Ron Sexsmith – Time Being

I've always quite enjoyed Ron Sexsmith without being a huge fan. I did however love Cobblestone Highway and retriever, and indeed gave the excellent Diverse pressing of Cobblestone Highway a pretty good review on this site.

So here we have another reissue of his latest album on vinyl by another new label called Coppertree Records. They seem to be based in Wales and, well, I don't know very much about them at all.

But they do have something to say for themselves and this record…

Coppertree Records start their vinyl campaign with a lavish 180g heavyweight pressing of Ron Sexsmith’s Time Being. His eighth album proper, and his first to have the tender loving Coppertree vinyl treatment. Considered the singer / songwriter’s songwriter, Ron Sexsmith has earned immense respect from his peers, critics, and a devoted international audience. The Toronto based singer / songwriter boasts a who’s who of celebrity endorsees such as Paul McCartney, Elton John, Elvis Costello, Steve Earle (who produced Ron's 2001 album, Blue Boy), Sheryl Crow, John Hiatt, Bono, John Prine, Radiohead, and Chris Martin (who dueted on the track Gold In Them Hills). Coppertree Records have taken due care and attention to the finest of details, and produced a lavish and desirable release that will have any vinyl junkie palpitating at the very thought of it. The heavyweight 180g vinyl pressing is housed in a full colour inner sleeve which is stored in a beautiful double weight, embossed and hand numbered sleeve. To have Ron Sexsmith on ‘the original analogue format’ is essential, so stay tuned, as Coppertree Records may have some more announcements to make with regards to Ron Sexsmith’s material

The packaging is simple enough. An embossed single outer sleeve and a flimsy inner picture sleeve. Everything is glossy!! 🙂

Sound quality is very good. Its credited as being mastered by Bob Ludwig which is always a good sign. however the vinyl will have been mastered by someone else. There are no problems though. Its a good vinyl pressing and the sound comes through nicely on the vinyl though does sound digital. Good digital.

Lyrically as always, Ron is quirky interesting and thought provoking. No standard statements here.

Unfortunately the music, while not bad, does not seem to be such an instant classic as the two previous albums mentioned above. Sexsmith has a laid back style which never exactly reaches out and grabs you anyway. Here the music seems to do so even less. I see from the website that its been getting 4* reviews all over. I think I'll give it a 3.

Celebrate Vinyl Record Day

Celebrate Vinyl Record Day
By Robert Benson

When Thomas Edison invented the phonograph on August 12, 1877, little did he know just how much influence his “Talking Machine” would have, not only in the music industry, but in pop culture as well. Records are a part of the music of the ages and it is up to us as individuals and retailers, not only to enjoy our favorite recordings, but to preserve them as well; thus Vinyl Record Day was born.

Vinyl Record Day (www.VinylRecordDay.org) is celebrated on August 12th (or the first Saturday following the 12th) and was conceived and brought to the forefront by vinyl enthusiast and vinyl record historian Gary Freiberg. I spoke with Gary about the meaning of Vinyl Record Day and how we can help as individuals and what retailers can do to help preserve this timeless medium and international treasure.

“Vinyl Record Day is about celebrating vinyl records and the public should take notice of this special day. Invite friends and family over for a barbeque, maybe form a block party and play records, think records and talk about records and what they mean to each of us individually and culturally,” explained Gary.
Gary went into further detail, "Whatever the feel good aspects of Vinyl Record Day are, a retailer will ask how will this help my bottom line? Vinyl Record Day can get free publicity, it puts a good face on a business within their community and is a reason to have something special at the location: a parking lot sale, entertainment, store specials are great examples. I would hope the industry would become more involved with Vinyl Record Day so that, not only are the goals of Vinyl Record Day spread, but that people trying to make all or part of their living with vinyl could be part of an industry and not scattered individuals. We need to have a cohesive national impact as the milk industry did with their "Got Milk" campaign. I truly believe that Internet and traditional brick store owners could benefit financially, and in the case of brick store owners, in their communities by being part of Vinyl Record Day. Another important goal of Vinyl Record Day is to preserve the cultural influences, the recordings and the cover art. We also hope to increase awareness that economics prevents companies from transferring everything on to compact discs.”

A very dynamic and immensely important point Gary talked about is that only 5% of our musical history has been transferred to cd, so it is our responsibility to preserve this medium. Maybe your grandfather, sibling or cousin released a record and, although it may have not made the “top ten,” it is our music and some of these wonderful recordings cannot be found anywhere else. For instance, I own a vinyl copy of a Spiro Agnew speech and one of our most revered presidents John F. Kennedy has released several recordings, as have other influential and historical figures.

Additionally, Vinyl Record Day is a nonprofit organization that aims to educate the public and encourage all of us to preserve these international audio treasures. It is also a marketing opportunity for any vinyl record retailer.

“Vinyl Record Day is focused on educating the public that this timeless medium is in our hands, don’t leave the preservation of vinyl to fate. Vinyl records represent historical audio documents and just as we preserve historical literature, we are the custodians of this audio history. Vinyl Record Day is more than one day a year set aside for celebration, it is also for the industry itself,” acknowledged Gary. "

We also discussed past celebrations, from the inaugural Vinyl Record Day in San Luis County, California and the international support and attention that Vinyl Record Day receives as well.

“Vinyl Record Day hopes to continue to educate the public on why and how to care for a record collection because these collections are not only a part of who we are individually, but to assure that future generations will not lose a vital link in recorded history,” related Gary.

As an avid vinyl record collector, I truly enjoyed my conversation with Gary, who is very passionate about the cause. Vinyl Record Day is a nonprofit organization that needs the help of all of us, consumers, collectors, musicians, retailers as well as the record companies. So, as you celebrate Vinyl Record Day this August, think about the history, preservation of the format and enjoyment you receive when listening to your favorite records. For more information and how you can help as an individual, please visit the website, www.VinylRecordDay.org and let Gary know that you endorse all of his efforts.

(You may even donate your record collection to Vinyl Record Day and you can receive full value as a tax write-off. Vinyl Record Day needs money to promote, not only Vinyl Record Day, but can help retailers in their own business endeavors)

Author Robert Benson writes about rock/pop music, vinyl record collecting and operates www.collectingvinylrecords.com, where you can secure your copy of his ebook called "The Fascinating Hobby Of Vinyl Record Collecting." Copyright 2007-Robert Benson
Robert can be contacted at robert@collectingvinylrecords.com.

Piazzolla – buenos aires- carrefour, per arne, glorvigen

Piazzolla: Buenos Aires – Carrefour, Per Arne Glorvigen (NorthWest Classics NWC 205275) (Stereo-only SACD)

Audio system: Sony ES, Placette, Rogue, Meadowlark, Cardas

Availability:

Northwest Classics is based in the Netherlands . At present, they have very limited international distribution and availability. Titles can be ordered directly from their website. The service is quick and professional.

Music/Performance:

Admittedly, I have very little experience upon which to base a judgement of this music or performance. These pieces by Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) are orchestrated for marimba quartet (including a variety of non-pitched percussion) and the most "Tango" of instruments, the bandoneon (sounds similar to an accordian). The project of orchestrating Piazzolla's music is explained by Carrefour: "Sonority and melody are Carrefour's primary concerns, and therefore as a marimba ensemble we experience music making more intimately connected to the piano or the human voice than only to percussion instruments. For us every possible rhythmic impulse comprises myriad opportunities to play with the subtle and complex colors encapsulated in a single vibration… These ideas perfectly served the music while at the same time shedding new light on these timeless pieces." As someone who until this recording never gave Tango a second thought, I can say that the results are very engaging. Pieces such as " Buenos Aires hor cero," " Soledad ," and "Anxiety (from 5 Tango Sensations)" are intricate and exciting music that move far beyond the newcomer's obvious expectations of "dance music." The sheer range of sounds, the fluidity with which they are integrated, and the particular sonic characteristics of the marimbas make for a distinctive and memorable performance. One interesting thing to note is that this is the first recording a new musical instrument, the "Grubbophone," which is described as having a "sound color between that of a marimba and a double bass, but with a much lower range."

Sonics:

Sonic curiosity was the reason I ordered this SACD, and I was not disappointed. The "Producer's note" got me excited right away: "…The pieces recorded on this SACD have a wide dynamic range from the whispering and barely audible to the loud and brash." Initial caution is advised when setting the playback volume. Basically, the sonics on this SACD qualify it as a true audiophile reference recording. If you are auditioning audio gear, it is one of three or four SACDs you should have with you. The dynamics are absolutely stunning. They are not big swells of sound like one gets with orchestral music, but rather the kind of exhilarating transient dynamics that I would guess are only possible with expertly recorded pitched percussion. The background is absolutely black. In fact, it is actually spooky. Despite the fact that the mechanical sounds of the bandoneon are retained for authenticity (the bandoneon is featured on about half the tracks), the overall sound has an almost eerie quality of emerging out of, and receding back into, nothingness. That said, the recording achieves a very good sense of depth in the few places where the music is given a context of extra-musical sounds, such as the lead-in to " Buenos Aires hora cero." The different sounds blend and integrate in ways that enhance the musical collaboration, and yet retain their distinctive sonic and spatial characters.

Recommended for Tango fans and general music lovers; highly recommended for curious audiophiles.

© Lyle Crawford

Hans Ruckers – the musical legacy – jos van immerseel

Availability:

Northwest Classics is based in the Netherlands . At present, they have very limited international distribution and availability. Titles can be ordered directly from their website. The service is quick and professional.

Music/Performance:

Who? If you haven't heard the name Hans Ruckers, you're not alone. Ruckers was not a composer, and none of this music was written by him. He was the Antonio Stradivari of the harpsichord, a master builder whose career in Antwerp began around 1570. The recording is arranged in three sections, each showcasing an instrument built in the Ruckers tradition: a reconstructed 1644 (Andreas) Ruckers harpsichord, a 1747 Dulcken harpsichord, and a 1650 Couchet virginal known to be a faithful copy of an original 1570 Ruckers instrument (a virginal is similar to a harpsichord, but smaller, with its strings oriented sideways). It is probably not going too far to say that the instruments are the stars of this show, and the booklet contains many close-up, schematic, and "portrait" photographs of them. Jos van Immerseel plays them with, in his own words, "a feeling of deep respect and admiration." All this said, the music provides a wonderful opportunity to exhibit the qualities of these instruments. Aside from a Fantasy and Fugue by J. S. Bach, the music here is by relatively obscure composers, some anonymous. Each of the three mini-recitals is well formed and very satisfying on its own terms. Immerseel plays with great care, which comes across as being absorbed in the music rather than reserved or pedantic about it. Highlights include a set of variations on the famous "Folia" melody, and a very moving piece, the longest on the disc, by Armand-Louis Couperin (cuisin of the well known Francois "Le Grand").

Sonics:

If you love the sound of a harpsichord or, especially, if you (think you) hate it, you owe it to yourself to hear this SACD. It is, hands down, the best recording of any of these instruments, and for that matter one of the best recordings of anything at all, I have ever heard. Northwest has taken meticulous care to present a sound that is close and very revealing without being aggressive. There is none of the brittleness or edginess many would associate with harpsichord; the sound is warm, natural and complex. Nor is one left with an impression of rickety or antiquated instruments; the mechanical sounds one hears testify to their intricate workmanship. Each instrument emerges in sound with the kind of individual character revealed in the photographs depicting their exquisite painted and carved ornamentation, or the strip of antique parchment Couchet used to strengthen his soundboard. We hear the range of sounds the two harpsichords can produce, including a wonderful buff-stop on the Ruckers (small leather pads press against each string, giving the instrument a sound like that of a lute). The virginal has an extraordinary sound, strikingly different from either of the harpsichords, which almost calls to mind adjectives like "psychedelic." This SACD is a thrilling and fascinating document, achieving a rare intimacy and transparency.

A wonderful and diverse recital, expertly played. Highly recommended to fans of, or those curious about, Early Music; wildly recommended to audiophiles.

© Lyle Crawford

Hothouse Flowers – Into your heart

In 2004, the hothouse flowers released ‘Into your heart’. It followed 6 years after the Born album which was itself a comeback album. Born was also a try out of a rockier more mainstream sound. While Born was an enjoyable listen it lacked the intensity and passion which the Flowers had shown on their previous release, ‘Songs from the rain’. ‘Into your heart’ restores that passion and possibly even raises the level somewhat.

Nearly 20 years after they first started out, Liam sings in such a world weary voice that you wonder if he is a broken man. He, andthe band, really have seen it all. Great success, which then disappeared. Adulation, groupies, wives, children etc. This is a completely different band to the one who released the fine album, ‘People’ in 1988. Not to mention their international debut of teh song, ‘Don’t go’ on the Eurovision song contest. That was part of a run of Irish domination of the competition, where oftenm it was teh entertainment that domninated the competion, rather than the actual entrants. The other great success, was of course, Riverdance.

There is a sticker on the front of this album which helpfully, using quotes fom reviews, more or less distills what this album is all about. ‘Raw, stirring…undeniably upbeat & positive’ according to the Sunday times. ‘Raw vocals, meaty vocals….soulful’ according to Q. The Sunday Independent, a local paper, says ‘it abounds with passion and raw unpolished soul’.

I wonder at the sunday times review. For me, this album is sung in a cracked, undeniably souldful voice, by a man who has seen it all and has been at the very end. Only now, he looks ahead to the future and a new idea. This is not candy pop. Possibly Lucinda Williams would be a familiar reference.

I think there is a strain of celtic music which exhibits this raw emotion. Yet it is never depressing but is stirring and invites one to share in the intense emotion. U2 simply have been the most successful and mainstream of artists to exploit these feelings.

‘Your love goes on’ does start the album off in a lively, upbeat mood. After so many years since the previous album, it is a joy to hear Liam’s voice, the full soulful backing, the gospel sounds etc. ‘This is a great love’ but what it really does is takes the writer from his own natural introverted melancholy self and brings them to the height of their living and emotions. Trumpet and horns and the Dublin Gospel choir bring this song to its joyful climax.

That mood doesn’t last long for the next song tells us that this is the ‘End of the road’. Everything has been tried. They’ve been here before and have tried to work things out, but they’re still here. Things haven’t gotten better. Goodbye. liam’s voice really does sound here, as if there have been many sleepless nights and many tears.

The next song starts off slowly and quietly before building to a crescendo of ‘Hallelujahs’. But rather than soleyly being effusive praise of God, somehow it sounds chemically induced, ritualistic. Does the singer believe what he is singing. It does include a ‘wild electric guitar solo’ for your pleasure.

‘Tell me’ is probably the bluesiest song on the album. It sounds robotic though. Its a harsh sound and almost difficult to listen to. Its the plea of a man to his lover, show me you love me. Or else I’m gone.

Liam sings ‘Better man’ in a falsetto, sounding like an old soul great. Again this tells of the effect the lover has on this man. ‘Make me love in a better way. Keep me smiling every day. Listen up to what I have to say. Baby you just make me feel like a better man’.

Again beautifully sung in a cracked hushed falsetto, ‘Peace tonight’ is a slow waltz. The intimacy of a close relationship. The complete immersion in the love of another.

‘Santa Monica’ is the song I heard before I purchased the album. The actual line is ‘Santa Monica’s big blue bus’ but really it sounds like teh blues in Santa Monica. It is a simply gorgeous track. Its the type of song you expect to see being played by a lonesome busker. Fabulous music on this and to me, it expresses that beautiful melancholy of travelling on your own. Observing all around you. I love teh line, ‘Oh, will I ever get over you. If only you could show me how’. We’ve all been there. If you haven’t, you will be. A great harmonica solo.

Is a theme emerging here? The next song tells its listener that ‘you’re the one that makes me ‘feel like living”. This is one of the most heart rending songs I have heard in quite a while. A simple lone piano starts off, violin starts a haunting support. Liam sings, utterly lost, utterly at the end. But yet, there is redemption there. In the love of another. This is stunning. Beatifully simple, startk and so so touching. Close to perfection. ANd each word is given its own moment, its own space to be felt.

The listener, nearyly at their own end now, needs something to pull themselves out of this mood. ‘Baby I got you’ therefore tries its best. Its a celebration of finding that special one in your life. Another soulful reading from Liam. He sounds like Prince at times.

‘Alright’ is practically on fire in comparison to the after midnight tracks we’ve been listening to. Sounding like the Byrds, all harmonies and chiming guitars, its delightful. Apparently, the ‘inspiration seemed to take us all away on a journey’. And thankfully, we’re all ‘going to make it through the night’.

‘Magic bracelets’ sounds like a gospel hymn with history. SOme flugelhorn lends it a mysterious air. It is in fact a tribute to reggae legend, Joe Higgs. This one is uplifting and needs to be sung in church.

Out of nowhere really is the final song on the album. Its a marvellous end to a marvellous album. Its a remarkably heartfelt and soaringly uplifting end. It, more than anything else here, expresses the sheer joy and excitement of being in love. Little wonder then, thatit is written by Liam, a different writer to the other songs, usually Peter O’Toole or Fiachna O’Braonain. Its dedicated to his wife and she should be very happy with this one. Airborne electric guitar helps this one to reach for the skies. The perfect end!

Except its not. Strangely they add on another song. ‘Si do Mhamo i’ is a traditional song sung live in Minneapois. God only knows how many of teh crowd understood it as it is sung in the band’s first language, Irish, or Gaelic. Its a great song in its own right but somehow sounds out of place here. But in a way its is fitting. It eases us back into our own lives after the intense emotional experience of this wonderful album.

Sound uality is good throughout. Packaging is in a jewel case withing a cardboard slip case. Liner notes include full lyrics and a background to each song. And some photos.

SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO ON SUNDAZED VINYL!

COMING IN FEBRUARY ON SUNDAZED VINYL

Sweetheart of the Rodeo will forever be revered as the Byrds' 1968 album that opened the eyes of the hip and the young to country music. Whether it was the first country-rock album doesn't really matter: It was certainly the best and most heartfelt such excursion and paved the way for fabled combos the Flying Burrito Bros. and Poco yet to come. Sweetheart featured the first extensive lineup change for the Byrds, as Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman said goodbye to David Crosby, Gene Clark and Michael Clarke and welcomed former International Submarine Band leader Gram Parsons into the fold. With his magical voice and bona fide country pedigree, Parsons helped unleash a style that had already begun to seep into the Byrds' sound. And now Sundazed makes available a perfect replica of the original vinyl release of the ever-enduring Sweetheart of the Rodeo. To order go to:

www.sundazed.com

Coldplay 7″ vinyl box set

We're pleased to announce that, for the first time, all 14 of Coldplay's singles are to be collected together in a box set. 'The Singles 1999-2006' will be released internationally on March 26th.

Each single will be pressed on heavyweight 7-inch vinyl and sleeved in its original artwork. The box set will contain five singles which have never previously appeared on 7-inch vinyl. They include 'The Blue Room EP', Coldplay's rare first release for Parlophone in October 1999, which has been split into two 7-inch singles. The box set will also feature the international singles, 'Don't Panic', 'God Put A Smile Upon Your Face' and 'What If', none of which were released in the UK. It will also include 'The Hardest Part', which was previously only available as a download in the UK.

Please note that this collection will only be released as a 7-inch vinyl box set, there will not be a CD release. For full track details, please go to www.coldplay.com