Album Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Jul 18, 2018  |  14 comments
The Buffalo Springfield box set reissue fans have long awaited is finally here and it was well worth waiting for. Neil Young points out in the enclosed heavy paper full color "one sheet" that all five records were cut directly from the original master tapes, not tape copies. Each record has a Neil-created "SPARS code"

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 29, 2018  |  28 comments
The irony wasn't lost on Stones fans when ABKCO and Universal simultaneously issued Rolling Stones vinyl box sets back in 2010. ABKCO, which owned the group's British Decca-era catalog, hired legendary mastering engineer Bob Ludwig to handle mastering of its catalog while Universal, which controlled the group's own label, released a box set with no mastering credits.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 06, 2018  |  8 comments
Sounding more like the recording engineer accidentally fed only the reverb buss to the 2 channel master instead of the intended mix of "dry and wet", the Cocteau Twins' ethereal, reverb drenched Head Over Heels released in 1983 became a much imitated template for "wave", "shoe gazing" and other musical genres that followed in its wake.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 05, 2018  |  1 comments
Buddy Holly's last album before "the day the music died" released in 1958 belongs in every rock-based record collection. It's not even a close call. And this reissue sourced from the original analog tapes still in superb condition and cut by Kevin Gray is by far the best sounding edition ever.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 05, 2018  |  1 comments
In his 2017 liner notes for this new release, finger style guitarist/musicologist Duck Baker writes "It may seem obvious that folkies would not want to hear some kid trying to sound like Eric Dolphy with a nylon-strung guitar, but back in the 1960s and early '70s this was not quite so clear-cut. Sandy Bull had recorded with Ornette's drummer Billy Higgins, after all, and people did talk about blending genres quite a bit (they still do talk about it, anyway).

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 05, 2018  |  2 comments
It takes nerves of steel and a healthy serving of humility to agree to record direct-to-disc a solo piano recital but that's what Katie Mahan signed on for here. The results are both musically and sonically rewarding. Mahan gave her first piano recital at age 6, having decided at age 4 that she wanted to be a concert pianist after attending a performance of Gershwin's "American in Paris". From her online bio:

Michael Fremer  |  May 15, 2018  |  8 comments
Imagine Van and organist Joey Francesco getting together for a late night jam session with some friends and running through a set of Van tunes plus an assortment of standards. You don't have to imagine it because that's what this album sounds like and it's close to how these sessions were produced. Van and Joey clearly had great fun making this record. Van hasn't sang this freely and playfully on record in some time.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 02, 2018  |  1 comments
Indie records arrive more often than you might imagine from musicians giving vinyl a shot at reaching a new audience and possibly providing an additional revenue stream (though as most find out, it’s neither cheap nor easy). Unfortunately, vinyl doesn’t transform lackluster into exceptional music.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 18, 2018  |  7 comments
Simon split from Garfunkel, Buffalo Springfield broke up. So did The Youngbloods, The Lovin' Spoonful and of course The Beatles. Yes, many '60s groups remained together, like The Rolling Stones and The Grateful Dead, but as the tumultuous '60s came to a close, others fragmented with leaders going solo.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 12, 2018  |  7 comments
I always wondered what motel in the real world had a room big enough to produce the spectacularly spacious sound on the ATCO original (ATCO SD-33-358) released in 1971. This is a live, spontaneous white gospel album featuring D&B plus Leon Russell, Gram Parsons, Bobby Whitlock, Jim Keltner, Dave Mason, Duane Allman and many others. The concept was to give listeners the touring musicians' post concert informal jam session experience—whether in a motel, airport, or even onboard the airplane.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 11, 2018  |  11 comments
What a voice, what a loss. Dolores O'Riordan, lead singer of the Irish group The Cranberries died suddenly in London January 15th, 2018 at age 46. She was in town for a recording session.

O'Riordan wrote lyrics and on some of the group's songs, the music as well, including three on this, the group's 1993 debut album. She also wrote music and lyrics on probably the group's best known song "Zombie"—her reaction to terrorist bombings by the Irish Republican Army—which is not on this album.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 07, 2018  |  21 comments
Let's get directly to the point: the packaging of this almost $100 set is inversely proportional to the sound quality. The packaging is deluxe.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 03, 2018  |  28 comments
In March of 1957 during his first trip to the west coast, 26 year old Sonny Rollins, then a member of The Max Roach Quintet, booked a session at Lester Koenig’s Contemporary Studios. With Ray Brown also in Los Angeles starring in Oscar Peterson’s Trio, and Contemporary Records regular and Los Angeles based Shelly Manne also available, Rollins could fulfill a long running desire to record sans piano.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 02, 2018  |  1 comments
Bluegrass non-traditionalists Steep Canyon Rangers recently released this, the group's 12th album, without part time "front man" Steve Martin but with producer Joe Henry helming an exquisitely conceived and executed set of modern originals (plus one Bob Dylan cover) that preserves the traditional bluegrass sound while moving the genre into the contemporary musical world.

Michael Fremer  |  Feb 10, 2018  |  43 comments
Beginning in the late ‘70s, continuing throughout the 1980s and once in 1994 Wilson Audio Specialties founder Dave Wilson released a series of records that he co-produced with wife Sheryl Lee, many of which he also engineered. They were minimally miked—often a spaced pair of Schoeps was all—and mastered by an all-star lineup of disc cutters including Bruce Leek (who also shared engineering credit on some), Stan Ricker and Doug Sax (Google if any of the names are unfamiliar). The tape machine for all but the very early organ record Recital (Wilson W-278) was an Ultramaster™ by John Curl, a highly modified Studer 1/2" deck running at 30 IPS.

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