Recording of the Month

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William Marsh  |  Feb 06, 2018  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1974  |  6 comments
Bax: Symphony No.5 in c sharp
London Philharmonic Orchestra; Raymond Leppard, conductor.
Musical Heritage Society MHS-1652 (LP, From Lyrita SRCS-58).

Sir Arnold Bax (1883–1953) completed his fifth symphony in 1932 and dedicated it to Sibelius. Its first performance was conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham in 1934. Have any of our major orchestras ever played it? Not to my knowledge, and after over 40 years, it's about time. At least we have it on disc now, in addition to The Garden of Fand and Tintagel. Lyrita has even more Bax in their catalog.

Robert Baird  |  Jan 18, 2018  |  21 comments
Chopin's Last Waltz
Chopin: Ballade 4 in f, Op.52; Fantasie in f, Op.49; Mazurka in c-sharp, Op.63 No.3; Mazurka in f, Op.68 No.4; Nocturne in E-flat, Op.62 No.2; Prelude in c-sharp, Op.45; Valse in A-flat, Op.64 No.3
Robert Silverman, piano
IsoMike 5606 (LP). 2017. Available from Acoustic Sounds and other on-line retailers; DSD files available from NativeDSD, www.nativedsd.com. Ellen Silverman, prod.; Ray Kimber, Aaron Hubbard, engs. DDA TT: 50:05
Performance *****
Sonics *****

At the 2017 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, Ray Kimber was beginning to feel a little antsy. He'd just released his first LP, Chopin's Last Waltz, an all-Chopin program performed by pianist Robert Silverman, and while being part of the rush to re-embrace vinyl sounds great, pressing your first-ever long player can be a bit nerve-racking.

Paul Karagianis  |  Jan 02, 2018  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1975  |  5 comments
For a long time there, it seemed like anyone who walked into a good hi-fi shop and used the word "rock" and/or "bass" had a better-than-even chance of being "Lucky Man-ed" until his ears bled. I'm choosing Brain Salad Surgery as my favorite currently popular Rock offering partly because I've had it long enough to get over the first, transitory, blush of enjoyment, and mainly because most of the people I run into who have high-quality systems rate this group as one of the best. And EL&P come out with some very high-quality discs, making them the system demo group. I know of several expensive speaker systems that have been listed KIA as a result of several-hundred-watt amps and EL&P.
Robert Baird  |  Dec 21, 2017  |  12 comments
In 2010, down in the East Village, on Delancey Street, at the NYC debut party for Robert Plant's Band of Joy, the assembled rock press, assorted hangers-on, and wannabe VIPs patiently sipped drinks as we waited for the guest of honor. Suddenly, with no fanfare or even announcement, he stepped out of a closet or secret passage of sorts into a roomful of astonished smiles. He'd been there all along.
Paul Karagianis  |  Dec 14, 2017  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1975  |  6 comments
You have probably read speaker reports that suggested that you audition with natural sounds like clanking chains, storms, animals and other things that give an easy reference to live experience. The problem is that most sound-effects albums are a real bore, dominated by reject Walt Disney announcers with adenoid problems.
William Marsh, J. Gordon Holt  |  Dec 05, 2017  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1975  |  0 comments
The King's Singers: A Contemporary Collection
Works by Peter Dickinson, Malcolm Williamson, Richard Rodney Bennett, Krzystof Penderecki, Paul Patterson
EMI EMD 5521 (UK LP). MMG Records MMG 1142 (US LP). 1975. Christopher Bishop, prod.

Astounding performances! Every piece here was commissioned by the King's Singers, those six English gentlemen whose vocal artistry surely has never been surpassed. The works here are by Peter Dickinson, Malcolm Williamson (recently appointed by HRH Elizabeth II to the post of Master of the Queen's Musick, succeeding the late Sir Arthur Bliss), Richard Rodney Bennett, Krzystof Penderecki, and Paul Patterson.

Robert Baird  |  Nov 14, 2017  |  1 comments
Christian McBride Big Band: Bringin' It
Mack Avenue Mac 1115 (CD). 2017. Gretchen Valade, exec prod.; Christian McBride, prod.; Todd Whitelock, assoc. prod., eng.; Timothy Marchiafava, asst. eng. ADD? TT: 68:59
Performance ****½
Sonics *****

As musical movements go, rock and jazz seem to be running out of new ideas, most of the stylistic pathways in both genres having been explored to their logical conclusions. In rock in particular, every stream of inspiration has been followed past its headwaters, every droplet of inspiration wrung from established forms.

William Marsh  |  Nov 09, 2017  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1976  |  5 comments
Britten: Orchestral Music
Four Sea Interludes & Passacaglia from Peter Grimes; Sinfonia da Requiem
London Symphony Orchestra, André Previn, conductor.
Angel S-37142. (Stereo/SQ LP). Christopher Bishop, prod.; Christopher Parker, eng.

EMl/Angel have come up with demonstration quality sound on this one. The "Sea Interludes" have stood well on their own as a concert piece, and previous recordings have been by Britten (Decca/London) and Giulini (EMI/Angel). Previn's earlier Sinfonia da Requiem with the St. Louis Symphony has recently been reissued on Odyssey, but that version, good as it is, must defer to the new reading and sonics. There are timpani thumps on this disc that literally bolted me upright from my chair! The dynamic range is tremendous.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Oct 31, 2017  |  First Published: Mar 01, 1977  |  0 comments
Direct From Cleveland
Orchestral works by De Falla, Bizet, Tchaikovsky, Berlioz
The Cleveland Orchestra, Lorin Maazel (cond.)
Telarc 5020 DD1 (LP). Robert Woods, prod.; Jack Renner, sound eng.; Glenn Glancy, Michael Bishop, disc-cutting engs.

Potentially the best news for perfectionists in years is the announcement of the first stereophonic direct-to-disc recording (in the US, at least) of a major symphony orchestra. Advent records of Cleveland, in collaboration with Discwasher, Inc. of Columbia, MO put four complete and usable runsthrough onto two sets of lacquers. The program was a collection of potboilers—what Sir Thomas Beecham used to call "lollypops"—much of it musically rather trivial, but all ideally suited for demonstrating what a no-holds barred recording can do in terms of sonics: works with bass drum, percussion, deep double-bass material, rich string sonorities" and so on.

Robert Baird  |  Oct 17, 2017  |  1 comments
Ahmad Jamal: Marseille
Ahmad Jamal, piano; James Cammack, double bass; Herlin Riley, drums; Manolo Badrena, percussion; Abd Al Malik (track 4), Mina Agossi (track 8), vocals
Jazz Book/Jazz Village [PIAS] JV 33570142.43 (2 LPs). 2017. Ahmad Jamal, Seydou Barry, Catherine Vallon-Barry, prods.; Vincent Mahey, eng. ADA? TT: 59:33
Performance *****
Sonics *****

While cities like New York, Detroit, and Philly all get more press for their jazz history and connections, Pittsburgh has a rich history as the birthplace of many notable swing and bebop jazz players. Bassist Ray Brown, drummers Art Blakey and Jeff "Tain" Watts, tenor saxman Stanley Turrentine, trumpeter Roy Eldridge, and the one and only Billy Strayhorn, famed collaborator of Duke Ellington and composer of "Take The 'A' Train," all came from The Burgh.

Margaret Graham  |  Oct 10, 2017  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1977  |  1 comments
Jim Hall: Jim Hall Live!
Jim Hall, guitar, Don Thompson, double bass, Terry Clarke, drums.
Horizon Records: A&M SP-705 (LP), reissued on CD as Horizon SP-705. John Snyder, prod., Don Thompson, eng. TT: 41:29.

These performances were taped by the double-bass player, Don Thompson, during a week's stand in June 1975 at Bourbon Street, Toronto, Canada. They are very closely miked, yet audience noises are audible although they seem to enhance rather than detract from the music. The balances are fascinating.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Oct 03, 2017  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1978  |  3 comments
This is more to my liking than the other records I review this month! Side 1 is devoted entirely to a real humdinger of a thunderstorm, replete with rain, thimble-sized hailstones, and five minutes of someone diddling with a set of wind chimes. Side 2 is four sequences in the saga of Steam Locomotive 4449, which was refurbished from rusty decrepitude to haul the bicentennial Freedom Train 28,000 miles around the continent.
Robert Levine  |  Sep 19, 2017  |  11 comments
Eriks Ešenvalds: The Doors of Heaven
The First Tears, Rivers of Light, A Drop in the Ocean, Passion and Resurrection
Dr. Ethan Sperry, Portland State Chamber Choir; various instrumentalists
Naxos 8.579008 (CD). 2017. Erick Lichte, prod.; John Atkinson, Doug Tourtelot, engs. DDD. TT: 58:52
Performance ****
Sonics *****

Latvian composer Eriks Ešenvalds has been making quite a name for himself in choral music. He teeters gingerly between consonance and dissonance, and varies intimate whisperings, the strength of forces—sometimes a solo soprano over the chorus; sometimes a solo vocal quartet; sometimes exquisite, silky smooth legato singing by the entire chorus—with wise, spare use of instruments.

Robert Baird  |  Sep 12, 2017  |  4 comments
Doc and Merle Watson: Bear's Sonic Journals, Never the Same Way Once: Live at the Boarding House May 1974
Owsley Stanley Foundation (7 CDs). 2017. Hawk, exec prod.; Starfinder Stanley, Jeffrey Norman, Pete Bell, project coordinators; Owsley Stanley, orig. eng.; Jeffrey Norman, CD mastering, tape archivist; John Chester, Jaime Howarth, digital transfers. ADD? TT: 5:33:17
Performance *****
Sonics *****

The late Owsley "Bear" Stanley spent his life raising consciousness. Whether it was mixing up jars of LSD, building his famous Wall of Sound PA system for the Grateful Dead, or supervising the creation of an incredible library of live recordings, Bear Stanley was after a certain purity, a higher level of quality, epiphanies.

Margaret Graham, J. Gordon Holt  |  Sep 05, 2017  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1978  |  5 comments
Bill Berry and His Ellington All-Stars: For Duke
Works by Duke Ellington
Bill Berry, cornet; Ray Brown, bass; Frankie Capp, drums; Scott Hamilton, tenor sax; Nat Pierce, piano; Marshal Royal, alto sax; Britt Woodman, trombone.
M&K Real-Time RT-101 (direct-to-disc LP).

This is to-date the best direct-to-disc recording I have heard. For once I can't complain about the high end being shrill or hard. The balances are excellent and the performances superior, with each member of the group getting his chance to show off. Marshal Royal's saxophone solos must be heard to be believed, Everyone present is obviously having a good time making music, which is the way it always ought to be but often isn't.

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