One of my goals in writing the “Beatnik’s Journey” is to share with you prospects of the reviewing process. So, I thought it might be fun this month to share with you four of the LP’s I always use in the reviewing of any given product. I’ll try to give you a quick synopsis of each one. By the way, there is no music listed here that I do not love to listen to. They are not audiophile recordings, but great music that I know and love.
Ella and Louis
This wonderful classic is a 1956 studio album and is a great example of how wonderful a mono recording can sound. This is a LP I listen to often just because I love it. It’s one of the first things I grab for when I get a new piece of equipment in.
I always listen to both sides all the way through just to see how it moves me. This first step is the most important to me; these are incredible performances and if they don’t move you emotionally then something is wrong. Then I use Track 2 “Isn’t this a Loverly Day” and Track 3 “Moonlight in Vermont” for evaluating purposes. There seem to be lot’s of versions of this recording. I am sure the original is great if you can get your hands on one. I have not been so blessed, but there are two I can recommend. One is the Japanese Import pressing and the other is the Verve 60th anniversary limited addition SACD. The voices on this album are so pure and the trumpet with the right equipment can get so loud, so quickly without any strain at all.
Joan Baez From Every Stage is a two disc, live, stereo album made on her 1975-76 tour. Like Ella and Louis, this is one of the first albums I always pull out. I’ve had a copy for years, but the one I listen to these days I purchased used for two dollars in Berkeley a couple of years ago and it plays mint. Ain’t used vinyl wonderful!
Again this is an album I listen to with some regularity just because I love Joan Baez and this is one of my favorites. These are a couple of concert LP’s I find very difficult to get out and not listen to the whole event. When evaluating equipment, it’s important that the system allows you to enjoy the fact that this is a live concert. She should sound natural and relaxed when talking to the audience, and you should be able to pick up lots of cues that let you feel like you are there at the concert. For serious evaluation I always go back to the side that has “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”, “Oh Happy Day” and “Amazing Grace” for a second listen. These three songs should give you a great idea of how well your system can sound like live music. There should be plenty of the audience, plenty ambience, and most of all, plenty of life and you should be moved by these performances.
Nashville Skyline was Bob Dylan’s 9th studio album. It was recorded in stereo in 1969. The whole album is wonderful, but I find it’s the duet with Johnny Cash, “Girl from the North County”, that really gets me going. The SACD of this album is not up to par with the vinyl by the way.
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers “A Night in Tunisia” is one of the recently reissued 180g 45rpm 2LP Stereo albums. It has quickly moved into my must play list. The whole album is a sonic workout and a musical force. The performances and the dynamics will blow you away.
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