Linda Ronstadt – Heart Like A Wheel

180 gram vinyl LP reissue. An all time classic from Linda that 32 years later still holds up today and every cut is like a handcrafted gem. Tunes from writers as diverse from Hank Williams to Paul Anka and it all works like a seamless fit.

O.K.

Just got my new 180 gram Cisco Music LP yesterday and just gave both sides a spin.

I’m totally impressed.

What a great piece of vinyl. Linda and her band just blew me away.

I’ve got two other versions. One on CD from “The Capitol Years” CD, which is the most recent CD mastering and an original near mint ’70’s Capitol LP. This Cisco Music pressing leaves the both them in the dust. The vinyl is very quiet for one and I’ll challange anyone to find a quiet playing Capitol original. The music is so much more real sounding and vocals and instruments jump out the speakers. There’s also a warmth of a good ol’ analog feeling that’s been missing on other versions.

Apparently there was no compression used in the mastering and our ears benefit greatly from this.

Hats off to Kevin Gray for an outstanding job here and to Cisco Music for picking on a real winner.

I like this album better and better with each repeated listening.
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The Tube only violin

How could I resists a recording which proclaims itself tube only and AAA? Tacet seem to be a quirky German label who are as much in love with (old) technology as we are here at vinylfanatics.com. The record jacket, gatefold, goes into great detail about the recording process; microphones from 1949, tapemachines from the 1950s etc. I love it!! What we have here is a selection of excerpts from great classical pieces for violin. All are played by Daniel Gaede on violin and accompanied by Xuesu Liu on piano.

Tchaikovsky’s Melody Op. 42 no.3
Schedrin’s ‘In the style of Albeniz’
Massenet’s ‘Meditation from THais’
Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’
Drigo’s ‘Valse Bluette’

Moszkowski’s Spanish Dance
Elgar’s ‘Salut d’Amour’
Beriot’s ‘Scene de Ballett’
Ponce’s ‘Estrillita’

None of these excerpts are either long enough or difficult enough to lose the casual classical listener ie. me. And several should be familiar to you.

They’re gorgeous pieces to sit back and enjoy. There is a spanish/flamenco/gypsy influence, obviously, to the ‘Albeniz’ piece and ‘Spanish Dance’. The Albeniz possibly being the most challenging piece here….but that is in very refined company. It is simply more exciting and certainly not offputting.

The Tchaikovsky, Drigo and Mozkowski are playful. The Massenet, Schubert and Elgar are laid back and gorgeous. The Beriot is the longest piece here, never coming close to outstaying its welcome and has the lyrical feel of something like Schindler’s list(How awful to compare a great classical piece to such a modern film score!) before turning into something that might be played by Stephane Grapelli(a more gypsy influence).

Our last(short) piece is Ponce’s Estrillita, Little star. It is perhaps a lullaby. Its simple sweet but soaring.

The sound is wonderful. It always amazes me that equipment of this vintage and now of this age can capture a piece of music so precisely and brilliantly. Strings, particularly violin, on CD often sounds too shrill and edgy to me. Vinyl and tubes moderate this somewhat, making it sound more natural and enjoyable to listen to. Yet each piece is crystal clear revealing all the detail you could wish for. Full dynamic range and soundstage are available but the pieces themselves ensure that you will never be jumping out of your armchair in shock.

I do notice several clicks and pops during listening. There seems to be no pressing defects visually so I hope that these may disappear with repeated playing. For now they are somewhat obtrusive but the overall sound is very clean and enjoyable.

Gatefold sleeve with copious sleevenotes. Inner plastic lined. This does also seem a sampler for other records by Tacet.

Nouvelle Vague – Bande A part

Covers albums are difficult. You are obviously setting up comparison with the original versions. And often people will swear blind that your cover is not a patch on the original. It offers one up for a critical mauling.

Bande A part is Novelle Vague’s second record after their first eponymous album. It is more of the same. Bossa nova reworkings of new wave classics from the 1980s sung by French chanteuses. In English. With sultry French accents. Not owning the original, this is a review of a record on its own merit and not how it compares to the first album. However the band would probably be well advised to try out a different trick for the next record. (that’s not a critique; just advice)

By doing this they completely remake the songs and there is often little resemblance to the original. I don’t recognise all the songs but for those I do, some are I defintely prefer over the originals while I feel some don’t work so well. But overall it is a really pleasurable listening experience and I’ve been playing it again and again.

So, the record gives us versions of the following

The Killing Moon – Echo & the bunnmen
Ever fallen in love with someone – The Buzzcocks
Dance with me – Lords of the new church
Don’t go – Yazoo
Dancing with myself – Billy Idol
Heart of glass – Blondie
O Pamela – The wake
Blue Monday – New Order
Human Fly – The Cramps
Bela Lugosi’s dead – Bauhaus
Escape myself – The Sound
Let me go – Heaven 17
Fade to Grey – Visage
Waves – Blancmange

The killing moon is certainly good. Its eerie but lost most of its menace. Ever fallen in love with someone is no longer yobbish but incredibly sweet and you do want to fall in love. With the singer. Dance with me is a brilliant track. I’ve never heard the original but I could listen to this track all day. And of course dance to it. Good video worth checking out too, with an excerpt from the film the album name is borrowed from, Bande A Part.

Sleeve notes are interesting and I quote, “A pop masterpiece, completely forgotten since 1984. This song’s only really known in France. Its something we had to try as its arrangement is emblematic of the whole of the album. That’s to say, percussion instead of drums, bass lines played by piano, some guitar, a sensual voice…”

Next is my favourite on the album. A complete reworking and practically unrecognisable from the original is the cover of Yazoo’s Don’t go. gone ar ethe synthesised bleeps and blips of Vince Clarke’s original. In its place we have a huskily sung song fatale. It reminds me in parts of a classic James Bond theme.

Dancing with myself is interestingly worked as a 1920’s dancehall version of Billy Idol’s classic. For me its not a complete success. In an attempt to keep the tempo steady it loses all the intonation, snarl and effect of the original. But you could probably dance bossa nova to it!

Blondie’s Heart of Glass works well as a kissing accompaniment version of the original. It is slow, sultry and seductive. O Pamela is a side ender and I’m not aware of the original. This however sounds like a moodpiece for a film about ghosts.

Side two starts off with a tackling of one of the greatest singles ever, New Order’s Blue Monday. As a fan of the original(NO being one of my favourite bands ever) I find this a great disappointment. The starkness and detachment of the original are what make it great. The clinical electonica etc. Here its soft, its pleasant and really the melody is not strong enough on its own to make a great song. It suffers from the same attempt at keepking constant rhythm as in Dancing with myself.

Human Fly dead is better in that it comes all over Jane Birkin in sensual grunts and growls. And the wolf howling certainly adds to the mood. But possibly, not a strong enough song/arrangement to hold your interest throughout. Bela Lugosi’s dead is similar.

Escape myself brings a welcome change. A bit more disjointed and a bit livlier, it peaks the interest. The more I listen to this one the more I like it. And it does make me want to dance.

Let me go sounds nothing like Heaven 17. Its a real slow stripped down cover and quite reminds me of Goldfrapp. Fade to Grey has a great accordion intro and I keep waiting for a Yann Tiersen piece(he of Amelie fame). We don’t get that. we get a mood piece, cinematic alright; half of the song is taken up by people talking or street noises.

The very last song is suitably called “Waves”, waves goodbye. Its a lovely piece, all underwater sentiment.

The whole record, possibly a bit long, is a lovely length of music. There is not much variation in style or tempo. Its an ideal dinner party record. But there are songs, particularly on side one that i enjoy listening to with more attention to detail. I listen to the lyrics and I can dance to them. It might have benefitted from a slightly shorter running time.

THere are a lot of songs crammed on the record and you can see that in the very short lead off grooves. This potentially will lead to inner groove distortion but nothing was too obvious. Its a very warm sounding record, very pleasant, but you won’t be trying it out to demo hi-fi or impress your friends. But you will enjoy listening to it at home with a glass of wine. Vinyl pressing and quality seems to be very good and very quiet.

It includes a large poster of the cover art with notes on each track.

Ron sexsmith – Cobblestone Runway

Another impeccably produced and packaged release from Diverse Records. Really. Diverse seem to have stopped producing records(not enough demand it seems. the shame) but if you can get any of their titles you should do so straight away. They released recordsby Diana Krall, Richard Thompson and this one by Ron Sexsmith amongst others. A beautiful gatefold cover in matt finish. An inner sleeve with all the lyrics printed on it and a separate plastic sleeve to house the actual record. The 180grm perfect record pressed by Pallas in Germany and mastered by Ray Staff in London.

The music consists of Ron’s wry and quirky look at love and life sung in his real laid back lacksidaisacal manner. Gorgeous humalong melodies. Even one where you can join in as the chorus goes di di di di di di di di di di di.

Nothing here will raise your heartbeat. Instead you’ll be listening to what he sings and nodding yourhead in agreement. Elsewhere on these pages I mentioned the paucity of meaning or beauty in lyrics by the likes of Razorlight. Not here. Each couplet is a joy to read and sing. And many are life affrming.

Musically Ron’s voice is to the fore atop his acoustic guitar, sometimes piano with some laidback strings and funny sounds thrown in for good measure. There’s usually a good rhythm section to keep things online. It won’t have you dancing though. Unless romantically. Well that’s not strictly true. Surprisingly, on side two after the beautiful Gold in them hills, Ron goes all disco on us, for ‘Heart’s desire’ and the more successful ‘Dragonfly on Bay street’. You can indeed dance to this. It almost sounds like a err, witty laidback Boney M.

Highlights are ‘These days’; that’s the one with the di di di di chorus, Gold in them hills; which also has a remix on the record with help from Chris Martin of Coldplay. Possibly the best thing he’s ever done!! 🙂 And the aforementioned ‘Dragonfly on Bay street.