Audiophile: Digital, March 2020

hfnalbum.pngLori Lieberman
The Girl And The Cat
Drive On Records 115115-16 (two 45rpm LPs: 115115-17)

You needn't ask: you know the sound will be staggeringly good. Like kindred spirit Eleanor McEvoy, LL values sonic authenticity, so this CD was engineered by audio-casualty hubby Joe Cali and mixed by Bob Clearmountain. By my reckoning, it is the most personal, liberated, undiluted release of a career spanning 47 years; she sounds like one with total artistic control. Lieberman's singing – ever delicate and fragile – always exudes a quiet, almost-preternatural maturity. Here it is augmented by a mesmerising, aching sense of longing, and this is enhanced by a 'classical' atmosphere provided by the Matangi String Quartet's contribution. The songs? Save these for quiet, introspective moments. KK


Donald Byrd
Black Byrd
Vocalion CDSML 8559 (multi-channel SACD)

This magnificent set is one of the best old-school-quadraphonic releases so far, nothing forced, the sound filling the room with grace. The album is a known quantity, trumpeter Byrd having been around for two decades before issuing this on Blue Note in 1973; it became the label's best-ever seller, though purists hated it. Even if I hadn't revealed the date, the music would have told you that this was of that era because it is a melange of jazz, funk, R&B, soul and early disco, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that George Benson and Isaac Hayes decided to collaborate on a Blaxploitation soundtrack. Loved Shaft? 'Breezin''? You'll keep this one on repeat. KK


Dire Straits
Making Movies
Mobile Fidelity UDSACD2186

I hope for your sake that you love Dire Straits, as MoFi is reissuing their first cluster of LPs on vinyl and SACD, and I'm spreading them over the next few issues. This was the first of the SACDs to land chez Kessler, and it reminded me why I hate the band so much. That said, their third release, from 1980, showed a leap in stylistic development, the sophistication elevated and leaving no doubt that this was Mark Knopfler's band. High points include 'Tunnel Of Love', 'Romeo And Juliet' and 'Solid Rock', the production magnificent and the guitar-work breathtaking. The SACD is demo-grade, but if you prefer all-analogue, the 45rpm, 2LP edition is MFSL 2-468. KK


ZZ Top
Goin' 50
Warner Brothers R2 591567 (three discs)

That 50 is important: this trio claims to be the longest-surviving band in rock history still with its original lineup. Whether or not that's right doesn't matter: this 50-track career retrospective demonstrates in spades the sheer genius of a power trio that took the Cream/Jimi Hendrix Experience formula and Tex-ified it. A perfect blend of blues, hard rock and nascent thrash excess, this is a wall of sound that inspires air guitar antics. The southern-fried wit, coupled to faultless musicianship, is irresistible if you want brains with your boogie. 'Tush', 'Woke Up With Wood', 'Cheap Sunglasses', 'Gimme All Your Lovin'' – just see how loud your system will go. KK