1. The Look Of Love (Hal David/Burt Bacharach) – Saskia Bruin
2. Vincent (Don McLean) – Sarah Morrau
3. Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper/Rob Hyman) – Jeni Fleming Acoustic Trio
4. Your Song (Elton John) – Emi Fujita
5. A Whiter Shade Of Pale (G. Brooker/K. Reid/M. Fisher) – Halie Loren feat. Matt Treder
6. True Colors (Thomas F. Kelly/William E. Steinberg) – Eva Cassidy
7. What The World Needs Now (Hal David/Music by Burt Bacharach) – Woong San
8. Hungry Heart (Bruce Springsteen) – Jeanne Newhall
9. My Romance (Rodgers/Hart) – Dina Blade
10. Have I Told You Lately (Van Morrison) – Ela Lo
11. For The First Time (Kenny Loggins) – Jheena Lodwick
12. I’ve Never Been To Me (Ronald Miller/Kenny Hirsch) – Noon
13. Je t’aime (S. Bentley/M. Portmann/G. Teren) – Kelly Sweet
14. Breaking Up is Hard to Do (H. Greenfield/N. Sedaka) – Emilie-Claire Barlow
I’ve never had the opportunity to listen to all the editions before this, and the JVC XRCD2 Best Audiophile Voices now in the seventh edition is a pleasant experience. The immediate opening note from track 1, Saskia Bruin’s “The Look Of Love,” reveals her sultry vocal stunningly and beautifully, followed by an unmistakably pure tonal texture and open spatiality to the voices and instruments.
Granted that Bruin’s articulation of the Bond theme is no more spectacular than countless others, some by immensely popular vocalists. Many Dagogo readers will even prefer the original in the most audiophile LP pressings and productions. However, I reckon none will stand up to the sound of the XRCD2 disc. Moreover, Bruin is very good nonetheless. The subtle trumpet accompaniment is reverberating and serene over the Pass Labs INT-250 integrated amplifier-driven Magnepan 3.7i, and I can imagine how spectacularly the trumpeting would sound on an ion tweeter. A review of the INT-250 is forthcoming.
Thus begins an hour long exposition of fourteen familiar tracks vocalized by at once soul-melting iterations and in other instances, alluring and seductive voices. Take track 13, “Je t’aime” by Kelly Sweet, for example. This is a classic reinterpreted effortlessly and masterfully in an otherworldly voice. How about track 14, “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” by Emilie-Claire Barlow? So heartbreakingly sexy and yet unpretentious, Barlow is born to sing this. Then, sit up and experience Woong San’s “What The World Needs Now.” This song requires no introduction, and San is hauntingly Karen Carpenter-like. Sarah Morrau’s “Vincent” is equally popular since my early days and her singing makes a new case on Van Gogh.
Some of the tracks in this CD are sung by males in their originals, such as “Your Song” and “Hungry Heart.” It would be next to impossible for most of us to not hear John or Springsteen’s voice in our heads despite the female renditions; but Jeanne Newhall’s is a vocalization that is musically effective and sonically pleasing. “I’ve Never Been To Me” as performed by Noon is cunningly relevant, alternatively refreshing and no less conducive than the Charlene original.
Fans of the seventies’ pop scene and the jazz genre will easily recognize the hits contained in this compilation. That said, all tracks are softly sung, sleepily hypnotic while memorable. At times, jazz albums are a little too mundane in more than a few instances, with imitations inundating the music scene. Many a time I felt shortchanged in the discs of individual artists, finding only one or two tracks of merits as the artist was seemingly attempting new trails blazing on old paths to impart renewed sensibility into each track. This compilation, however, is a gem. All songs are longtime staples in our pop culture recycled in glossy, classy interpretation. Had one song been matched carelessly to a voice with the wrong mood and atmosphere of the instrumentation, I would’ve thrown in a sentence or two on the tragic miscalculation on the part of the production team and present a reservation in recommending the disc. Thus, I am thankful for compilations such as this one in featuring the most lyrical renditions and apt performances of the tunes from each artist’s individual discs. Not having listened to the previous six editions that have gone before this disc, I remain curios about what special tracks JVC managed to compile into them. I can only imagine.
I alternated the disc on the Esoteric K-03/Bricasti M1 dual-mono DAC and the Oppo BDP-105D. The Oppo exhibited the glow and smoothness of the XRCD2 disc to a lesser extent than the Esoteric/Bricasti; but both setups distinguished the superior quality of the JVC disc over regular ones. Voices are conveyed meticulously on this disc against an airy, noiseless background that ushers a wealth of microdynamics to come forth to the listener. This co-production of Premium Records and Top2 Music in Japan, JVC XRCD and Combak Corporation is the stuff that brightens our audiophile days.
In the accompanying, promotional flyer, Elusive Disc, XRCD’s U.S. exclusive distributor, claims that, “In approaching this rich collection, the performance of the artists will touch your soul as it is designed to be enjoyed and admired with your audio system.” The little sticker on the disc’s wrapper further proclaims, “Why xrcd? Besides being the world’s foremost CD manufacturing technology, xrcd ensures no loss of information through mastering in a 24bit domain and direct conversion to 16bit master disc production. Listen and hear the difference!”
For $40, we are treated to a refined collection of top music in sultry renditions and peerless manufacture. With this disc, mega systems will be rid of the formula tracks we have been playing until brain death occurs, and smaller systems will sound renewed for once. I recommend adding this exquisite disc to your collection.
MIT Cables Oracle series cable system
MIT Cables ACII power cables
MIT Cables Z Powerbar
Esoteric K-03 CD transport
Bricasti M1 dual-mono DAC
Pass Labs INT-250 integrated amplifier
Copy editor: Laurence A. Borden
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