Audiophile: Digital, April 2023

hfnalbum.pngCrosby, Stills & Nash
Crosby Stills & Nash
Mobile Fidelity UDSACD 2228 (stereo SACD)

Thinking I'd heard the best editions of this West Coast masterpiece, including a first-pressing US LP, Mofi's sublime transfer here proved an ear-opener. Not sure how much is owed to my better-than-average SACD front end, but hearing subtle details I'd missed before simply added to the joy of re-learning one of my all-time Top 10 albums. The trio's harmonies benefit the most, through better separation of the voices (CSN fans will know which is which as they are so distinctive), while the bottom end seemed fuller. 'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes' remains the album's dazzler, while the delicacy of 'Guinnevere' and 'Helplessly Hoping' exhibited more gracefulness. After 54 years, this is still without peer. KK


Tommy Crona Jazz Trio
Opus 3 CD32001

Like 'Scandi' murder mysteries, Swedish jazz is a genre unto itself, spawned by Jazz In The Pawnshop way back in 1976. It's still very much alive, as Reflections was recorded in Jan '22 in the Culture Hall in Järna, but there's a whiff of nostalgia if you're long-enough in the tooth to remember the first flushes of the form. Veteran pianist Crona is joined by Hans Beckenroth on double-bass and Jesper Kviberg on drums, for a set that also happens to be Crona's debut album. They cover a wide range, from the Great American Songbook to straight jazz, ranging from Chick Corea to Jimmy Van Heusen, plus two from Thelonius Monk. Sonically? This is as real as it gets. KK


The Friends Of Distinction
Grazin'/Real Friends/Highly Distinct/Whatever
Vocalion 2CDSML 8677 (two SACDs)

Vocalion has been upping its releases from 2-on-1s to 4-on-2s – no complaints from me as this gives us the first four from The Friends Of Distinction, each album in both stereo and quadraphonic, reflecting their period: 1969-70. Though probably unknown to UK audiences – they charted in the USA – the sound will be familiar to any who remember the similar 5th Dimension. This was smooth soul, with emphasis on the pop element: lavish arrangements and a pre-Philly Soul feel, if less energetic. Material included slick covers of period classics such as Laura Nyro's 'Eli's Comin'' and Jimmy Webb's 'Didn't We'. A gorgeous-sounding sub-genre of loungecore. KK


Hothouse Flower
Octave Records OCT-0018 (SACD; downloads to DSD64/192kHz res)

This trio – viola, keyboards and a vocalist who handles percussion – immediately reminded me of a quirky 1980s act, Fascinating Aida, despite FA being primarily a comedy troupe. There's a distinct Britishness to this outfit, which also recalls Maria Muldaur's more whimsical moments. As the name suggests, Scabaret pays homage to nightclub/cabaret/vaudeville/music hall and the set works on a number of levels. It even gets funky with 'Better On Paper'. But this is Octave Records, so the sound is nothing short of magnificent [HFN Jun '22]. I have a sneaky feeling that Scabaret is highly visual, so seeing them live must be a real experience. KK