to create "the biggest drum sound ever recorded". They accomplish this by placing numerous Neumann mics–KM84's, 25 feet at the left and right and 12 feet high, a third on the snare, a fourth 10 feet over the drummer's head, a pair for the cymbals, and FET 47's for kick and toms–surrounding the Gretsch drumkit situated 15 feet from the back wall in the huge 30-foot ceiling room. The room mics were routed through Urei 1176 compressors with the snare strikes triggering them to compress and "suck in the sound of the room". Tube U67's and Shure SM57's were far and close-combined, capturing their Vox guitar amps, and tube 47s handled the Ampeg BA115 bass combo amp, and main vocals–the latter all dry, as with the rest of the instruments including no effects in the mix which is rather rare but is what provides the album's unique direct crisp sound. All four musicians were recorded together in the same big room in first or second takes with very few overdubs, save for some vocals done in the end, and little editing thanks to the band's tightness and excellence. The recording spanned seven days only, printed on an MCI 24-track tape machine, and Coleman mixed it in four on a 36-input Neve over Altec monitors. Steve Hall originally mastered it at MCA Whitney Recording Studios in L.A. I do not have the original US Capitol pressing but I do have a first press Canadian "Columbia House" Capitol copy which was quite good but MoFi's reissue beats it in every respect. Engineers Krieg Wunderlich and Rob LoVerde remastered it perfectly, bringing a wider, warmer, richer, more full-bodied sound, reaching both lower and higher in frequency with the mids ever so slightly recessed when compared with my more mid-upfront Canadian pressing, and I suspect an original US would not sound that different. What is fantastic with the MoFi is you can and will feel like pumping up the volume to experience the superb dynamic punchy sound, and non-distorted details in the percussive drumming, and dry edgy electric guitars–all that with zero-listening fatigue. I know I may sound like a broken record but truth is, this remastering duo instinctively get the knack cutting rock to vinyl! This is most probably the best sounding power pop album at this time. The enormous success of "Sharona" sadly overshadowed what is in the end an incredible, exciting, powerful-pop record worth listening to in its entirety.

113- Jerry Garcia / David Grisman – Jerry Garcia / David Grisman. Acoustic Disc – ACD-2 (1991), (CD), MoFi – MFSL 2-430 (2014), (2x33 1/3 rpm). Genre: bluegrass, celtic, country, folk, new acoustic, world, arabic influences.

The collaborative genius of Garcia and Grisman goes back to 1964, when both attended a bluegrass festival featuring Bill Monroe playing at Sunset Park in West Grove, Pennsylvania. The next year Grisman moved to San Francisco, fascinated by Garcia in the realm of the Warlocks–which would soon metamorphose into the Grateful Dead–for its fusion of bluegrass, country-folk, and rock. The chemistry between brothers blossomed on the 1970 epic American Beauty, for which they reprise "Friend of the Devil" on this here album, giving it a new twist. They met anew within the bluegrass quintet Old & In the Way three years later. Fast-forward to late 1989, where they reunited after nearly 15 years apart, started jamming in Grisman's basement recording studio in preparation for this self-titled purely acoustic album, originally only available on CD on Grisman's-own Acoustic Disc label with most of their music composed on the spot. Newly appointed engineer Dave Dennison installed some mics, hit record, and voilà. Self-produced for Dawg Productions, and recorded and mixed with Decibel Dave with production assistance by Craig Miller in spring 1991, and released in August, it showcases the immense talent and dexterity of the two protagonists accompanied by Jim Kerwin on bass, and Joe Craven on percussion or fiddle. Together they travel the many celtic country fields of folk, sowed by bluegrass, and landing in arabic territory with the lengthy "Arabia"–distinguishing itself from the shorter rootsier tracks on sides A through C–and highlighting the contrast with the opening track, the famous blues classic "The Thrill Is Gone". Dennison's recording and Krieg Wunderlich's remastering and cutting go hand in hand providing superb string detail, delicacy, and transparency; ditto for the many percussive elements including percussive acoustic guitar "drumming". In fact not knowing better, one could be fooled into thinking this is a double-45 rather than a double-33 1/3 rpm–RTI's superb silent pressing helps also in information retrieval. The soundstage is quite wide and deep thanks to hard-panning of Garcia's and Grisman's guitar and mandolin respectively, upfront in opposing channels, while bass and drums stay more centered and discreet deeper back. On the latter, I would have welcomed a bit more bass presence in the equation, and as a consequence the tonal balance is slightly more ascending, treble oriented, and crystaline than the Dead's earthier, warmer, Warner Bros recordings from the early-1970s such as Working Man's Dead [MoFi MFSL 2-428] or American Beauty [MoFi MFSL 2-429] (see entry #25 and #26 from my Top 500 SuperSonic HERE:

114- Black Light Orchestra – "Touch me, Take me". RCA Victor – KPN1-0205 (Can.) (1977), 12", 45 rpm. Genre: disco, Eurodisco stylings.

Back in the disco days, black lights were considered standard features in dance club lighting; heck some of us even had cheap portable ones along with mirror balls spinning in our bedrooms or basements. In the early months of 1977, Cerrone's Eurodisco masterpiece "Love in C Minor" [Alligator J 1611] (see entry #46 from my Top 500 SuperSonic HERE: crossed continents from France to North America, making its merry way into the Montreal mecca via the sultry nightlife and discothèques of the city that never sleeps. Lovers Disco Club manager Michel Daigle in conjunction with Dominic Sciscente–both important players and producers in the hot Canadian burgeoning disco scene of the day–assembled the Black Light Orchestra in Studio St-Charles in Longueuil, Québec, Canada to record what at first listen could pass for a Euro-flavored Montréal take on Cerrone's composition, so much are the similarities in song structure. Indeed, the main theme intro bass riff–followed by piano, brass, and strings–sounds like a rip-off from the French original's main theme intro–"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery..." With its sweeping strings, lush arrangements, staccato percussion breaks, and sparse soulful singing by songwriter and arranger Jacques Laflèche, it encompasses in one swoop the sophisticated side of disco often found in Europe between 1975 and the first half of 1979, even though it was made in La belle province. This was the formation's first 12-inch single before the fall release of their debut album Once Upon a Time [RCA Victor KKL1-0252] which included a tribute track to Italian composer extraordinaire Ennio Morricone–and is also worth getting. Engineer Pete Tessier did a terrific job; the tonal balance is slightly warm with just the right amount of bottom, kick-punch, vocals, and top end level. The conga, high hat, brass, and string tone are exemplary in every way. And at barely seven-minutes long, it fits just right on the 45rpm 12-inch single format. Side B shows simply the mono version of the A-side's stereo. One of the finest examples of quality Canadian disco in sound and substance.

115- Patrick Norman with The Black Light Orchestra – "Let's Try Once Again"/"Let's Try Once Again" (instr). RCA Victor – KPN1-0206 (Can.) (1977), 12", 45 rpm. Genre: disco, Eurodisco stylings.

Canadian country singer Patrick Norman succumbed twice to the disco beat–both times in 1977 with the Black Light Orchestra–first with "Let's Try Once Again", lastly with "Loving You" [RCA Victor KPN1-0239]. While the latter single could easily have been included in the List on sonic grounds, I chose to go with the former instead, for it combines excellent sound, and in my view, superior songwriting via a more energetic pace, plus an exciting musical breakdown, and buildup. Written by the Italian trio of Cudsi, Rossi, and Bailly, and accompanied by Québec's female disco-pop trio Toulouse, doing the french backing vocals on Norman's english vocals, the bilingual effect is both original, and evocative of the metropolis' strong dual language, and culture culmination. As the record label number indicates this 12-inch single was the exact increment to the previous entry explaining their simultaneous release. In fact, given the many musical and sonic similarities, the two tracks were often paired or mixed together in clubs or on disco-oriented radio stations–not really surprising as the majority of the personnel behind both songs seem closely identical, with Daigle, Sciscente, Laflèche, and Tessier reprising roles. The sound is nearly as good with just a fraction less lows in the tonal balance, favoring the former if forced to choose only one. The B-side shows the also interesting instrumental version, but containing the backing vocals. This release done at RCA's Records Pressing Plant in Smith Falls, Ontario.

116- The Cure – Three Imaginary Boys. Fiction Records – FIX 1 (UK) (1979), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: new wave, post-punk.

Just as British art director, designer, and photographer Bill Smith crafted the iconic imaginative cover art of their debut album, so did the boys bring a billowing breath of fresh air curating a musical new wave on their own terms. Briefly running as Easy Cure–the remaining trio consisisting of Robert Smith on guitar and vocals, Michael Dempsey on bass and back vocals, and Lol Tolhurst on drums–dropped the first name out of the equation in April 1978, before soon signing to Chris Parry's Polydor-distributed Fiction Records with their debut LP released in May the following year. The lead track "10:15 Saturday Night" sets the stage for a somewhat unique composition featuring a faint metronomic 'drop drip', turning into a ticking time bomb initiated by the high-hat and muted guitar synched in unison, followed by bass, then drum toms towards a beat-pounding crescendo, cymbals, vocals, dynamically dancing away, before erupting into a controlled aggression stemming from Smith's screaming, dry, dissonant electric guitar–quite the opposite of the standard multi-layered 48 track productions of the period, but in line with the punk-new wave aesthetic reappropriating the lost terrain. Another noteworthy new wave classic is "Grinding Halt"–which is worth getting also in 12-inch 45 rpm promo single [Fiction Records CUR 1] if you can afford it–as well as "Fire in Cairo" burning on the second side B. The latter opens with an odd but nevertheless fun "Foxy Lady" Hendrix cover that initially was a simple soundcheck. Produced by Parry, and recorded and minimally mixed by engineers Mike Hedges and Mike Dutton at Morgan Studios in Willensden, North London, England, with mastering and lacquer-cutting done at Strawberry Mastering in London. Pressing was done at PRS Ltd (Polygram Record Services) in Chingford, London. The tonal balance is excellent–especially so on the two noted tracks of side A–with good bass and low mids while remaining rather raw slightly, intimate, and quite dynamic for the genre. Some of the tracks mainly on side B lack a bit of top end detail and airiness.

117- The Cure – The PeeI Sessions. Strange Fruit – SFPS050 (UK) (1988), 12", 45 rpm. Genre: new wave, post-punk.

Released in 1988 as part of the highly interesting, long lasting Peel Sessions series, after famous UK BBC Radio 1 deejay, presenter, and producer John Peel. Starting in September 1967, and up until his death in October 2004, his popular radio show served the perfect pad to launch up-and-coming bands onto a much larger market. These sessions typically contained four songs recorded live in the BBC's studios with no overdubs giving a very raw dynamic exciting sound. Such was the case on December 4th, 1978, when the guys from Crawley entered the studios of the British public service broadcaster and put to tape the earliest, and what I would consider–along with their second album–the band's best material: "10:15 Saturday Night", "Fire in Cairo", "Boys Don't Cry", and the controversially-titled "Killing an Arab"–for which Smith later changed the lyrics to 'Kissing an Arab', and appended an oppening verse to the original song structure. Comparing "10:15" and "Fire in Cairo" on this release with the official album versions from the previous entry, it is remarkable how close the performances of both tracks, and even more so for the former are–proving that they had it pretty much locked-in by December 1978 and how faithfully accurate they were in different settings. Sonically, the Peel versions are rawer, more dynamic, frequency extended, airier, crisper, and more impactful–especially drum-wise–than the album above. Produced by Tony Wilson, and mastered and cut by engineer Bob Jones at CTS (Cine-Tele Sound) Studios in London. The master's metalwork and stampers were done by Peter Lawrence (PAG), and pressed by Adrenalin in Berkshire. Forced to choose only one of the two, I would tend towards this one for the superior sound which I consider reference demo-worthy but would miss not having the great "Grinding Halt".

118- The Cure – Seventeen Seconds. Fiction Records – FIX 004 (UK) (1980), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: cold wave, goth vibes.

Not wanting to repeat the same recipe, the trio was now augmented to a quartet with the added ingredient of keyboards to the mix via Mattieu Hartley–the latter had participated in the one-shot side project Cult Hero in December 1979, spawning in Canada the B-side's cult hit 7-inch single "I Dig You" [Fiction Records FICS 006]–with Simon Gallup now replacing Dempsey as the official bassist. These personnel changes spearheaded the darker direction the formation forged ahead on their second LP, Seventeen Seconds, released in April 1980, and pursuing even deeper through their third LP Faith [Fiction Records fix 6] in April 1981. Although Chris Parry is credited, this time production duties fell under engineer Mike Hedges and singer Smith, and departs quite a bit from their debut the previous year, trading new wave's edgy spontaneous spark with a more controlled cold wave vibe. It feels futuristic, gloomy, introspective, introvert rather than extrovert, emotionally distant and disciplined. Every track is clean and tidy–there is no spillover nor smudge. While their debut comprised three terrific tracks, S. Seconds sports several superb songs, speaks in one voice, and for that reason, is a more cohesive, and I believe superior album. It opens with "A Reflection", a melancholic mélange of mainly guitar and piano over a ramping sequencer and occasional haunting voice floating in the background. This serves well as the intro to "Play for Today" with its metronomic drum machine-sounding rhythm, clean bass, guitar harmonics interplay, and pure synth lines. "Secrets" follows in smooth simplicity, and sparse subtle vocals. Side B features the fantastic "A Forest"–also released at the time on a 12-inch single [Fiction Records FICSX 10]. S. Seconds' sessions started in late 1979 at Morgan Studios once again, with Hedges and Dutton reprising their respective roles, and assisted by engineers Andrew Warwick and Nigel Green. Built big and rectangular, they played the backing tracks live–drums centered and baffled on the back wall, with bass leaning left, guitar guarding the right, and keyboards in front below the control room window–with mostly single overdubs. Seeking an otherworldly sound, they completely miked the drums with C-ducer contact condensers taped on–kick, snare, rototoms, hi-hat, and cymbals–permitting total isolation of each drum part with no natural room reflections, creating the intimate electronic-sounding rhythm tracks. Expounding the latter, three 1176 Urei compressors in series provided the crash cymbal with a flanging splashy sound. While the bass played through an Ampeg SVT, it was DI'd for cleaner sound, and the guitar going through a Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus had a Shure SM57 on one speaker and a Neumann U47 on the second speaker. Neumann FET47 served for vocals and the synth was DI'd. The drums and bass were recorded onto a Studer one-inch 8-track, spliced to form long loops of 16 or 32-bar, running several feet around the room. Tape delay, chorus and up to seven flangers were put into great effects. Tracking was all analog on a Studer two-inch 24-track. Mixing was done on a 32-channel Harrison 24 series desk into a quarter-inch 2-track. Mastering and cutting was at Strawberry, and pressed by PRS Ltd. The tonal balance is quite neutral, clean, and uncluttered. The overall sound is quite distinct, which fits well with the particular musical genre.

119- Anti-Pasti – The Last Call. Rondelet Music & Records – ABOUT 5 (UK) (1981), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: punk.

Bridging the gap between Britain's Pistols and The Damned on one hand with the harder core Charged GBH and Dischaged on the other; Derby's Anti-Pasti positioned itself in the early-1980s as part of the second wave of the punk movement hitting the UK pub scene, and participating in the "Apocalypse Now" Tour in July 1981. On their self-produced debut album–The Last Call–the quartet rock's the place with 14 energetic tracks, opening with a quintessential punk rallying cry titled "No Goverment", while closing with The Stooges' classic "I Wanna' Be Your Dog". Keenly known for his work with goth, punk, and metal bands, engineer Colin Richardson, to his great credit, invigorates the band's performance, capturing a live raw feel from their Cargo Studios session; delivering a powerfully crisp, dynamically expressive, fiercely agile, direct sound with–rare for the genre–plenty of impact deriving from the drum kit with the toms and snare snapping and popping away. Boppin' Bob Jones cut the lacquer at CTS and De Lane Lea Studios–both places merged at The Music Centre in Wembley, London. Although they did not attain the notoriety of the the aforementioned bands, it remains one of the surprising sonic punk gems of the period.

120- Fad Gadget – "Collapsing New People (London mix)"/"Collapsing New People (Berlin mix)"; "Spoil the Child". Mute – 12 MUTE 030 (UK) (1983), 12", 45 rpm. Genre: synth-pop, industrial, noise, cold wave, experimental electronic.

Francis John Tovey aka Fad Gadget experimented at an early age with tape recorders and collages–similar to France's musique concrète creators during the 1950s–in conjunction with musical instruments, small synthesizers, and drum machines much later on. The first artist to sign with Daniel Miller's Mute independent label–home to Depeche Mode, Nitzer Ebb, and Yazoo just to name a few–he released four albums for the latter under his alter ego before pursuing under his real name. In late 1983-early 1984, extracted from his fourth album Gag [Mute STUMM 15], he released this 12-inch single which includes extended versions of the same song, with the "London mix" on side A, and the "Berlin mix", as well as the lesser known "Spoil the Child" on side B. Both of the latter feature Germany's experimental industrial group Einstürzende Neubauten–i.e. "Collapsing New Buildings"–as guest musicians. Produced by Miller, Tovey, and the legendary producer, mixer, and noise-maker Gareth Jones–whose worked with Depeche Mode, and many others–it was recorded at Hansa Tonstudios in Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany, and mixed at The Garden in London, UK. Mastered at CBS Studios, London, Tim Young aka timtom cut the vinyl, while Gedmal Galvanic Ltd. in Leicester, UK handled the vinyl stamper and metalworks. Though there are definite industrial influences in the song structure, there is also sufficient synthesizer and melodic lines to satisfy the simple synth-pop listener. Multiple metallic percussive effects establish the signature staccato rhythmic drive gearing. The vocals coolish delivery borrows from Bauhaus' Peter Murphy, and slightly to The Sisters of Mercy's Andrew Eldritch, both strong representives of the goth genre. The tonal balance is very neutral, and extended with tight lows and open detailed highs–more typical of a German-precise perspective than your average UK pressing. Quick clean lateral panning adds to the excitement. Both versions are interesting and equal in my view, with the B-side's "Berlin mix" sounding a bit heavier, and creatively out-of-phase between channels or perhaps phase-manipulated to widen the stage, and lend it a strange destabilizing feeling.

121- Various – Thank God It's Friday - Collectors Gift Series. Chocolate City – CCD 20014 DJ + Casablanca – NBD 20116, 20117, 20119, 20120, 20121, 20122, 20123, 20124, 20129 DJ (1978), 10x12", 33 1/3 rpm, single-sided, promo, compilation. Genre: disco.

Following the immense success of Saturday Night Fever at the box office in December 1977, and the corresponding best selling soundtrack of all time [RSO RS-2-4001, 2658 123], it was no surprise that Casablanca's Neil Bogart would want to jump on the bandwagon at the pinnacle of disco's popularity. Unfortunately for him and all those involved–as well as for the moviegoers–they did not have a John Travolta persona, nor a decent script to excite the masses, resulting in a film fiasco, both financially, and critically. On the other hand, the soundtrack does reunite some significant good songs from what at the time were some of the leading figures in the disco arena. This special set comprising ten single-sided 12-inch singles was released in April 1978 as a promo package for deejays and disco radio stations only, and was very hard to get at the time unless you were well connected. Though I couldn't find it during its initial release–and had to settle for the regular double-LP+12" single soundtrack [Casablanca NBLP 7099-3]–I was lucky enough to find it about a decade later in a second hand record store; all ten individually-sleeved in absolute Mint condition, and to my great astonishment, most likely never played! Make no mistake there is absolutely no comparison with this promo set vs the regular LP release. Firstly, many of the tracks are much longer, and musically better versions than the regular release, and secondly the superior sound of the maxi-single simply crushes the regular LP compilation, which like many soundtracks, lacks in frequency extension, and dynamics–and obviously would not merit a place in this List. Of particular interest here are the alternate extended mixes of two noteworthy tracks: Donna Summer's "With Your Love" [NBD 20117], and–Alec R. Costandinos-produced–Love and Kisses' "Thank God It's Friday" [NBD 20123]; which are nearly twice the duration with totally different mixes that comprise superb breaks, and instrumental parts not found on the shorter versions, allowing not only better appreciation of the song stuctures, and arrangements but also much better mixing possibilities with other songs. If you prefer the latter's shorter LP version but with better sound, you should go with the 12-inch 45rpm UK single [Casablanca TGIFL 1] which sounds rather tight with clean detailed highs. As with any compilation comprising multiple studio locations and personnel, there are slight variations in sound quality, and tonal balance between bands. Love and Kisses, and Summer's songs–including "Last Dance" [NBD 20122]–come out on top with punchy, articulate, kick and bass, accompanied by just the right amount of treble detail, and vocal level; while Pattie Brooks' "After Dark" [NBD 20116] for example, lacks a bit of bottom but still impresses in all other aspects. D.C. La Rue's slow-tempo "Do You Want the Real Thing" [NBD 20124], and Paul Jabara's "Disco Queen" [NBD 20129] also boast much longer versions with several breaks.

122- Wilton Place Street Band – "Disco Lucy (I Love Lucy Theme")/"You Don't Even Know Who We Are". Island Records – IS 1001 (1976), 12", 45 rpm. Genre: disco, mild ballroom-big band leanings.

While for many, and depending on age, "Disco Lucy" will recall Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's iconic 1950s sitcom; my first memories of it rather teleport me back to Dick Clark's American Bandstand music and dance program airing on Saturdays which frequently spinned this song in late 1976-early 1977–I can still see the dancing partners famously doing the hustle on the dancefloor during the recurring "Rate-a-Record" segment. Mostly instrumental, the energetic disco track–borrowed from the old "I Love Lucy Theme" composed by Eliot Daniel and Harold Adamson–was arranged, and produced by saxophonist, and songwriter Trevor Lawrence, with his wife Lynda Laurence aka Lynda Tucker contributing the sparse vocals. The intro has a rapid-fire panned electric guitar lick, followed by brass blowing in a call and response panned pattern, exploding in the "Let's Dance!" exaltation, and resulting in the rich orchestral string climax. The brass, and "Dance Disco Lucy" chorus alternate, and a few percussive breaks are thrown in for good measure before a grandiose movie-style finale. Sonically, everything is perfect: great warm, full saturated tonal balance, brassy present horns, solid punchy drum, groovy weighty bass, superb non-distorted cutting capturing the excitement of the studio performance. Side B is a short quirky track that lacks musical creativity but kind of makes it up with superb sound. This just happens to be Island's first 12-inch release. I did not have the original US pressing so all my comments are based on my first press Canadian copy [Island IS 1001] cut at The Mastering Lab in Hollywood, California which probably used the same stamper.

123- Wilton Place Street Band – "Baby Love, Sweet Sweet Love"/"Gonna Have a Party". Island Records – IS 1004 (1977), 12", 45 rpm. Genre: disco.

This was the band's second, and final release, and is composed, arranged, and produced once more by Trevor Lawrence in a very similar fashion to their first single described in the previous entry, though with greater singing contribution, and the grand finale replaced by a quick fadeout. Side B's "Gonna Have a Party" was not a hit but remains fairly good and worth a listen. The sound on both sides is as awesome as their debut, and all those sonic comments apply exactly here also. In a nutshell, if you liked their first release, you are most likely to appreciate this one to the same degree. Needless to say, the two tracks can be intermixed quite easily. This one also has the "TML-S" dead wax inscription, meaning cut from the slave lathe.

124- Sounds of Inner City – "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" (instrumental)/"Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" (vocal). West End Records – WES 12102 (1976), 12", 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: disco, Philly soul, funky touches.

Around the same time period as above, and also inspired by television theme songs–though in this instance in a more contemporaneous setting–Sounds of Inner City had their take on the Norman Lear-produced satirical soap opera Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, originally airing in 1976-77. It was one of at least three disco flavored versions of the series' main theme, and the only one worth investigating–the other two coming from The Deadly Nightshade [Phantom Records BPL1-1370] in 1976, and The New Marketts the following year [Festival CALS 9001], both bland musically speaking. Produced, arranged, and conducted by vibraphonist Vincent Montana, Jr.–well known for his work with M.F.S.B. and The Salsoul Orchestra–it could easily be mistaken for the latter so much is the resemblance in style, and most probably are them in disguise. In fact, the song is similar in structure to "Salsoul Hustle" from their debut LP the year before [Salsoul Records SZS 5501]. Engineer Jay Mark recorded the track at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia while Tom Moulton mixed it at Sigma Sound Studios in New York. José Rodriguez mastered it at Frankford/Wayne Matering Labs in New York. As is often the case, Moulton and Rodriguez teamed up to cut the lacquer. The instrumental is almost double the length of the vocal version, and is probably why they put it on side A instead of the usual side B, whereas the vocals normally occupy the first side of a single. In concert with the aforementioned "Disco Lucy", the intro opens with a clean electric guitar riff augmented by short fast echo effects with hi-hat hitting the 2 and 4 beats. Bass and strings follow, and sparse repeated choruses come and go a few times along the way. The arrangements are lush with the vibraphone and strings lending a chic loungy atmosphere, interspersed with brief brass bursts. The sound is fat, very warm with generous bass, and with what appears to be slight analog tape compression close to mild saturation, and some minor smearing in the highs. Nevertheless on a good full range system it provides a pleasant, classy, funky, soulful discothèque sound and vibe.

125- Goldie Alexander – "I Wouldn't Give You Up". Amour Records – A.M. 18,402 (Can.) (1977), 12", 45 rpm. Genre: disco.

Originally sung and written by Barbara Gaskins aka Barbara Roy as part of the soulful disco act Ecstasy, Passion & Pain back in 1974 [Roulette SR-3013]. Here, Canadian-born singer Goldie Alexander brings his touch to this twelve-inch single on Québec disco label Amour Records founded by Gilles Gravel. Robert Lee Gagnon produced, arranged, and directed this deeper disco-fied cover. George Cucuzella, Dominique Zgarka, and Scott Dockswell created the "special disco mix" which relies on a synth-bass riff run, resembling T. Connection's "Do What You Wanna Do" [T.K. Disco 24], and more so, Celi Bee & the Buzzy Bunch's "Superman" [T.K. Disco 37]–the latter making for a good mix in a club setting. Cucuzella–the Limelight's very first deejay in 1973, soon formed the Canadian Record Pool providing special mixes and re-edits to deejays shaping the flourishing disco scene, as well as an importer-exporter through Downstairs Records in Montreal–he would soon establish Canada's premier disco and dance music label, Unidisc Records around 1977-78. The exact same instrumental tracks served also as the backing for Chatelaine's french version [Amour Records AM 18,407] with "Corps à Corps (Avec Toi)" on side B. The sound is full, warm, with meaty bass, smooth mids and treble–perfect for discothèque and club sound levels, and domestically also if one wishes to crank the volume. The lacquer was cut by José Rodriguez–well known for his work with Tom Moulton and many Philly soul releases–and at under six minutes, there was plenty of non-compressed groove space available for a hot clean cut.

126- Zoot Sims and Al Cohn with Cecil Collier – Either Way. Fred Miles – FM-1 (1961), Classic Records JP 1006 (1998) 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: jazz, small combo swing, cool jazz, West Coast, jump blues.

Tenor saxophonists Zoot Sims and Al Cohn head a cool swinging rhythm section of lesser-known cats, consisting of Count Basie veteran Gus Johnson on drums, Bill Crow on bass, and "Old Grand Happy" aka Mose Allison on piano, with Cecil "Kid Haffy" Collier contributing vocals on three of the eight tracks. Sims and Cohn craft three compositions to the track list, of which includes interesting takes on popular jazz standards "Sweet Lorraine", "Autumn Leaves", and "Nagasaki". Born barely a month apart in 1925, and highly influenced like so many by tenor legend Lester Young–first through the Count Basie Orchestra, and on his own–John Haley Sims and Alvin Gilbery Cohn would start a long musical relationship starting in 1948 within Woody Herman's band–among which featured renowned saxophonist Stan Getz–closely followed in Artie Shaw's band. These tight fit associations of playing and practicing together night after night, no doubt deepened the strong swinging bond and shared chemistry. Recorded in February 1961 at British bassist Peter Ind's studio in New York City–who I assume engineered the sessions–the sound is simply exquisite on all fronts: even tonal balance, beautiful warm mids, great tenor presence, appropriate dynamics, non-fatiguing, mildly soft top end that makes you turn up the volume. A strong solid central image of the rhythm section is flanked by the two tenors panned out, perfectly juxtaposing their tight swinging unison phrasings, and creative counter-melodies. I do not have the original LP release pressed by RCA Records in Rockaway, but this Classic Records reissue, remastered and cut by Bernie Grundman is superb from start to finish, and one of my favorites from him; sounding warmer than his average cuts, very organic, and more what I'd expect from a Kevin Gray signature sound. Sims and Cohn are at the top of their game, showing no weak moments either way. They sum it up best this way: "Yes, a kind of telepathy does happen, and pretty soon you know what the other is thinking... and it just comes out." "We learned a lot from each other".

127- Lonnie Smith – "Do It". T.K. Disco – 136 (1978), 12", 45 rpm, promo. Genre: funk, jazz-funk, funky disco.

Better known as a soul-jazz-funk B3 practitioner who once was part of the George Benson Quartet, Lonnie Smith–like many others in the late-1970s–cozied up to the disco craze by lending it a strong funk flavor. "Do It" digs down to a hurried-tempo, dirty, funky type o' thing–think Prince's "Controversy" [Warner Bros. K 17866] meets Kool and the Gang's "Open Sesame" [De-Lite Records DSD 586] going at it at max-pitch for six minutes. From the get-go, the intro rushes into a descending scale stormlike staccato run, similar to pumping the breaks on an icy road, and heavily borrowed from The Trammps' "Disco Inferno" intro [Atlantic SD 18211]. It is produced by Lance Quinn, known for his guitar contributions on numerous disco sessions such as those from Gloria Gaynor and Carol Douglas. The short riff bursts from the brass section are as rapid and tight as the J.B.'s in action. Firing on all cylinders and cut at a hot level, this is the kind of track that will not pass well on typical tower-slim audiophile speakers where the high treble energy in the grooves may aggress some listeners or cause minor ear fatigue. On the other hand, played on an efficient wide baffle, horn type, balanced speaker, the sound is meaty, chunky, and crunchy, creating plenty of physicality. There is some apparent compression precluding a perfect performance, but recommended nevertheless for the noted qualities above, and sheer fun factor. It will also put to the test your cartridge-tonearm tracking capabilities. The cleaner, the better.

128- Ferrara – "Shake It Baby Love"/"Love Attack". Midsong International – MD 509 (1979), 12", 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: disco, Hi-NRG, minor Euro disco and proto-Italo leanings.

Released in March 1979, these two equally interesting, highly energetic tracks share similitudes, and as such mix well together if you happen to own a second copy. Produced, arranged, and written by John Ferrara–there is very little information on the latter unfortunately. Although side B's "Love Attack" received more air-club play, both were cut from the same cloth, and extracted from Ferrara's only album–Wuthering Heights [Midsong International MSI 008]. Recorded by Bill Sheniman, Burt Szerlip, and Neil Dorfsman at Power Station in New York City, and remixed by Bernard Fox at Bernard Fox Studios, the sound is uniformely excellent with fine full frequency tonal balance, supported by a driving, dynamic bass, and percussive pace. The heavy emphasis on the synth and keyboards plus the rapid panning handclaps by "Clear Sky" heard at multiple intervals during "Love Attack", give it an exciting edge and Hi-NRG flavor whereas side A's track, pushes more the quick-succession staccato kick rhythm effect, and leans more towards Euro with brass and reeds taking more importance in the arrangements. Also there seems to be a recurring melodic line mildly borrowing from The Four Tops' 1966 hit "Standing in the Shadows of Love" [Motown MS 660]. Although not credited on this 12-inch single, the album which includes these two songs does credit the following singers: Angie Bofill, Curt Richards, Diane Wilson, Irene Datcher, and Miles McMillen. Note that both songs are mainly instrumental with sparse female-dominated chorus intersperse throughout, and suffer from some form of repetition along the lines of Silver Convention's main hits: "Save Me", "Fly, Robin, Fly" [Jupiter Records 89 100 OT], and "Get Up and Boogie" [Midland International BKL1-1369]. Fun all the same.

129- 'Lectric Funk – "Shanghaied"/"Sweet Sensations". Block Buster Records – BB-69 (1979), 12", 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: disco, Hi-NRG, minor new wave and electro elements.

Also produced, arranged, and conducted by John Ferrara, this 12-inch single came out around August 1979, as the disco craze was now starting a steep decline, due in part to the famous Disco Demolition Night of July 12, just a few weeks prior, and the rapid rise of new wave sweeping the airwaves and clubs–both events disrupting the normal flow of what had been a long, slow, steady ascension since its beginning six or so years ago. Another "one-hit wonder" formation, 'Lectric Funk forwent the latter style completely, concentrating instead on a heavyish-hard Hi-NRG disco, dabbling its feet in new wave-electronic directions. With its unforgettable "1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4" intro count, "Shanghaied" showcased a galloping reverberated beat that guaranteed to galvanize the clubbers to the dancefloor every night. Written by David and Isaac Blech, the song's propulsive pounding rhythm is a sure way to test your sound system's fun factor–if you are not tapping your foot, then you are in serious need for a prat wake-up call! There are no singing credits but the male vocals are quite good for the genre with the distinctiveness of juxtaposing two different registers–mainly a normal middle one plus a much lower one coming on at the end of some verses and mixed in the chorus. Side two's "Sweet Sensation" is less well known but as worthy on musical and sonic grounds with a wide and deep soundfield including exciting panning effects. Both songs are very punchy, dynamic, and tight in the 80 to 100hz kick region, and even slam in the upper bass on an efficient club-like speaker. The thin vinyl was pressed by Sound Makers in Brooklawn/Westville, New Jersey. There is also a red vinyl edition which I have not heard to compare with.

130- Bartók – Violin Concerto. Zukerman, Mehta, Los Angeles Philarmonic. Columbia Masterworks – M 35156 (1979), 12", 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: classical, modern.

Born in 1881, one year prior to Igor Stravinsky, both gentlemen garner high praise, commanding utmost respect for their works in the modern era, and are rightly considered two of the most important composers of the first half of the 20th century. While the latter shared history with many famous Russian counterparts and is best known through three colorful–and controversial for its time–ballets, Humgary's Béla Bartók barely benefited from Franz Liszt as national torch bearer, and is best remembered by integrating musical nationalism through Hungarian folk forms, and disrupting the diatonic scale such as applied in polymodal chromaticism. In a nutshell, he combined certain elements of Shoenberg's strict twelve-tone technique–where the Austrian's tone sequence was rigidly structured–with what Bartók called peasant music or rather Eastern European folk; and in doing so, was able to retain tonality through twelve-tone themes, which are normally atonal in nature, and harder to approach for many listeners, making his music a tad less intimidating. A perfect example of this is his Violin Concerto (No.2, BB117), a mature, three-movement with variations piece, written in 1938–two years after travelling to Turkey to study Turkish folk music, as well composing his most famous Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. This was during a period of great uncertainty, and fear for the composer, considering the rapid rise of fascism in Europe, his strong opposition to the Nazis, and culminating in his decision to migrate to the States in New York City in October 1940. It is perhaps quite fitting that Israeli-born violinist Pinchas Zukerman–whose Jewish parents were Holocaust survivors, taught him to play at age eight, and eventually enrolled into NYC's Julliard School in 1962–would get to interpret and record this composer's creations, exactly four decades later. Interestingly, Indian-born conductor Zubin Mehta was also first taught violin and piano by his father–who had studied under violinist Ivan Galamian in New York, which also tutored Zukerman and Itzhak Perlman. Mehta led the Los Angeles Philarmonic as Music Director from 1962 to 1978, becoming at 26, the youngest director in that prestigious post. This Columbia Masterworks release is dated 1979, so I'm guessing the recording must have been done within the previous year, given the maestro's departure from LAP in 1978 for the post of Principal Conductor of the New York Philarmonic, which he held until 1991. Unfortunately there is no information nor engineering credits whatsoever. That being said, the sound is supremely sweet, extended in the treble, and highly dynamic with a very low noise-floor, exciting yet non-fatiguing, vast in all three dimensions, and arguably even superior–at least in the top end–to the best Heifetz-RCA Living Stereo, and Red Seal originals or Classic Records remasterings, with less grain and more finesse.

131- Soft Cell – "Tainted Love / Where Did Our Love Go"/"Tainted Dub". Some Bizzare – BZS 212 (UK) (1981), 12", 45 rpm. Genre: synthpop, new wave, new romantic, alternative.

Originally a fervid upbeat flop featured on the B-side of a rare soul seven-inch single sung by Gloria Jones in May 1965 [Champion Records 14003], "Tainted Love" rose from the ashes in July 1981 when UK Leeds duo Soft Cell solidified their standing, while successfully putting their own stamp on it. By slightly slowing down the tempo, adding cool-sounding synths, transposing the key from 'C' to 'G' for the singer's lower register, and juxtaposing the background vocals with the lead, the former's Motown-ish mood had metamorphosed completely. Harking back to the late-1960s mod scene and 1970s that thrived on obscure mid-1960s singles, Northern soul, as the Brits coined it, dominated the dance clubs in places like Manchester's Twisted Wheel and England's Wigan Casino just to name a few. Famous deejay Richard Searling carved out a copy from a store in Philadelphia and introduced it to his clubbers back home. Such was the–newfound–success that Jones tried her luck a second time by recording it anew, and slightly updating it for her 1976 LP Vixen [EMI EMC 3159] but to little avail. Instrumentalist Dave Ball and singer Marc Almond–both ex-Polytechnic pals and seemingly deejays prior to the formation–were into Northern soul and loved the track, which they played as an encore for their live shows. Integrating and segueing the H-D-H-penned "Where Did Our Love Go"–The Supremes' first hit single in June 1964 [Motown 621]–at the exact midpoint of the twelve-inch version of "Tainted Love" was only second nature and proved artistically brilliant. Leading up to this transition, there is a forty-second synth sweep deconstructed as follows: 4 bars maintaining a steady fixed pitch, followed by 8 bars of descending pitch, performed utilizing the unit's pitch-control ribbon. Almond's vocals were captured with a Neumann U87 through a EMT plate reverb, and a compressor on his first run-through in one single complete take. Roland drum machine for the kick and snare, separated and heavily EQed, a Synare drum furnished the signature "pink-pink" percussive sound, plus a Korg synth for the bass, served as the basis of the track while producer Mike Thorne's custom Synclavier served duties for the piano, with a late-1960s Serge Modular synth and Moog 3C patched in for some sounds. The dub version on side B was more a free-for-all improvised experiment which gives it a certain edge. Paul Hardiman engineered the song in Studio Two at Advision Studios in Central London on a 24-track MCI deck, and mixed mostly mono–intentionally for focus on the dance floor–on a 32-channel Quad Eight Electronics automated desk–imported from California at the height of the short-lived quadrophonic craze. Monitoring relied on big JBL 4350s in a 20 by 30 foot room. It took only a couple of days to complete the track, dedicating a full day for mixing. George Peckham aka Porky cut the lacquer at Portland Studios in London. Pressing was done at PRS Ltd.–Polygram Record Services Limited in Chingford, Greater London. The sound sports a nice springy bass punch modulating the meters, and is generally well balanced tonally with some dynamic compression in the vocals along the way but nothing unduly.

132- Soft Cell – "Bedsitter". Some Bizzare – BZS 612 (UK) or Vertigo – 6400 516 (Holland) (1981), 12", 45 rpm. Genre: new wave, synthpop, new romantic, alternative.

"Bedsitter" was the follow-up single to "Tainted Love" released at the end of October, some 3-4 months later. Although it did not attain the level of airplay, fame and sales of their previous hit, I have a slight musical preference for it. Perhaps it is the guitar-sounding riff–most probably played by a synth since there are no guitar credits listed–that appeals more to my new wave affection than a typical early-1980s synthpop track. In effect, the song's style and stylistic touches tends towards The B-52's debut album [Warner Bros. BSK 3355] and The Monks' "Skylab (Theme from the Monks)" track from their LP Bad Habits [EMI EMC 3309] with a 1960s twangy surf Ventures-like sound. Both Soft Cell songs share about the same fast tempo around 144 bpm, but "Tainted Love" may appear subjectively slower due to the vocal phrasing structure, and–for all the deejays out there–they also mix well together. Mike Thorne reprised his role as producer but this one was recorded by engineer–and future Senior Vice President of SSL (Solid State Logic)–Don Wershba in Studio C at Mediasound in Manhattan, NY, and at Candem Cell, London. Two custom-built 12-channel boards were paired to accomodate the 24-track 3M tape deck–in addition to EMT plates, Lang and Pultec EQs, Teletronix LA2A tube compressors, UREI 1176 peak limiters, Eventide 910 harmonizer, and Lexicon digital delay devices. Electronic musical instruments included a Roland 808 drum machine in conjunction with the Synclavier. Neumann U87 was retained for the main mic–mostly done at a certain distance to include the natural room sound–wherein Almond doubled his own vocals, striving more for emotional intensity and integrity than technicality. Monitoring alternated between Yamaha NS-10s and Altec 604Es. Harvey Goldberg–who went on to become the "Broadcast Music Mixer" for The Late Show, first with David Letterman, and continuing with Stephen Colbert–mixed it. Based on the corresponding album Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret [Some Bizzare BZLP 2], Arun Chakavertz and Jack Skinner were credited as mastering engineers but it is unclear if this 12-inch single was also. Side B's "Facility Girls" is not worth much attention. The lacquer for the UK was cut at the Master Room in London by Porky. Pressed by PRS Ltd. while the one from Holland was cut and pressed by PRS Baarn in the Netherlands. On both pressings, the overall sound is well balanced, the synths slightly crisp, with just a hint of warmth but there is some compression, more important in the vocals, and surprisingly the UK seems to have even a bit of distortion concerning the latter, which makes me slightly prefer the one from Holland.

133- Altered Images – "I Could Be Happy"/"Insects" + "Disco Pop Stars". Epic – EPC A13 (UK) (1981), 12", 45 rpm. Genre: new wave, alternative, synth pop.

Released at the very end of 1981, "I Could Be Happy" by Scotland's Altered Images invoked the bubbly spirit of Blondie's new wave punk prior period. By extension, one could probably draw a parallel line between both band's respective singers–Clare Grogan and Debbie Harry. Indeed, one can find certain rapprochements relative to this track and the latter's 1979 hit "Atomic" from Eat to the Beat [Chrysalis CHE-1225]. There are some slight stylistic similarities with A Flock of Seagulls' "Telecommunication" [Jive T4] three months earlier. Strikingly the first half of the track is instrumental before we get to hear the first verse which is not uncommon with other Martin Rushent productions such as The Human League's, and the special remixes done for The League Unlimited Orchestra's Love and Dancing [Virgin OVED 6] released in July 1982. A nice syncopated beat break with double-claps awaits us around the 3.30 mark, making for great mixing opportunities, then the bass run comes in, followed by the U2-ish guitar riff, and a last return of the vocals. The B-side sports two short songs. Starting with "Insects" which has a moderately slow tempo and is quite repetitive, and only fair. In contrast "Disco Pop Stars" has a nervous ska style tempo, sounding like a cross between early Blondie and A Flock of Seagulls' 1982 debut LP [Jive HOP 201], and is more interesting. It was produced at Genetic Sound aka Rushent's Mansion in Berkshire, UK. The lacquer was cut at The Town House in West London on Neumann VMS 80 lathe, SX74 cutter head, and SAL74 drive amplifiers. Again the sound is mostly balanced with fast energetic kick, nice percussive panning effects, and moderate compression in the mids and highs.

134- Miro Miroe – "Nights of Arabia" (electro re-mix or Extended Version). CBS – A 13-2429 (UK) (1982), 12", 45 rpm. Genre: electropop, synthpop, new romantic, alternative.

Back in 1982, British producer, composer, arranger, saxophonist, and keyboardist Ian Ritchie enlisted his then girlfriend Berenice Nally to sing lyrics for the duo's short-lived formation Miro Miroe. Despite signing with major label CBS Records, they ended up being remembered or rather forgotten as a "one hit wonder". Which is unfortunate, given the song is one of my favorites from that period and this edgier alternative genre mixing electropop with new romantic. Nearing 140 bpm, the staccato synth bass-kick intro establishes the main motif upon which it progressively propels the listener onto an energetic, melodic, modal trip that slowly builds up in intensity, and harmonic complexity, combining cool-sounding arpeggio synth textures with Arabic free-flowing sax. Similar to the previous entry the first half of the track is nearly instrumental before we get to the first verse where Nally comes in. Ian Curnow is credited for additional keyboards. Colin Thurston produced and engineered it–the latter augmented by Renata. Nickz aka Nick Webb cut the lacquer while CBS Pressing Plant, Aston Clinton (Aylesbury) pressed the 12-inch single. The sound is tight, fast, and neutrally balanced with some moderate dynamic compression during certain passages, though lesser so than many from that early-1980s era and what would become worse a few years further down the decade. Side B sports a shorter version of the main track followed by "Do Androids Dream" which is totally another style, resembling more an old Kraftwerk type of synthpop-new wave flavor.

135- Nitzer Ebb – "Let Your Body Learn"/"Get Clean". Power Of Voice Communications – NEB3 (UK) (France) (1986), 12", 45 rpm. Genre: EBM.

The British trio consisting of school friends David Gooday, Vaughan "Bon" Harris, and Douglas McCarthy started with their first self-release demo Basic Pain Procedure in 1983, originally on cassette format only–although later reissued on a limited edition vinyl [Pylon 30] in 2012. The hard aggressive repetitive minimalist synth-style of the latter could be best described as an Essex version of Düsseldorf's D.A.F–so much was the musical appropriation. Teaming up with producer Phil J Harding, they released their first single "Isn't It Funny How Your Body Works?" [Power Of Voice Communications NEP1] in early-1985, and accordingly, codifying the DNA of the EBM–Electronic Body Music–subgenre. In May 1986 the group came out with what I consider their best song: "Let Your Body Learn" in its 12-inch single version. From its commanding militaresque vocal intro–"Fast beat the feet, Fast fall the hands" followed by a mean-sounding sixteen-beat drum loop that is present pretty much 'til the end, and shortly by a low frequency sequencer run–"Meld in the music, The music of drums, Choose the fast beat, Choose the hard line"–unless you've got glue under your shoes, the driving rhythm catapults you to the dance floor. "Get Clean" on side B is less known but is interesting nevertheless, featuring at first a medium tempo four on the floor kick rhythm then switching into a double-time or eight-note pattern, and alternating along the way while lyrics keep repeating in pairs. Harding produced, recorded it at Greenhouse Recording Studio, and mixed it at PWL Studios–aka the 'Hit Factory'–both places located in London. Though marketed as a 'made in UK' release, it is in fact pressed by MPO–Moulages et Plastiques de l'Ouest–in France. The sound is neutrally balanced, with fast, tight kick, that relentlessly slams sans cesse with some mild dynamic compression that on some systems may approach minor listening fatigue–think narrow tower-type baffles–and thus is more enjoyable on big club-style speakers.

136- Sonny Rollins – The Bridge. RCA – LSP-2527 (1962), Classic Records – LSP-2527 (1996), 33 1/3 rpm, 180g. Genre: jazz, hard bop.

Premiering with Prestige in 1953 with a couple of stops and stints at Blue Note, Contemporary, and Riverside, this was Rollins' first of six recordings for RCA–regarded highly from the mid-1950s through mid-1960s for their classical repertoire, but barely present in jazz territoire. After a brief recording recess lasting from mid-1959 to late-1961, he decided to dedicate his time and energy to improve his art. The album's title refers to the Williamsburgh Bridge in New York where "Newk" would go practice his sax year-round for hours on end, and what would be considered his "comeback" on the jazz scene. On this January and February 1962 occasion, Sonny is accompanied by bassist Bob Cranshaw, guitarist Jim Hall, and drummers Ben Riley and Harry "H.T." Saunders–the latter replacing Riley solely for the fifth track. Bob Prince produced the six track LP at RCA Victor Studios in New York with Ray Hall handling the engineering. This is certainly not the tenor's most adventurous material on wax–the first two tracks seemingly smooth–but he, along with the quartet, take it up quite a notch starting with "John S." followed by the title-track opening the second side. The album has since been recognized as one of the artist's classics. Though the two leads often play in unison and are well captured, there is a bit of distortion around the guitar-amp combination that I'm unsure if it was intended or an artifact of the recording chain. The soundstage is nicely spread with Hall's guitar on the left, Sonny at opposite ends on the right–both up front–and the drums and bass reside solid center further back. RCA and Rollins' sax sound is warm, fine, and balanced but it does not spill overboard or come out and grab you like some of his previous Prestige and Contemporary offerings. Cranshaw's bass is generous and rather roundish for this era which is pleasant, yet is not as articulated to the fullest degree. Strangely it is the dynamic drumset that is superbly captured on tape, with one of the most natural snare sounds and realism I've heard. The interplay within the quartet in the form of the classic call and response found in some places is skillfully executed. I did not have an original RCA Living Stereo "DG white nipper" pressing to compare with, but Bernie Grundman did a superb remastering and cutting, first on 180g–the one I have–and later on 200g in 2000; both times for Classic Records and pressed by RTI in California. I did not hear the latter–though I usually prefer the 180g versions–nor could I compare the rarer four record, single-sided 45rpm edition [Classic Records LSP 2527-45S] which technically should surpass the regular version at leasts in top end extension, all else being equal. The tonal balance is wide, close to neutral with just a hint of bass lift, and overall warmth–whereas I speculate an original RCA would probably be more mid prominent, and less full range. Bernie later did a cut for ORG Music, pressed by Pallas in 2013 [ORGM1078], and there appears to be a second issue by ORG Music, pressed by Pallas in Germany in 2016 that has "BG / CB" in the matrix runout indicating that both Bernie and Chris Bellman collaborated together on this 180g reissue.

137- The Thelonious Monk Quartet – Monk's Dream. Columbia – CS 8765 (1963), MoFi – UD1S 2-011, Columbia 19075930421, Box Set (2019), (2x45 rpm). # P001. Genre: jazz.

Releasing fourteen albums for the label in five years, Monk's Dream marked his Columbia debut. As such, it shares some of the same production personnel and technical facilities as Davis and Brubeck on their landmark albums. Producer extraordinaire Teo Macero and Columbia's 30th Street Studio in Manhattan, NYC are the main ingredients in the winning recipe linking these albums with engineer Frank Laico presiding as the kitchen chef–all part of Columbia's coveted A-list. Joining him for the sessions are Charlie Rouse on tenor sax, John Ore on bass, and Frankie Dunlop on drums. Recorded between October and November 1962, the sound is to die for. Santana's Abraxas was spectacular, and Bill Evans' SATVV was also quite impressive, while Marvin Gaye's WGO was the most refined, and perhaps sonically the best of the UD1S boxes previoulsy released–Monk's Dream is at least its equal, or even surpasses them all! The sound of his Steinway is the most convincing I have heard on record–the sheer force of the hammers striking the strings, resonates. It is cleaner, less distorted, more stable, better articulated than anything I've ever heard, save for a true live close up performance. Of major importance is its even tonal balance, acoustic power, presence, and physical scale. All four sides are equal in musicality and sound quality. In that context, it is in the same league as my two prior Monk favorites: Brilliant Corners and Monk's Music (see #23 and #24 of: regarding musical significance. To conclude, Mobile Fidelity's ninth UD1S–Monk's Dream–is the audiophile's ultimate dream come true. 'Master cutter' Krieg Wunderlich assisted by Shawn R. Britton outdo themselves once more. For a more detailed account, please consult:

138- Anthony White – "I Can't Turn You Loose"/"Block Party". Salsoul Records – 12D-2030 (1977), 12", 45 rpm. Genre: disco, Philly soul.

Although the Philadelphia singer registers a few releases on Discogs' data base between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s, Anthony White pretty much fits the "one-hit wonder" definition. And by "hit", not even a big one, nor an original one for that matter. On the contrary, his is a cover of Otis Redding's 1965 soul single "I Can't Turn You Loose" [Volt 45-130], which The Blues Brothers in 1978 reappropriated at a frenzied pace to introduce the comedic duo on stage during their live shows. White's version released in September 1977 is mostly known to disco dwellers and deejays of that same era, and is also cruising at an energetic 131 bpm or so tempo. Ron Kersey signed the arrangements while Joe, Ken, and Stan Cayre–the founding brothers of Salsoul Records–are credited as executive-producers. Legendary deejay-remixer Walter Gibbons mixed it. Produced by drummer Earl Young for Baker-Harris-Young Productions–the famed Philly trio backing band powering countless classics fronted by The Trammps, MFSB, The Salsoul Orchestra, Double Exposure, and so many more–with its high octane intensity and soulful vocal delivery, it is definitely my favorite version of the three. In addition, side B's "Block Party" is as exciting as side A, for it is not a different song per say but rather an alternate instrumental version of the latter. Bolting out of the gate, Young–the inventor of the disco beat–startles us and our woofers with a solid, powerful punch in the stomach from his kick drum, followed immediately by countering with his cymbal, ushering in a captivating percussive intro peppered with syncopated snare/hi-hat shuffle patterns. Conga comes in, bass builds up the driving groove, keyboards, brass, strings, and guitar add on respectively. Around the 2/3 mark, the inverse occurs, i.e. we witness a breakdown or multitrack deconstruction, and then the true break features the conga and cowbell courting each other; after which the buildup starts over with the hi-hat, kick, bass, etc. The coda is particularly thrilling and interesting for it reprises the exact intro of side A's track, providing perfect passage to the latter if the deejay owns two copies in his collection–as I do–plus it's never a bad idea to have a backup in case of a mishap. Though not indicated, it was probably recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia. Al Brown mastered it at Frankford/Wayne Mastering Labs, New York. On both sides the sound is excellent, very well balanced from bottom to top with the vocals vs the music just in the right ratio regarding side A. Side B boasts tremendous bass punch and non-fatiguing, warm, well-panned mids and treble. Tight brass section shows appropriate crunch and definition; massed strings sound silky-esque; conga, snare, and percussion are percolating, taut, and snappy. Side B sounds a bit fatter and thicker tonally which is quite fun for the genre or club venue.

139- First Choice – "Doctor Love". Gold Mind Records – 12G-4004 (1977), 12", 45 rpm. Genre: disco, Philly soul.

Philadelphia's First Choice was one of the earliest collaborations between bassist Ronnie Baker and guitarist Norman Harris while working on the trio's first soul single–"This Is the House (Where Love Died)" [Scepter Records SCE 12347]–back in 1972; the same year as The Trammps' first single–"Zing Went the String of My Heart" [Buddah Records BDA 306]. The next year saw the release of their debut album Armed and Extremely Dangerous [Philly Groove Records PG 1400] which included soulful disco classics "Smarty Pants", "Newsy Neighbors", as well as the title-track. It was followed by 1974's The Player [Philly Groove Records PG 1502], and 1976's promo 12-inch single "First Choice Theme / Ain't He Bad" [Warner Bros. Records PRO 629]. Which brings us up to this 12-inch single released in May 1977 on Salsoul's subsidiary label Gold Mind, created the previous year by Harris for his productions. Not to be confused in any way with "Calling Doctor Love" by Kiss released just a few months earlier–"Doctor Love" remains my first choice when it comes to First Choice material, mainly for song and sound quality. Allan Felder, Ron Tyson, and Harris wrote the song. Arranged, conducted, and produced by Norman "The Harris Machine" Harris for Baker-Harris-Young Productions; like the previous selection, Joe, Ken, and Stan Cayre are credited as executive-producers. Engineers Darrell Rodgers and Mike Tarsia–Joe Tarsia's son–recorded the track at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia. This time, the one and only Tom Moulton mixed and mastered it, partnered as usual with José Rodriguez cutting the wax at Frankford/Wayne Mastering Labs, New York. Drummer Earl Young immediately grabs our attention by kicking things off with a cymbal strike on the "4" before the intro's "1" instead of on the "1" like the typical form found in disco. The original and uncommon instrumental 32-beat intro becomes a recurring theme a few times throughout the song. The soulful singing of Rochelle Fleming, Annette Guest, and Ursula Herring shares some similarities with Loleatta Holloway, herself signed with Salsoul and Gold Mind. After a few verses and energetic choruses just before the '3 minute' mark, things tone down a notch during the extended jam-like instrumental break that follows the typical Salsoul Orchestra song structure, after which the chorus comes back to the fore at the very end 'til the tailgate fast fades out. The sound is excellently balanced, with good dynamic modulation for the genre. Interesting interplay between the brass and string section. Young's powerful snare snaps while his hi-hat has just the right sizzle be it on the quarter, eighth, or sixteenth-note pattern, and keep in mind this dude never drummed with a click track so we are talking mighty organic grooves all the way.

140- Commodores – "Brick House". Motown – M 00007D1 (1977), 12", 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: funk, funky disco.

Hailing from Tuskegee, Alabama, the Commodores started life as a funkified formation competing with the likes of Kool & the Gang, War, and Earth, Wind & Fire throughout the 1970s. Unbeknownst to many, they had a string of obscure funk singles starting in 1969 with "Rise Up"/"Keep On Dancing" [Atlantic 45-2633] until they hit the bulls-eye with "Machine Gun"–a funky disco instrumental top 40 hit from their debut album of the same name [Motown M6-798S1]. Beyond that, "Brick House" remains their biggest hit before they pivoted towards more chart topping, easy-listening ballads with lead singer Lionel Ritchie taking on more prominence, until his departure for a successful solo career in 1982. Incredibly, this track may have never seen the light of day, as the band, then fresh out of ideas, were still searching for a last song to complete their upcoming self-titled album scheduled for release at the end of March 1977. Produced and arranged by James Anthony Carmichael with the band, bassist Ronald LaPread jammed out the bass line foundation while the rest of the crew built up the house layers brick by brick. The song's lyrics were actually composed by trumpeter William King's wife–Shirley Hanna–after bringing a cassette copy of the tape to his home trying to find some lyrics to transform the track into a real song, and as they say, the rest is history. Engineers Cal "Blade" Harris and Jane Clark recorded and mixed the track at Motown Recording Studios in Hollywood, CA. Engineer Jack Andrews mastered and cut the album version but this 12-inch single is uncredited so it could be a different mastering and cutting engineer altogether. Whoever it was did an outstanding job. In effect the sound is as perfect as one could expect for this genre and probably one of the best-sounding Motown maxi-single releases ever. Drummer Walter "Clyde" Orange opens the tune with a sneaky snare-tom-floor roll, one measure preceding the "1" of this classic syncopated funky beat highlighting kick, snare, and hi-hat combinations. The fat bouncy bass line establishes the groove. Crisp short staccato brass accent it. Finally Thomas McClary's clean guitar augmented by Clyde's chorus crystalize the catchy riff. Towards the end of the song there is a nice four measure-long break comprising the metronome-sounding snare doing the four-count, and permitting some mix opportunities for deejays. The soundstage is quite wide with the drumkit panned accordingly. The six minute or so track along with the superb mastering and correct cutting level provides a strong, solid, enjoyable, modulating club-like bass with very low ear-fatigue even at high playback levels. The album version is nearly half the duration and is not exactly the same mix as found here, and will not be as sonically impressive neither, so stick with this 12-inch single release. Definitely reference-calibre-danceable material that you shouldn't be without.

"I can't breathe" Eric Garner, George Floyd

"We can't breathe" People all over the World

"What's Going On" Marvin Gaye

"Why Can't We Live Together" Timmy Thomas

"Love Is the Message" MFSB (Gamble & Huff)

"RESPECT" Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin

"Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights!""Get up, stand up, dont' give up the fight!" Bob Marley and The Wailers

"Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud" James Brown

"People movin' out, people movin' in. Why, because of the color of their skin" "Vote for me and I'll set you free"... "Ball of Confusion that's what the world is today" The Temptations (Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong)

"Take the Power Back" Rage Against the Machine

"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" Gil Scott-Heron

"One Nation Under a Groove" Funkadelic (George Clinton)

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible"_

141- Agnostic Front – Liberty and Justice For.... Combat – 88561-8204-1 (1987), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: crossover thrash, New York hardcore, speed metal.

The 1970s saw the emergence of two important distinct off-center rock branches that often pitted die hard music fans against each other: heavy metal and punk rock. Nothing surprising given the wide gulf existing between Sabbath, Purple and Priest on one hand, and The Stooges, Ramones and Pistols on the other–the first striving for heaviness and virtuosity, the second preferring rawness and aggressivity. Yet by the early to mid-1980s worlds started to collide. In fact, cross-pollination had already taken place on a very limited basis before the turn of the decade with Motörhead's self-titled debut in August 1977 [Chiswick Records WIK 2] spearheading speed metal in its infancy–though one can make a strong case for Deep Purple's "Speed King" from Deep Purple in Rock [Harvest SHVL 777] in June 1970 as the earliest example of pushing the metronome further up the ladder. That said it is truly around 1986 when bands such as Slayer, Voïvod, Anthrax, and Agnostic Front upped the ante in terms of aggression, adrenaline, and speed which catapulted this crossover from hardcore punk into thrash metal and vice versa. Straight out of New York City, Agnostic were at the forefront of this foray into forbidden territory. Testing the waters with their self-released debut 7-inch EP United Blood e.p. [AF 001] in 1983, followed by Victim in Pain [Rat Cage Records MOTR 29] in 1984, it's really with Cause for Alarm [Combat Core CC 8049] in 1986 that got the musical formula fairly right. I discovered the five-member band with their third album Liberty and Justice For... not long after its release in 1987, and it remains my favorite of the lot–and the subgenre–both musically and sonically. Comprising eleven songs lasting between 1 and 3 minutes, it starts with the title-track that samples a group of schoolchildren reciting the Pledge of Allegiance right up to "indivisible" upon which drummer Will Shepler's double-kick launches us from 0-60 in a flash, followed by Vinnie Stigma's guitar, and Roger Milet's distinctive vocals, all unleashing hell in front of our eyes and ears–the latter's style may not be everybody's cup of tea. Steve Martin's wild and crazy lead guitar is electrifying and on fire while Alan Peters' bass is boisterous in density. The resulting group assault, is terrifyingly brutal, as being rammed into a brick wall by a locomotive! Norman Dunn produced the album, and there are no weak tracks on this rather short span 26-minute LP. Engineer Alex Perialas assisted by Ron Hunter did a powerfully stunning job at his own Pyramid Sound Recording Studios in Ithaca, New York. Tom Coyne mastered and cut it at Frankford Wayne Labs in New York, NY. The drumkit is the backbone of the recording, and is superbly captured and mixed with deep impact especially from the floor toms resonating in the room resulting in a big wide drum sound driving the speedy and–at times–groovy rhythm. The two guitars are at an ideal level to feel the aggressive energy of the performance without ripping your ears out–as many metal recordings unfortunately are.

142- Metallica – ...And Justice For All. Elektra – 60812-1 (1988), (2x33 1/3 rpm). Genre: speed metal, thrash metal, heavy metal, progressive metal.

Sharing several similarities with the previous album title, once again the Pledge of Allegiance is thrust into the spotlight with less than a year separating these two releases. Both bands started around 1980-81 and had their first release in 1983–starting with Kill 'Em All in July, followed by Ride the Lightning exactly one year later, and Master of Puppets [Blackened Recordings BLCKND005R-1] in March 1986. Many consider the latter LP as Metallica's masterpiece and with good reason, for it masterfully melded the thrash and brute force of their previous material with a level of sophistication seldom heard in the speed subgenre. I admire it as well but on a strictly sonic basis, have some reservations to include it in this particular List–not certain it crosses the threshold I set forth at its inception. On the other hand, their fourth release ...And Justice For All in September 1988 does so and remains as worthy as Puppets–it is like choosing between Revolver and Sgt. Pepper, both have equal merit but are different. Musically it shies from some of the rough edges of their earlier work, prioritizing more controlled complex compositions espousing longer odd meter progressive structures. As such, it can feel a bit mechanical or contrived. The nine tracks are divided onto four sides. I'll never forget the first time I put it on the platter and listened to the long slow fade in–created by the warm harmonically-rich distorted guitars–forming the intro to "Blackened" before the drums and the rest of the band bolster in with militaresque precision and the overly dry snare rapidly marking the time. Instantly we realize the Los Angeles quartet–now with bassist Jason Newsted replacing Cliff Burton who died two years prior–transform themselves, and demonstrate who the Big Boys really are. The title track follows as one of the two longest tracks of the set nearing the ten minute mark–the other being the nearly-instrumental "To Live Is to Die" on side D which integrates classical string guitar, and was a tribute honoring Burton. Side B is simply outstanding opening with "Eye of the Beholder" leading up to their metal masterpiece "One"–see the next entry. Side C is close behind with three great tracks: the frantic-paced "The Shortest Straw"; the heavy "Harvester of Sorrow" that slowly pounds a rhythm like the Roman army advancing in the streets; and "The Frayed Ends of Sanity" securing a spot also. This is the third album produced by the band with Danish producer-engineer Flemming Rasmussen, whose first objective was to find the right guitar sound. He along with engineer Toby 'Rage' Wright recorded the band members separately in a live room at One On One Studios in North Hollywood, California on three sets of reels–drums, bass & guitars, and other parts. Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero, assisted by engineer George Cowan mixed the album at Bearsville Studios in New York, extremely dry, direct, and sterile–which Rasmussen disliked–but I find makes it stand out from most other metal LPs of that era, and provides precision for the musical and rhythmic complexity involved. Bob Ludwig mastered and DMM cut it at Masterdisk in New York. Surprisingly it doesn't sound at all like the typical DMM cuts which normally tend to be overly bright or very detailed; instead it is quite the contrary with rather chunky hefty lows and descending tonal balance which suits the style just fine. There is nothing very natural in the sound–in fact the exact opposite of an Albini recording–with almost synthetic-sounding dry drums, but the overall envelope is thick, dense, tube warmly, and pleasant to the ears. In that sense it is best viewed as a canvas painting rather than a photograph. The rhythm and lead guitars have a distinctive density that at that moment in time set Metallica apart and ahead of other metal bands that would eventually emulate them such as Pantera, and Sacred Reich. Regarding Newsted's bass, it is well documented that it is close to inaudible following Hetfield and Ulrich's strict orders to the engineers to bury it in the mix. Pressed by Specialty Records Corporation in Olyphant, PA.

143- Metallica – "One"/"For Whom the Bell Tolls (Live)"+"Welcome Home (Sanitarium) (Live)". Vertigo – 874 067-1, METAL 512 (Euro-Ger.) (1989), 12", 45 rpm. Genre: speed metal, thrash metal, heavy metal, progressive metal.

Among the band's repertoire, "One" must surely be their signature song. Their first top 40 hit single, it remains an important fixture of their live shows, and even won a Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 1990. Extracted from 1988's ...And Justice For All–see the preceding selection–it was the band's first song to have a music video created just for it. Directed by Bill Pope and Michael Salomon, it is beautifully shot in black and white interspersed with scenes sourced from Dalton Trumbo's 1971 anti-war film Johnny Got His Gun along with the band playing live to the song in a warehouse. I never was a video buff–never cared for MTV nor its Canadian counterpart MuchMusic–but I remember vividly the first time I viewed that long artistic video and was mesmerized by its originality, creativity, and the powerful visual message it left behind, only elevating my deep appreciation of the track. It is in my opinion a perfect metal song that has aged quite well. The intro features war-like sound effects with helicopter in the background, followed by Hetfield's delicate clean tone guitar establishing the main riff, joined a few measures further by Hammet's clean but warmer ESP elaborating a sparse melody–simple in the beginning, before building up more intricate harmonies overlapping with time in a higher register solo. Meanwhile Ulrich makes his entry a few beats before the bar, developping a 3/4 time signature groove–giving it a waltz-like momentum–mainly relying on the kick for the first run, then adding a mixture of syncopated cymbals, snare, and toms to increase the tension. What is interesting with Hetfield's vocal is the juxtaposition of his melancholic singing style during the softer passages with the unleashing of anger in unison with the aggressive distorted guitar work, and more forceful drumming. Things start to get pretty heavy and noisy just past the halfway mark; thirty seconds afterwards there is a major shift in the rhythm pattern transitioning to 4/4 where the double kick dribbling takes command of the situation, then the guitars get in on the action riffing in unison, ending up in a synchronized staccato machine gun guitar, snare, and double kick discharge of artillery. The last minute and a half is the grand finale featuring an exciting classic dual guitar duel between Hetfield and Hammett, the latter tapping in baroque-inspired arpeggios along the neck, alternating to 2/4 at its fevered climax. Of course Metallica did not invent this song formula of starting smooth and ending raucously–as far back as Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused" from their self-titled 1969 debut [Atlantic 588171] and "Stairway to Heaven" from their fourth untitled LP [Atlantic Classic Records SD 7208] two years later, not forgetting Deep Purple's "Child in Time" from 1970's Deep Purple in Rock [Harvest SHVL 777] in between–but they seem to have mastered it like nobody else. The lacquer for this 45 rpm 12-inch single was cut at PDO, Germany. It is the exact same version than found on the album. It sounds close enough to the latter but a bit superior in the top end extension, dynamics, and double kick articulation–not surprising given the higher speed cutting and having only one track per side instead of the album's two track per side at 33 1/3 rpm. Sonically it is tonally well balanced, leaps beyond the average metal release, and is demo worthy on the appropriate audio rig. I do not have the original 1988 US promo 12-inch 33 1/3 rpm pressing [Elektra ED5349] mastered at Sheffield Lab Matrix in Santa Monica, CA and pressed by Allied Record Company in Los Angeles, CA; nor the US promo mastered at Specialty Records Corporation in Olyphant, PA, lacquer cut at Masterdisk in New York, and pressed at Specialty Records Corporation; nor the 1988 UK promo 12-inch 45 rpm [Vertigo METDJ 512] lacquer cut by Jack Adams, and pressed at EMI Records in Hayes, Middlesex, London, UK to compare with. Side B sports two live versions of fan favorites from their two previous albums, and are interesting as an alternative–though not replacements–to the original studio versions.

144- Crumbsuckers – Beast On My Back. Combat – 88561-8208-1, Rough Justice – JUST 9 (UK) (1988), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: crossover thrash, speed metal, New York hardcore, prog metal.

Hailing from Baldwin, Long Island, New York, Combat Core's Crumbsuckers came out with its first of only two albums in 1986 with Life of Dreams [Combat Core 88561-8090-1] combining brutal thrash and hardcore into sixteen short songs mainly lasting between 1 and 3 minutes. Though exciting with its thrashy punk riffs and punchy rhythms, I prefer their following release Beast On My Back for exploring more progressive complex song structures along with superior sound. In effect, side A's intro to "Breakout" features keyboards prominently taking lead in a progressive-symphonic-metal flavor before the band comes in with tight staccato-style precision, abruptly shifting to an aggressively-vocal-riff-based music style. Songs such as "Remembering Tomorrow", with its acoustic-chorus guitar intro, recall Rush's 1970s prog period–2112 [Mercury SRM-1-1079], A Farewell to Kings [Anthem ANR-1-1010], Hemispheres [Anthem SANR-1-1015], and "Natural Science" from Permanent Waves [MoFi MFSL 1-302] come to mind while others remind me of "Beyond the Black" from Metal Church's debut album in July 1984 [Ground Zero Records GZ002] and certain Slayer tracks. Produced by Randy Burns in conjunction with the band, the nine tracks fall more within normal time lengths from 3 to 5 minutes. Engineer Casey McMackin recorded the basic tracks at Eldorado Recording Studios with additional recording at Salty Dog Studios, both situated in Los Angeles along with Track Record in North Hollywood, CA. Engineer David Cook assisted by Harvey Sorgen, and Martin S. Kunitz mixed it at MadDog Studios in Venice, CA with Genya Ravan doing the final mix at Dreamland Recording Studios in Bearsville, New York. Mastered and cut by Tom Coyne at Frankford Wayne Labs in New York, NY for the original US Combat pressing. I did not have the latter so I could not compare with my 1988 UK release on Rough Justice pressed at Orlake in Dagenham, Essex, East London. Based on my UK pressing, the sound is generally excellent and way above the average for this music genre with moderate compression, fine wide tonal balance especially in the low mids–which are all too often missing in action in speed metal. I would have preferred a bit less simulated room ambience reverb in the mix for a dryer intimate presentation.

145- James Brown – Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud. King Records – 5-1047 (1969), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: funk, soul.

By the late-1960s, the "Godfather of Soul" had re-invented himself as the Founding Father of Funk. Rewinding to 1964, there's no doubt he was "Out of Sight", proving a year later, he ain't no drag with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag", and breaking out in a "Cold Sweat" in 1967, James Brown slowly but surely started introducing new ingredients into his soul food recipe. Harvesting hard bop seeds alongside childhood memories of marching bands, with call and response shouts echoing from the Southern Black church, churning as far back to the work songs from the cotton field plantations of slavery; he diluted the melodic in favor of the rhythmic and harmonic, thus creating this harder repetitive syncopated style rooted in rhythm and blues and African heritage. Following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968, Brown gave a free televised concert the day after at the Boston Garden in Massachusetts to quell the massive protests and riots in the streets. In the hope of keeping them at home glued to the their TV sets–and unbeknownsts to him initially–the mayor ordered several rebroadcasts of the show on the public televison station. Feeling the heat from certain black activists in the community for not speaking out loud enough against the racial and social injustices ravaging the country, he recorded and released the 2-part single "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud" in August of the same year–considered by some as an anthem to the Black Power movement. Strangely it appears not only once but on two different subsequent albums–A Soulful Christmas [King Records KS 1040] in late 1968, and the present entry in March 1969. All three releases seem identical, with the albums splitting the two parts with fade outs and fade ins from the original single, cut on separate tracks instead of combining them on a single track without any interruption, which would have been much preferable. But this was a common occurence with Brown's material well into the 1970s as if the single format maintained its precedence to the LP. Saxophonist, composer, and arranger Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis co-wrote the title-track. The "call and response" between Brown on lead and the unknown children's chorus is both highly original, controversial, and efficient in the context of enciting kids into a militaresque fashion. Trombonist Fred Wesley wields his first appearance with the band on this track, alonside tenor saxophonist Maceo Parker, funky drummer Clyde Stubblefield, bassist "Sweet Charles" Sherell, "chicken scratch" guitarist Jimmy Nolan, and tenor and baritone saxophonist St. Clair Pinckney make up the bulk of the James Brown Orchestra–the precursor to the J.B.'s. of the 1970s. The rest of the album has no other hits and is only mildly interesting. The only engineering credit listed on the back of the jacket is for engineer Dave Harrison, later known for his big audio consoles. The sound is clean and crisp in the mids which predominate slightly, with the lows and extreme highs a bit withdrawn, which was pretty much the norm during that period. Thankfully there is not much reverb, providing us with a dry close up presence nicely panned for a wide soundstage and no hole in the middle. Most instruments are easy to follow, with the brass and guitar especially tone-worthy. Of course I would have wished for a bit more kick and bass modulation like in his 1970s output, but it also gives it a bit of a vintage era touch. The rigid vinyl is pressed by Royal Plastics Corporation in Cincinnati, Ohio, which served King Records stemming from the same city.
A final note:

Now don't go 'bonkers' if you have not found your favorite recording included in this List, just remember: we are still in the first fifth of a long long journey...into sound.