Audiophile Digital

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Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010
Interesting re-packaging of the US version of Hendrix’s debut, but not absolutely necessary if you bought this 17-track expanded release in 1997. This adds only cooler packaging and a 17-minute DVD of engineer Eddie Kramer and three now-departed figures – Hendrix’s one-time manager, Chas Chandler, and the members of the Experience, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding – talking about the recording sessions. But if you don’t own any Hendrix, this is the best place to start: it’s an utterly incendiary album bursting with invention, the blueprint for psychedelia, jazz-rock and so much more. An ear-opener then, a touchstone now for every guitarist since.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010
Like the epic blues LP, Fathers & Sons, which combined young and old, here we find three generations of rock guitarists – Jimmy Page, U2’s The Edge and Jack White – swapping tales, gigging and generally celebrating the electric guitar. Too many moments make this a must-see if you’re a fan of any or all of the performers: historical footage of Page in the early 1960s, The Edge recounting how he and his brother made an electric guitar from scratch, even winding the coils. And to see Page declining to harmonise in a rendition of ‘The Weight’ on the grounds that he ‘can’t sing’ (!) – this is one of the most captivating rock docs in years. Sound Quality: 90% .
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010
After last month’s Nowhere Boy, a sequel (with Backbeat in-between) in the life of John Lennon. This BBC effort caused controversy, everyone acknowledging Eccleston’s remarkable performance, with some bitching that he’s too old for the part. Nonsense! He looks more like Lennon than any other actor who’d played him before. More pertinent is the way the story plays fast and loose with the facts, featuring more of Lennon’s errant father than actually may have happened.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010
If not quite as monumental a milestone in her career as Heart Like A Wheel, this album from 1977 stands almost as proud for its portrayal of Ronstadt as a far more versatile singer than her previous country-rock leanings suggested – a genre she helped to fashion. Here she ranges from straight rock ’n’ roll to ballads to pure C&W, if not quite intimating that a few years later she would become one the first of the rock generation to cover the standards of the 1940s/50s. True to form, this set also emphasises her immaculate, prescient taste: among the tracks she commandeers as her own are Roy Orbison’s ‘Blue Bayou’, the Rolling Stones’ ‘Tumbling Dice’, and a hardly-known Warren Zevon’s ‘Poor Poor Pitiful Me’. Sound Quality: 92% .
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010
Like a pair of favourite slippers, a Livingston Taylor CD is a blue-chip cert if you want to relax. OK, so the audiophile equivalent of comfort food might not seem challenging, but his easy-going balladry is delicious – not least because Taylor called on members of Alison Krauss’ band Union Station to enhance it with a thread of bluegrass. As it was recorded in Tennessee, you can subtitle this his ‘Country Album’. Other guests include Steve Gadd, one of the greatest drummers in rock, country giant Vince Gill and Leland Sklar, bassist par excellence.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010
A renowned gig with Satchmo celebrating his 60th birthday at one of the world’s greatest jazzfests, backed by Billy Kyle (piano), Barney Bigard (clarinet), Trummy Young (trombone), Mort Herbert (bass), Danny Barcelona (drums) and Velma Middleton sharing the vocals – if you can’t locate the CD, the silky, wider-than-Rhode Island stereo will qualify this download the best $10 you ever spent on New Orleans sizzle. Classic material – ‘Tiger Rag’, ‘Mack The Knife’, ‘St. Louis Blues’, a brace of tunes from High Society, ‘Stompin’ At The Savoy’, culminating in ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ and ‘Happy Birthday, Louis!’. ‘Utterly joyous’ is the only way to describe it.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010
Arguably the finest album of standards he ever delivered – the opener is ‘When I Fall In Love’, for goodness sake – this stunner sounds so good that Analogue Productions has released it on both 2x45rpm vinyl (to be reviewed soon) and SACD. But not just any SACD: its layers are set up so you can enjoy it in mono, stereo, three-channel and, if your processor has worthy rear-channel extraction, in surround. However you choose to play it, the sound is so silky and natural that you’ll use this as a demo disc. Of course, this is first and foremost about the music.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010
Not one but two recent biopics of John Lennon have taxed the patience of the hardcore, but the consensus is that this beats BBC4’s Lennon Naked hands down, despite Christopher Eccleston’s uncanny, note-perfect, award-worthy portrayal in the latter. This covers Lennon’s pre-Hamburg youth, so the two form a natural pairing (or a chronological trilogy, with Backbeat in the middle), but the depth and sensitivity of this entry strikes the viewer as somehow more authentic. All three suffer the sort of anachronistic details that will have the fanboys’ knickers in a twist, and they also beg the real need for fictional accounts of events so recent, but this one is perhaps worth a viewing for its cinematic value. Sound Quality: 83% .
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010
Yes, a mono SACD, as if to remind us that it’s sound quality rather than multichannel capability which keeps this much under-appreciated format alive. Although this is hardly the best-sounding recording Charles ever issued, musically it’s one of his milestones, showing absolute mastery of yet another genre. Instead of re-interpreting hoary old chestnuts, Charles recorded seven originals to complement five standards, showing that he could not only sing the blues, he could also write them. The sound is uptown, not rural, suggesting that he could have carved out as big a career in the blues – had he so desired – as Bobby Bland, Jimmy Witherspoon or any of the other more urbane practitioners.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 07, 2010
Because their first two albums were so spectacular, nothing the Band released after them seemed to possess quite the same level of musical magic. But this, their seventh release, following a lengthy gap after the so-so Moondog Matinee, was a genuine return to form. Two tracks in particular, ‘Ophelia’ and ‘Acadian Driftwood’, were so purely Band-ish that they could have nestled comfortably with the masterpieces that made up their eponymous sophomore release. Sonically, it’s slicker-sounding than its predecessors, the Band recording for the first time with 24 tracks.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010
For some purists, especially those blessed enough to have seen The Band in concert, this live album, recorded on New Year’s Eve 1971-2, exposes more of the group’s heart and soul than any of their studio albums. Although consisting of material culled from their four studio efforts, the live experience (and a horn section with arrangements courtesy of New Orleans R&B hero Allen Toussaint) reveals an outfit so perfectly hewn by the road, and with such a deep love for rock ’n’ roll and R&B, that it seems to contradict their almost po-faced, scholarly image. January ’72 must’ve been a helluva month in NYC, with James Taylor’s gig recorded there three weeks later! Sound Quality: 90% . .
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 07, 2010
Alas, this lacks ‘Time Has Come Today’, the majestic 1968 hit and their greatest claim to fame, but the seven tracks here remind us that the Chambers Brothers were an R&B act first, and hippie anthem creators/psychedelic soul brothers second. The recording quality is magnificent – not that live recordings from the Fillmores were ever bad – but the sense of space and air, and the precise locations of instruments and players really benefit from the higher-res offering. Percussion and bass make this flow, and the showstopping take of ‘I Can’t Turn You Loose’ recalls a Stax Revue. Possibly the best $6 I’ve spent on-line this year.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010
On Main Street, this has been made available as a separate purchase for those who didn’t buy the luxury box set. It is probably more Stones than you’ll ever need or want unless you’re truly part of their hardcore following: a documentary running to over two hours dealing with the making of a single album. Admittedly, some consider Exile to be their best, so it’s no conceit to honour it in the way one would document Sgt Pepper or Blonde On Blonde. Using amazing footage, and contemporary and new interviews, it tells the entire saga of their most louche period.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 07, 2010
Americans are now able to buy this enthralling Blu-ray, just hitting UK cinemas. Enthralling? The saga of an all-girl rock band from the 1970s who were sold initially and primarily for their post-pubescent sex appeal? As it turned out, they rocked as hard as the boys, giving us the magnificent Joan (‘I Love Rock’n’Roll’) Jett in the process. Apparently, this slickly-made film has gone down well with Cherie Currie, on whose reminiscences it is based, while Jett and the rest of the Runaways shouldn’t be too unhappy with it: as biopics go, it’s easily on a par with the young John Lennon movie, Nowhere Boy. Beyond the Hollywood teen angst, they really, truly could rock.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010
Although you may have seen this ‘making of’ documentary on TV, as with all the DVDs from the Classic Albums series, this features substantial amounts of added material (a TV promo, detailed studies of the instruments’ sounds, and more). When the subject is one of rock’s most intelligent practitioners, a second viewing with extras is worth every second. This chronicles the band’s third release, from 1979, which cleared any lingering mislabelling from the punk era, ‘Refugee’ and ‘Here Comes My Girl’ being enough to establish Petty’s rep. This was their first release after Shelter Records folded, with Petty in recovery mode from the aggravation.

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