SIX-PACK SUMMER SUGGESTIONS PART 1 !!!


Another must-read article for every music lover, connoisseur and enthusiast. It begins with the wonderful Six-Pack Summer Suggestions – Part- 1, chosen by our friend and music colleague Claude Lemaire. Claude Lemaire writes: "For this first installment, I selected six albums as if I was starting from scratch my own vinyl collection. I wanted to vary the genres while insuring each one represents a musical milestone or key album. All are essential musically and historically from start to finish with no filler material. If you find my recommended pressings too expensive, you can usually replace them by other more affordable pressings but be aware that the sound quality may differ quite a lot from my sonic descriptions and be wary of any digital intermediates in the complex chain."


                         
1- Richard Strauss, Reiner, Chicago Symphony Orchestra – Also Sprach Zarathustra.                                                                                                               

RCA Victor Red Seal – ESC-1 (1954, March) Reel-To-Reel, 7.5 ips, 1/4" 2-Track, 7" Cine Reel, LSC-1806 Living Stereo series (1960), 33 1/3 rpm, Classic Records – LSC-1806 (1994), 33 1/3 rpm, 180g, LSC-1806 (200?), (4x45 rpm single side), 200g. Genre: classical, post romantic, modern.

Why not start this series or a record collection with what is usually considered the first stereo tape recording later released on LP. Indeed Richard Strauss' most famous work–at least in audiophile circles–and inspired by Nietzshe's novel of the same name, was one of the first classical pieces I came upon along with Beethoven's Fifth, Johann Strauss II's "The Blue Danube", and Ravel's Boléro. Like many of you I'm sure, I was introduced to the composer's 1896 tone poem via Kubrick's 1968 epic sci fi film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it had a lasting impression on me both visually and musically. To this day, I cannot listen to Zarathustra's fanfare intro–"Sunrise"–without transporting back to the film's opening and 'ape-tool-discovery' sequences as well as the other and older Strauss' famous waltz wonderfully employed during key space sequences. I never heard RCA Victor's commercial 2-track tape copy sold to the public in the mid-fifties nor the subsequent original 1960 stereo Shaded Dog LP. I do have the regular Classic Records from 1994 and their later quadruple single-sided 45 rpm, both cut by Bernie Grundman. The sound is quite excellent with the latter version's speed advantage bringing more transparency in the top end, greater separation, and a bigger soundstage in all directions. String tone is impressive but both versions lack a bit of bottom heft from the low level rumble preceding the three famous 'C-G-C' notes played on the trumpet as well as some impact from the timpani.  


2- Frank Sinatra – Come Dance with Me!

Capitol Records – SW 1491 (1959, Jan.), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: big band swing, vocal jazz, traditional pop standards.

Frank Sinatra counts several superb albums in a career spanning five decades. Generally divided between his 'Columbia years', 'Capitol years', and 'Reprise years'. My favorite–and many would agree–remain the 'Capitol years' lasting from 1954 to 1962. With a few exceptions, they are almost all worth getting over time but having to pick only one for jump starting a collection, I would definitely go with Come Dance with Me! Accompanied by Billy May and His Orchestra, there are no filler material, nearly all twelve tracks under May's arrangements are swingin' like crazy! Sinatra is in full swagger and command of his vocal chops, while the "Chairman of the Board" is at his peak performance, and without peer. Both mono and true stereo versions are good but I prefer the stereo on many counts. As is typical with Capitol in this period–benefitting from some of the best studio equipment, room acoustics, and keen-eared engineers in the industry–the sound is excellent and well balanced between orchestra and singer. It is not at the level of Analogue Productions' remasterings of Nat King Cole's catalogue–done in the same studios–but I'm sure given the same treatment or a MoFi 'one-step' reissue, there is no reason it wouldn't reach the same level. 


3- Miles Davis – Kind of Blue

Columbia Records – CS 8163 (1959, Aug.), 33 1/3 rpm, MoFi – MFSL 2-45011 (2015, Sept.), (2x45 rpm) Box Set. Genre: modal jazz.

One of the most important figures in jazz, it would be easy to recommend at least a dozen milestone albums by Miles Davis. KoB is without doubt his best known masterpiece as well as the biggest-selling jazz album of all time, influencing countless other musicians in many musical genres, and even finding a place among non-jazz aficionados. Having signed with Columbia three years earlier, Miles continued to surround himself with the top musicians at the time, like every single era he took part of. At this musical stage of his four decade career, he was exploring modal jazz–i.e. modulating between musical modes or scales instead of improvising on chord changes–which contributes to the album's unique ambiance underlying the free flowing melodic style as opposed to his previous hard bop recordings for Prestige. The acclaimed sextet features the pairing of Coltrane and "Cannonball" Adderley on sax, Bill Evans on piano–with Wynton Kelly on one track–Paul Chambers on bass, and lesser-known drummer Jimmy Cobb. They were given only scale sketches and melodic lines to improvise on with nearly no rehearsal beforehand. What arose from the latter is a timeless portal onto five unsurpassed jazz classics. I don't have the original US 'six-eye' which it seems is hard to surpass at leasts in cymbal extension and air but do have the Classic Records cut by Bernie Grundman from the original 3-track session tape recorded by engineer Fred Plaut, first on 180g in 1995 and later on 200g in 2002, and both are excellent. I don't have the rarer Classic (4x45 rpm) released in 1999. My favorite version is the MoFi double 45 rpm remastered and cut by Krieg Wunderlich and Rob LoVerde which has more bass weight–though not the last word in precision–better brass tone especially on the saxes, and a larger soundstage than all other pressings I've heard, making it close to outstanding. Plus there's an 8-page booklet included.


4- The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.  

Parlophone – PCS 7027 (1967, May), MoFi – MFSL 1-100 (JVC) (1983), 33 1/3 rpm). Genre: rock, psychedelic, art rock, baroque pop, raga, avant-garde.

What hasn't been said or written already on this most famous LP from the most famous band of all time? Often cited as the number one pop/rock album in Best of compilations or Top-selling charts–love it or hate it regarding its musical merit, there is simply no debate on it's musical importance and lasting influence, if only in technical achievements alone. It follows on the heels of the groundbreaking release of Revolver–arguably the Fab Four's supreme group effort, for those finding Pepper too McCartney-managed. Elevating the art form like no pop or rock band before, this without doubt prepared the terrain for future art rock and progressive concept albums. With its kaleidoscope of colors and musical ingredients, there is nearly something for everyone, and that is part of its charm. The final track of the album–"A Day in the Life"–is truly unique in song structure, composition, and arrangements blending avant-garde dissonance with hallucinogenic effects, and one of the most memorable finales on record. A great Lennon-McCartney collaboration–it is rightfully considered a true masterpiece in song craftsmanship. The original stereo UK first pressing is excellent especially in the mid presence, but lacks a bit of bass and top end finesse. The MoFi from 1983 has a bit more weight in the lows at the expense of a slight veil in the mids and treble unfortunately, making it a hard choice. In the end I prefer the original UK but it is sad that this monumental album has never been given the ultimate transfer which would be a pure analog double-45 rpm one-step remastering and cutting led by MoFi's experienced and present staff and gear. 


5- Black Sabbath – Paranoid.

Vertigo – 6360 011 (1970, Sept.), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: heavy metal.

The first truly heavy metal album, Sabbath's second release fortified the formula newly-developed on their self-titled debut seven months prior, prioritizing the heavy metal elements over the blues rock and stoner seeds implanted within its soil. Always a fan favorite, it comprises the band's most popular tracks: "War Pigs", "Paranoid", and "Iron Man" occupying side A, while side B contains no less classics "Electric Funeral", "Hand of Doom", the instrumental "Rat Salad"–heavily inspired by Led Zep's "Moby Dick" a year earlier–and "Fairies Wear Boots". Produced by Roger Bain and recorded at Regend Sound Studios and Island Studios in London, I place it on par with their debut, with the following Master of Reality and final full album 13 close behind. They provided the template for future metal acts such as Judas Priest, Maiden, Metallica, Slayer, and Soundgarden just to name a few. The original UK first pressing sounds very good with generous bass and low mids, and plenty of punch from the pounding drums but unfortunately is a bit veiled in the top because of too much attenuation in the treble, making the hi-hat lacking detail and clarity. The recording and mixing seem well engineered, making the mastering the probable weak link. It's too bad Hoffman and Gray never remastered it for DCC. It deserves a quality double-45 rpm remaster by MoFi's team to get the most out of it. 


6- Marvin Gaye – What's Going On. 

Tamla – TS-310 (1971, May), 33 1/3 rpm, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UD1S 2-008, Motown B0026761-01, Limited Edition, SuperVinyl, Box Set (2019, Jan.). Genre: soul, jazz and spiritual undertones. 

A soul masterpiece for the ages, Marvin Gaye's utterly simple question to the world engulfing him and his fellow brothers and sisters did not necessarily provide him clear answers. What it did provide us though is a rich canvas of compositions, arrangements, and emotional performance that transcends through time–all the more relevant during these trying times. From the title-track through "What's Happening Brother", "Save the Children", "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)", "Right On", up to the final track "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)", we are both bound by the common thread of humanity and the environment. The unorthodox album–all the more coming from Hitsville U.S.A.'s headquarters–liberated Gaye from Gordy's Motown Sound shackle and artistic control, as well as other major singer-songwriters such as Stevie Wonder to formulate their own musical direction. Marvin never remotely came close to replicate nor approach this level of creativity, spiritual inspiration and sophistication. I don't have the original US but do have a first press Canadian Tamla 'Ampex' pressing which has very good sound with decent low weight, presence, and fine tonal balance. Not surprisingly the MoFi Ultradisc One-Step is a big step forward in every important parameter including frequency extension, dynamic expression, and delicate finesse just to mention a few. The only drawback of the latter version is the necessary reduction in song segueing due to spreading the album on four vs two sides.

To explore in further detail visit: Claude Lemaire/soundevaluations