Transcendence Playlist

A wonderful compilation from 2006; while the music might be considered a little eclectic, I came across many of these tunes while living near the Goldfields in W. Australia in 1991. Tuned in to the BBC World service at night, where I sated my lust for interesting music. The commercially programmed radio stations in Australia were stuck in a time warp, still playing The Doors, Led Zeppelin… as if time stood still. All the tracks here have wonderful sonics and will stand the test of time with repeated listening. Here is a wonderful example of the armchair traveler, The album opens with a gorgeous piano adaptation of the Door’s “Birds Of Prey” played by George Winston, who turns it into a New Age melody. Regrettably neither Jim Morrison’s American Prayer nor KLF’s Chill Out are available on Tidal (yet), both albums I listened to extensively in 1991. Continue reading

Christmas in July! – Trio Céleste

Christmas came early for me this year; what a wonderful surprise! What a unique opportunity to sit in on Trio Céleste while they recorded an upcoming album at Soka’s Performing Arts Center, here in Southern California.

Kyle & Jesse monitoring intently with the Eclipse TD-508 MK II driven by the LUXMAN M-200 at the Control room at SOKA’s Performing Art Center, Thursday 2 July 2015

Kyle & Jesse monitoring intently with the Eclipse TD-508 MK II driven by the LUXMAN M-200 at the Control room at Soka’s Performing Art Center, Thursday 2 July 2015

Continue reading

LP clunkers you should avoid spending your hard earned cash on

Below are a few LPs that I came across this year that are truly dreadful.  I write this to help you avoid wasting your hard earned cash on awful sounding LPs, especially when there are so many stunning albums released in the first half of 2015.  Continue reading

One of the best Rock albums in years, Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

Alabama Shakes Sound & ColorWith their 2012 Boys & Girls (debut) album, Alabama Shakes displayed that they were a band comfortable with blues, soul, gospel, and country but raised on modern rock. In their 2015 follow up, Sound & Color, they have pushed past any boundaries that might have confined them to deliver one of the best rock albums in years!

Brittany Howard sounds like she has been playing for the past twenty years (since the last album) screaming a force of natural delivery. The variety of genres, rhythms, arrangements, tempos, and vocal styling keep the listener rapt with attention. Sound quality is superb: tight, articulate guitars & rhythm section; composition is fresh & engaging. I have the high rez download and the three sided clear vinyl LP. Check it out on TIDAL.

Björk’s heartfelt Vulnicura album is one to let seep into your soul

BjorkRejoice if you felt that Björk went off the deep end about ten years ago into pretty incomprehensible territory, here is an album to wrap your arms around, sink into your comfortable sofa, pour a fine Irish whiskey and let this sublime music seep into your soul.

Vulnicura’s cover shows Björk with a gaping chest wound; the latin words “vulnus” and “cura” respectively translate to “injury” and “healing”.  It is an expression of sadness, coming on the back of her break up with her husband, it immerses the listener in the devastation of heartbreak.  The sadness is not pitiful but heartfelt and the perfect vehicle for Björk to convey the emotion that sadly many of her recent albums have lacked.

Musically, it starts out with Continue reading

AXPONA 2015 Show Report

The Westin O’Hare | Chicago, IL

April 24 -26, 2015

CAT statement and JL5 driving Giya G3 at Axpona Saturday Night WBF

Vivid Audio GIYA G3, Luxman D-08u CD/SACD Player, & CAT monoblocks

A glimpse into Kyomi Audio’s room: A customer wanted to hear the big CAT Statement monoblocks compared to the little JL5 stereo amp we had played all day. The JL5 is a stereo amp with triode design using 4 x KT120 per channel, it puts out 25W Class A or 100W Class AB and retails for $13k. The Statements are monoblocks using 16 x KT120 per chassis, with a 200W triode design, Class A and retails for $100k a pair.

The big guys did not disappoint as the micro dynamics were put in the spotlight. The tonal color was more dramatic and the sound-stage became huge and spacious; it sucked the listeners in to the musical event.

It was a packed room of music lovers who were willing to delay dinner to indulge in a religious experience. Feet tapping and lots of comments exchanged over the music played at realistic club levels. It had all the vibes of a happening.

Refreshments (wine, beer & Georgian brandy to be specific) finished but the roomful of audience stuck around for more. What does this tell you about this experience with an exceptional stereo?  Continue reading

Frank Sinatra – September of my Years, best album played at AXPONA 2015

Another music highlight at AXPONA 2015 from Kyomi Audio is Frank Sinatra’s September of my Years on vinyl. It was such a great album that we kept playing it repeatedly at AXPONA and no one got tired of it.

It was 1965 when the British Invasion was in full swing. Rock music was exploding in many different directions. Yet, in the midst of it all, came this beautiful, reflective album from the Chairman of the Board. September of my Years was a perfectly arranged (by Gordon Jenkins) selection of songs recorded as Sinatra approached his 50th birthday.

“It was a Very Good Year” is the standout track, and the kind of magic even Sinatra could not have recorded when he was starting out in the late 1930’s. Here it is evocative, heartfelt and very moving. There is a maturity in his delivery that comes with experience and his voice is a finely honed instrument at this stage.

At AXPONA we played the title track, a gorgeous harp accompanies the Nelson Riddle orchestra as Sinatra delivers his lonely liturgy and of course the effects of aging. An experience that we all share but one which had not been touched upon up until then by popular singers. String tone is superb, lots of air and a rich dense tonal texture. It is Sinatra’s greatest achievement with Reprise, and held up as one of his top five albums by the critics.

We listened to a Reprise reissue, though original LPs are readily available. This was a very popular album track in 1965, when it won a Grammy for “Album of the Year”. Clean Mint- copies are readily available. Also on CD or TIDAL. 

Oliver Nelson – The Blues And The Abstract Truth at AXPONA 2015

Oliver Nelson The Blues and the Abstract Truth

I bought the DSD download of the Blues and the Abstract Truth album a couple of years ago and have been mesmerized by the all-time classic, “Stolen Moments”. Recorded over fifty years ago in 1961, this piece is a timeless beauty. Its indisputable beauty shines through in a three-part horn harmony fronting Freddie Hubbard’s lead trumpet melody.

At AXPONA, George Vatchnadze, Kyomi Audio, whipped out the 45RPM LP and spun “Hoedown” – which is quite different from the rest of the album in that it has a joyful, country flavour; I love the barking of the horns from the different speakers in a call & response. The music is infectious and makes the listener sit up & pay attention.

Blues and the Abstract Truth is Oliver Nelson’s triumph as a musician & composer for not only defining the sound of an era but also for assembling one of the most potent modern jazz sextets ever. Oliver Nelson, while a fine tenor sax player in his own right, is surrounded by extraordinary talent of Bill Evans (piano), Roy Haynes (drums), Eric Dolphy (flute & alto sax), Paul Chambers (bass) & Freddie Hubbard (trumpet).

Like Brubeck’s Time Out, Adderley’s Somethin’ Else and a handful of other jazz albums, Blues and the Abstract Truth will stand the test of time as one of the top dozen jazz albums from the fifties & sixties. Sound & Music quality – 10/10. Available on CD, SACD, LP or DSD download.

Sonny Rollins – Saxophone Colossus at AXPONA 2015

Saxophone Colossus Sonny RollinsRevisiting Sonny Rollins’ “St. Thomas” from Saxophone Colossus on SACD at AXPONA was one of my personal highlights of the show. I first heard this when Paul Stubblebine from the Tape Project lent us (for CES one year) a Studer A80 with Dan Schmalle’s wonderful tube tape head preamp. We played the 1/4″ master tape at 15IPS. That is the yardstick that I hold dear as to how amazing this cut can be.

I LOVE Max Roach’s drum solo, two and a half minutes into the song. We could clearly hear how tight the drum skin is. When the music is so exciting, we quickly forget that we were listening to a mono recording.

The Luxman D-08u CD/SACD player’s performance (that we were using as the source at AXPONA) did not disappoint, none of the bloom that LP playback gives us, but probably closer to what the actual tape sounds like. Nonetheless it’s terrific music, however you get to play it. My only regret was that there weren’t enough hours on the Luxman D-08u as it was exhibiting signs of not being fully broken in. Wish we had more hours on it before the show.

Music picks from top artists celebrating Billie Holiday’s 100 year old birthday

Billie Holiday_Blog

Photo from Down Beat magazine, Feb. 1947

Billie Holiday was born a hundred years ago last week.  She died in 1959 at the age of 44, the coroner’s report declared cirrhosis of the liver, though the police had her chained to the bed for substance abuse. This troubled soul, left us a rich treasure trove of jazz vocals at their finest.

Growing up on the other side of the pond, I was not exposed to Billie Holiday until I arrived in the US in ’91 and shortly afterwards discovered the harrowing song “Strange Fruit” covered by Cassandra Wilson on New Moon Daughter 1996. (I still prefer the earlier version to the reworked cover version on Coming Forth By Day 2015). Up until then I had been listening to a steady diet of mainly English music.  Intrigued, I subsequently bought all the Lady Day albums I could find on vinyl as well as the entire Cassandra Wilson catalogue on vinyl and CD.

What drew me to Billie Holiday’s singing was Continue reading

The making of a song that stands the test of time, almost 40 years later…

Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti

Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti

Jimmy Page spoke about the making of Led Zeppelin’s greatest track, Kashmir, from their newly reissued album, Physical Graffiti.  Music blogger, Michael Hahn of the Guardian wrote this article that showed a terrific YouTube video of this song being played live and Jimmy Page’s account of the back story for this famous song. Continue reading

Something to look forward to – “The Evolution Of A Great Song” demo by Lori Lieberman

Lori LiebermanLast May, Joe Cali dropped by Capistrano & played a few cuts from an upcoming Lori Lieberman CD that will be released in a few months time. One track, he was particularly proud of was “Burden & Gift” a rough demo version (piano and vocal) with a lovely melody and a simple emotional vocal over a piano accompaniment. Fast forward to CES 2015, Joe returned with the finished version (mastered by Darcy Proper) which has a simple but tasteful production, guitar instead of piano accompaniment and an exquisite fiddle brought in halfway through the song that adds a heartbreaking plaintive quality to this gorgeous song.

It occurred to me that “The Evolution Of A Great Song” is Continue reading

“The sweetest music this side of Heaven…” Louis Armstrong (BBC’s 30 minute 1968 interview)

Louis ArmstrongGrowing up on the other side of the pond, we were not exposed to Jazz and unfortunately never really came across such greats as Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong. In the mid nineties, I was working in the movie industry when Erik Henry, a visual effects supervisor (we met on one of the Aliens movies), brought Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong’s first collaboration on LP to listen to – I was floored. I immediately set out to buy as much Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong individual albums as I could lay my hands on. In Satchmo’s own words: “The sweetest music this side of Heaven…”  Continue reading

CES 2015 Show Report

Internatices-banneronal CES 2015, Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas

January 6 – 9, 2015

2015_CES_Collage 5 photos_no wordsCES 2015 was once again a terrific success!

Our gratitude: A big thanks to my good friends: Bruno Putzeys of Mola-Mola, for bringing his remarkable prototype DAC, Laurence Dickie and Philip Guttentag of Vivid Audio for their unfailing support, and Caelin Gabriel of Shunyata Research for going the extra yard to help us achieve absolutely first class sound with the best of the best amongst his staple of cables at the Venetian Hotel. Special thanks to Jayson Lloyd of Audio Elegance for helping with the set up of our rooms and Peter Ledermann of Soundsmith who lent us his absolutely superb Hyperion flagship moving-iron phono cartridge for our Luxman PD-171 turntable. This Soundsmith / Luxman combo produced some excellent sound which smoked the digital files in our listening rooms, in case you were wondering! Last, but certainly not least, a big thanks to Steve Rochlin of who streamed a live broadcast for us at the show. Continue reading

Philip’s Demo XVII is finally finished! Painstaking dilemma of “what do we cut and what do we keep?”

Philip's Demo XVIIOff to Vegas and Demo XVII is finally finished!

It was a true labor of love or depending on which day you caught me, I may refer to it as painstaking precision.  All told, I think we spent more time putting this compilation together than any other compilations in my over four decades of history in assembling compilations.

I thought it would be a walk in the park when we started assembling this Demo CD in the middle of November as we had accumulated a full CD’s worth of terrific sounding music, but boy was I wrong….. Continue reading

My TIDAL! experience – High fidelity lossless music streaming with Luxman D-100r

Streaming TIDAL on Luxman D-100r and SQ-N10

Streaming TIDAL on Luxman D-100r and SQ-N10

David Solomon and Pal Bratelund from TIDAL came by during Rocky Mountain Audio Fest and installed WIMP on my notebook computer so I could test drive TIDAL ahead of its launch.  TIDAL offers full CD quality streaming using either FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) or ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) at 16 bit/44kHz and at a bitrate of 1411kbps (versus Spotify premium is 320 kbps).

I actually tested the service in a few ways: Continue reading

Music Review: Damien Rice – “My Favourite Faded Fantasy”

Damien Rice, My Favourite Faded Fantasy

Damien Rice, My Favourite Faded Fantasy

If ever there was a singer / song writer deserving the Rick Rubin production treatment, it’s fellow Irishman, Damien Rice. This is only his third studio album and his most recent in eight years!   After releasing 0 (debut) in 2002 to huge success with the help of tear-jerkers like “Volcano” and “The Blower’s Daughter,” he separated from his collaborator, lover, and friend, Lisa Hannigan, following the release of 2006’s 9:   The last album I bought of his was “Live At Fingerprints“, hitherto his only album on vinyl.

“My Favourite Faded Fantasy” is full of grippingly intimate confessions from a songwriter unafraid to present himself and his flaws; guided by Rick Rubin who has a very deft touch with production but never over-producing. While its only an eight-song set, some of these are eight & nine minutes’ long and the time has been used wisely. Continue reading

Bryan Ferry Avonmore – easily his best original album with two delightful covers, one being my personal favourite

Bryan Ferry - AvonmoreI must confess that I’ve been buying Bryan Ferry’s album continuously for the past twenty plus years and we have a few “resident Bryan Ferry raving fans” in the household.

Our teenagers love his involvement in the Great Gatsby soundtrack:  my personal favourite is his Yellow Cocktail Music. 

Not to be on a down note but to set up my review of Avonmore, I must let you know  Continue reading

Francis Cabrel’s Samedi Soir Sur La Terre (French)

Erik FortierFrancis Cabrel Samedi Soir Sur La Terre at Coup de Foudre Audio Montreal turned me on to this track off of his classic 1994 release “Samedi Soir Sur La Terre”. While this album is relaxed, it never loses interest due to the change of instrumentation and the focus on Cabrel’s voice & guitar – both of which are in fine fettle.

Whether you speak French or not, this is a great album – sit back, and relax (but if you’re curious as to the lyrics, try Google translate!). Cabrel has a wonderful voice, and the groove of the music – slow, yet with a lively pace – makes one feel as though they are sitting outside in Reyes of Gypsy King cameo and the beautifully clean production by Gerard Bikialo, it’s just plain pretty. The CD case is a book itself, complete with full lyrics and photos of the band members. Reference quality recording. Only available on CD.