Audiophile: Vinyl, December 2023

hfnalbum.pngAlbert King
Born Under A Bad Sign
Craft/Stax CR00513 (180g vinyl)

Any sane list of the best-ever blues albums will include this masterpiece from 1967 in its Top 10. It's been reissued many times because it deserves the respect afforded Muddy Waters' Folk Singer. I have personal reasons for adoring this – it was playing when I lost my innocence and the title became my mantra – but a number of other virtues make it a stand-out in the genre. Like another King (B.B), Albert had a way with standards and you'll swoon at his take of 'The Very Thought Of You'. This also has a soul vibe thanks to recording mainly at Stax Studios with Booker T & The MG's and the Memphis Horns. It just may be the best-ever introduction to the blues. KK


C.A. Quintet
Trip Thru Hell
Sundazed LP5631 (red vinyl)

I'm unsure whether to file this under 'Prog-rock' or 'Psychedelic', but it will charm fans of either: it's a long-lost gem from 1967/8 and it manages to tick both boxes by employing the better elements of both. In other words, it's not a typically psychedelic mess of merely fooling around for effect and calling it 'groovy'. That said, prog-wise, it's a concept album of sorts, the red vinyl signifying the fires of the destination in the title. If you're expecting anything even remotely similar to AC/DC's travelogue to that locale, look elsewhere for this is more cerebral, and thanks to some organ and brass, a bit of a find on sonic grounds.

And I listened to it sober. KK


Donny Hathaway
Everything Is Everything
Speakers Corner/Atco SD 33-332 (180g vinyl)

One of soul music's greatest losses and tragedies, singer/pianist Hathaway – who committed suicide at the age of 33 – left us only four studio albums, a soundtrack and a handful of posthumous in-concert releases. As this debut from 1970 is such an astounding release, one wonders where his career might have taken him. Because it arrived during the flux years when soul was heading toward disco, Las Vegas gloss and other uptown influences, it is striking for its bluesy feel, not a little gospel input and a deep jazz sensibility. Every track is memorable, but 'Thank You Master' is an epic, while 'The Ghetto' ranks right up there with Curtis Mayfield. Just buy it. KK


Randy Travis
Storms Of Life
Mobile Fidelity MFSV1-511

Travis's 1986 debut LP introduced us to one of the finest, most seductive voices in the history of country music. Even then he sounded a bit of a throwback to a gentler time, Travis owing more to Lefty Frizzell, George Jones and – no surprise here – Hank Williams, as this appeared at a point in the genre's history when rock music and flash held greater sway. Travis's lush baritone will benefit from a system with a peerless midband, my LS3/5As impressing with the richness of his vocals. This sold in excess of four million copies, the MoFi version demonstrating that country music can transcend the sonic boundaries of 8-track cartridges in the cab of a Ford F-150. KK