Album Reviews

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Mark Smotroff  |  Apr 18, 2024  |  0 comments

It’s not often you get new titles from three legendary artists of yesteryear like gospel icon Sister Rosetta Tharpe, piano virtuoso Art Tatum, and soul-jazz organ pioneer Brother Jack McDuff all released on the same day. But this year, all three of them are being celebrated on Record Store Day 2024 — this year’s first installment of which happens to fall on this upcoming Saturday, April 20 — with newly unearthed, previously unreleased, multidisc live concert recordings on 180g black vinyl. Read Mark Smotroff’s review of all three of these releases to see which one, or ones, belong on your “must have” RSD 2024 shopping list. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Apr 05, 2024  |  3 comments

The first question we asked ourselves when contemplating the newly unearthed 1953 concert recording of Nat King Cole duly dubbed Live at the Blue Note Chicago — which is earmarked for release on the next upcoming Record Store Day, April 20 — is why would audiophile-leaning vinyl enthusiasts and jazz fans alike want it in their collections? The combination of great performances, of-era sound quality, and pricing topped our requirements list, and, fortunately, Live at the Blue Note Chicago has enough of all three to satisfy our listening/collecting needs — but what about yours? Read Mark Smotroff’s review to see if Nat King Cole’s Live at the Blue Note Chicago belongs on your RSD must-have list. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Mar 29, 2024  |  9 comments

In these 21st century times, there is arguably no better person more ideal to helm a 50th Anniversary remix of Deep Purple’s seminal March 1972 hard-rock classic LP Machine Head than Dweezil Zappa, and he’s done just that for the vinyl that’s included in the just-released 50th anniversary Machine Head deluxe box set. Read Mark Smotroff’s review to see if Dweezil’s new stereo mix makes the mighty Machine Head even better and stronger on vinyl — and, if so, how he was able to achieve such an aurally dynamic feat. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Mar 22, 2024  |  3 comments

Our first 2024 installment of Review Explosion Short Cuts includes a trio of fine new 1LP releases from the cool Radiohead side project knows as The Smile, the latest, hi-fi-sounding album from indie faves Guided By Voices, and the debut LP from East L.A. “souldies” pioneers Thee Sinseers. Read Mark Smotroff’s combo-platter review to see if any, or all three, of these new LPs belong in your collection. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Mar 15, 2024  |  5 comments

In the circles of soul music fans, Isaac Hayes’ seminal June 1969 LP Hot Buttered Soul is well-known as a landmark recording, an album that helped break down conventions of what a hit soul recording could be. This four-song album originally went gold on the Enterprise label, but Craft Recordings just may have taken Hot Buttered Soul to new aural heights with their recently released AAA Small Batch 180g 1LP edition. Read Mark Smotroff’s review to see if the Small Batch version of this seminal soul LP belongs in your collection, STAT. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Mar 08, 2024  |  4 comments

Plangent Processes is again at the center of a pair of new Grateful Dead reissues that were released by Rhino back in January: a) July 1977’s Top 30 hit LP Terrapin Station and July 1987’s Top 10 smash In the Dark — and now we’re finally getting around to reviewing them here together. Read Mark Smotroff’s review to see if either or both of these new LP editions of Terrapin Station and In the Dark — supervised and produced by noted Dead archivist David Lemieux, and mastered for vinyl by David Glasser — belong in your collection. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Mar 01, 2024  |  3 comments

The Move, in their heyday — which was roughly 1967-71 — were quite popular in England and in Europe, despite never quite breaking through in a big way here in the States. Even so, The Move’s reputation has since continued to grow in stature — and their celebrated, hard-to-find sophomore LP, February 1970’s Shazam, has just been reissued by Esoteric Recordings. Read Mark Smotroff’s review to see if the Esoteric update of Shazam belongs in your collection and on your turntable. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Feb 23, 2024  |  3 comments

Some fans of progressive rock legends Yes tend to overlook their self-titled July 1969 debut album — but they really shouldn’t. Luckily, Yes is newly available as part of Rhino’s “Start Your Ear Off Right” campaign on cobalt-blue vinyl, and it’s housed in a gatefold package that faithfully reproduces the pop-art stylings of the original UK edition. Read Mark Smotroff’s review to see how this new 2024 SYEOR version of Yes stacks up with the 2019 AAA RSD version. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Feb 16, 2024  |  4 comments

Craft Recordings’ new four-disc 40th anniversary deluxe edition box set celebrating the timeless, self-titled April 1983 debut LP from Violent Femmes, Milwaukee’s pioneering folk-punk trio, has as its centerpiece an AAA version of the original LP along with one additional LP full of demos and another LP with choice of-era live material, plus a bonus 7-inch single. Read Mark Smotroff’s review of this near-undefinable, infectious slab of post-new-wave, post-punk classic combined with a sizable collection of bonus material all adds up to a worthwhile analog spinning-and-listening investment. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Feb 09, 2024  |  6 comments

In February 1977, Elektra released Marquee Moon, the debut LP by New York’s groundbreaking art rock group Television — but finding a good-sounding vinyl copy of such an acclaimed album has historically been a bit of a challenge. But now, the new AAA 180g 1LP Rhino High Fidelity (RHF) edition of Marquee Moon may have just changed that distinction forever. Read Mark Smotroff’s review to see if this RHF edition finally helps Marquee Moon achieve the untethered, uncompromised, and uncompressed all-analog glory it so richly deserves. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Feb 02, 2024  |  14 comments

When Steely Dan’s Gaucho came out in November 1980 on MCA, it was at a time when that label was notoriously cutting corners, and quality control suffered. Fast-forward four-plus decades to the here and now, wherein we have a new 180 1LP edition of Gaucho to consider, one that’s been remastered by Bernie Grundman from a 1980 analog tape copy originally EQ’d by Bob Ludwig. Read Mark Smotroff’s review to see if this new vinyl edition of Gaucho is worth putting on your turntable. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Jan 26, 2024  |  2 comments

Right from the opening notes, Green Day’s new Saviors LP sure sounds like it could be the kind of record for today’s generation that balances strong social sentiment with catchy songwriting. But just how good does it actually sound on vinyl? Read Mark Smotroff’s review to see if Saviors makes the LP SQ grade. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Jan 20, 2024  |  1 comments

Musician, composer, singer, and producer Zach Condon has somehow found a way to mesh the sounds of pump organs, real acoustic horn sections, ukuleles, drum machines, world-beat oriented percussion, and synthesizers into a distinctive blend that is immediately identifiable as the group called Beirut — a sound that bears a genuinely international flair processed through adventuresome recording situations. Read on to find out why ace reviewer Mark Smotroff feels Beirut’s new album Hadsel may be Condon’s most complete statement to date and why it’s so well-suited to spinning it again and again on vinyl. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Jan 12, 2024  |  1 comments

Les McCann — the noted pianist/singer/composer who passed away at age 88 on December 29, 2023, just before the new year arrived — enjoyed a long, celebrated career that began in the late 1950s and continued well into the 21st century. We celebrate his legacy by taking a look at Never a Dull Moment! – Live From Coast to Coast 1966-1967, a 180g 3LP set released on Record Store Day back in November comprised of many dynamic, galvanizing live tracks culled from of-era performances in Seattle and New York City. Read Mark Smotroff’s review to see why Never a Dull Moment truly lives up to its name. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Jan 05, 2024  |  2 comments

The May 15, 1953 performance at Massey Hall in Toronto by The Quintet, five of the most important mid-century change agents who transformed jazz music as we know it today — Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, Bud Powell, and Max Roach — is incredible on so many levels. Celebrating that historic concert’s 70th anniversary, Craft Recordings have issued a 180g 3LP package called Hot House: The Complete Jazz at Massey Hall Recordings, and it may well be the final word on this iconic moment in music history when five titans of jazz performed on the same stage together for the first and only time. Read Mark Smotroff’s review to see why the expanded Hot House belongs in your collection and on your turntable. . .

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