Features

Interview with Speaker Design Guru David Smith

Interview with Speaker Design Guru David Smith

TNT-Audio caught up with noted speaker designer David Smith, ex-JBL, McIntosh, KEF, Snell, and PSB. Join TNT and Speaker Dave on a journey into the heart of speaker design, its history and current trends. read more…

From the Pulpit

From the Pulpit

Of Carroll Shelby, phono cartridge loading, and my budget reference system…

Firstly, regarding Carroll Shelby: For those that may not know, Mr. Shelby passed away on May 10 (a day I will always remember as it is my birthday). Rather than try to sum up his life in a single page (which would be impossible to do), I just thought that I would draw attention to this fact and to my own limited exposure to his company and foundation. read more…

Remixing Britney Spears For 5.1 Surround on DVD-Audio

Remixing Britney Spears For 5.1 Surround on DVD-Audio

High Fidelity Review recently got a sneak peek behind the remixing of ‘In The Zone’, the new album by Britney Spears, as it was being prepared for a 5.1-channel release on DVD-Audio. The project came to 5.1 Entertainment through the BMG label, marking their fifth collaboration: the first three being 5.1-channel remixes of albums by The Foo Fighters, Outkast and Usher; followed by Britney and R. Kelly titles. “Our contact at BMG requested I handle the Britney remix” said Chris Haynes, chief engineer at 5.1 Entertainment. read more…

Remembering Michael Brecker

Remembering Michael Brecker

On January 13 2007, two and a half years after being diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (1), and just one month before winning his 12th and 13th Grammy awards, Michael Brecker passed away from leukemia.

You’ve heard Michael Brecker…as one of the most indemand tenor saxophone players in New York for the last 35 years or so, he’s played on over 900 albums. Artists he’s recorded with include James Brown, Billy Joel, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Parliament/ Funkadelic, Herbie Hancock, John Lennon, Todd Rundgren, Carly Simon, Aerosmith, George Benson, Dire Straits, Charles Mingus, Lou Reed, Dave Brubeck, Diana Ross, Chet Baker, James Taylor, Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, McCoy Tyner, Frank Sinatra and many others. He was a key member of the pioneering fusion groups Dreams, The Brecker Brothers (with his brother Randy), and Steps Ahead; and also released a series of very successful solo albums. read more…

Eva Cassidy: The Voice Of An Angel

You may have heard the name Eva Cassidy; you may have even heard her story, but unless you’ve heard her sing there is no way for you to comprehend the enormity of her talent and the rich legacy she left behind. Yes, Eva Cassidy died, in 1996 at the age of 33 from a form of skin cancer. She was unable to get a recording contract in her lifetime because she was so versatile that the record company geniuses had no idea how to market her. It wasn’t until after her death that her “career” took off. The tragedy of all this, beyond the obvious “she died too young,” is the fact that she was one of the finest singers of popular music to come along in many a year. I personally think she was the greatest new singer of the last 30 years. That’s not to take anything away from the likes of Mary Chapin Carpenter, Norah Jones, Jeff Buckley, Diana Krall, Shelby Lynne, Alison Krauss, Loreena McKennitt, Martina McBride, et al – they’re all great in their own way – but Eva could sing any kind of music (and did) and had a way of communicating the emotion of a lyric that was truly special. read more…

Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Steve Stills and Others

Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Steve Stills and Others

Sundazed has recently released this double play: The Bloomfield/Kooper/Stills Super Session and the related double album Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper LPs. It makes eminent sense to review these together, since the live album is a natural outgrowth of the earlier studio sessions.

Super Session grew out of a working relationship between Kooper and Bloomfield forged while supporting Bob Dylan in concert and on Highway 61 Revisited. They booked some studio time with the specific intent of creating a session album. The first day of the session featured Kooper and Bloomfield, along with Barry Goldberg and Harvey Brooks. Incapacitated by his drug habit, Bloomfield could not attend the second day, so Stephen Stills sat in. On this LP, side one features Bloomfield, side two Stills. read more…

Harry Belafonte, Belafonte Sings the Blues

Harry Belafonte, Belafonte Sings the Blues

OK, first things first: This isn’t really a blues album. At least, not in the sense of a Muddy Waters, or even an Eric Clapton blues interpretation. It’s a mix of some blues songs and some old standards, nicely accompanied and featuring the super-smooth voice of Harry Belafonte.

Back in 1958 when this LP was released by RCA (then available in both mono and Living Stereo—it would prove to be Belafonte’s first stereo release), Belafonte was riding high on his calypso wave. To some degree, the typecasting of the singer as a singer of songs such as the “Banana Boat Song” and “Day-O” must have contributed to his desire to release something a bit more down tempo and “serious”. I’ve read, but can’t confirm, that Belafonte Sings the Blues was the singer’s favorite album…perhaps precisely because it was a break from the usual fare.

This LP is a Classic Records reissue, which had gone out of print some time ago. The company has recently repressed the album, and it merits a listen. While not pure blues by any stretch of the imagination, it is probably what middle America was willing to accept in 1958: Smooth, middle-of-the-road music, performed with sensitive and skillful arrangements by a known singer with a really outstanding voice. read more…

Dusty Springfield – The Look of Love

Dusty Springfield – The Look of Love

Dusty Springfield’s voice is intoxicating: Smooth, sultry and sexy. On the audiophile old chestnut, Casino Royale Soundtrack, “The Look of Love” is a standout track for me. In fact, it’s thestandout track on the album in my view. This view is shared with others: The Bachrach/David song was nominated for an academy award for best song in 1967. I don’t know when I first heard “The Look of Love”, but I do know that I can’t remembernot recognizing the tune. In fact, I’m listening to the track as I write this (though sadly on my iPod, not my turntable, since I’m many feet under the English Channel in a Eurostar train).

Some time ago I bought the Classic Records 33rpm reissue of the Casino Royale soundtrack and put it aside for “later”. More recently I received from Classic this unusual 12” single, consisting of “The Look of Love” at 33rpm on one side and 45rpm on the other. A rather unusual release, yes, but this tune is one that in my opinion justifies such an “excessive” format. read more…

Villa-Lobos, The Little Train of the Caipira/Ginastera

Villa-Lobos, The Little Train of the Caipira/Ginastera

When I was a boy, my parents would often take us—in the Spring, of course—to Symphony Hall to hear Arthur Fiedler conduct the Boston Pops. We’d sit at a table, and the waitresses would bring us “Pops Punch”, cheese and crackers, and other treats. The music that we would listen to was excellent stuff, and the spectacle was impressive.

Listening to this LP brought back fond memories of childhood evenings at the Pops. (I’ve only returned once since Arthur died; somehow it’s never been the same for me.) The Little Train of the Caipira is exactly the sort of music that would have been played: Telling a story, straightforward, dynamically “out there” and—let’s admit it— fun.

The Brazilian composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos, is probably the best known classical composer from Latin America. (A cynic might say that this is like being the tallest Munchkin in Munchkinland, though a listen to Villa Lobos’ music should quiet any cynic.) Villa Lobos died in 1959.

Alberto Ginastera was an Argentine composer of classical music of Italian and Catalan background. He passed away in 1983, but not before one of the movements from his piano concerto was covered by Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Toccata, from Brain Salad Surgery). Reportedly, Ginastera both permitted ELP’s use of his music and approved of the final result. read more…

Frank Zappa, Hot Rats

Frank Zappa, Hot Rats

In many ways, Frank Zappa was an enigma. Somewhat clown-like in his personal presentation, this persona masked a kind of creative genius that—to the detriment of Zappa’s fame and, probably, financial success—refused to bend to the strictures of popularity. He just wasn’t a middle-of-the-road kind of guy…his music was usually challenging, not surprising from the man who, as a boy, chose the avant-garde classical composer Edgard Varèse as his favorite.

Entitling albums Hot Rats and Weasels Ripped My Flesh (among others) was not a move calculated to ensnare the masses. Nor was naming songs “Willie the Pimp” or “I Am the Slime”. (At least you can’t accuse Zappa of inconsistency: Naming your kids Dweezil, Moon Unit and so on evidenced a certain follow-through.) It is perhaps Zappa’s unwillingness to compromise (he might call it “refusal to self-censor) that led to Hot Rats only charting at 173 in the US, but at 9 in the UK, following its October 1969 release on the Barking Pumpkin Records label. read more…

Dexter Gordon – Doin’ Allright

Dexter Gordon – Doin’ Allright

The big man (he was six feet, six inches tall) Dexter Gordon is one of jazz’s great tenor saxophonists. Doin’ Allright, his first Blue Note album, was recorded in May 1961 by Rudy van Gelder, and these sessions also resulted in the seminal album Dexter CallingDoin’ Allright is another in the series of 45rpm Blue Note reissues by the team at Music Matters. read more…

Jon Pousette-Dart – Volume 1

Jon Pousette-Dart – Volume 1

As are many, if not most, music enthusiasts, I’m a sucker for music that takes me back to my teen years. I’ll forego for the moment the rambling commentary on why this seems to be so, but I hope that the reader will understand, and even empathize, with this situation. read more…

Revising My Reference System

Revising My Reference System

As an , part of my nature is to tweak my system continually to improve the sound and hence get closer to the music. Until recently my reference system has consisted of a VPI HW-19 MKIV turntable, Audio Research SP16 vacuum tube preamplifier, Conrad Johnson MV60SE vacuum tube amplifier, Primare D30.2 CD player and Paradigm Signature S2 monitors mounted on Target, lead and sand filled stands. Additionally my speaker cables of choice are a 10 foot pair of Discovery Cables Essential speaker cables and I also use Discovery Essence interconnects throughout the system. I have had my turntable set up using a Rega RB600 tone arm and a Benz Ruby 2 MC Cartridge running through a Quicksilver Audio MC step up transformer. My listening room is located in our basement which is 13’ X 18’ with 7’8” H ceilings. I have positioned the speakers out from the rear wall 32” and away from the side walls about a foot, toed in sharply, on axis to the listening position. read more…

Vampire Weekend – Self Titled XL Recordings XLLP318 Vinyl 33rpm Album

Vampire Weekend – Self Titled XL Recordings XLLP318 Vinyl 33rpm Album

This self-titled first album by Vampire Weekend, released in 2007, has been well-reviewed in the mainstream music press, and continues to gain mixed reviews among listeners. The album is well-crafted pop: No grinding guitars, no muddy vocals, no misogynistic lyrics. These guys are clean-cut Ivy Leaguers, showcasing a somewhat self-conscious intellectual bent…not just in the lyrics (the most likely place to hear it), but also in the arrangements, which make full use of strings, organ, harpsichord and chamberlin (a cousin to the Mellotron). In this regard, they resemble much less an early R.E.M. than they do the Talking Heads. Clever music with clearly understood—though still occasionally head-scratching—lyrics. It works. read more…

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