Wisely – Wisely

The new, and third,  Wisely record is his first available on vinyl and is a treasure trove of wonderfully recorded laid back pop or blue eyed soul. It arrived here in perfect time for the summer and would be suitable for a long hazy summer evening on a recliner with a beer in hand. The only problem is that you'd have to get up after twenty minutes to flip sides. And again after another twenty minutes to start playing it again.

  'On my way' starts off with a heartfelt lyric sung over a most appealing wurlitzer. Its a slower track. 'Cracked world view' is another slower paeon to breaking up and features the mellotron. The whole record displays this attachment to warm and inviting vintage sounds.

 Things really kick off on third track, 'Tokyo Arbor'. Its got a completely addictive vibe, this one, mining the same seventies territory so beloved of current artists such as Josh Rouse. ' 'Only losing me' is less poppy and more bluesy and is sung in that honest, expressive way.

Side one almost ends with the glorious upbeat and, well, bouncy pop you might expect of a song called 'California'.  Covering the same kind of territory as 'Tokyo Arbor' its the second highlight on this album. But before we get to the label we have the Nick Drake -esque simple folk and guitar plucking of 'Through any window'. Enjoyable and very well recorded.

 'Ella' is really lovely, a song about the joys of love, not the breakup. It continues with that mellow upbeat vibe and has some gorgeous percussion, pedal and steel guitar. Third song on the album that is so infectious. You'll be tapping your foot, nodding your head and clapping your hands! You might even be singing along!!

 'Nothing but wind' is something more experimental, a spoken word monologue about the speaker's wishes, desires from life. Its slightly haunting and nicely complimented by piano and glockenspiel.

'Vanilla' is about a girl called, err 'Vanilla'. Unless he's just broken up with an ice cream. Its slightly soppy. Possibly melting in the sunshine.  Actually, I've just realised that's part of the lyric! Shockingly he mentioned the dreaded 'CD'. I still can't keep my foot still.

 The next song, is to these ears, the worst on the album. Its a soft rock track and Wisely insists on repeating to us the fact that he's going to make love tonight and how beautiful its going to be. I find this rather irritating. There are redeeming features in the music but I'm finding it really hard to get  past the simple lyric. He also says 'Yowl!'. Its called 'Its gonna be beautiful'.

 Lightly strummed on a guitar with beach boys harmonies is 'Unfamiliar'. More lush instrumentation does kick in later in the track. 

Perfectly titled 'I'll be singing' ends the album in a joyful and jazzy fashion, even including treated vocals. You might just join in. 

 Its a real feelgood album. The playing is excellent throughout and while Wisely is no opera singer, his light tenor voice is most appealing and perfectly suits that lazy summer mood. While the record could drop a couple of tracks(I'll let you guess one) the rest deserve to be all over daytime radio, not to mention your car stereo. Not to mention your turntable!! 😉  The excellent overall sound of the album elevates it above most of today's music and deserves a high recommendation.

 Its a 180g rti pressed album. Attractive outer sleeve with good protective inner sleeve but no pictures. Lyrics and details are printed on the back.




Joni Mitchell – Blue

Well fellas,
I finally gave the new "Blue" a listen tonight.

I warmed up the system playing Coltrane's A love Supreme, Cannonball Adderley's Somethin' Else and for female vocals, the perennial favorite West Of Oz by Amanda McBroom and Lincoln Mayorga.

Ok, now some impressions of the new record:

Overall the sound is very smooth, with tremendous vocal presence while the various instruments, specially strings, seem to be more palpable and fleshed out, compared to the original 1971 pressing.

Following the advice of several fellow members, I washed the record with my usual record formula. However, I still noticed some surface noise. As with other RTI pressings, the noise may be reduced with further playings. Only time will tell.

The surface noise on this particular recording is hard to miss given the low level passages, the simple acoustic setting and the overall dynamics of the recording. This is no compressed Rock N' Roll recording! 

I took some small notes while listening to the album.

Here are the expanded notes for each cut:

Side 1

All I Want: Great cut, some wandering of Joni's image at the beginning of the song, then it centers quite nicely. I'm figuring she was swaying a bit around the microphone or something…

My Old Man: Some pregroove echo heard. Great, strong piano reproduction. Was this a Bosendorfer? I can imagine Donald Fagen listening to this in '71 and wanting to reproduce this sound on his Steely Dan albums!
Excellent vocals on this cut as well.

Little Green: The vocal here has more body than on the original pressing. This also reflects on the instrumentation which has a nice weight to it. Not overblown but just enough to provide a good foundation to the song.

Carey: Pretty good bass and natural sounding instrumentation giving the cut some extra warmth. The original record was a little shrill here.

The background vocals are quite easy to follow, another plus.

Blue: Vocal is quite deep and intimate here, very "breathy" quality at times. Nicely showcased. The effect of Joni's stepping away from the mike at the end of the song, indicates good dynamic contrast. Piano decay at the end also good.

Side 2

California: Side 2 opens with a very strong track, the best so far. Great bass, dynamics and detail. Guitar resonances and harmonics are very convincing. A very strong vocal performance and reproduction as well.

This Flight Tonight: This is a challenging track. It has a lot of things going on at the same time. Clearly the most complex arrangement on the record. It has a period "trippy" quality to it. Joni's Vocal sounds more subdued here with less "bite". Plenty of warmth.

I'm guessing there was quite a lot of overdubbing on this, compared to the more sparse tracks with just piano and vocals. Therefore, the sound quality suffers a bit here. The weakest track in terms of absolute fidelity, IMO.

There's an intermittent and short duration "swirl" heard on the right channel, which at first, I thought it was a sound effect of some sort. I'm convinced it's just some noise that crept in the mixing process.

This is not really distracting, since I've heard the song for years and it never bothered me. However, when listening critically, such as for this review, it's plainly evident.

Also evident is some distortion on Joni's vocals right at the last verse of the song. Ms. Mitchell is reaching the climax of the song and her voice climbs in the high registers causing the distortion. I'm guessing the mike just couldn't take it.

To confirm my findings, I played a "needledrop" of the original pressing through my Squeezebox music player, and there it was. Same distortion artifacts.

So my conclusion is that this is all master tape related and nothing Kevin or Steve could do about it.

River: This is just Joni and the piano. As simple as it can get. Surface noise gets a little in the way here, quite predictably. Again some pregroove echo. I can hear the piano very faintly before the track begins.

The piano, by the way, is as commanding as it should be. The vocal has nice presence as well. A tough track to play well on the old pressings, specially in case of "thrift store" specials. The piano would generally distort or crack on the well worn records. Nice to hear it cleanly reproduced on a brand new pressing.

Case Of You: This has become my favorite song on this recording as of late. Tremendous emotional energy. Joni's performance gave me goosebumps. As good as it gets!

The subtle guitar string "squeaks" more clearly audible in this version, giving it a more realistic feel. The subtle percussion and taps on the guitar body are clearly defined and contribute to a solid foundation of the song. This one is a winner and clearly worth the price of admission!

The best track on this record in terms of both sonics and performance, in my humble opinion.

Last Time I Saw Richard: The test for inner groove performance. Excellent way to close the album. Never falters. Resolution is excellent despite the smaller groove diameter, the sign of a good mastering job. Very intimate vocal with good dynamic contrast.
Marantz 7C, 8B and 10B

Essential records

This is intended to be an ongoing and updated list of records that not only have wonderful music but marvellous sonics as well. The kind of record you put on the platter and sit back and think wow! This should be a list for those new turntable purchasers who want to impress themselves with their purchase 🙂
Please email in your suggestions to mailto:vf@a1linux.com

Details are correct as far as we know.

Yello – Flag – 1988 – Mastered by Kevin Metcalfe – Analogue
Simply stunning sound from this release. All of Yello's records are impressive sounding but they really pushed the boat out on this one.

Dead can Dance – Into the Labyrinth – 1993 – – Digital
A gorgeous blend of folk and music from around the world. Also check out 1996's Spiritchaser. DCD always impress mightily with their sound, both on disc and in concert.

Dave Brubeck – Time Out – 1959 – – Analogue
One of the most famous jazz albums. Always sounds gorgeous. I have a Scorpio 180grm pressing which sounds great. Apparently the Classic records reissue sounds better. And if you can get an original in good conditon well…

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue – 1959 – – Analogue
The quintessential Jazz album.

Bryan Ferry – Bete Noire – 1987 – Bob Ludwig – Analogue
Probably the pinnacle of Ferry's experimentation. Again this recoird sounds great and is full of twists and ideas.

Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden – 1988 – – Analogue
Essential on any format and mind blowing on vinyl. The timbre and organic depth of the instrumentation is immaculate. Hollis' voice can be a bit scary at times though.

The following records were added by Jason Liles

Brian Eno –
Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy
Ambient 1 " Music For Airports
Another Green World
The Pearl

Bedhead –
Transaction de Novo

Low –
Things We Lost In The Fire
The Curtain Hits The Cast

Red House Painters –

Flaming Lips
In A Priest Driven Ambulance
Transmissions From The Satellite Heart

Mercury Rev –

Yo La Tengo

Galaxie 500

Pavement –
Crooked Rain Crooked Rain

Talking Heads
Fear of Music

Kid A

Laughing Stock

More to come!