Cooke and Mingus

A couple of reviews from theotherpaper at the link below

http://www.theotherpaper.com/articles/2008/10/23/music/doc48ff94a88079f973620626.txt

 

Cooke on vinyl: sexy medium, sexy message

An LP record playing on a turntable is sort of a sexual thing, and if you let me explain how, you’ll never look at your stereo the same again.

You have the vaginal-like grooves of the album, with the penis of a record needle, ah, grooving the groove, so to speak. Just like sex, it takes friction and texture and turns it into music, beautiful music. Know what I mean?

Let’s get it on, Marvin Gaye once sang—on records back in the day. So what better way to listen to sexy music than on a more-than-metaphorical medium? And what better way to listen to reissues than on the thickest, blackest vinyl yet, 180-gram pressings?

Sam Cooke, the late, great soul singer, recorded One Night Stand! Sam Cooke Live at the Harlem Square Club in 1963. Columbia’s Legacy reissue series has seen fit to press up the title on vinyl, and brutha, you need to hear this. This solidified petroleum product we call a record delivers a warmth and depth that the CD version simply cannot match.

Of course, the medium is nothing without its message, and One Night Stand! is one of the liveliest live-show recordings in history, with the local soul folk turned out and turned on to Sam and his veteran road band. They matter to the chemistry of Sam’s performance something fierce throughout the album. What a shame there isn’t video of the night. Oh, well.

Opening with “Fight It (Don’t Fight It),” Cooke repeatedly wails “got to feel the feeling” toward the end of the song’s two minutes and 55 seconds, turning it into a gospel-powered call to Saturday night lust. And then it’s on to a thigh-slapping “Chain Gang,” Cooke grunting “unh” and ”ah” like he was heaving a pick ax on the roadside. “Cupid,” one of pop’s quainter cries of love, only briefly mellows out the album.

“Medley: It’s All Right/For Sentimental Reasons” combines two lovely ballads, with Sam advising the dudes in the audience not to hit their old ladies upside the head and to use a little love instead. How old-fashioned, huh? “Twistin’ the Night Away,” his career-defining hit, ends side one, everyone dancing in the club, no doubt.

Side two is more the gospel/soul experience, and this is where vinyl’s inherent advantage of warmth comes in. Sam and the band play with the intro to “Bring It on Home to Me,” rolling waves of rock ’n’ roll crescendos back and forth, teasing the audience with a foreplay the likes of which bands just don’t know how to do anymore. Awesome.

“Somebody Have Mercy” is probably the least known of the songs here (and undeservedly so), second only to “Nothing Can Change This Love,” a spectacularly Sam affair on the vocal mike. “Having a Party” ends the 10-song set of transcendentally good times.

Recorded in north Florida, Cooke is naked without overdubs and orchestra, just him and his band. The album stands as magnificent testimony to how they used to do it back in the day.

Tragically, Cooke would be murdered a year later, prematurely ending one of music’s most important links between black and white America.

John Petric

 

 

A call-out to the Duke and a treat for the fans    

From the moment the great Charles Mingus starts plucking his huge acoustic string bass on “Better Git It in Your Soul,” I was enthralled by the sound of the 180-gram vinyl reissue of his first album for Columbia, 1959’s Mingus Ah Hum. Something about the gooey black medium makes a double bass sound so much more, hmmm, double.

The track itself is one of Mingus’s most boisterous call-outs of gospel/jazz, ornery and humorous and brilliantly arranged. There is tension in the piano and the trombone, there is release in the signature chorus, and there are high amounts of in-the-moment-despite-being-in-the-studio spontaneity. A virtual triumph, and hotter than hell on 180-gram. Yeah!

“Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” brings the energy way down, Mingus going from the churchical high of “Git” to a meditative introspection invoking what would become classic shades of nocturnal urban jazz. Brooding, moody, restless—a beautiful statement by Mingus.

“Boogie Stop Shuffle” lets the band go for it, speed-powered and urgent. The cats can play under Mingus’s star direction, and this cut, in particular, typifies jazz 1959: big band nearly gone, the small combo perfectly able to redefine the times. Killer.

“Bird Calls” takes the tempo farther, into a frantic near-madness. Treble pitch seems to be no challenge for 180-gram vinyl, sounding firmer than on CD. Hurray for the black platters!

“Open Letter to Duke” puts bebop into the mix, Mingus slightly messing with the greatest of the big-band composers, musically challenging him to a style that might’ve indeed helped bury the swing era. The energy crackles, and the band Mingus has assembled for Ah Hum hums both atmospherically and earthly. In the middle, Mingus arranges for a tempo breakdown with the horns moving up and down slowly, as if making a statement within a statement. Jazz scholars are still pondering the meaning of the title.

Though the CD reissue of Ah Hum has the original nine tracks plus three bonus cuts, the 180-gram is sequenced just the way Mingus first released the album, one that may indeed stand as his best.

 

Mudcrutch – Live EP

BURBANK, Calif. – (Business Wire) Mudcrutch, the legendary Florida band featuring Tom Petty, Tom Leadon, Randall Marsh, Mike Campbell, and Benmont Tench, will release a live EP entitled Extended Play Live on Reprise Records November 11, 2008. Extended Play Live will be released digitally, on compact disc, and on 180 Gram High Performance Vinyl. The vinyl edition includes a full dynamic range audiophile CD.

The band undertook a short but wildly popular tour of intimate California venues last April, including six sold-out nights at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. Extended Play Live features four tracks recorded during the tour–including a dramatic fifteen-minute version of the band's masterpiece, "Crystal River," recorded live at the Troubadour. All four tracks on the EP are currently streaming in their entirety at www.mudcrutchmusic.com.

Both the vinyl edition and the accompanying audiophile CD present the music without the noticeable "loudness" that befalls many mixes of songs mostly intended to be listened to digitally. When presented in their full dynamic range, the quieter parts of the songs are quieter and the louder parts are louder, as originally performed.

Also on November 11 at 8 p.m. EST/PST, VH1 Classic will premiere The Story Of Mudcrutch. Produced by Peter Bogdanovich, this documentary tells the story of Mudcrutch from their early days playing at topless bars in Gainesville, FL to their 2007 reunion and features footage of the band playing tracks from their debut LP in their clubhouse rehearsal space.

Mudcrutch's self-titled debut album, released April 29, 2008, hit the Billboard charts at #8 in its first week of release. Universally praised by critics, Mudcrutch was described by Rolling Stone as an "instant classic."

In the early 70s, the members of Mudcrutch were heroes in their hometown of Gainesville, FL, and seemed poised for more. A series of festivals hosted at their base, Mudcrutch Farm, eventually attracted fans from across North Florida and as far away as South Georgia. Too good to last, the festivals were closed down by local authorities but remained a thing of local legend.

Looking to build on their regional successes, Mudcrutch moved to California and released one single on Shelter Records, "Depot Street" b/w "Wild Eyes." But the band never cracked the national music scene or made a full album. Each of the members went on to other musical and personal ventures. In the case of Benmont Tench, he booked studio time to cut some solo recordings. He invited Petty and Campbell to play on those sessions, along with a rhythm section that consisted of Stan Lynch on drums and Ron Blair on bass. The sessions were never completed, but only because amidst that activity a new band was born: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Within the year they would release the first of 15 records.

Now, more than 30 years later, the Mudcrutch story continues with their debut album Mudcrutch and Extended Play Live.

Extended Play Live TRACK LISTING:

· The Wrong Thing To Do (Live At The Ventura Theatre, Ventura, CA, April 20, 2008)

· Bootleg Flyer (Live At The Ventura Theatre, Ventura, CA, April 20, 2008)

· Crystal River (Live At The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA, April 28, 2008)

· High School Confidential (Live At The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA, May 2, 2008)

www.MudcrutchMusic.com

 

 

Warner Bros. Records
Luke Burland
Phone: (615) 214-1490
E-Mail: luke.burland@wbr.com
or
PMK/HBH
Kristen Foster
Phone: (212) 373-6104
E-Mail: Kristen.Foster@pmkhbh.com

Eva Cassidy – Songbird

I'm a regular reader of the hi-fi magazines and the online sites and forums. For years now I've been reading about 'Songbird' by Eva Cassidy. I've never felt it was my thing; my area of interest. It came out on CD many years ago, and then more recently, but still years, and apparently due to demand it has had a couple of vinyl issues.

This is what I've finally bought.

The first song is Sting's 'Fields of Gold' and while listening to it I also skimmed through the sleevenotes of her brief and tragic career before she succumbed to cancer in 1996. Perhaps it was teh combination of both that brought a tear to my eye.

More than any other female singer, Jeff Buckley is the face and voice I keep thinking of as I listen to this record. There are the same strange bedfellows of power and purity in their voices, the way they emote what they sing and can soar or be subtle as they wish and as the music suits.

An album of covers, there is a strong variety of styles including blues, soul and ballads. Pete Seeger, Sting, Curtis mayfield and Christine McVie are amongst the original songwriters. Some particularly stunning soulful classics with incredible performances from Eva. Why is it they only ever play 'Somewhere over the rainbow'??

So do I like it? I do. It far surpasses the libidoless schmaltz you often get from the audiophile labels. This is a record you'll actually listen to. And of course it sounds great too.

Packaging is nice enough, a gatefold sleeve with appropriate sleevenotes and elegy. Great sound and record pressing from the team of S&P and Steve Hoffman/Kevin Gray.

PS : There are a couple of messages in the deadwax…

Eleanor McEvoy – love must be tough

When you listen to a record such as this, full of clarity, perfect detail, delight in every instrument and vocal phrase it really begs the question why doesn't every musician want their music to sound like this? Half-speed mastered by Miles Showell, this record really brings Eleanor and her cheerful outlook on life and love right into your house, band and all.

 I picked up the 'Yola' cd second hand some years ago without knowing much about her, despite living less than a hundred miles from where she lives and records. It turned out to be one of that years delights, both for the music and the sound quality. It regularly features, I discovered later, on  audiophile favourites(favorites if you're in the US) lists and is thoroughly well deserved. I remember being surprised at what a beautiful warm sound came from the CD. I picked up teh vinyl edition afterwards and somehow wasn't that impressed. I expected to be blown away and I wasn't. A second vinyl edition came out later on which apparently fixed things but I haven't picked it up yet.

This album is blowing me away. 

 Its full of the simply beautiful combination of Eleanor's husky voice, touching and joyful lyrics, backed up by wonderful musicians playing a cool breezy, and at times rag-time(!) jazzy music.

Over the past few years there have been plenty of sultry jazzy female singers, Norah Jones, Diana Krall etc. Frankly they all bore me to tears. I'm far more persuaded by the folksy charm of Eleanor McEvoy. Its not quite an Irish traditional hooley but it could be the warm up for one, or the cool down. 

 

Really if you don't buy this you're doing yourself a great disservice.

 

The packaging is simple enough, really just there to provide a few details about the recording, musicians and to protect the lovely 180grm silent pressing. Diverse does it again!!

Marvin gaye – Let’s get it on

Enticed by the bright orange carrot of 15 extra tracks, which I've never seen on another vinyl edition of 'Let's get it on', I finally plumped and bougght my first 180grm record by the Vinyl Lovers label.

 As previously announced here in News some months ago the Vinyl lovers label released a slew of interesting titles on vinyl. Owned or associated with Lilith records the very name of the label inspired excitement in me and no doubt many other vinyl fanatics. Strangely the music was licensed from Universal Music Russia, making it sound like a possibly dubious operation. But apparently it was all legal and even the neighbourhood shop close to you is bound to have a few titles.

 I already have a copy of this record on a re-release from the last five years or so. Pressed on shoddy vinyl and the sound is equally unimpressive. I was looking forward to teh possible improvements that Vinyl Lovers could bring to mylong suffering stylus.

 The record comes in the original gatefold sleeve, inclusive of Marvin's little penned tribute to the wonder of sex, and how really, we shouldn't feel too guilty about it. Sex is different to love though but is simply marvellous in its own right. Err, thanks marvin.

The records are excellent vinyl pressings, flat and silent. They're housed in my favourite paper sleeves with the plastic lined inners. Its all looking good.

I put the record with the fancy house label on the turntable, drop my  stylus and …..Ouch!! Possibly one of the brightest, most ear-piercing sound I've ever had the misfortune to hear. I really don't know how they managed this. My entire CD collection is more natural sounding than this atrocity of sound while my downloaded mp3 collection certainly comes close. It is reasonably detailed and clean sounding if that's what you're looking for.

 Really, what is the point?? If we're listening to vinyl record, its not because we're neanderthals who can't read the small print on a cd!! Or is it? Maybe that today makes up the majority of 'Vinyl Lovers' and who this record is aimed directly at.

You, dear reader, would be far better off saving your money to buy the entire Sundazed reissues of 'Sly and teh family stone'. Funky, warm and natural sounding.

 

Incidentally(it should really be the focus), the music on this record is of course peerless and its nice having the extra tracks. Its not as earth conscious awakening or inspiring as 'Heal the worl…' err I mean 'What's going on' but its a highly enjoyable and slightly sleazy listening experience. But you're probably better off joining me in the search for an original in good condition.

Seasick Steve – I Started Out With Nothin And I Still Got Most Of It Left

Californian blues man Seasick Steve has become notorious for his rebel outlaw spirit and signature dungarees with a bottle of Jack Daniels in the back pocket. The last twelve months really have been his year, with the unlikely star being nominated for 'Best Live Act' at 2008's Mojo awards and winning 'Best Breakthrough Act' in 2007. Now back with his follow up to last year’s Dog House Blues, the man formerly known as Steve Wold invites us to nestle down on the porch, kick back and listen to his worldly tales once more.

Banging out the blues on his customised guitars is what Steve does best and you'd be hard pushed to find another bona fide ex-train rider who does it better. Steve has managed to translate his fiery live shows from the stage to the studio with his languid, treacly voice introducing most songs and even delving into a monologue on the bare explanation of why he can never stay still: My Youth. And on the title track Steve’s intro to a track about nothing never sounded so good.

Having made his TV debut on Later With Jools, Steve has called on Hollands' favourite soul singing diva, Ruby Turner, to join him on the gospel infused Happy Man, while KT Tunstall backs up the legend on rhythm guitar. Pleading for a woman's touch he sings, ''Oh this life has knocked me down to my knees, and I think it's time I get a little bit of that promised land…I ain't asking for much, just your sweet touch and for a little, little while I'll be happy and such''. Steve is also keen to prove he's no chancer with the ladies on, Fly By Night and the collaborations keep coming with Nick Cave getting writing credits on the low key and perfect, Just Like A King, featuring Grinderman.

Whether singing homegrown tales of women, riding trains (On Prospect Lane), faithful dogs (One True), drinking wine (Thunderbird), or a 'how to' guide for getting rid of bugs on a guitar he says he should have thrown out (Chiggers), Steve's sincerity to the blues tradition he was taught by K.C. Douglas makes this a compelling down and dirty listen whose momentum takes you straight back on the trains with him – even though he probably has a bit more than nothing by now.

Nice enough vinyl gatefold with simple white inner sleeve. Well pressed reasonably heavyweight vinyl. Sound is real bassy and closely miked. And very clear. I quite like it 🙂

http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/release/6cqv/

New Classic Clarity vinyl

The Long and Winding Road Continues
(9/30/08 6:00 pm pst)


The long and winding road continues here at Classic Records with our ongoing pursuit to make the best quality records possible. To that end, we have made some changes that have been in the market now for most of 2008 including a slight modification to our Super Vinyl Profile. Some background is in order here before I explain. Originally, what has come to be known as Classic's "Super Vinyl Profile"

QUIEX-SVP without groove guard QUIEX-SVP II with groove guard

RTI 180 gram pressing

 

(SV-P) was borne out of an attempt to replicate the profile of an original mono Blue Note LP from the mid 1950's. We cut in half a beat up copy of an original RVG pressing and had dies made specially to replicate the "no groove guard" and "deep groove" center label characteristics of the original pressing. Along for the ride, in terms of recreating the original mold came the weight (200 grams) and the profile (flat) that was inherent to the original pressing. We had NO idea of the importance of the profile during this development process. RTI agreed to convert a press over to the new die configuration to test the new "no groove guard" profile with "deep groove" centers. With a fair amount of effort on the part of RTI's plant manager Rick Hashimoto, the first test pressings of BN 1568 were successfully pressed using RIMTECH vinyl and ready to listen to. I remember, assembling a group of Classic Records employees in my home listening room for the playback on my Kuzma Stabi XL turntable with Kuzma Reference Tonearm and Cardas Heart / Benz cartridge. We played the newly minted Hank Mobley test pressing and were all delighted with the quiet surfaces, detail and resolution we heard. Just for fun, we played a 180g conventional profile RTI test pressing, made using the same metal parts and vinyl formulation and without adjusting the volume or making any other changes. It immediately sounded different – less detail, less bass response and apparently lower in volume than the new profile test pressing. The differences were not subtle and everyone agreed something was amiss. At first, someone speculated that something must have changed – maybe the volume was turned lower by accident. So we put the 200g pressing back on without touching the volume and replayed it. To all of our shock, the 200g pressing was apparently louder, much more detailed, transparent, realistic and the bass was tighter! But how could this be – the same metal parts were used which meant the volume level locked into the groove modulations had to be the same. We did the same comparison at Bernie Grundman mastering for Bernie, Chris Bellman and Beno May and everyone easily identified the new profile pressing as being MUCH better in all ways.

Still unable to explain the difference we cut the pressings in half and discovered that the 180g had a different profile than the non-groove guard 200g pressing. In fact, for the first time, we realized that a conventional profile is NOT flat in its profile across the playing surface of the LP. That is, the thickness of the record is NOT the same across the grooved area of the record. Instead, it is the same thickness at the groove guard and at the center label and convex in between the outer edge and the spindle hole with a portion of the center of the play surface being flat. Have you ever had the experience that the cut in the center of an LP side sounds better? Well it is not just the fact that the tracking error of a pivoted tonearm is minimized in this area but also that the playing surface is flat allowing the stylus to be perpendicular to the grooves. This is also an explanation of the differences we heard between the 200g profile and 180g profile pressings. The mechanics are as follows: effectively, a lacquer is a flat surface and leads to flat metal parts (stampers) that are distorted in a conventional pressing mold commonly called a pressing die. The stamper distortion caused by the die profile, albeit slight, is enough to cant the grooves on the first and last thirds of an LP side so that they are NOT perpendicular to the surface plane of the record and platter. The result is that the stylus has no chance to be in proper contact with the groove walls in these canted segments of a conventional profile LP because the grooves are askew relative to the stylus. This "tracking distortion" is NOT the fault of the cartridge and results in the smearing of musical detail across the frequency spectrum. Further, the apparently lower volume level of the conventional profile LP versus the flat profile LP made from the same metal parts is also easily explained. A cartridge is an electro-mechanical generator that produces a continuously variable voltage output during playback. If the cartridge stylus is not tracking the groove exactly then its output voltage will be lower as a result in the same way that a cartridge with improperly aligned azimuth will have lower output than when azimuth is optimal. As an aside, it is easy to see why cartridge azimuth, even properly set, will only be optimal on flat profile records or in the center third of a conventional profile LP. A thought might be for those using conventional profile pressings to make sure that the best tunes on the LP are in the center of a side for the best playback and sound!

So, for the past six years, Classic Records has pressed the vast majority of our LP releases and re-releases on our Super Vinyl Profile (SV-P) with varying degrees of success. While our efforts to replicate the original Blue Note "non-groove guard" profile were immediately successful, the decision to extend using the non-groove guard Super Vinyl Profile to "all" subsequent Classic Records releases immediately lead to problems which we have battled with some success ever since. We first had real issues trying to press STEREO records where we encountered both "stitching" and/or "non-fill". "Stitching" is a situation where a portion of a record groove is torn or damaged during the release portion of the record pressing cycle when the press "opens up". Stitching is often a more prevalent issue when pressing heavy -weight records and can be solved using press adjustments or in some cases by using a different vinyl formulation that is either stiffer or softer depending on the circumstances. "Non-fill" is, as the name suggests a situation where the molten vinyl does not fill all the voids in between the grooves of a stamper. Although not always the case, often non-fill occurs nearer the outer diameter of a pressing and is usually in an area where the music transitions between loud and soft. Modern record presses have a number of adjustments that most often enable the press operator to "adjust out" the non-fill by adjusting the steam temperature and duration of the cycle along with other adjustments. Non-fill is also thought to be avoided somewhat or kept at bay, so to speak, by the groove guard at the outer rim of an LP pressing. What happens is that when the molten vinyl (280° Fahrenheit) is squeezed between the stampers from the center label area towards the outside diameter, the vinyl is squeezed into the grooves of the stamper and then encounters a channel (the groove guard) formed into the dies and the stampers. When the vinyl travels down into the channel and up the other side it creates what is referred to as "back pressure" in the mold and helps all the grooves modulations in the stamper to be properly filled. Even with a groove guard, there is the opportunity for non-fill in areas where the music moves from a quiet passage to a loud passage. In the louder passage the mountain range on the stamper is higher and wider than the hills of the quieter passage that precedes it. When molten vinyl is flowing towards the outer diameter during pressing it encounters the bigger grooves first and can flow over top of the smaller adjacent grooves without filling properly and resulting in non-fill. The non-fill groove sections of an LP have a crackly sound because the groove is malformed. These non-fill issues are rarely a problem with our Blue Note Mono pressings because all the mountain tops are the same height given that our mono cutting is "pure mono" and hence there is NO vertical variation across the peaks of the grooves. Pure Mono grooves only have horizontal variation – no up and down. This explains why we had immediate success with pressing 200g non-groove guard Blue Note Mono LP's that looked authentic and sounded better than 180g conventional profile pressings of same. It also explains why the attempts at pressing heavier (200g) STEREO records on a non-groove guard profile were somewhat problematic. Another complicating factor is record weight – non-fill tends to be a more prevalent issue when pressing heavy weight records. Again, when you have a groove guard to create back pressure along with press adjustments, non-fill can most often be remedied by skilled pressmen.

With this background, it becomes clear why our original Blue Note record profile caused problems with many STEREO records. The considerable success we had at pressing 200g Super Vinyl Profile Stereo LPs was a testament to the determination and experience of Rick Hashimoto, the tireless plant manager at Record Technology Inc. However, the overall success at pressing 200g SV-P records came with the price that a great number of defective pressings were rejected at RTI to produce the generally very good but occasionally inconsistent remaining records from a pressing run. Some titles pressed flawlessly while others were a constant source of trouble for Rick and RTI. Some time in the Winter of 2007, I had a conversation with Rick at RTI and he said that we had to do something to address the higher reject rate of our 200g records. I was surprised to hear that they had been shielding me from some of the pressing issues preferring to deal with them without consulting me. I immediately agreed and set to work on finding a solution…

One day, while out for a run, I had an epiphany and rushed home to dig out a JVC pressing from the 1980's pressed for Herb Belkin's Mobile Fidelity. The Mobile Fidelity UHQR pressings were always revered as sounding better than the standard weight pressings from JVC – but why I thought? To find out, I cut a UHQR pressing in half and guess what I found? First, it weighed 195 grams and IT WAS A FLAT PROFILE! I cut a 120g JVC pressing in half and found that it had the conventional profile that, with small variations, seems to be a record industry standard and is convex in it's profile – NOT FLAT. So, that is why the UHQR JVC pressings sounded better than their standard profile pressings and further confirmation of why our Flat Profile pressings sound better than 180g conversional pressings! But, there is a difference in the original Blue Note Mono flat profile and the JVC UHQR profile. While both are flat across the groove area, the JVC pressing had a groove guard! I sent half of the JVC UHQR pressing to our Super Vinyl Profile die maker and had a new set of dies made with a variant of the JVC UHQR groove guard. In mid 2007, RTI installed the new dies and immediately had success with the groove guard Flat Profile producing records which did not sound any different than non-groove guard Flat Profile pressings! We immediately changed over to pressing on what we are now calling Classic Records Super Vinyl Profile II (SV-P II) at RTI. Problems with stitching and non-fill were dramatically reduced and the reject rate at RTI also declined to below normal levels. Finally, we had found our way to greater consistency in terms of pressing quality! But there were other forces at work that would ultimately lead us away from pressing at RTI that would prove to be beyond our control.

As is usually the case when trying to make the best possible product possible, circumstances beyond your control interfere with the pursuit and so is the case with Classic Records. After six months of pressing on the new groove guard Flat Profile, RTI took our SV-P II dies off of the press that that had been devoted to pressing Classic Records Flat Profile pressings for over five years! The reason, we were told was in order to give RTI the flexibility to press a very large job involving a seven record set from a legendary Rock Band. We were told that it was a temporary situation and that we would be back on press as soon as the big order finished. Well, we never got back on press and finally in February of this year we were told that RTI would not be pressing any 200g records henceforth with no explanation. We were told that RTI would be happy to press our records on 180g if we so chose presenting us with a Classic Hobson's Choice so to speak! As I have said before on many occasions, RTI's conventional profile 180g records are the best in the country, but under no circumstances do they sound as good as our 200g Super Vinyl Profile for reasons I have clearly outlined above. We have since concluded that RTI has made the business decision to press conventional 180g records for the Major Record labels that have re-entered the LP business and overwhelmed the available production capacity. Pressing at RTI is now a 10 week wait and they are rumored to be backlogged over a half million units which should make Michael Fremer happy!

In hindsight, the general production capacity shortage we find ourselves in currently was predictable three years ago when the Universal pressing plant in Gloversville, NY closed forever and with it about 20% of the total US production capacity to press records disappeared. A year later another 40% of the remaining pressing capacity was lost when the former Warner Pressing Plant in Pennsylvania, renamed 33 1/3 was closed. More recently, a large pressing plant in New Jersey formerly named Hub Servall was dismantled and sold to a Canadian businessman who has not put the capacity back into service as yet further contributing to the production shortage in the US.

I can say that RTI generally, and Rick specifically, made the best of a difficult situation trying to make consistently good 200g records over the first five years after we introduced the 200g Super Vinyl Profile. We are grateful for the efforts of Rick Hashimoto and RTI in helping us develop and struggle to perfect the Classic Records Super Vinyl Profile. Unfortunately, given the aforementioned situation at RTI with regard to 200g pressing, Classic Records, in order to survive, was forced to find pressing capacity elsewhere after twelve consecutive years of being one of, if not the largest RTI customer – a sad day for Classic that would turn out to be somewhat fortuitous. We discovered some ancient semi-automatic presses at Bill Smith Custom Records in El Segundo, California near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and worked with the owner Kevin Smith, the late Bill Smith's son, to put the idle presses back into production. We had multiple sets of book dies made using both the groove guard Flat Profile and the non-groove guard Flat Profile and started learning how to make 200g Flat Profile records on machines that undoubtedly made Blue Note LP's in the 1950's.

Setting up stampers for a new title Cleaning stampers before first pressing

 

We found out that among other things, pressings from the semi-automatic presses sounded better than pressings from automatic presses using the exact same stampers and vinyl! How could this be? Kevin Smith explained that the semi-automatic presses employ a Temperature driven cycle and automatic presses generally have a Time driven cycle. He continued that, it has always been known, in record pressing circles I suppose, that semi-automatic presses make consistently better sounding records than automatics because of the reliance on temperature rather than cycle time. When I asked why automatics were deployed over time, Kevin answered simple – "To avoid Monday and Friday pressings" which he explained resulted from operator variability on those two days of the week historically. We had accidentally found another LP production innovation that made pressing more reliable with fewer rejects but resulted in a loss of fidelity in the finished product.

Stampers installed, ready to press Inspecting a pressing hot off the press

 

We had found our way back to the mid 50's in terms of pressing quality – imagine that. While I'm at it, you might wonder why, like semi-automatic presses, the flat profile used in early mono records was replaced by the conventional convex profile in common use today. The answer is obvious when viewed in the context of the problems Classic encountered and struggled with until the Super Vinyl Profile II modification – STEREO records! This is another example of the point I have been making for years now that quality from a pressing plants perspective is not exactly aligned with that of listeners generally and audiophiles specifically. Pressing Plants, understandably strive for consistency in pressing with a minimum of rejects so automatic presses and conventional convex pressing die profiles are the norm. Ah, but if you want to make the best sounding records then you must press them using a Flat Profile die on a semi-automatic press which is exactly what Classic Records has been doing almost exclusively since March of 2008! I might note that due purely to a shortage of stock and the need for product did we make a business decision and opt to press a few titles since March of this year on 180g conventional profile at RTI. Let me be clear on this point, while the RTI 180g pressing are very good pressings, and in the absence of 200g pressings to compare would be deemed perfectly acceptable, they are NOT as good as a 200g pressing made at RTI and not nearly as good sounding as a 200g Flat Profile pressing "Hand Made" on the semi-automatic presses at Bill Smith Custom Records (BSCR).

Classic black vinyl formula and new Clarity vinyl pellets

 

The change we are most excited about is a move toward a new vinyl formula with some unique characteristics. We have named our new formulation Classic CLARITY VINYL and it is exclusive to Classic Records. The genesis of the new formula came as a result of a visit to High End Audio's self proclaimed Vinyl Guru Michael Fremer's Analog Laboratory in suburban New Jersey. After being shown a large number of garage sale "finds" that Mikey picked up for a quarter each, I sat down for a listen and was, as many before me, suitably impressed with the sound presented there. Mr. Fremer, as I like to refer to him in deference to his analog tenacity, then proceeded to demonstrate for me a Furutech LP demagnetizer on the Classic 200g Flat Profile of "Masked and Anonymous" using "Most of The Time" performed by Sophie Zelmani (track two on side 2) which I know very well and is a personal favorite as well as a great demo tune.

 

We started by playing the cut at a realistic level on his infamous Continuum Turntable and I thought "this is pretty darned good sounding". Without muting or touching anything, Mikey then placed the LP, b-side down, on the demagnetizer and pushed the button that turned on a red light that changed to green after about 30 seconds of silent operation. As he put the LP back on the turntable, I thought to myself, "here we go again with another tweak that will change something that I can hear but can't explain nor determine whether the difference was better or worse". Skeptically predisposed, I listened as the perfectly cued stylus touched the lead in to the song. My mouth dropped open from the first note and remained opened throughout the entirety of the tune! The vocal had so much more texture, bass definition and clarity of every nuance of the recording was vastly improved and there was more low level information than I had ever heard in the recording. I felt like, for a moment, that Sophie was in the room singing to me having suspended my disbelief that this was a recording and having been fooled into believing it was real. I had not heard such a dramatic difference in LP playback since the first time I heard a flat profile Classic LP versus a conventional profile of the same title. In much the same way as with the initial Super Vinyl Profile versus Conventional Profile comparison, I was left puzzled trying to figure out why the demagnetizer had the sonic effects I clearly heard on a piece of plastic.

Extruded 280°f Clarity vinyl biscuit Clarity biscuit on stamper ready to press

 

The answer was to come soon after that fateful day in the "Vinyl Temple" when, at the Consumer Electronic Show, I asked the Vice President of Furutech for an explanation. Through an interpreter, he explained very simply "the carbon black that is ADDED to vinyl for LP manufacture contains trace metals that become randomly magnetized and interfere electrically with the cartridge hanging overhead during play". I shared with him that when I heard the effects of his machine on my LP's that it was quite an "ear opening" experience, which I think he appreciated being told about.

Blank single-side with strobe label Clarity vinyl pressing, blank side

 

I obtained Furutech demagnetizers for both home and Classic Records and became and remain one of the converted. Then one day, I was out running and I was struck by another epiphany – if carbon black and the trace metals contained therein caused playback distortion in the cartridge then why not take out the carbon black altogether? I sourced samples of clear vinyl and did some tests against our normal Black Kenan 550 compound made in Columbia. Not surprisingly, what I heard was that the clear vinyl sounded like the demagnetized black vinyl in all the same ways – better detail, better bass, more low level ambient detail and generally more clarity throughout. Working with vinyl manufacturers, we experimented with a number of formulas and finally decided upon a formula we now refer to as our CLARITY VINYL formulation that we are proud to announce to the market.

Classic Records Clarity Vinyl 45 RPM Deluxe Edition

 

Initially, we are introducing CLARITY VINYL on our single sided 45 RPM releases which have been upgraded to include special packaging in the form of a box for each release in the CLASSIC CLARITY VINYL 45 RPM SERIES – all pressed on our Super Vinyl Profile II. The first two releases will be:

BST 1577-45-200g Clarity SV-P II John Coltrane – Blue Train (4 disc box set)

BST 1595-45-200g Clarity SV-P II Cannonball Adderly – Somethin' Else (4 disc box set)

Also, coming soon on CLARITY VINYL will be:

C 1024-200g Clarity SV-PII Leo Kottke – 6 & 12 String Guitar

BST 81595-STEREO-45 Clarity SV-p II 1 disk 200G Cannonball Adderley | Autumn Leaves & Alison's Uncle

In terms of future releases and re-pressings of back catalog on CLARITY VINYL, we will proceed slowly and keep you informed. We would be happy for you to tell us what you hear!!!!

Thank you for your continued support,

Michael Hobson – President, Classic Records Inc.

Elbow – Seldom seen kid

While Madonna, David Bowie and Kylie Minogue embrace emerging or popular sounds, with varying degrees of success and cynicism, others only slightly alter what they do over time. Others like Neil Young, 50 Cent or Elbow. A fourth album from Guy Garvey and chums ushers in an occasionally more cheerful and experimental era for the Bury band, but for the most part it's brilliant business as usual.

The Seldom Seen Kid begins with Starlings, a tender effort that, aside from its insane horn blasts and Sigur Ros waves of feedback, comes on like a very now version of Fleetwood Mac's Albatross.

Next up we’re in familiar territory. Chanting, flamenco flourishes, a lyric that aches with lines of cryptic longing like, ''I'm five years ago and 3,000 miles away'', inventive percussion and a haunting yet uplifting Garvey vocal. The Bones Of You is so damn Elbow it should have half an arm coming out of both ends. It is followed by Mirrorball, a beautiful acoustic guitar and piano-led drift into dreams with an epic widescreen synth and strings chorus. It may not be a huge leap of originality for these men, but there is no one else who does it this well.

Elsewhere, Grounds For Divorce, the album's big single, is immense. It snarls, bites, chants and thrashes like Alabama 3 wrestling alligators in a Louisiana Bayou. Pedal steel guitars, handclaps (the hallmark of so many genius singles)… You can imagine Guy watching The Wild Bunch and wearing a Stetson as he laid down the vocal in the studio.

From here only the ponderous An Audience With the Pope dips below the high standard set. Special mention must go to The Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver, which is so huge it sounds like a weight-lifting welder building a giant ship from concrete blocks and The Fix, which features a duet with Sheffield troubadour Richard Hawley. It evokes a doomed funfair ride and is probably the best tune about gambling since The Card Cheat by The Clash.Those who find Elbow drab will still probably be unmoved by this Talk Talk-inspired band's latest. But for everyone else who likes to be moved, relaxed, and cheered by superior, soulful Mancunian lullabies, The Seldom Seen Kid is essential.

 

These two 45rpm discs cut that way for better sound quality are more natural sounding than a lot of today's discs but do sound a little compressed. The vinyl is quite heavyweight and housed in a gatefold sleeve with details and lyrics printed on the inside. Inner sleeves are standard die cut white. The sleevenotes also reference the website turnmeup.org an organisation dedicated to the return to a more natural mastering process.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/release/2bcz/

Calexico – Garden Ruin

Calexico have cast aside their familiar mariachi brass and pedal steel atmospherics in favour of a more straightforward, song-based approach on fifth album Garden Ruin.

Last year's successful collaboration with folk tunesmith Iron and Wine appears to have encouraged Arizona's Calexico to cast aside their familiar mariachi brass and pedal steel atmospherics in favour of a more straightforward, song-based approach on fifth album Garden Ruin.

The Morricone-influenced instrumental epics of earlier recordings have been replaced by melodic, jangly country-rock numbers such as opener "Cruel", together with a sizeable dose of electric guitar on heavier tracks like "Letter To Bowie Knife".

Only on "Roka (Danza De La Muerte)", featuring Andalucian singer Ampara Sanchez, and the Gotan Project-style modern tango of "Nom De Plume" are Calexico's Latin inflections allowed to take a front seat. Elsewhere, while their trademark violins, trumpets and shuffling percussion do flit unobtrusively in and out of the mix throughout, the band's variety of textures and moods has been significantly pared down in search of a more accessible but ultimately less interesting sound. One could argue that thislack of variety hasbeen replaced by a stronger set of songs than their earlier efforts.

Longer term listening leads to greater enjoyment and rewards.

Beautiful matt gatefold cover with lyrics printed within and extra artwork on the inner sleeve also. The packaging is a work of art in itself. Decent weight vinyl and well pressed. And the usual very good Calexico sound. Possibly a bit clinical but deep and well rounded.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/release/8qf9/

Calexico – Carried To Dust

Hands in the air please for the return of Arizona's number one sons. All the tropes are in place… the brushed rattling percusion, the twangero guitar, the open, desert-evoking sound. And yes, the return of the mariachi blare that so suits the writing of Covertino and Burns. After their disappointingly 'rock' album, Garden Ruin, Calexico have returned to the southern states' alt country that's part-western, part-central American folk and all their own. Thank goodness…

In a year that's seen acts as diverse as Fleet Foxes to Conor Oberst stretch and challenge what the term 'Americana' could contain, this return to form-of-sorts is a timely reminder of how influential Calexico have been. The band's turn at last years Womad festival, with guest star Amparo Sánchez (who appears here), shone out even among the mud and rain. And while Calexico's real strength lies in live performance, Carried To Dust is a gem.

The album does have a loose concept around which it hangs: a screenwriter's search for inspiration in the wide open spaces around La La Land (Writer's Minor Holiday). But there's also room for the political poetry of opener Victor Jara's Hands (Jara was an artist/poet tortured by the Chilean dictatorship) and the pure wiggly Mexicali joy of Inspiracion or the Morricone madness of El Gatillo (Trigger Madness). All of these are guaranteed to sound astounding live.

If there's any reservation here it's because a little too often you get the sense of deja vu. The lyrical imagery and the tumbleweed dryness sails a little close to parody. It's almost as if they've had to emulate themselves to find the way forward again, the melodies not leaping out as smartly as they might. And sometimes you long for the more outre weirdness that filled the gaps on earlier classics such as Feast Of Wire. But frankly, something this good shouldn't be sniffed at. Calexico are back on track. Cause for celebration, indeed.

 

Simple enough package for Calexico. Not a gatefold but it dpes have that lovely art both on teh outer sleeve and on the inner, albeit flimsy, inner sleeve. As usual with calexico the sound is pretty good and full of interesting flourishes. Always a pleasure to listen to.