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Wednesday, December 6, 2023


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..."

201- Elvis Costello with Burt Bacharach – Painted From Memory. Mercury – 314 538 002-2 (1998), CD HDCD only, MoFi – MFSL 1-475 (2017), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: sophisticated jazzy pop, baroque pop, easy listening.

Burt Bacharach is the backbone behind some of the biggest hits from the 1960s including Dionne Warwick's most memorable songs, and among audiophiles in particular, the soundtrack to the original 1967 Bond parody and spy spoof Casino Royale [Classic Records Colgems COSO-5005], featuring Dusty Springfield singing "The Look of Love". Partnering with lyricist Hal David, the dynamic duo delivered chart-toppers for the likes of Tom Jones, Herb Alpert, B.J. Thomas, and The Carpenters. Having studied under Darius Milhaud and digging bebop early on, he later combined elements of these plus other genres in a unique style now recognized worlwide as the "Bacharach Sound". Despite a few exceptions, his streak of success seemed to dry up through the 1970s and 1980s. The following decade brought a bit of a turnaround when in 1996 he teamed up with long-time Bacharach fan Elvis Costello to co-write the Grace of My Heart track "God Give Me Strength" spearheading the album Painted From Memory two years later. The title may suggest bringing back memories of Bacharach's songwriting style of the 1960s when he was at his peak creativity. Indeed as soon as the lead track "In the Darkest Place" commences, we are catapulted back through a time portal with Costello instead of Dionne in the lead. Everything and I do mean everything is incredible both musically and sonically. The compositions and arrangements, Johnny Mandel's rich orchestration, and Costello's performance rank to the highest standards. I never heard the original CD or HDCD, and Mobile Fidelity seems to be the only ones to have released it on vinyl. From the 1/2" / 30 IPS analog master converted to DSD 256 to analog console, Krieg Wunderlich, assisted by Rob LoVerde remastered and cut it, and pressed it at RTI. My version is on the regular vinyl and not the later "super vinyl". The first seconds say it all, this is the most natural-sounding vocals I have ever heard on my system. Interestingly, I've listened to several Costello recordings through the years, with many released by MoFi. And though they usually come out excellently, this one is from another planet–Elvis is in the building! Despite DSD, there is zero trace of "digital sound", it sounds warm and fleshed out. Tonal balance, dynamics, and soundstage are spot on from start to finish. Piano, drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, brass, and strings ... all instruments and sounds were meticulously recorded and mixed at Ocean Way Studio, Hollywood–with the last song at Right Track Studio, New York–by engineer Kevin Killen. Kudos! Defying all reason, even with an average 26 minute/side of music, the sound remains uncongested and full range 'til the end! This is one of the most impressive 33 1/3 rpm MoFi remasterings ever. Presented in an elegant gatefold with a mix of B&W studio photos and color superimposed with credits.


202- James Gang – James Gang Rides Again. ABC Records – ABCS-711 (1970), MoFi – MFSL 1-477 (2017), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: hard rock, heavy rock, psychedelic, folk rock, funk rock, heavy metal, swamp rock.

This gang of five American outlaws debuted decently strong in 1969 with Yer' Album [Bluesway BLS 6034] but the reformed bandit trio really rode back to town with their second and strongest album featuring Joe Walsh–who would later join The Eagles in 1975–on guitars, keyboards and vocals, Dale Peters on bass and acoustic guitar, and Jim Fox on drums and percussion. Recorded in November 1969 and released in July 1970, Rides Again comprises their biggest hit, the funky rock riff "Funk #49"–a reference to "Funk #48" which appeared on their debut. Kenny Loggins stole the main riff for his 1984 hit "Footloose" and associated movie-soundtrack; ironically the song was nominated for an Academy Award for "Best Original Song" the year after. In fact, almost every track on this album either heavily influenced other artists years later or was influenced by a recent group. Case in point the beat on "Asshtonpark" seems to have inspired the intro to the Bee Gees' 1975 disco hit "Jive Talking". "Woman" musically resembles The Stones' "Honky Tonk Women" though sung more by Robert Plant than Mick Jagger. "The Bomber (medley)" borrows heavily from Led Zep's "Whole Lotta Love" and "Good Times Bad Times" as well as influencing perhaps Black Sabbath's War Pigs just a few months later. "Tend My Garden"'s guitar and handclap riff definitely had a lasting influence on Boston's 1976 debut hit "More Than a Feeling" in the same manner, and seems to borrow a page from CSNY's back vocals. The intro to "Ashes in the Rain" echoes Simon & Garfunkel's 1965 hit "The Sound of Silence" but we hear also some resemblances with Led Zep's 1971' "Stairway to Heaven", and The Alan Parsons Project's string arrangements from 1976' Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Bill Szymczyk produced and engineered the album with engineers Llyllianne Duma, Mike Stone, and Stan Agol at Record Plant, NYC. I didn't have the original pressing mastered at Artisan Sound Recorders in Southern California but did have a Canadian first press [ABC Records S-711] which is fairly good but shows a bit of grain and compression in the upper mids and lower treble. The MoFi remastered and cut by Krieg Wunderlich, assisted by Rob LoVerde, reduces the latter and has more weight in the bottom end with a cleaner top end, wider soundstage, and better dynamics. Side A still retains a bit of dryness in the guitars that seems embedded in the original recording and a modicum of missing bass articulation fattening the sound commensurate with early-1970s recording practices, but side B steals the show and is truly impressive in all aspects with greater transparency, tonal balance, and superb string sounds. Musically it is more diverse and explorative in compositions and arrangements. Presented in a nice sturdy gatefold.


203- Various – The Sound of Jazz. Columbia – CS 8040 (1958) 33 1/3 rpm,  Analogue Productions – AAPJ 111-45 (2020), (2x45 rpm), 180g. Genre: New Orleans jazz, Chicago-style jazz, Kansas City jazz, Kansas City blues, blues, big band, swing, cool jazz.

The sensational Sound of Jazz LP is a must have for anyone who loves traditional jazz, blues, and outstanding sound. In 1957, CBS television carried a series entitled The Seven Lively Arts covering various facets on the subject, and aired on December 8, an innovative "live from Studio 58" episode dedicated to the jazz art form, shining a spotlight on some of its biggest names: Red Allen, Pee Wee Russell, Coleman Hawkins, Billie Holiday, Ben Webster, Lester Young, Jimmy Giuffre, Count Basie, Freddie Green, Roy Eldridge, Jimmy Rushing, and Jim Hall just to highlight the cream of the crop of musicians and singers from the assembled all-star cast. The eight tracks featured on the original Columbia LP were in fact recorded four days prior to the live broadcast, and as such the album is not a true "soundtrack" of the telecast. That said, minus some minor change in personnel, the performances remain quite similar. There is no filler material, each song represents a small gem in jazz history, honesty, and simplicity. It was produced by Irving Townsend who would strike gold a year later with Miles Davis' iconic Kind of Blue recording. Billie Holiday's bluesy rendering of "Fine and Mellow" is especially poignant on both the record and the telecast with the B&W camera capturing the moment, and knowing now that she and "Pres"–aka tenor Lester Young–would both tragically die two years later, both in their mid to late-40s, just four months apart. The original recording engineer is not credited, though given the Columbia 30th Street Studio location, one could speculate that Frank Laico or Fred Plaut are plausible choices. I have the original US "six-eye" stereo pressing which is already an excellent sounding record and impressive for its era, but this Analogue Productions' remastering by Ryan K. Smith now spread on four sides at 45 rpm, and pressed at QRP is something else. Every sonic parameter is superior: wider and deeper soundstage, better bass weight and definition, greater dynamics, crisper brass timbres, more even tonal balance with improved top end extension, precision, and finesse. Truly demo-worthy! Comes in a non-laminated gatefold with great B&W photos of the artists on the inside.  


204- The Oscar Peterson Trio – We Get Requests. Verve Records – V6-8606 (1965), UMe – B0033797-01, Acoustic Sound Series (2022), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: jazz, bop, swing.

Born in Montreal, Québec, Peterson is famous for his incredible exuberance tickling the ivories. He shows the rapid-fire response of an Art Tatum and the swing of a Teddy Wilson. As opposed to Bill Evans' sparse and sometime cerebral playing, Peterson seems to be the piano king of density. Verve Records' founder Norman Granz hired him in 1949 to be part of his "Jazz at the Philharmonic" series. On this 1964 session, he is accompanied by Ray Brown on bass, and Ed Thigpen on drums. Apart from one original closing the album, the nine other tracks were for the most part, then-current popular songs, reinterpreted by this terrific trio. Director of engineering Luis Pastor aka Val Valentin and recording engineer Bob Simpson–well known for his fantastic work at RCA–accomplished an amazing job. The hard-panned recording places the drums up front on the left, Brown's bass counters close up on the right, and naturally puts Peterson in the middle further back the soundstage. I don't have an original pressing, but having heard other original Verve pressings, am confident in saying this newly-remastered version by Ryan K. Smith is sonically leaps beyond what any Verve OG might sound like, and is so impressive, natural-sounding, and transparent that I could easily have been fooled that this was cut at 45 rpm ... but it is a 33 1/3 rpm! The brush work on the snares and cymbals is so utterly real, quick, and airy, it is as if there is no top octave limit in the recording, remastering, and cutting chain. The bass is very agile and precise–but never sterile–you can follow every nuance of dexterity, and string tension through his nimble fingers. Despite the non-stop speedy nature of Peterson's playing, the piano is well rendered, but is more leaning towards the center and treble than the lower register, so don't expect a weighty piano sound like you may find from Basie on Granz's own Pablo label. I did not hear Analogue Productions' double-45 rpm [AP-8606] done by George Marino which I presume would be very competitive given the higher speed format and his usually impressive work. Definitely, one of RKS' top remasterings! Superb presentation in a laminated gatefold with photos inside of Peterson in color on the left and the trio in B&W on the right.


205- Buckingham Nicks – Buckingham Nicks. Polydor – PD 5058 (1973), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: acoustic rock, pop rock, folk rock.

The pairing of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks traces it roots back to San Francisco when both were in high school circa 1966. Two years later, the duo within a band named Fritz were performing covers, opening for the likes of Janis, Jefferson, and Jimi. By 1972, now romantically involved, they headed to Los Angeles to try to land a record contract, eventually signing with Polydor. Producer and engineer Keith Olsen recorded them with additional studio musicians on drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, synth, and percussion at Sound City Studios in L.A., California. Lacking adequate promotion by the label, the album did not get the recognition nor strong sales it deserved at the time. Fortunately their fortunes turned around when Mick Fleetwood heard one of their songs at Sound City, and invited them to join Fleetwood Mac, and the rest is history as they say. Listening to Buckingham Nicks, it is plain to see or rather hear how much the young American duo brought to the former British blues band, transforming its style completely. Take an acoustic song like the Buckingham-penned "Never Going Back Again" from Rumours [Reprise Records 517787-1], and several songs from Buckingham Nicks could have easily served as a template. The ten tracks on the LP are interesting, varying between pop and folk-oriented rock with a strong emphasis on acoustic string interplay, and harmony-driven vocals. The tonal balance definitely leans towards the warm, fat side in the bass, slightly laid-back in the upper mids, with finely sharp crisp guitar strumming in the highs and impressive string sound. The only small drawback is the full bass lacks some articulation to better differentiate the rhythm, and on some systems may sound a bit bloated. Apparently Nicks was against the idea of the risqué cover art.


206- Bionic Boogie – "Chains"/"Cream (Always Rises to the Top)". Polydor – PRO 066 (1978), 12", 33 1/3 rpm, promo. Genre: disco.

Bionic Boogie was the brainchild of American disco producer, musician, and songwriter Gregg Diamond, who rose to prominence in early-1976 with "More, More, More" [Buddah Records DISCO 102]. Sung by ex-porn actress Andrea True Connection, and backed by Diamond's original piano riffs, the track became a major hit single during that spring. After contributing to her first two albums, towards the end of 1977, he released Bionic's debut LP featuring the hits "Dance Little Dreamer" and "Risky Changes" [Polydor PRO 036]. This was followed a year later with a second album, Hot Butterfly, featuring three hit singles–the title track, "Chains", and "Cream (Always Rises to the Top)". The white label 12-inch promo submitted here has the "spectacular disco re-mix by Gregg Diamond" version of "Chains", while side B holds the LP version of "Cream"–and not the "spectacular disco re-mix by Jim Burgess" version as printed on the label. Engineered and mixed by brother Godfrey Diamond, lacquer cut at Sterling Sound in New York. the sound is powerful, punchy, and muscled. Side A's "Chains"–which the chorus borrows from Moment of Truth's "Chained to your Love" [Salsoul Records SZS 5509]–is nevertheless quite original. The short intro consists of panned drum tom strikes in accelerando, then what appears to be heavily-distorted-fuzzy electric guitar takes command, creating one of the hardest-driving disco tracks of all time. The riff's relentless energy leaves the impression that the 116 bpm track clocks in at a much faster pace. The mix of male and female vocals at different intervals makes it interesting as well. Lastly the break breaks with tradition, providing panned percussive details and spacey sound effects, prancing over clear rhythm guitar augmented by brief brass contrasts. Incredibly "Cream" rises to the same level in quality, both musically and sonically. The 123 bpm track pummels the four on the floor in a more metronomic uncluttered presentation. Again, male and female vocals combine in a perfect blend. Mixing, mastering EQ choices, and disc-cutting are up there with the top! Must-have disco and demo track from this white-label promo.


207- Gregg Diamond, Bionic Boogie – "Hot Butterfly"/"Fess Up to the Boogie". Polydor – PRO 088 (promo) or PD D 509, 2141 112 (1978), 12", 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: smooth soulful disco.

"Hot Butterfly" is the third track extracted from Diamond's second album as discussed just above. It is a much slower, smooth, soulful disco song around 93 bpm featuring his signature piano playing and riff, and the rich vocals of Luther Vandross. These and the song's arrangements give it a very uplifting vibe. This is the "special disco re-mix by Jim Burgess". The staccato intro is kind of a slowed-down take on The Trammps' "Disco Inferno" intro but spun in reverse, i.e. here, the notes are ramping up the staircase instead of ramping down before the main riff shuffles or drags along. The cute chorus has the vocals singing the title's lyrics in French–"Chanson Papillon"–while the song's bridge borrows from the bridge of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" [MFSL UD1S 2-008], as well as the intro to its following track "What's Happening Brother". This transforms into the breakdown where instrument layers are peeled away in successive music measures as the song progresses, and towards the coda, congas now dominate the landscape on this higher plane. I have the regular red label pressing but I imagine the white label promo must be as good if not even better than my copy. Godfrey Diamond's mixing is once more divine, and the mastering's tonal balance is nearly on par with the previous selection with great kick attack, groovy piano sounds, plus a delicate harp appearing at certain intervals. Big soundstage in all three dimensions. Side B's "special disco re-mix by Gregg Diamond" of "Fess Up to the Boogie" did not reach the same success on the charts or in clubs, but is plenty enjoyable just the same, and its sound is impressive also with a very sharp kick, and highly-panned trebly electric guitars. The minor blemish are the upper mids, lower treble of the piano coming off slightly hot in the mix within the detailed tonal balance. 


208- B-H-Y – "Come as You Are"/"Opus BHY". Salsoul Records – SG 307 (1979), 12", 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: disco, Philly soul.

B-H-Y stands for Baker-Harris-Young, as in bassist Ron Baker, guitarist Norman Harris, and drummer Earl Young, the inseparable Philly-based trio behind such groups as The Trammps, M.F.S.B., Double Exposure, and the major backbone for The Philadelphia Sound. Mixing disco, Philly soul, and funky big band brass, this twelve-inch single did not turn out to be a big hit but it is still musically excellent, and sonically stunning. Both songs are exciting and upbeat, and it begs the question: how come they did not receive proper airplay on radio and in clubs? Recording engineers Carl Paruolo, Dick Devlin, and Jeff Stewart at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, mixing engineer Bob Blank at Blank Tape Studios in New York, and mastering-cutting engineer Jose Rodriguez at Sterling Sound in New York outdid themselves. This particular version was mixed by Bobby "DJ" Guttadaro. Exceedingly punchy in the kick drum and bouncy in the bass, the attack is sharply defined and to die for! Huge soundstage as a bonus. I have the regular Salsoul pressing but it also came out as a white label DJ promo.


209- Double Exposure – "Newsy Neighbors". Salsoul Records – SG 2069 (DJ) (1978), 12", 45 rpm, promo. Genre: Philly soul, soulful disco.

This Philadelphia-based singing quartet first formed in 1961 going under the name of the United Image, which spawned two lesser known singles–"Love's Creeping Up on Me" [Volt VOA-4065] in 1971 and "The African Bump" [Branding Iron Records BI-1834] in 1974. They hit their stride when they switched to Salsoul Records and had their first major hit in May 1976 with "Ten Per Cent" [Salsoul 12D-2008], the very first commercial 12-inch single available to the public–prior to this release, only deejays and radio stations had access to a few rare low-numbered promo copies. Although that song is a very important and exciting "classic" disco track, its sound quality doesn't quite meet my criteria for this TOP 500 LIST. Fortunately their fourth single released strictly as a 12-inch white label DJ promo does so in spades. Originally interpreted by Philly female trio First Choice from their 1973 debut album Armed and Extremely Dangerous [Philly Groove Records Incorporated PG 1400], "Newsy Neighbors" is given its male version counterpart. Co-written and produced by Norman Harris, engineers Carl Paruolo, Dirk Devlin, Ken Present, and Rocky Schnaars recorded it at Sigma Sound Studios and Alpha International Studios in Philadelphia, and Jose Rodriguez mastered and cut it at Sterling Sound in New York. Lasting just under five minutes, and cut at 45 rpm, it is not surprising that the sound is very dynamic, articulated, punchy, tonally balanced, breaths, and has a wide soundstage.   


210- Double Exposure – "I Got the Hots For Ya" (mixed by Bobby "DJ" Guttadaro)/"I Got the Hots For Ya" (mixed by Bobby "DJ" Guttadaro, Ken Cayre). Salsoul Records – SG 304 (1979), 12", 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: disco, soulful disco, Philly soul.

This was their last disco hit released around June 1979. It boasts two different mixes of the same song done by Bobby "DJ" Guttadaro coasting at a mid-tempo of 114 bpm. Side A starts with hand claps and piano in the lead followed by the drums, then bass and brass come in, percussions, and vocals; while side B starts with the drum solo, followed by guitar, then bass and vocals. The latter version is more stripped down, putting the kick drum at the forefront with the bass line and vocals a close second. Produced, arranged, and written by Ron Baker, engineers Carl Paruolo, Dirk Devlin, Ken Present, and Rocky Schnaars recorded it at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, with mixing engineer Bob Blank at Blank Tape Studios in New York. Mastered and lacquer cut by Robert Ludwig at Sterling Sound in New York. I have the white label promo and the regular pressing, and both are very close but I have a very slight preference for my regular copy, the latter being a smidgen less sharp and warmer in the mids than the promo–but on another system it could go either way. Both mixes sound fantastic, with side A's mix sounding more detailed in the treble because of the tambourine and having more layers of instrumentation, while side B's mix predominates more in the bass and low mids, with outstanding heft, articulation, displacement, and solidity in the kick drum, precise electric bass lines, crisp and transparent electric guitar and vocals. The tonal balance especially on side B is so "on the spot" that you really feel like cranking it up a few notches. Another demo disco track with your woofer's x-max excursion being more the true volume limiting factor than one's own ears!


211- Donald Byrd – At the Half Note Cafe (Volume 1). Blue Note – BLP 4060 (mono), BST 84060 (1961), Blue Note Tone Poet Series – B0033842-01 (2023), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: jazz, hard bop, bebop.

Will that be black or with milk and sugar?

From the patron's opening chatter and hand claps, jazz radio personality and Blue Note's "head of publicity" Ruth Mason–completely to our left of stage–introduces the quintet to New York's famous Half Note Cafe jazz club. Just judging by the intro's natural sound quality, you know you are in for a real treat. Byrd is accompanied by Pepper Adams on baritone sax, Duke Pearson on piano, Laymon Jackson on bass, and Lex Humphries on drums. Pearson's "My Girl Shirl" starts us off on a fast-pace, strong note, with both blowers playing unison–Adams on the right and Byrd on the left. Naturally the latter takes the lead solo with an agility that many would envy, highlighting how Byrd was flying at the top of his game. Dizzy comes to our head, and indeed bebop phrasings nourish Byrd's fluid vocabulary as does Adams' deep and full tone lead solo. Pearson's piano takes third solo. He's on the left and you can hear some subtle bottle or glass clinking in the background reinforcing the recording's realism. Towards the coda, Byrd and Adams trade places in a call and response with the drums, ending with both back in unison reprising the opening main riff. "Soulful Kiddy" switches style to the typical early-1960s Blue Note hard bop cat-swinging "spy jazz" vibe. Side B slows things down to a beautiful ballad–"A Portrait of Jennie", the jazz standard popularized by Nat King Cole in 1948. Closing the album, "Cecile" picks up the pace a notch or two, leading with the piano, followed by the horns in unison seemingly blending in a nursery rhyme into the main riff, leading to the baritone's warm presence owning the moment with the rhythm section comping along. Rudy Van Gelder did an outstanding job capturing the combo in a very realistic small-venue live setting with the perfect ratio of intimacy, presence, and ambiance that would even make Goldilocks proud, clearly superior sounding to his regular RVG standards. I am lucky to have an original or second press (non-DG) NM mono pressing which I always found excellent, exceeding the average original Blue Note sound–which has its pros and cons–the ride cymbal particularly natural-sounding. But this Tone Poet remastered and cut as always by Kevin Gray accompanied by Joe Harley is a cut above the rest. As is usually the case, the Tone Poets surpass the originals in better, warmer, and wider tonal balance. Such is the case here, with better bass, baritone, and exquisite trumpet; but perhaps because of Van Gelder getting it better at the tape source, Gray got it superior also to his high standards. As typical Tone Poet, the visual presentation is top notch with laminated gatefold cover showing inside the musicians as well as RVG and Alfred Lion. To conclude this ranks as one of their top-sounding remasterings; plus you get subdued Jazz at the Pawnshop ambiance with to my taste, superior music and performances. Demo-worthy!   


212- Grachan Moncur III – Evolution. Blue Note – BST 84153 (1964), Blue Note Classic Vinyl Series – Ume 4535335 (Ger.) (2022), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: avant-garde jazz, contemporary classical, third stream, modal, hard bop.

Trombonist Grachan Moncur III's debut album Evolution features an impressive lineup consisting of Lee Morgan on trumpet, Jackie McLean on alto, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Bob Cranshaw on bass, and seventeen-year-old Tony Williams on drums–who had just joined Miles Davis' Second Great Quintet. Four long pieces, all composed by Moncur III, gravitate towards the avant-garde jazz style, in the vein of Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch! [Blue Note BST-84163] released five months later, which also starred Williams and Hutcherson in their ranks–see selection #192 from An "Air Raid" starts side A. At first all is quiet on the Northeastern front with only a sustained grumbling from the vibes supported by the bass slowly alternating between the two same notes; sax enters, then trumpet chimes in unison, leading to the trombone's solo sliding at a snail's pace until the one-minute mark where they switch gears to turbo tempo; Tony turning up the heat on the cymbals and skins before reverting to the turtle slo-mo pace. The sax takes up the torch doing his dissonant solo, repeating the pattern, persuing with the trumpet's frenetic soloing until the snare and vibes play a game of cat and mouse, after which the main motif makes a final comeback. The title-track offers a different vibe–no, not the instrument–but the mood. At twelve-minutes, it is the longest piece of the album and stays very slow the entire time with a dissonant eerie ambiance, more third stream contemporary than jazz per se, not unlike Stan Kenton's mid-1960s Neophonic Orchestra explorations. Judging by the interplay between the instruments and especially the snare drum and vibraphone, it is conceivable that it may have influenced Lalo Schifrin's work–not the theme but rather the recurring 'secret operation'-background tracks–on such TV series as Mission: Impossible and Mannix from the same era. Side B opens with my favorite piece from the LP, "The Coaster". Coasting energetically at a cool hard bop pace led by the trombone and vibes, the quintet does a volte-face when the trumpet and sax join in, creating a Spanish-like chord or Phrygian mode. It gets really interesting when the sax solo blasts off full speed ahead, the bass doing double time with Williams weathering the storm of snare and cymbals, skillfully counterpunching the trumpet, the group going back and forth between flamenco-flavoured influences and straight hard bop. Here Morgan masterfully crushes it, so does Hutcherson, his mallets moving at dizzying speeds. The coda comes back with the minor-key motif, followed by an original loop-like fade-out. The final track "Monk in Wonderland" combines a strange ascending and descending Monk-ish music scale with all players in unison for the first measures, after which trumpet, sax, trombone, vibe, and bass go solo, before they end off repeating the main motif. This is another Blue Note where RVG surpassed his usual batting average, nearly equalling his work on Dolphy's Out to Lunch!. Kevin Gray remastered and cut it in 2022. The timbre and realism of the vibraphone and the soundstage's layered relief and depth are to die for. The dynamic snare drum is also a recurring highlight. Brass meet the usual high standard of Rudy–always his forte–and bass is better than typical, though a touch light weight more on side B than side A. Being part of their 'Classic Vinyl Series', it is pressed in Germany by Optimal Media GmbH. As such this release surpasses the average of this series and is among its best, but it falls just short of the usual higher-refined and priced Tone Poets from RTI, showing some faint grain in the treble affecting the brass. Given a choice, I would have easily payed the price difference for an RTI-pressed Tone Poet for that extra refinement, warmth, and the superior-looking glossed gatefold jacket for such a musically incredible album.            


213- Metallica – The $5.98 E.P. – Garage Days Re-Revisited. Elektra – 60757-1 (Ger.) (1987), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: thrash metal, speed metal, heavy metal.  

What sets this Metallica release apart from their main catalogue is that it is an EP rather than a regular LP, plus there are no original compositions; all five tracks are covers of lesser-known bands that they liked or were influenced by. With the exception of Killing Joke who were more successful and more alternative-leaning, the four others–Diamond Head, Holocaust, Budgie, and Misfits–fitted more in the late-1970s and early-1980s heavy metal and hardcore punk scene. It came out in August 1987, when the band was at an important juncture in their career. Following the death of bassist Cliff Burton, as well as their masterful Master of Puppets in March 1986, and preceding the progressive landmark...And Justice for All in September 1988, Garage Days afforded the band a brief recess from their heavy schedule and what lay ahead as success grew, cementing their reputation for the decades which followed. They rehearsed in drummer Lars Ulrich's garage in EL Cerrito, before recording and mixing at A&M in Santa Monica, and Conway in Los Angeles, California. The performances and resulting sound are both exalting and raw, very much like a live band playing in your garage or basement. Tight, and dynamic with crunchy guitars, dry vocals, crisp, natural drums, and barely produced–almost "direct-to-disc" sounding, but fiercely energetic and exciting from start to finish. Engineered by Csaba "The Hut" Petocz, Greg Dennen, and Mamie Riley, and mastered by Ron Lewter, the sound is refreshingly honest, scarcely compressed, especially so for a metal release. This is Metallica as non-polished as you'll ever get to hear.


214- Prong – The Peel Sessions. Strange Fruit – SFPS078 (1990), 45 rpm. Genre: crossover thrash, speed metal. 

Keeping in the vain of the previous selection, New York City's Prong participated in the famous "Peel Sessions" emanating from the vaults of BBC Radio 1. Named for DJ radio presenter John Peel, the show often featured emerging rock bands performing four songs live in the studio, and mixed the same day, giving them a raw, demo or garage-like sound quality and feeling. Based on the half-dozen vinyl releases of this series I have heard, all are dynamic, refreshing, exciting, and audiophile–in an authentic-sounding presentation. Prong is no exception in every manner. The four short songs stemming from their debut EP and album–Primitive Origins [Mr. Bear Records MRB 003] and Force Fed [In-Effect 88561-3004-1] respectively–are explosive! From the beginning, Prong were a cross-pollination of punk, thrash, angular, and abrasive metal, heading more towards a groove, alternative, and industrial metal, starting with 1990's Beg to Differ [Epic E 46011] and continuing on 1991's Prove You Wrong [Epic EPC 468945 1] featuring the single "Unconditional". On this EP, the trio consists of Tommy Victor on guitar and lead vocals, Mike Kirkland on bass and lead vocals, and Ted Parsons on drums and back vocals. Produced by Dale Griffin, engineer Mike Engles recorded them in January 1989 and the first transmission was in February. The thin but silent UK pressing was done by Adrenalin in Slough, Berkshire, England in 1990. The sound is direct, dynamic, punchy, and well balanced.


215- Virgil Fox – The Fox Touch • Volume One. Crystal Clear Records – CCS-7001 (Ger.) (1977), 33 1/3 rpm, (black vinyl version). Genre: classical, baroque, modern. 

There are very few pipe organ recordings rising to the challenge of making it onto this SuperSonic List, simply because rare are those that are recorded, mastered, and cut well enough to impress in comparison with the real thing. The Mighty Beast, often regarded as the "King of Instruments", poses a colossal task to any engineer, by its sheer size, power, and otherwordly dynamic range. Finding the right equipment, mic positions, and recording levels are not for the faint of heart. Which explains why it is only the second pipe organ record yet featured here, the first being the Buzz Brass, Barney, Holst's Planets on Fidelio Music at #21–see . Being a direct-to-disc definitely raises the stakes a few notches regarding best cutting levels, headroom, and groove-pitch spacing, but it will help for a greater dynamic range and lower noise floor due to eliminating any tape hiss. Crystal Clear Records–like most direct-to-disc releases–were nearing their peak period in 1977, right before the first commercial digital recordings on vinyl. I have a few of their releases in 33 1/3 and 45 rpm, and most are sonically quite impressive. This one is no exception; plus music wise, renowned organist Virgil Fox–famous for his "Heavy Organ" concerts during the 1970s–gives a vigorous performance of three tremendous Toccatas, including probably the most famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BWV 565) by Bach. Also present and from Bach is the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major (BWV 564), plus the Toccata from the Symphonie Concertante, Op.81 by Joseph Jongen composed in 1926. Fox plays a Fratelli-Ruffatti organ consisting of 116 ranks, 108 stops and 6791 pipes. Recorded at Garden Grove Community Church, in Garden Grove, CA. Pressed by Teldec-Press GmbH in West Germany. Engineer and co-founder of Everest Records, Bert Whyte, and mastering and cutting engineers Richard Simpson and Stan Ricker did a phenomenal job. Some of the most dynamic and deepest organ bass on record! 


216- Blondie – "Heart of Glass"/ "Heart of Glass (instrumental)". Chrysalis – CDS-2275 (1978), 12", 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: disco, electro disco, new wave, pop rock.

The five-member band fronted by singer Debbie Harry hailed from New York City. Along with Ramones, Television, and Talking Heads, they took part in the nascent New York new wave punk scene centered around club CBGB. The band's debut single "X-Offender" in June 1976, tinged with early-1960s style, did not chart. The breakthrough came in September 1978 with Parallel Lines–their third album, and first produced by Mike Chapman–which featured the huge hit single "Heart of Glass". Originally composed in 1975 and titled "Once I Had a Love", even at that early stage, the lyrics were complete. The first demo version was arranged in a slower soulful funky disco track resembling George McCrae's 1974 hit "Rock Your Baby" with a touch of reggae snippet added to it. A second demo version from 1978 shows a faster more pop feel approaching the final version we all know. The latter was a hybrid between new wave, pop rock, and electro disco–influenced by Donna Summer and Giorgio's 1977 landmark "I Feel Love" [Casablanca NBD 20104] which Harry liked and performed live in May 1978. That same month The Rolling Stones released "Miss You" [Rolling Stones Records DK 4609], which was the song that started the trend of combining rock and disco elements together. Rod Stewart would follow their lead with "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" [Riva SAM 92 or Warner Bros. WBSD 8727] in November, then Donna Summer with "Hot Stuff" [Casablanca NBD 20159 DJ or NBD 20167] in April 1979, and finally Kiss with "I Was Made for Loving You" [Casablanca NBD 20169] a month later. "Heart of Glass" featured electronic percussive tracks built by the newly-introduced Roland CR-78 drum machine in parallel with Clem Burke playing Premier acoustic drums. Several Neumann mics captured the drumset while Shure SM57 and AKG 414 were used for Frank Infante's Les Paul guitar. The twelve-inch version is the one worth getting for its longer duration and much superior sound than the LP. Side B has an interesting instrumental version. The sound has impressive weight in the kick and lows as well as a wide soundstage, and an excellent tonal balance and instrument mix. Engineers Pete Coleman assisted by Grey Russell recorded it at Record Plant in New York City in June 1978. It was mastered by Steve Hall at MCA Whitney Recording Studios in Glendale, California.

217- The Pretenders – Pretenders. Real Records – RAL 3 (UK) (1980), MoFi MFSL 1-372 (2016), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: punk rock, pop punk, new wave, jangle pop, rock and roll, country and western, reggae rock, dub, pop.

While singer and founder Chrissie Hynde came from Ohio, the quartet formed in Hereford, England in spring 1978. Their first single, "Stop Your Sobbing" in January 1979, was a cover of a 1964 hit by The Kinks. "Kid" and "Brass in Pocket" would follow as the year progressed, leading to their self-titled debut album in January 1980. The aforementioned Blondie seemed to serve as a source of inspiration–both bands featuring strong female singers leading an all male guitar-driven group, drawing influences from the punk rock ethos. And the punk attitude or energy does predominate side A of the album; the rather raw and rough sound with the mids slightly forward commensurate with the unvarnished genre. On the other hand, Side B is much more polished in sound reflecting the more refined compositions, and presenting a different perspective of the band. "Kid" is a good example of the latter, where the jangly and strumming guitar, plus floor tom beats, compliment Chrissie's confident melodic vocals, giving it a country and western twang/rock and roll vibe. The tonal balance is more full range and warmer. "Private Life" differentiates itself by incorporating dub reggae rhythms and stylings. Her voice is very close, intimate, and naturally rendered. The roundish bouncy bass goes deep contrasting the clear guitar, not unlike The Police on their first albums. At six and a half minutes, it is the longest song as well as the best sounding of the twelve tracks, making it my de facto demo favorite of the LP. "Brass in the Pocket" was the track that got the most airplay and video views when the latter were just starting to rival radio for fan attention. Engineers Bill Price and Mike Stavrou recorded and mixed them at Wessex Sound and Air Studios in London, England. Original lacquers were cut by Tim Tom aka Tim Young at CBS Studios, London. I don't have the original UK pressing but do have the MoFi remastered and cut by Krieg Wunderlich and assisted by Rob LoVerde, and pressed at RTI in California. The source for the transfer was the 1/4" / 15 IPS analog master converted to DSD 256, from which my sonic description is based. It is presented in a gatefold cover with B&W photos of the musicians inside.


218- The Pretenders – Learning to Crawl. Real Records – WX 2 (UK) (1984), MoFi MFSL 1-339 (2012), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: new wave, power pop, jangle pop, country and western, rock and roll, alternative rock, rockabilly, dance rock.
They say third time's the charm, providing Pretenders their highest-charting album boasting three great singles. The title refers to Chrissie Hynde's infant daughter then learning to crawl, but by 1984 the band was already up and running. "Middle of the Road" makes a strong start channelling the charmful energy of The B-52's "Private Idaho" [MOFI 1-014]–the song sounding more new wave than those found on their debut LP. "Back on the Chain Gang" changes gear, travelling towards a slower lane. The intro has that twangy guitar country vibe while the lyrics reflect on the death (from a drug overdose) of guitarist James Honeyman-Scott. The chain-gang chant–"ooh ah"–and "metal clanks" mirror those originally found on Sam Cook's 1960 classic "Chain Gang". "Show Me" closes side A; its melody making it one of my favorites of the album. Engineers Steve Churchyard and Jeremy Allom recorded them at Air Studios in London, England. I don't have the original UK pressing cut by Tim Young at CBS Studios, London, but do have the MoFi remastered and cut by Krieg Wunderlich, and pressed at RTI in California. The source for the transfer was the 1/2" / 30 IPS analog master direct to lathe. Compared to their debut described above, the sound is quite different, with much more room ambiance, and soundstage depth. The drums seem centered and quite further back but punch just as much if not more, not unlike certain Led Zep albums regarding drum-room ratio. The tonal balance is even with more top end energy, noticeable in the cymbals, general instrument reverberations, and is uniform throughout both sides. Some systems or persons may prefer one presentation over the other. There are sufficient sonics and great songs on each release to recommend both. Also presented in a gatefold cover with B&W photos inside of the band live on stage.

219- Yello – "Tied Up in Life"/"Tied Up in Red"+"Wall Street Bongo". Mercury – YELLO 212, 872 367-1 (UK & Euro) (1988), 12", 45 rpm. Genre: tribal house, latin.
Regardless of what's your favorite color, throughout the 1980s, Yello kept shining a bright light via innovative electronica presented in spectacular sound–this despite the industry moving in the other direction. This twelve-inch single release is extracted from the duo's sixth studio album, Flag, from November 1988. Compared to my two other Yello selections (see #93 and #94 here:, this one tones down quite a lot its electro-pop heritage in favor for tribal house and its strong emphasis on horns and percussion such as the bongo. Boris Blank composed and arranged the tracks. Swiss guitarist Chico Hablas establishes a clear trebly rhythm pattern. The duo produced and engineered the three tracks. Kevin Metcalfe mastered them with the lacquers cut at The Town House in West London, and pressed by EMI Records, also in London. The sound and soundstage are impressive in size, punch, and speed. Tonal balance is wide and spot on. The crisp percussion is incredibly well recorded and upfront. The vocal style remind me a bit of Nitzer Ebb's 1986 "Let Your Body Learn" [Power of Voice Communications NEB3]. Compression is kept at minimum for the genre. Definitely demo-worthy.

220- Peggy Lee – Blues Cross Country. Capitol Records – ST-1671 (1962), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: vocal jazz, Kansas City jazz, swinging blues, big band.

Depending how one counts, this is approximately Peggy Lee's 25th album–the majority made under the Capitol or Decca banner. Released in March 1962 and arranged by Quincy Jones, Blues Cross Country is a theme concept album travelling through several states singing the blues. There are twelve tracks in total–seven of which she co-wrote. Highlights for me are the opening Leiber and Stoller rhythm and blues standard "Kansas City" that sounds just like your typical Basie bounce, the slow melancholic "Basin Street Blues", and the sultry "Goin' to Chicago Blues". Among the forty plus musicians under Jones' direction, are renowned soloists Benny Carter, Jack Sheldon, and drummer Stan Levey; the songs alternating between swinging and slower blues numbers. Pressed by Capitol Records Pressing Plant, Scranton, in Pennsylvania, there are no engineering credits. The sound is well balanced with excellent stereo spread of the instruments. The bass completely on the left of stage has good articulation allowing the blues "walking" to be easy to follow while the piano in the opposite channel has nice definition and presence. Peggy Lee's vocals are naturally situated center stage. The multiple diversified brass section has good crunch plus that rich Capitol Full Dimensional Stereo sound. The drum and cymbals has good top end extension. I would prefer a touch less reverberation in the mix, but the clarity and dynamics of the recording remain impressive.

221- Billie Holiday – Songs For Distingué Lovers. Verve Records – MG VS-6021 (1958), Classic Records MG VS-6021 (180g) (1995), Verve Records, UMe, Acoustic Sound Series B0036831-01 (2023) 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: jazz, vocal jazz, small-ensemble swing, bluesy ballads.

If ever there was such a thing as a perfect jazz record, this has got to be it. Recorded in January 1957, and released a year later–not long before her premature death at age 44–the brooding mood of many of the songs is reflective of her struggles with hard drugs and the bottle. Some find her voice diminished compared to her early years; on the contrary, I find it fitting and deeply emotional. The six standards pulled from the Great American Songbook include "Day In, Day Out", "A Foggy Day", "Stars Fell on Alabama", "One For My Baby (And One More For the Road)", "Just One of Those Things", and "I Didn't Know What Time It Was". Though we've heard them countless times interpreted by many great singers, Billie brings a very personal touch. She is in very good company with the likes of Ben Webster on tenor sax, Harry Edison on trumpet, Barney Kessel on guitar, Red Mitchell on bass, Jimmy Rowles on piano, and Alvin Stoller on drums. Verve's Norman Granz produced and supervised the album. Unfortunately there seems to be no engineering credits on any of the issues out there, but whoever did it, sure knew what he was doing. Billie is dead center, while the drum, bass, piano, and guitar are on the left, with the brass and room reverbs on the right. This on paper may appear overloaded on the left while too light on the right but upon listening, it sounds awesomely majestic, magical, and intimate. I don't have an original pressing but do have the 1995 Classic Records on 180g and their 2001 version on 200g done by Bernie Grundman, and was able to compare them with the 2023 UMe Acoustic Sound Series on 180g marketed as remastered by Ryan Smith. First of all this has always been one of my favorite Classic Records, Bermie, RTI cuts, nailing it on every track, and though sounding nearly identical, preferred my 180g to my 200g pressing. When came time to compare with the latest Acoustic Sound QRP pressing, I noticed that both record's 'dead waxes' were visually the same size but did not initially read any matrix info. Keeping everything identical during my A/B comparison, my trusted audiophile friend and I both confirmed hearing the same slight sonic differences between both pressings, and ever so slightly preferred this new 2023 version, thinking Ryan Smith was the winner. Well it turns out that the latter is false, as after checking Discogs' info and the Acoustic Sound's dead wax more thoroughly, we see that 'BG' (and not 'RKS') is inscribed, matching my old Classic Records release, and meaning they used the same metal mother parts. So this confirmed once again that even similar quality identical weight pressings from the same mother can exhibit small but significant sonic differences. The 2023 version mainly had a bit more bass weight and definition, while the guitar and brass had a tad less midrange making them warmer and smaller-sized. Also the L-C-R imaging in the soundstage was a fraction wider and better defined. Lastly the QRP pressing was dead silent, more so than the still excellent 180g RTI pressing (the 200g was noisier). If you want only one Billie Holiday in your collection, this is the one to get, musically and sonically, but you should not limit yourself to one.

222- Diana Ross & the Supremes with The Temptations – Together. Motown – MS-692 (1969), Tamla Motown – MS-692 (Can.), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: Motown Sound, soul, funk.

Within the Motown roster, the Supremes and their male counterparts The Temptations, not only ruled the AM airwaves in the US but the roadshow revue circuit in the UK as well. A tight knit family, it seems only normal that both super hit-maker groups unite forces in the studio for one duet LP. In fact it wasn't the first time they collaborated, the latter took place a year earlier on Diana Ross & the Supremes Join The Temptations [Motown MS-679] as well as the original sound track from TCB [Motown MS-682] in November and December 1968 respectively. Highlights from Together include the Ashford & Simpson-penned "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing", Stevie Wonder's "Uptight (Everything's Alright)", Sly Stone's "Sing a Simple Song", Bob Crewe's "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", and an interesting medley mixing "My Guy" and "My Girl". In addition to both groups' vocals are The Andantes, the female trio that sang on so many of Motown's top-charting singles since 1962. Frank Wilson produced the album. No engineering credits are given but the sound is excellent with a roundish bass, crisp mids, clear snare, superb rendition for all vocal parts, nice dynamic shadings and fine soundstage. Together is truly a Motown match made in heaven.

223- The Temptations – Live at London's Talk of theTown. Gordy – GLPS-953 (1970), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: Motown Sound, soul, psychedelic soul, funk.

Following in the Motor city lineage, Live at London's Talk of theTown showcases the talented Temptations performing at the Talk of the Town nightclub–originally the Hippodrome situated in the City of Westminster in London, England. Released in July 1970, it was the third Temptations live LP following Temptations Live! [Gordy S-921] in march 1967, and Live at the Copa [Gordy GS938] in December 1968. What makes this album particularly noteworthy is that the quintet had already built up an impressive repertoire of great songs during the last five years in studio and touring. Side A starts out strong with an eight-minute introductory medley featuring among others "Get Ready", "My Girl", and "Ain't Too Proud to Beg". "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me", "The Impossible Dream", "Runaway Child, Running Wild", "Don't Let the Joneses Get You Down" come next. Side B features such classics as "I Can't Get Next to You", "I Know I'm Losing You", and "Cloud Nine", as well as their take on the Bacharach-David hit "This Guy's in Love with You". Known to have worked on many Beatles recordings, Norman Smith produced the album. The recording engineer is not mentioned. Randy Kling cut the lacquer. The interpretations with the tight live band are rousingly exciting, fresh, and dynamic, and the recorded sound is up to the challenge. Tonal balance, vocal clarity, dynamic range, and soundstage dimensions are all mightily realistic and impressive!

224- James Brown – Slaughter's Big Rip-Off. Polydor – PD 6015 (US or Can.) (1973), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: jazz-funk, funk, blaxploitation-style soul.
Brown had previously participated in the blaxploitation movie soundtrack Black Caesar [Polydor PD 6014] released in February 1973. He followed a similar recipe seven months later with Slaughter's Big Rip-Off. Famous funk trombonist Fred Wesley–known for his work with The J.B.'s throughout the 1970s–joins James with "Happy for the Poor" sounding nearly identical to "Gimme Some More" from Food for Thought [People PE5601]. Because it's a soundtrack, many of the thirteen tracks are under the three-minute mark. Brown, Wesley, and Dave Matthews musically arranged the album. Sadly no engineering is credited but all of the tracks are funky fantastic, and sound killer terrific. I don't have the original US pressing but do have the Canadian first press which I based my sonic impressions. Tonal balance is warm and spot on with groovy bass, crisp brass and rhythm guitar, impressive dynamics and top end finesse and precision. Definitely demo-worthy!

225- Spinners – Pick of the Litter. Atlantic – SD 18141 (1975), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: Philly soul.
This is the Spinners sixth and last great studio album released in August 1975, though Happiness Is Being with the Spinners, a year later, does contain the funky "The Rubberband Man" [Atlantic DSKO 76] worth having. While the chart-topping single ""They Just Can't Stop It" The (Games People Play)" remains the best known track from Pick of the Litter, other songs such as the opening track "Honest I Do" with its signature Philly soul backbeat–recalling the groups major hits "I'll Be Around" and "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love"–"Love or Leave", and "All That Glitter's Ain't Gold" are nearly as good. Even the ballads, which I often skip over, are so well recorded with the strong vocal presence, that I left the needle run its course. Thom Bell produced, arranged, and conducted the album. MFSB's orchestra provided the backbone, embellished by Don Renaldo & His Swinging Strings and Horns. Larry Washington played the congas while Bob Babbitt played bass and Bobby Eli played guitar. Not credited, Dionne Warwick contributes a few lines on the last track "Just as Long as We Have Love". Engineers Don Murray and Jim (Reds) Gallagher recorded them at Sigma Sound Studios; Nimitr Sarikananda mastered it at Frankford/Wayne Recording Labs, both in Philadelphia, Pa. Both technical teams did an outstanding job. Tonal balance is warm and perfect with rich bass, non-fatiguing mids, top end treble finesse, and very low compression for a non-audiophile release. 

226- Prince – Dirty Mind. Warner Bothers Records – BSK 3478 (1980), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: funk, new wave, post disco, pop, dance-punk, Minneapolis sound.
Recorded in May and June 1980 and released in October, Dirty Mind is Prince's third–and for my tastes–best album regarding composition, arrangements, performance, and sound quality. Among the four tracks per side, there are no weak tunes, and Prince's energy shoots through the roof at every instance. Dropping the needle on side A... boy, how that first drum kick punches you in the stomach! With a "Dirty Mind", one cannot help oneself to "Partyup" and "Do It All Night" in the hot streets of "Uptown" for sure. With it's trebly synth and clean guitar, "When You Were Mine" strongly flirts with the then new wave genre still surfing the airwaves. Engineers Jamie Starr and Ron Garrett and mixing engineers Bob Mockler, Mic Guzeuski, and Prince himself did an outstanding job on all fronts at Hollywood Sound Recorders in Los Angeles, California as did Bernie Grundman with the mastering and cutting at A&M Mastering Studios, and plated at Europadisk in New York. The sound is punchy, crisp, dynamic, full range, and uniform from start to finish, and as such, completely at odds sonically with Purple Rain in 1984–sign o' the times perhaps.

227- Prince and the Revolution – "Kiss"/"Love or Money" (both 'Extended version'). Paisley Park – 9 20442-0 A (1986), 12", 45 rpm. Genre: funk.   

Going back to 1979, the Revolution was first created for Prince's live and later on studio band. Initially "Kiss" was supposed to be a song for the rock and funk band Mazarati until Prince decided to keep it for his album Parade. Former Lipps Inc. guitarist David Rivkin aka producer David Z, worked out the very funky minimalist arrangements and particular odd drum beat programming. The rhythm guitar riff is what you would expect from a mid-1960s James Brown track ala "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" [King Records 938]. Prince's vocals are very close mic'd providing a dry intimate, dynamic, and at times scratchy-screechy texture. The female back vocals completely on the left of stage have a startling realism. The whole presentation is wide, and nearly-holographic. The rhythmic beat is highly tight and articulated. The occurring synth brass is very up front and compressed as typical of mid-1980s pop and jazz fusion records, but works out fine in this context. Highly impressive on the right kind of system! Flipping sides, "Love or Money" is a strange song for the rotation speed, and would seem to sound more natural spinning midway between 33 and 45 rpm. At 45, which is suppose to be the correct speed, Prince's vocals sound very weird, almost as if he had inhaled a light dose of helium, making the whole piece, kind of a joke, yet it still makes for a good-sounding punchy track just the same.

228- Smokey Robinson – "Vitamin U"/ Jerry Butler "Chalk It Up". Motown – M 00004D1 (1977), 12", 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: disco, soulful disco.

Well known as the founder and lead singer of the Miracles from the late-1950s to 1972 and one of Motown's major songwriters, Smokey kept having success as a solo artist. "Vitamin U" is a single extracted from his album Deep in My Soul that came out in January 1977, for which I just discovered lately. On this "split Motown twelve-inch" format, it shares the spotlight with the single "Chalk It Up" by veteran soul singer Jerry Butler, featured on his album Suite for the Single Girl, which is my favorite of the two songs because of its stronger soulful flavor. That said, both tracks are awesome and sound nearly as good as a great 45 rpm 'One Step' pressing! No doubt the rather short song durations–between 4 1/2 and 6 minutes long respectively–help regarding disc-cutting physics, and ultimate sonic possibilities.

229- James Horner – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack). Atlantic – SD 19363, XSD 19363 (Can.), (1982), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: classical, modern, post romantic.

After the dreadful debut of the series' film franchise–Star Trek: The Motion Picture–the subsequent chapter, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, was a welcome relief for Trekkies and Trekkers alike. I, like many fans, found it to be the best one starring the original cast, along with Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. But when it comes down to Trek soundtracks, James Horner's Khan is unbeatable in my book. Borrowing at times from Gustav Holst–like John Williams and so many other film composers have–Horner combines staccato brass with military snare drum marches, setting the stage for battleship combat scenes between Kirk and Khan at the helm. Engineer Bill Freesh recorded the orchestra at Record Plant Scoring in Los Angeles. Stephen Marcussen cut the lacquer at Precision Mastering in L.A. for the US pressing. I don't have the latter but do have the Canadian first press where I base my comments from. Despite being a relatively early digital recording–most probably 16 bit, 44.1 or 50khz–and seemingly proud to boldly display it on the front cover, the sound is quite impressive in tonal balance and especially in dynamic range and contrasts, easily surpassing many all-analog 1970s and earlier soundtrack recordings on vinyl. Just goes to show, how numbers don't always tell the whole story.

230- Basil Poledouris – Conan the Barbarian (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack). MCA Records – MCA-6108, MCA-6108 (Can.), (1982), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: classical, modern, post romantic.

Strangely I never got to see the movie, but Basil Poledouris' soundtrack of Conan the Barbarian–starring newcomer Arnold Schwarzenegger–is a colossal tour de force. He is not as well known as John Williams, James Horner or Hans Zimmer, but is the name behind such movies as The Hunt for Red October, and Les Misérables. Even more dynamic than Star Trek II, he makes great use of percolating percussion and staccato rhythms. Closing your eyes, you can easily visualize the action about to take part on the big screen. Greig McRitchie orchestrated the grandiose Romanesque score. Several performers including the Chorus of Santa Cecilia, the Radio Symphony of Rome, and the Orchestra of Santa Cecilia contribute to the tapestry of sounds. Engineer Federico Savina recorded and mixed the score at International Recording Studios in Rome, Italy. Frank Jones remixed it at The Burbank Studios in California. Bernie Grundman mastered it at A&M Studios in Hollywood California. I don't have the original US pressing but the Canadian first press does not disappoint. Powerful tight bottom end allied with treble openness, and huge 3D soundstaging provide audiophiles with demo-worthy musical material. Highly recommended!  

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