Acoustic Sounds

Frequently cited as "the greatest recording ever made", Decca's first studio recording of Wagner's seminal masterpiece remains a lodestar in the annals of the recording industry, over 60 years since the first sessions took place in Vienna in 1958. Part 2 of this in-depth look into the making of this historic set of records begins with Decca's struggles to record a complete cycle "live" at Bayreuth in 1955, an experience that paved the way for the eventual studio recording in Vienna three years later. You'll discover how producer John Culshaw assembled a crack team of Decca's sound engineers to tackle a myriad of practical, technical and aesthetic challenges, while conductor Georg Solti marshaled the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and an unmatched cast of singers into creating a true classic of the gramophone.

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Jerry's Records

I'm in Pittsburgh, PA visiting nearby Iron Mountain where Universal Music Group archives much of its recorded tapes and other assets. Amazing video coming soon. While I was there I visited Jerry's Records, a famous Pittsburgh used record store recommended to me by my colleague Jacob Heilbrunn. Here's some just shot video. Read More

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Iron Mountain Vault

I spent today at Iron Mountain Entertainment Services where Universal Music Group archives much of its music assets. It was a day filled with open eyed wonder at the richness of the tape and video archives, at how the material is being catalogued and at the Iron Mountain facility itself, which should be labeled the 8th wonder of the world. Video coverage coming soon!Can you see that black rectangle at the back of the room? That's another equally large room filled... Read More

Comments: 4
Solti's "Ring Cycle"

Frequently cited as "the greatest recording ever made", Decca's first studio recording of Wagner's seminal masterpiece remains a lodestar in the annals of the recording industry, over 60 years since the first sessions took place in Vienna in 1958. Recently reissued in a brand new remastering on vinyl and CD/SACD, we take a look at the work's pivotal place in not only classical music but also popular culture, discuss the making of this set, and assess the sound quality of its many incarnations. Part 1 covers the history of opera up to the "Ring"; the cycle's creation, and how it radically changed not only opera and classical music, but also theatre and popular culture in the 20th century and beyond.

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Joni and Brandi at Newport Folk 2022

June 8, 2023: When Joni Mitchell mesmerized the Newport Folk Festival audience last summer with a surprise performance, she “breathed new meaning into some of her most famous lyrics” (New York Times). Today, the powerful live recording of her beloved hit “A Case Of You” is available digitally. Originally released in 1971 on Blue, this new live recording features vocals by Marcus Mumford and Brandi Carlile.

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Previn, West Side Story

Many have long forgotten, if they ever knew, but for a brief spell in the mid-to-late 1950s, André Previn was one of America’s most popular jazz musicians, at least judging by record sales, and his cover of West Side Story, released in 1960, marked his high point in that realm. It was his 6th and final album devoted entirely to a Broadway score—the first, in ’56, was My Fair Lady, which remained the best-selling jazz album for the next three years. It also marked pretty much his farewell to jazz, after which he turned to arranging unabashed mood music and then, in a total switch, to conducting classical symphonies.

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CH Precision Factory Tour

Following High End Munich, I took a train ride to Zurich, Switzerland with members of the CH team: CEO and founder Florian Cossy, publicist Louise Ford, Head of International Sales, Kevin Wolff, and software developer Eduard Kohler. Then, in a whirlwind visit to the heart of Swiss watch making territory, I toured CH Precision in Préverenges as well as Telsa, the company that does CH's "board stuffing". Also in this video you'll see the machine shop... Read More

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Stillpoints Apertures

The Stillpoints Aperture Acoustic Panels, available for quite some time now in their original or Series II form, have been reviewed numerous times including by our own Michael Fremer. These reviews have consistently praised the panels' positive impact when placed at the first point of reflection, between or behind the speakers.Over the years, I have utilized them in my listening room in all these positions. However, during AXPONA 2022, when I entered the... Read More

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Rhino High Fidelity "The Cars"

Like most "overnight successes", the individual members of The Cars knocked around for years working to find the right setting and musical formula before hitting it big with their debut album. Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr met in Cleveland, both moving to Boston in the early '70s and releasing non-charting albums in various "folkie" type groups including Milkwood and Cap'n Swing. The Cars formed in 1976 with guitarist and Berklee student Eliot Easton joining Ocasek and Orr (the three had been in Cap'n Swing) and keyboardist Greg Hawkes, who had been in a previous group with the duo but left to tour with musical comedian Martin Mull plus drummer David Robinson late of The Modern Lovers. Hawkes didn't join until early 1977. Whew!

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Dolby Atmos "Pet Sounds" Press Event

Universal and The Beach Boys organization tasked mix master Giles Martin to produce a Dolby Atmos edition of the iconic album Pet Sounds. There were big differences between doing this mix and Mr. Martin's previous remix work on albums produced by his father George Martin, and in his ZOOM call presentation before the Dolby Screening Room playback in New York on Tuesday, May 30th, he addressed them. Nonetheless, Martin's larger than life on-screen image amplified a level of discomfort with this project not evidenced in any of the Beatles re-mix events I attended. Following the full album playback, he returned to take questions from the audience.

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Fuchsia Swing Song

In the mid-1960s, just as rock ‘n’ roll was displacing jazz as America’s foremost popular music, Blue Note Records took a bold but commercially disastrous foray into the avant-garde, signing such adventurers as Andrew Hill, Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Graham Moncur III, and Cecil Taylor. It was a similarly risky move for today’s corporate-owned Blue Note to start reissuing some of these artists’ albums, a few years back, and on deluxe vinyl no less, but... Read More

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Forget that I'm 50

With Bowie-mania sure to surge this summer thanks to the first time release of the full concert version of the digitally restored Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture, 50 years after it originally screened, and playing in theaters beginning July 3rd, I found Harvey Kubernik's interview with Julian Shah-Tayler too good to not grab and publish—and that's before listening to Forget I'm 50, his re-imagined Aladdin Sane album. What most got me interested was Shah-Tayler's telling Kubernik that he first discovered Bowie through the song "Let's Dance" and wasn't impressed, but when a friend played him “Yassassin” from Lodger... . How would a 50 something who wasn't yet born when the album was released, recast in 2023 Aladdin Sane? With undeniable high energy and excitement, that's how. The only contributing artist I've heard of here is Gene Loves Jezebel (Michael Aston), who does an effective "Jean Genie". Shah-Tayler tackles "Lady Grinning Soul" and makes it tribute-fresh (the album is available on streaming services). For good measure, Kubernik includes interviews with D.A. Pennebaker who produced the film and with our friend Ken Scott who engineered and produced Aladdin Sane. Me? I was on the Ziggy tour for three stops (New York, Chicago and Detroit) in addition to the Boston Music Hall show so I can confirm that the hysteria you see in the movie was real. The Carnegie Hall show was a quasi- religious experience.

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The Dare 'The Sex EP' album cover

“I’m losing my edge…to the art school Brooklynites in little jackets… and borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered 80s.”When a then-32-year-old James Murphy uttered that line on LCD Soundsystem’s 2002 debut single “Losing My Edge,” it was about the millennial hipsters taking over New York City, recycling culture and fashion from a quarter-century before. Unlike their aesthetic predecessors, they didn’t have to work hard to find anything; they were “internet seekers who... Read More

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Black velvet skies, desolate streets, and lilac bags beneath everyone’s somnolent eyes. Is the foreboding purple from sleep deprivation, early morning’s merciless frost, or both? Fossilised fingers despite wool gloves, numb toes underneath double-layer socks; next year remember three pairs. It seems an ordinary Saturday yet early as 3:00 AM record collectors camp outside. Why? Record Store Day; the day Taylor Swift fans receive their yearly limited edition release.

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