Unbiased reviews of new vinyl releases, audiophile reissues, and more

Thursday, April 30, 2009

John Coltrane: Live at the Village Vanguard 45 RPM 180 gram vinyl

Coltrane "Live" At The Village Vanguard

In 1962, Impulse Records released John Coltrane's Live at the Village Vanguard. Taken from the now legendary November 1961 sessions at the Village Vanguard in New York, this release was a glimpse of what was to come for Coltrane in later years with works such as A Love Supreme, and his foray into free jazz.

The Recording

Live at the Village Vanguard features three cuts from the now famous dates: two Coltrane originals, and one cover of a Romberg-Hammerstein standard. In addition to pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Reggie Workman, and drummer Elvin Jones, Eric Dolphy is featured on bass clarinet on the first cut, Spiritual. In a departure from his usual tenor, Coltrane plays the soprano saxophone on this, as well as the final number, Chasin the Trane.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Neil Young: Sugar Mountain - Live at Canterbury House 200 gram vinyl

Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House 1968

In November of 1968, Neil Young was still on the heels of the breakup of Buffalo Springfield and had yet to release his solo debut. For two nights at the Canterbury House in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he would treat a small crowd to a preview of his new record as well as select cuts from his efforts with Buffalo Springfield.

Two years later, the song Sugar Mountain, recorded at the Canterbury House, would appear as the B-side to The Loner, the single from his self-titled debut. The remainder of the shows would remain in the vaults for some forty years until its official release several months ago on cd/dvd as part of the Archives Performance Series. This week, it was released for the first time on imported 200 gram vinyl.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Marvin Gaye: What's Going On and Let's Get It On--MFSL 180 gram vinyl

What's Going On (Numbered Edition)

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab has just released two absolute classics from Marvin Gaye on 180 gram vinyl: What's Going On (1971) and Let's Get it On (1973) .

Mobile Fidelity continues to be one of the top producers of audiophile quality pressings and these releases are no exception. Both records arrived clean, flat and played flawlessly, with nary a pop or tick. The gatefold covers are made of heavy card stock and the vinyl is housed in Mofi's own anti-static rice paper sleeves.

Both of these releases are good quality releases-- and one is very, very good.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Coming Soon: Neil Young- Sugar Mountain Canterbury House 200 gm vinyl, Marvin Gaye MFSL 180 gm, John Coltrane- Village Vanguard 45 RPM 180 gm vinyl

Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House 1968 [Vinyl]

There has never been a better time than now to be into vinyl. Nearly every top new release, as well as dozens of rock, pop, and jazz reissues are coming out every week.

As great as this vinyl renaissance is, not everthing that comes out is worth parting with your hard-earned dollar. I will continue to seek out the best titles, with the best masterings, and attempt to let you know when a release doesn't live up to the hype.

In the next few weeks, I'll be reviewing what I hope to be some very exciting titles. I've been busy listening to every available Lp and Cd mastering that I can get my hands on in the hope that I can help inform your decisions.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

RUSH: Permanent Waves MFSL 180 gram vinyl

Permanent Waves

In 1980, the Canadian trio Rush, released their seventh album, Permanent Waves. This release was a departure from their previous work as it began a move toward shorter, radio-friendly songs and yielded AOR hits such as The Spirit of Radio and Freewill, that are still played to this day. These hits propelled the record into the Top 5 of the U.S. album charts and brought the band a new legion of fans, which would further expand with their next album, Moving Pictures. While Rush has continued to gain new fans throughout the years, chances are that if you are reading this, you were in your teens or twenties in the Eighties.

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab has a reputation for releasing ultra-high quality vinyl pressings. This title was no exception. The flawlessly pressed 180 gram disc arrived clean, flat, and was exceptionally quiet during playback. The vinyl is packaged in a gatefold cover made of premium heavy card stock with an anti-static Mofi rice paper inner sleeve.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

John Coltrane: Giant Steps 45 RPM 180 gram Rhino vinyl

Giant Steps Pictures, Images and Photos

With the flurry of audiophile jazz titles being released these days, it isn't often that a big occasion is made of a 45 RPM jazz release. That distinction is reserved for truly groundbreaking titles such as this one. Giant Steps was originally released in 1960, and is known for introducing the world to John Coltrane's legendary sheets of sound. This version, mastered from the original analog master tapes by Bernie Grundman, for the first time in the 45 RPM format, is likely to become legendary--and may very well become the definitive stereo version of the recording.

While I do not have an original lime green label stereo copy to compare, I listened to the remastered Rhino cd, original Atlantic cd as well as the recent Rhino 180 gram reissue mastered by Kevin Gray in preparation for this review. In writing this review, I did the great majority of my comparisons with the Gray-mastered Rhino reissue.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sneak Preview: Big Star -- #1 Record and Radio City 150 gram vinyl -- Are these the best vinyl reissues yet?

After several years of being out of print, Big Star's debut, #1 Record and their follow up, Radio City will again be available on domestic U.S. vinyl.
Approximately two weeks ago, Classic Records announced that on April 7, both releases would be reissued on their new proprietary 200 gram Clarity vinyl formula. Almost immediately thereafter, listings for standard weight versions from Concord Music Group, which owns the rights to both #1 Record and Radio City, as well as the rest of the Stax catalog, began appearing within online audiophile catalogs.

4/13/09 UPDATE
: Classic Records has now confirmed that their releases and those from Concord share the same mastering done by Chris Bellman, of Bernie Grundman mastering.

Recently, I had the fortune of acquiring copies of each of these standard weight releases from Concord. In anticipation of reviewing these reissues, I pulled out and listened to a variety of earlier pressings of each record, including the vinyl reissues from Akarma and Big Beat, as well as the 2004 hybrid SACD two-fer.

Very special thanks goes to vinyl guru and owner of The Analog Room, Brian Hartsell, who was kind enough to loan me his mint original Ardent vinyl of both titles. In reviewing the Concord reissues, I primarily compared them to the original Ardent vinyl.