Audio review

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…

Blue Circle Audio’s Peed Al Sea Thingee a.k.a. PLC Thingee

Blue Circle Audio’s Peed Al Sea Thingee a.k.a. PLC Thingee

Specifications:

  • Industry standard IEC power input
  • All outlets are Industrial grade
  • Thick wall 4” PVC pipe with 16awg standard power cord
  • Dimensions:
  • four outlets: 4.5” diameter x 3.5” long
  • Price $199
  • six outlets: 4.5” diameter x 4.25” long
  • Price $229
  • Company Information
  • Blue Circle Audio
  • Telephone +1 (519) 469-3215
  • Fax +1 (519) 469-3782

Those of you who have read my earlier reviews know that I am a fan of Gilbert Yeung and his audio products. One thing I particularly like is that he designs equipment not just for high end patrons but also for those on a much smaller budget as well. While it is true that this Canadian based company makes a power amplifier, the BC208, which retails for $28,995 (US dollars), they also sell a more affordable integrated amplifier called the GDC for $1795. Looking at the company’s website you will find a wide range of equipment varying in price from extremely affordable to quite expensive. It’s good to see a manufacturer designing products for the budget-minded masses and not solely for the select few for whom money is no object. In my experience, even the products made for the budget-minded consumer are all held to the same high standards. Therefore, you are still buying a quality product even if you pay a much lower price.

In this article I will be taking a look at the PLC Thingee, which retails at only $199 for the four outlet model and $229 for the six outlet version. The only difference between the two being the amount of outlets available and a more than reasonable increase of thirty dollars in the price. On the physical side, the six outlet version is three quarters of an
inch longer with two extra outlets, but retains the same 4.5 inch diameter. Even though it looks like the Thingee will roll around on the floor, once you lay it down on its side and plug in the power cords it settles and remains in one spot. As Mr Yeung states on his web site, “It’s not going to go anywhere.” Liking bargains myself, I would opt for the six outlet design and pay the extra thirty dollars. You might think that you do not need the extra two outlets now, but you never know where your system might grow, or if you eventually sell it, what the new owner might need. For the extra thirty dollars, I am in. 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…

Stephen Stills – Just Roll Tape

Stephen Stills – Just Roll Tape

This LP, which is very much worth owning, is desirable for reasons that are, perhaps, different from those of other LPs that I’ve reviewed recently. More than new issues, or reissues, Just Roll Tape is a historical document. Classic live concerts (Woodstock, various Grateful Dead concert issues) come close to this LP in terms of their importance, but for those of us who grew up listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, this LP is a revelation. 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…

Charlie Haden – The Private Collection

Charlie Haden – The Private Collection

I love the acoustic bass. I love how it anchors jazz, and how in an intimate setting the bass becomes more than just a rhythm section…it becomes a voice of its own. Listen to Scott LaFaro with Bill Evans and Paul Motian on Sunday at the Village Vanguard, and I think you’ll understand what I mean. read more…

Warren Zevon – Warren Zevon

Warren Zevon – Warren Zevon

I was introduced to Warren Zevon when I was in college and his 1978 album Excitable Boy was released. Notwithstanding a few tracks that to this day I can’t stand (Nighttime in the Switching Yard and Veracruz come to mind), the album caught my fancy in a big way: The offbeat lyrics, superb tunecrafting and marvelous arrangements and performances instantly attracted. To this day, it remains one of the only rock albums that my parents, myself and my kids all like.

It took me a few more years to discover this 1976 Elektra/ Asylum release, and what a shame that is, because this is an album of greater depth and even better performances than his follow-up album. Suddenly I discovered who wrote all those marvelous songs that Linda Ronstadt sang. It clicked. read more…

Neil Young – Live at Massey Hall 1971

Neil Young – Live at Massey Hall 1971

The Neil Young Archives Performance Series continues with this release (“Disc 03”), a double album featuring Young’s acoustic performance at Massey Hall in Toronto on January 19, 1971. I reviewed the earlier release, Neil Young and Crazy Horse at the Fillmore 1970, in the August.

This performance could not be more strikingly different from the 1970 recording (of which I was extremely fond). Rather than featuring an electric backup band, this LP showcases Young as a solo performer, accompanying himself on guitar and piano in front of a very appreciative “homeland” audience. read more…

Leo Kottke – 6 and 12 String Guitar

Leo Kottke – 6 and 12 String Guitar

Leo Kottke is a talented and eclectic guy. Originally from Georgia, as a child the guitarist moved frequently around the U.S. with his family. It is perhaps this peripatetic existence that formed, or at least molded, his talent. And it is quite some talent… though more on that later.

6 and 12 String Guitar (an honest album title if there ever was one) was the 1969 album that put Kottke on the map. Also known as the Armadillo album (though credit must also be given to the ant pictured on the striking black and white album cover), this was not Kottke’s first effort—that would be 12 String Blues, issued earlier that same year. Nonetheless, it was 6 and 12 String Guitar that established Kottke’s reputation—and he was only in his mid-twenties at the time. read more…

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