Audiophile: Digital, May 2020

hfnalbum.pngSam Cooke
The Complete Keen Years 1957-1960
ABKCO Music 18771-85032 (five discs; mono)

Prior to his full-blown mainstream superstardom era with RCA, Cooke – arguably the most important postwar African-American singer after Nat 'King' Cole to break down race barriers for crossover success – delivered three LPs for Keen, plus two compilations. Taken from the once-lost master tapes, with killer sound quality, each is lovingly reproduced here in rich, crisp mono, with immaculate mini-card sleeves, two with bonus tracks covering his singles, while the superlative Tribute To The Lady also includes the glorious stereo version. This is the period that yielded 'teen' hits like 'Wonderful World', 'Only Sixteen' and 'You Send Me', but with plenty to indicate that – like Bobby Darin – Cooke could fill the Copa. KK


2L 2L-158-SABD (SACD + Blu-ray Audio)

This ear-cosseting choir, its talents used in both Frozen films, have produced an album of gossamer-light material, featuring Norwegian folk songs and familiar Christmas tunes, but the appeal for you, the enthusiast, goes beyond that. In addition to sounding so gorgeous that it's chilling, this set is an obsessive audiophile's dream: both a hybrid SACD with 5.1 and stereo DSD, and 'RedBook' PCM MQA, and a Pure Audio Blu-ray with – deep breath – mShuttle MQA/FLAC/MP3, 2.0 LPCM 192kHz/24-bit, 5.1 DTS HDMA 192kHz/24-bit, 7.1.4 Auro-3D 96kHz, and 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos 48kHz. I listened to both in stereo and 5.1 but won't ruin your fun by saying which I prefer! KK


The Epic Years 1972-1976
Cherry Red/HNE HNEBOX121 (five discs)

Bargain-priced sequel to the 'Original Album Classics' set, which offered Poco's initial Epic releases, this clamshell box finds the band experiencing the tail-end of the era with the irreplaceable Richie Furay, the ascent of Paul Cotton and Timothy B Schmit, and the baffling, continued failure to achieve the success they deserved. High points include the should-a-been-a-hit masterpiece 'Good Feelin' To Know', the underrated 'Whatever Happened To Your Smile' and a bracing live set that demonstrates the prowess of these peerless exponents of country-flavoured rock. It's not too late to meet a band that informed The Eagles. Yeah, Poco were that good. KK

B W Stevenson
My Maria & Calabasas
Vocalion CDSML 8565 (multichannel SACD)

Superior country-pop from 1973-4, the two albums here are the third and fourth releases from the singer who died tragically young in 1988, having delivered a half-dozen titles in his short career. 'My Maria' was his biggest hit, topping the Billboard Easy Listening Hot 100 in the USA, and it sets the tone: the overall feel of his work falls somewhere inbetween J J Cale and Tony Joe White, with a sufficient injection of straight-ahead country attitude to ensure acceptance with Opry-obsessed purists. For those who know their rock of the era, the most fascinating track here is the original version of 'Shambala', a huge 1973 hit for Three Dog Night. KK