Michael Fremer  |  Jan 18, 2003  |  1 comments
Neither the brilliant work of "breakthrough" musical art claimed by its proponents nor the career suicide mission (or words to that effect) Reprise records called the album in refusing to release it, Wilco's yankee hotel foxtrot (picked up and originally released on Nonesuch) is deliberately modest music and quiet thoughts plunged into audacious settings. Kind of like a Norman Rockwell painting done up in dayglo.
Michael Fremer  |  Jan 18, 2003  |  1 comments
Sundazed's decision to issue Blonde on Blonde using the much sought after mono mix is indicative both of the company's dedication to doing what's musically correct, and of the vinyl marketplace's newfound maturity. There was a time a few years ago when no "audiophile" vinyl label would dare issue a mono recording; audiophiles wouldn't stand for it was the conventional wisdom. Perhaps back then it was even true. Today, with Sundazed, Classic, Analogue Productions and others issuing monophonic LPs on a regular basis (and one has to assume selling them as well) listeners are appreciating the music for music's sake, and equally importantly, for the wonderful qualities of monophonic sound reproduction. The choice was also pragmatic, as the original stereo mix-master reel was rendered unusable back in the 1970's. It wore out from being repeatedly used to cut lacquers. That tells you that second, third and possible higher pressings were cut from the original tapes and probably sound pretty good, but there's nothing like an early "360 Sound." Subsequent remixes from the 4 track masters were made, including a particularly bad one used on Columbia's early '90s "longbox" gold CD - a must to avoid. A recent remix, supposedly supervised by Dylan is said to be much better, but even an original stereo doesn't hold up the nuanced, musically coherent mono mix.
Michael Fremer  |  Jan 17, 2003  |  1 comments

Genre-busting artists often disappoint stylistically because they end up diluting the power of their influences while failing to create a fusion as substantial as any of the components. Even if artistically successful, their debut albums often suffer disappointing sales due to the vagaries of marketing and promotional placement. Tossing music into a prefabricated slot is one thing, creating a new one is another. In the case of stylistically ambiguous Norah Jones, it has all come together brilliantly.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 17, 2003  |  2 comments

Airplane aficionados have long maintained that the monaural mix of this classic '60s album is the best way to hear it, and those lucky enough to own an original mono pressing--issued in the Spring of 1967--will certainly concur. Think about it: we're talking about an album of 36-year-old music that still holds sway over listeners of all ages. How many young listeners in 1967 were grooving to music made in 1931? Only those lucky enough to understand that the music of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, et al., was not ancient history, though the primitive recording quality may have made them sound that way.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 09, 2003  |  First Published: Dec 31, 1969  |  0 comments

This review has been reprinted in its entirety from The Absolute Shower with not one word censored or deleted. The Absolute Shower is the journal of High End Hygiene and reports its findings on hygienic devices and anti-bacterial sources without fear or favor from any large pharmaceutical conglomerate. Its aquatic evaluations take place in real shower stalls, hence, cleanliness is the measure of reference.

Michael Fremer  |  Dec 31, 2002  |  First Published: Dec 31, 1969  |  0 comments

Hush Puppies are hip again among celebs. They were sofar out, it was inevitable they'd come back in. Not on my feet or yours- we'd probably just get laughed at- but seen on the right feet? Next day everyone's wearing them. Strange how that works: if everyone's wearing Doc Maartens, what's the boldest thing you could put on your feet instead? Hush Puppies, of course!

I don't know what Van Dyke parks on his feet today, but back in 1967 when he posed for the cover of his epic debut album Song Cycle (Warner Brothers WB 1727) he was wearing Hush Puppies. While many music critics raved about, even respected the album, the public at large wasn't suede by either it, or his shoes. Dreams are stillborn in Hollywood.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 14, 2002  |  First Published: Dec 31, 1969  |  0 comments
It's not every Consumer Electronics Show that someone introduces a $29,000 solid-state phono preamplifier—and I miss it. The 2002 CES was one. My show report in the April issue made it seem as if I'd found out about it there, but the fact is, someone clued me in after I'd returned home. I needed to come clean on that.
Michael Fremer  |  Dec 05, 2001  |  First Published: Dec 31, 1969  |  0 comments
The Manley Steelhead tube MM/MC phono preamplifier was first demonstrated at the 2001 Consumer Electronics Show. Nine months later, my long-promised review sample of Eveanna Manley's new baby was delivered. While Ms. Manley may have given birth to the audacious product, it was conceived by the company's chief hi-fi designer, Mitch Margolis.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 20, 2000  |  First Published: Dec 31, 1969  |  0 comments
Andy Payor hurls a briefcase full of engineering and scientific mumbo-jumbo at in an attempt to justify the $73,750 price of the latest and greatest edition of his Rockport Technologies turntable, but really—isn't this all-air-driven design a case of analog overkill? After all, defining a turntable's job seems rather easy: rotate the record at an exact and constant speed, and, for a linear tracker, put the stylus in play across the record surface so that it maintains precise tangency to a radius described across the groove surface. By definition, a pivoted arm can't do that, so the goal there is to minimize the deviation. That's basically it. Right?
Michael Fremer  |  Apr 15, 2000  |  First Published: Dec 31, 1969  |  0 comments
What do you want from a 21st-century record-playing device? I hear you: you want one that's compact, well-made, easy to set up, holds its setup, sounds great, and doesn't cost a lot.