Acoustic Sounds

Features: Discography

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 3 goes over the different versions that have been issued - on vinyl, CD and SACD - including the brand new 2022 remastering on vinyl and digital. Then I conduct a detailed listening comparison and make some recommendations. Plus a breakdown of some other recordings of the Ring, and a survey of non-vocal, purely orchestral records of music from the Ring on vinyl and CD.

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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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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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I've been buying records in antique and second-hand stores, thrift shops, and Goodwills since 1965. In my town, there was a Goodwill store with a large display table, approximately six feet by four feet, piled high with hundreds of unsleeved 45 rpm records priced at two for five cents. I would go through them every few weeks searching for Beatle records, always unsuccessfully, except once when I found a new copy of Swan 4182 "Sie Liebt Dich (She Loves... Read More

Part 2 - Ceremonial and Occasional MusicBeyond the Coronation, I turn now to music written for other Royal ceremonial occasions (like funerals) and special occasions. I begin with more 20th Century music.Britten: Gloriana and Tippett: Suite for the Birthday of Prince CharlesMichael Tippett (l.) and Benjamin BrittenWe turn now to the two most prominent British composers of the generation after Walton, Benjamin Britten (1913 - 1976) and Michael Tippett (1905 - 1998),... Read More

Part 1: Coronation MusicWith the Coronation of King Charles III nearly upon us, the British monarchy is preparing to "put on a show” the likes of which only those who were around for Elizabeth II’s Coronation in 1953 will have seen before. Royal weddings are all very well, but the Coronation ceremony is on a whole other level of pomp and circumstance, to borrow the title of Elgar’s five glorious marches celebrating King and Empire. And music will play a major... Read More

Is rock ’n’ roll about the music, or getting thrown off a ferry? Brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher probably never settled that argument (and likely never will), but Oasis’ legacy surrounds the music first and foremost, rock n roll antics and sibling rivalry second. While their rise represented a dated sense of 90s populist optimism, the tunes live on; nothing will desecrate the legacy of Noel's songwriting and Liam's distinctive voice on the first three albums.

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So far we've covered ska in Part 1, rock steady the singers in Part 2a and rock steady the groups in Part 2b. We now come to the deejays and how in the early 1970's they became Jamaica's most popular recording artists.Some of the most famous deejays got their start working for sound systems. As recounted in part 1 of our survey, these sound systems often consisted of a truck equipped with a turntable, speaker, cables and amplifiers. The owners,... Read More

On April 5, 1923, one hundred years ago, in Richmond, Indiana, at the studio of Gennett Records, King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band made the first recordings by African American musicians that are indisputably jazz. They are also the first recordings of Louis Armstrong, who, during the next eleven years, would revolutionize jazz and popular music in America and the rest of the world. Mixing African vocal techniques and concepts of improvisation and rhythm with... Read More

Classical music-loving audiophiles can sometimes feel like they've been left out in the cold with regard to all-analogue vinyl reissues. Not so rock and jazz lovers who are well catered to with excellent AAA reissues from Analogue Productions, Impex, Craft, Blue Note et al. Speaker’s Corner used to keep the classical reissues coming, but even their releases have dried up in the last few years - a great shame.However, relief is at hand. As reported by MF and... Read More

In the "Starting a Jamaican Music Collection" series, in part 1 we covered ska and in part 2a rock steady, the singer. We now come to rock steady, the groups. To recapitulate, ska lasted roughly from 1960 to the later part of 1966. Rock steady then took over the island. The fast tempi and thundering horns of many ska songs gave way to rock steady's much slower beat. Playing a much more prominent role in the new genre were the bass and drums and along... Read More

Tom Verlaine died on January 28, 2023. He was the guitarist, singer, songwriter for, and co-founder of the band Television. Their first album "Marque Moon", released in February 1977, is a masterpiece and, like all masterpieces, an expression of a unique talent and sensibility that fits in no category or genre. But the media and the streaming services insist that "Marquee Moon" is a "punk" album and Television was a "punk" band.... Read More

Forget the bloated “prequel” film trilogy by Peter Jackson. If you want to experience the real magic of J.R.R. Tolkien’s first novel, seek out a copy of this beautiful recording by the quirky Scottish actor, Nicol Williamson.Whenever I pop into a record store, I always make a point of checking out the Spoken Word section. There are many unusual treasures to be found here, usually at rock bottom prices. And if you’re lucky, you might score a copy of this 4-LP set... Read More

After finding a white-label seven-inch promo copy of the Stones' most controversial song, the author finds the alternate mono version of "Brown Sugar" to be both piercing and majestic. After considerable thought and listening came the discovery that the Stones' best work is also their most provocative and outrageous.

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In Starting a Jamaican Music Collection—Part 1:Ska, we highlighted ska, the first of the big three genres (the others are rock steady and reggae) that made Jamaica famous worldwide. Indeed, this Third World country has carved out a place in 20th century music history that far belies its small size and population. And again, IMO Bob Marley is THE musical artist of the 20th century.Ska, which dominated from around 1960 to 1966, was essentially upbeat and boisterous... Read More

Which is actually quite odd, because Messiah was never intended by its composer as a Christmas piece - quite the opposite in fact. It was originally composed, in 1741, for performance at the most solemn time in the ecclesiastical calendar - Easter. The work tells the entirety of Christ’s story, culminating in His Crucifixion and Resurrection, with a meditation on the meaning of His life and death to Christians. So, this is hardly the stuff of Christmas levity.However,... Read More