Sunday, February 18, 2018

2017 TOP 20 Vinyl Reissues - Vinyl Gourmet Best Of 2017

Mid-February 2018... is it too late for a 2017 Best Of list compiled by

Well... here it is! The Top 20 Best Reissues of 2017! It was a great year full of amazing reissues, hard to pick just 20 but these stood out for music, sound and packaging:

Two years after 1990's loud Ragged Glory, Young retreats to an old world of steel guitars, gentle folk melodies, and pristine country choruses (that's Linda Ronstadt, who helped make 1972's Harvest a hit album, singing backup on the follow-up.) Young name-drops Hank Williams, Jimi Hendrix, and his old dog, King, in rich reminiscences about the musical ride he and his fans have shared since the late '60s. The album, as Neil Young sings in "One of These Days," is "a long letter to all the good friends I've known."

Impex has always had a special place in their hearts for Shoji Yokouchi’s Greensleeves. Standards, original tunes, and traditional pieces (like the title track), are interpreted in unexpectedly funky, soulful ways. The master guitarist is given immeasurable support by organist Yuri Tashiro. Her playing is alternately moody and spry, fiery and funky. Rare Three Blind Mice Jazz Gem!

Delicate Sound Of Thunder was recorded live over five nights in August 1988 at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, New York, and went on to become the first album played in space when Soviet astronauts took a copy aboard the Soyuz TM-7 mission to the Mir space station that same year. Incredible live performances that shaped the musical growth of a generation.

A natural acoustic portrait of American Folk, Country, and Bluegrass standards by two virtuosos. Jerry Garcia and David Grisman's Shady Grove is filled with endearing joy and spirited playing. Garcia began recording with longtime friend David Grisman during the last decade of his life, marking a full-circle return to the roots fare he originally performed before co-founding the Grateful Dead.

Mondo are proud to present the soundtrack to Fight Club on Vinyl for the first time in over 15 Years. The Dust Brothers only film score to date, Fight Club is arguably one of the most enjoyable soundtrack albums to come out of the 90's and part of that has to do with the fact that it is one of the best sequenced scores of all time.

Maestro Stokowski is at the podium and Bob Simpson is at the 3-track Ampex recorder to capture the Rhapsodies from Liszt, Enesco and Smetana. This is titanic glorious sound that will sink most speakers and amps for that matter. A must have performance. The original 3-track session tapes were used in mastering this LP from the Analogue Production reissue series.

Pet Sounds is famous for its use of multiple layers of unorthodox instrumentation as well as other cutting edge audio techniques for its time. It's considered the best Beach Boys album, and one of the best of the 1960s. The group here reached a whole new level in terms of both composition and production, layering tracks upon tracks of vocals and instruments to create a richly symphonic sound.

Passion is Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack to the Martin Scorsese film The Last Temptation of Christ. Like much of Gabriel’s solo work, the album is a product of his continuing fascination with world music, which he employs here to create an exceptionally beautiful and atmospheric tapestry of sound perfectly evocative of the film’s resonant spiritual drama.

First widely available vinyl release after being out of print on vinyl for more than 24 years. Cut from the original stereo tapes by Sean Magee at Abbey Road Studios, this 180 gram LP is plated and pressed at QRP in the USA. With songs like Linger and Dreams, The Cranberries debut album from 1993 sold over 5 million copies in the U.S. alone and was No. 1 in several territories across the globe.

Composer Kenji Kawai was chosen to recreate the futuristic cyber-punk atmosphere that emanates from the 'Ghost In The Shell' anime, into music. Assisted by percussionist Yuhki Sugawara, Kawai reached the summit of his art by delivering captivating music, halfway between ambient electronics, traditional Japanese music and Bulgarian ritual singings. Impressive soundtrack, sounds amazing!

Ry Cooder's development as a peerless musician capable of grasping virtually any style began with his time spent with Taj Mahal and Captain Beefheart, but reaching epic proportions on Boomer's Story. With two ambitious albeit uneven studio albums behind him, the California native plunged into roles that still define him today – that of sonic archeologist and cultural historian.

The Sky Is Crying was released after Vaughan's deadly accident in 1990. The posthumously assembled 10-track outtakes collection actually proves to be one of Vaughan's most consistent albums. These songs were recorded in sessions spanning from 1984's Couldn't Stand the Weather to 1989's In Step, some of them became instant classics.

Eunice Kathleen Waymon recorded more than 40 albums over a long, distinguished career that stretched for five decades. As Nina Simone, her distinctive mellifluous voice honed a career categorized variously as a jazz singer, soul singer and folk artist; she was all of these and much more. Little Girl Blue was Nina Simone's debut release, a beautiful record not to be missed.

Head Hunters is the Jazz Funk fusion masterpiece from Herbie Hancock, released in 1973 it became the first jazz album to go platinum and remains one of the best-selling jazz/fusion records of all time. His groundbreaking work during this period also inspired and provided samples for generations of hip-hop and electronic music artists that followed. A landmark album with the best sound ever!

The astonishing Judee Sill was the first artist signed to David Geffen's Asylum Records, and Judee Sill the first album released on the label. Sill's music is intensely spiritual, redolent of mystical and divine imagery, yet grounded by great songwriting and a pure but powerful singing talent. Her songs impart incredible intimacy that is enhanced by her sometimes complex string arrangements.

In 1983 the guitar super trio of John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola and Paco de Lucía reunited for another set of acoustic guitar trios.  Unlike their first album, the phenomenal live acoustic performance Friday Night in San Francisco, this masterpiece consists entirely of studio sessions. Some of the most perfectly beautiful and emotionally intense music ever recorded, with amazing sound quality!

Aretha Franklin made her Hall of Fame reputation at Atlantic Records between 1967-1968. This astonishing two-year period witnessed the singer score nine Top 10 hits and define soul music, a era chronicled on Aretha's Gold. Pairing with producer Jerry Wexler and a flawless Muscle Shoals studio band, Franklin unleashed all of her artistry like never before!

In 1958, a young successful French composer-arranger with a major infatuation on American jazz, worked his way to New York and convinced the very best players of the time to record an album of largely jazz standards. Michel Legrand would go on to win numerous prizes and accolades (3 Oscars, 5 Grammies, 2 Palmes D'or, etc.), but little of what followed matched the sheer brilliance of Legrand Jazz.

Of everything Analogue Productions has reissued, nothing has come close in sales or accolades to the 45-RPM versions of Bill Evans titles from his Riverside catalog. And now Analogue Productions has compiled all of them into one irresistible box set package. Includes facsimiles of each original jacket along with an 18-page booklet detailing Evans' career and Riverside era. 

Painstakingly recorded by producer Gary Katz and engineers Roger Nichols and Elliot Scheiner, Donald Fagen's The Nightfly endures as a rare Audiophile trifecta of superlative performance, consummate songwriting, and crisp, benchmark production. Mobile Fidelity is honored to give this seminal effort unsurpassed treatment befitting the most serious music connoisseurs.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Vinyl Gourmet 2016 TOP 15 Vinyl Reissues - Best Of 2016

Another year has passed here at and it's that time of the year when we look back and pick our Top 15 Vinyl Reissues of 2016:

Deutsche Grammophon celebrates Steve Reich's 80th birthday with a deluxe, numbered limited edition of his breakthrough 1974 recording of 'Drumming', 'Music For Mallet Instruments, Voices And Organ', and 'Six Pianos'. Presented in its original 3LP box format, it includes Reich’s original notes with many session photos and first publication of nearly 50 letters he wrote about this amazing recording.

Passion is Pires's keynote. With intensity and drama she relishes Chopin's central storms, creating a vivid and spectacular contrast with all surrounding serenity. Pires makes you hang on to every note, and with her burning clarity she has reinforced our sense of Chopin's stature and created a new range of possibilities. Maria João Pires is among the most eloquent master musicians of our time.

Tarentel's debut album From Bone To Satellite released in 1999 by Temporary Residence, then a new fledgling record label. The vinyl sold out in a matter of weeks, becoming Tarentel's most valuable contribution to the post-rock canon, and quite possibly their zenith. The album title makes clear reference to Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey, and the music is indeed of stellar quality!

Hot Rats cemented Frank Zappa as a musical force to be reckoned with. The album, recorded on a prototype 16-track recorder, sounds as fresh and sonically superior on this 180g audiophile analog edition as it did when first released in 1969. Blending rock and jazz stylings with top call studio musicians, the album opened the door to 'Fusion Music' while putting Zappa on the guitar player map.

Waiting to Exhale was one of the first movies to feature African-American women in leading roles. Its soundtrack took the music industry by storm, topping the Billboard Pop and R&B charts for several weeks. The soundtrack was masterfully produced and mostly written by Babyface, featuring divas Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston, Brandy, Toni Braxton and Mary J. Blige.

The Dave Matthews Band celebrates their 25th anniversary with this 20th Anniversary Edition of the their best-selling album, Crash, for the first time on vinyl. The album features some of their biggest hits such as 'Crash Into Me', 'Two Step', '#41', and 'So Much To Say'. Produced by Steve Lillywhite and originally released on RCA Records in 1996, Crash brought the band three Grammy nominations.

In 1973, when this album was released in Japan, Monk had all but disappeared from the scene. Concerts? Far from it! Something new from the studio? No way! The 1963 tour with appearances in Japan and the resulting album offered solidly played favorites such as 'Just A Gigolo' or 'I’m Gettin’ Sentimental Over You' that made the audience and record collectors alike sit up and listen.

Collector's Edition 7LP 45rpm Box! Complete Blues Alley Collection featuring 12 Previously Unreleased Recordings & 8 Never-Before-Heard Songs! Eva Cassidy is remembered in Nightbird which affords everyone the opportunity to experience Eva Cassidy's complete tour de force performance at the Blues Alley jazz club in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1996 for the first time.

The middle album of Neil Young's 'Ditch Trilogy', 1974's On the Beach was actually recorded after Tonight's the Night but released almost a year prior. Meticulously mastered from the original analog master tapes and pressed on high quality vinyl, this analog reissue presents the album in unsurpassed sound and brings On the Beach back to standalone LP for the first time in decades.

Engineered by Parsons after he performed the same duties on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, I Robot from 1977 remains a true audiophile showcase with extended frequency range and impressive dynamic range. Inspired by Isaac Asimov stories, I Robot delves into themes of artificial intelligence and technological dominance that make the record increasingly relevant in the 21st century.

1980's Once In Every Life served as quintessential romantic balladeer Johnny Hartman's second-to-last album cut at the age of 57 with a smooth and sophisticated quintet. Hartman's baritone voice sounds as rich and mellow as ever and jazz lover Clint Eastwood even used four tracks from Once in Every Life in his acclaimed 1995 film Bridges of Madison County.

Chris Jones, well-known from the Nautilus Tour 2002 as a guitar-virtuoso, arises on his new solo album also as an impressive songwriter and vocalist. The brilliant guitarist from Reno, Nevada, sadly passed away much too early in 2005. His last album with Stockfisch from 2003 has posthumously been established over the years as a de facto standard for audiophile listening tests and demo sessions.

The final album by the original Love lineup, Forever Changes regularly draws epic praise. Rolling Stone described it as 'elegant armageddon', another rave review called it 'one of the most distinctive masterpieces in that era of masterpieces'.  Produced by band frontman Arthur Lee and The Doors' engineer Bruce Botnick, presented here on 2LP 45rpm vinyl for the first time.

This live recording from the famed festival by Lake Geneva qualifies as one of the best piano trio classics of the 1970’s as well as a milestone in Monty Alexander’s catalogue. The 1976 recording captures the moment in his young career when he began to be compared to such giants as Oscar Peterson. Another perfect sounding MPS all analog mastering of this dynamic and exciting recording!

Second studio album from the Carlos Santana band and widely acclaimed as his masterpiece, presented here with corrected stereo channel orientation, newly remastered and sounding better than ever as the result of being expertly remastered from the Original Analog Master Tapes by MFSL with the new Ultradisc One-Step UD1S process!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Monty Alexander Live At Montreux MPS 2016... Improving a Jazz Audiophile Classic!

In the last few years legendary label MPS from Germany has been reissuing some of its famous recordings, and few can be more important, well known and even over-played than Montreux Alexander from 1977, one of the best piano jazz trio recordings ever made in a live setting, and definitely one of the best performances with impressive rhythm and constant excitement, not a dull second on this LP, with a gracious blend of creativity, spontaneity and virtuosity that are not easy to repeat, at least not sounding this good!

I've had my original Germany first pressing release for a while, played it many times at home and audio events, always a show stopper for the sound energy and awe inspiring performances. Clearly an LP engineered to sound larger than life, with a huge "you are there" factor, I've always loved its sound and it never failed to impress me, even if I could tell that it was somewhat exaggerated...

Come 2016, and MPS released a new Montreux Alexander vinyl LP remastered by Dirk Sommer from the Original Analog Master Tapes as part of MPS AAA reissues program featuring all analog mastering chain and 180 Gram Vinyl pressings. I just couldn't resist buying this one and making a serious comparison with my original pressing. I was curious, expecting it to be really good, but what I found was much more than just good, it was a complete paradigm change, from impressive sound, to real sound!

It takes a lot of courage to do this with such an audiophile classic, but they did it. There are huge differences and all for the better, first of all the overall volume is much lower on the reissue, I had to really crank it up a few notches to match the db volume of the original pressing. Then, the second thing that strikes you after the "loudness" is removed, is the natural EQ, the natural sound of all instruments, specially the piano that now makes the original appear a little "glassy", where the original had a pinching quality, the new reissue presents a vivid piano sound with fast transients but not really hammered and with an organic quality that was somehow missing on the original pressing. The third wave of changes comes in the form of present and tonal bass, something that was clearly recessed on the original but now the bass is there, it blooms and helps to recreate the live setting atmosphere with a pneumatic effect and expanded scale. How's that for making a classic sound better than ever?

The piano notes always sounded articulate with impressive transient response, but the decays were always a little tucked in by the pinch of the notes percussion, that has been corrected with the piano sounding more organic and integrated with the rest of the trio. The drums, probably the area where less was changed in terms of sound presentation, retain the same sonic signature with clean extended cymbals and very nice attack to keep the music charging forward with the same energy as before.

So this was a big surprise, because the new remaster brings life back to this recording, what before sounded edgy and intrusive, now sounds natural and real, keeping the original recording spirit untouched, but making it much more a classic live jazz performance. This reissue is where the goods really show, the deep sounds, the breathe of life, a perfect choice to let yourself become immersed in these impressive performances sounding better than ever before.

Overall it can be said that this new reissue presents this amazing and popular performance with a much more balanced EQ, less compression and more resolution, for a more natural and realistic sound, exactly like you'd expect to hear in a live setting. The contrast between slow lower level moments, and the higher paced large volume bursts is now much more obvious with increased dynamics and a sense of crescendos that makes the performance and musicians real, in the room with an expanded view of the live set. The pressing on perfectly silent vinyl is the cherry on top, absolutely highly recommended!

Find it here, at Vinyl Gourmet Online Store: