“Audiophiles care too much about sound.” ~ Stephen Mejias
The sure sign of an addict is the recursive "I'm never going to...again". I'm never going to buy another version of Kind of Blue but I did. The most interesting question here is exactly what are we addicted to? Is it the music? Or is it the sound? If we go by the strict definition according to Merriam-Webster, an audiophile is "a person who is enthusiastic about high-fidelity sound reproduction". Sound reproduction? Really? Not "music reproduction"? According to the Urban Dictionary, an audiophile is also a bunch of other things including, "One who enjoys sex acts involving the ear.", "Someone who usually looks at young audio equipment. And rapes it through various input and often output sockets.", and "This is a person that makes you break out in a cold sweat and shudder when he says 'So something interesting happened today...'"
From the original album's back cover, "We stood before it and began to freeze inside from the exertion. We questioned the painting, berated it, made love to it, prayed to it: We called it mother, called it whore and slut, called it our beloved, called it Abraxas...." from Demian by Hermann Hesse
Santana's Abraxas, originally released in September 1970, was the band's second album and it rocks hard. It also percolates with Latin rhythms and boogies with jazz-tinged influences but overall I'd say it rocks. Hard. We just saw the release of a remastered version of Kind of Blue (see review) from HDtracks and now Acoustic Sounds has begun tapping Sony's DSD vaults (are we in a golden age of music-loving goodness or what?) and one of the first offerings is Abraxas. The question on many people's mind's is, "How does it sound?". Stunning, is my answer.
One audiophile stereotype is the notion that we buy the same old music over and over and I'd imagine it is such a cliché'd image because it is largely true. I would say that the majority of high resolution audio download sales are reissues since not a heck of a lot of new music is released in high resolution formats. Sure there's some and if we can accept 24-bit as the definition of high resolution, I'm beginning to, sites like Boomkat and others are offering 24-bit downloads of new music. Yeah! But if there ever was a granddaddy of all reissues, a record that's seen more pressings and formats and re-pressings and reissues (and reissues of reissues), it has got to be Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
I'll say up front that I loved this record before I heard it. That's right, Archie Shepp, saxophone player extraordinaire and one of our greatest living artists, has a new record. No, not a reissue, a new record on his own Archieball label recorded live in France on Sept 9 2012 at the Jazz à La Villette Festival, June 14 2013 at CNCDC de Châteauvallon, and on June 17 2013 at Les Nuits de Fourvière Festival with his Attica Blues Orchestra. I Hear the Sound swings like Duke, romps like Mingus, and sings the blues like, well, Archie Shepp. I Hear a Sound is a re-telling of Shepp's 1972 Attica Blues LP originally released on Impulse! as a tribute to the rebellion that took place within the walls of Attica State Prison. Let's let Archie Shepp tell us about it (from the excellent liner notes):
I think that should be spelled Soul[ey]man. Syrian-born Souleyman's latest album, Wenu Wenu is his first to be produced by Kieran Hebden (of Four Tet) in Brooklyn for Domino's Ribbon label. While some have commented that Hebden cleaned up Souleyman's typical lo-fi/over-driven sound too much, I sure don't think so. There's more flavor here than you can swallow in one gulp and if you dig incessant, intense, and soul[ey]ful music, get this.
I have always enjoyed the music of Jimmy Webb. Going back to Richard Harris performing "MacArthur Park" and Glenn Campbell singing "Galveston" brings back many good memories.
Jimmy Webb’s new release Still Within The Sound Of My Voice, offered in 24/44.1 on HDtracks, presents new versions of these classic songs. As in his previous release, Just Across The River, Jimmy teams up with a stellar group of performers. Carly Simon, Lyle Lovett, The Jordanaires, Keith Urban, David Crosby and Graham Nash, Joe Cocker, Art Garfunkel, Amy Grant, Kriss Kristofferson, Marc Cohn, Rumer, and America. The song "MacArthur Park", sometimes ridiculed by reviewers, teamed up Brian Wilson singing in the background with Jimmy Webb. The song has withstood the test of time and is probably considered a classic Jimmy Webb tune.
PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish lends his producing and guitar playing skills to this, Rokia Traoré's fifth album. Beautiful Africa released on the Nonesuch label rocks but thankfully still within the framework of African music and Traoré's Malian home in part due to the presence of Mamah Diabaté’s n’goni lute and the music's shifting and swirling rhythms. There are a total of three guitarists on this record including Traoré, Parish, and Stefano Pilia, and English drummer Sebastian "Seb" Rochford provides the foundation along with bassist Nicolaï Munch-Hansen over which Traoré's vocals swing, dance, mourn, and ultimately delight.
Howard Hanson (1896-1981) was a conductor, composer, and director of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. He was one of the most prominent American composers of musical Romanticism who believed that music should strive to preserve beauty, clarity and simplicity. You won’t find dissonance in Howard Hansen’s music.
What can you say about A Love Supreme that hasn't already been said? I know, personal stuff! I came across John Coltran's A Love Supreme at a very challenging time in my then young life. Let's leave the particulars out and simply say that we're talking about emotionally charged growing pains related to finding a place to fit in. I came to A Love Supreme by way of Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis so kinda backwards and the thing that struck me then, during my initial listens to the LP, and the thing that still smacks me right in the skull while listening today is the damn spirituality of it all. Now let me just say that I was of the opinion that Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov reaching for that bible at the end of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment was not an act of religion rather an act of faith. Color me irascible.
Hesitation Marks was mastered in two different ways - the standard, “loud” mastering (which is what you’ll find on the CD, on iTunes, and everywhere else), and also an alternate “audiophile” mastering, which we’re offering as a free download option for anyone who purchases the album through nin.com. For the majority of people, the standard version will be preferable and differences will be difficult to detect. Audiophiles with high-end equipment and an understanding of the mastering process might prefer the alternate version.
Online music and gear retailer Acoustic Sounds will begin offering DSD downloads...today! Wednesday, August 28th! That's right, here's the first source for popular titles from artists like John Coltrane, Muddy Waters, and Cat Stevens in lovely resplendent DSD. Kinda makes you glad you have that DSD-ready DAC. You do have one, right?
I know, obviously. I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey, near Paterson, and I can still recall the dull ache of boredom that infested most of my waking teenage hours. There were few true salves but music was always a sure bet breaking through the unfulfilled longing (most days feeling as if you had an impossibly mad crush on someone you had yet to meet). The music of The Doors played prominently during these formative years and Waiting for the Sun contained plenty of sunshine, white heat, and melancholy that seemed to match my very own. Ah, music.
This 4 selection album is Blue Coast Records’ first double DSD recording. Keith Greeninger is a folk-style singer that accompanies himself on guitar in this excellent minimalist recording that utilized two channels / 2 mics, and a Korg M2 2000. While the DSD64 download is quite good, you must listen to the DSD128 version as this is outrageously revealing and natural sounding.
Cookie Marenco of Blue Coast Records sent me the following: