Lovely Recordings: Hosted by Brad Potthoff

Lovely recordings can be old or not so old, well-known or not, and by the famous or obscure. Classic to an audiophile may not be the same as classic to a music scholar or to a hipster. Mostly, classic depends on the shared consensus of a certain population. (Doesn’t any definition?) Yeah, there’s more to it, but the purpose of this feature, as far as I'm concerned, is less about linguistics and more about sharing superlative musical recordings whose long-term worthiness can be agreed upon by most who encounter them. How’s that? Rather than defend my choices about what I’ve recognized as classics below, I’ll just say that I like them for the gestalt of their particular lyrical, instrumental, technical, and engineering merits, and predict that most of you will, too. These eight albums are some of my go-tos when I need to scratch a musical itch and don’t want to spend much time searching. May you enjoy and profit from them as much as I do.

Eiji Oue and Minnesota Orchestra: Rachmaninov, Symphonic Dances (Reference Recordings, 2001)
Hands down, this is my favorite recording of the romantic large-scale genre. Music lovers and audiophiles around the globe treasure Prof. Johnson of Reference Recordings for his ability to capture instruments in space and strike the perfect balance between instrumental timbre and hall acoustic. His accomplishments are many, but he might well have reached the pinnacle of orchestral recording technique with this one. The violins present string and wood in striking balance; the brass is appropriately blatty; and the piano’s weight is completely satisfying yet believable. And, yes, the performance under Oue’s capable baton captivates as usual.

Available from ProStudioMasters

Roberta Invernizzi et al: Amore e morte dell’amore (Naïve, 2013)
This album possesses that rare je ne sais quoi of capturing not just beautiful music but flesh-and-blood people making the music. The placement of the two female opera singers on a smallish stage is as life-like as a classical vocal recording can hope to recreate, and the early Baroque accompaniment echoes the intimacy and pathos of their performance. See if you can breathe as the lascivious “Pur ti miro” casts its tender spell.

Available from Presto Classical

Glass Animals: Zaba (Wolf Tone Limited, 2014)
I really dig electronica when it’s not ponderous, weird, trite, brutal, prurient, or ugly. That makes Zaba one of two such albums on the planet worth listening to, the classic status of which now seems assured. (Yes, I'm taunting Lavorgna, here) [Ouch!, Ed. ;-)] This talented foursome assembled a recording that functions as one coooooool musical work, each track setting up the next and flowing effortlessly from one to another. When audiophiles party, this ought to be the soundtrack.

Available from 7digital

Rodrigo y Gabriela: Live in Japan (ATO Records, 2013)
These Mexican heavy metal guitarists took up acoustic instruments and found cultural roots and fame fusing flamenco with what they already knew. The result is puro fuego. Classic live recordings so often sound more situated and believable than their studio counterparts of the same music, and Live in Japan is of that ilk. Ever turned your preamp’s volume knob to thee o-clock? You’re about to.

Available from Bandcamp

John Basile Quartet: The Desmond Project (Chesky, 1997)
Chesky recordings universally excel at capturing the live acoustic of a large soundstage from the perspective of the audience rather than merely an array of microphones. The music in that catalog occasionally caters to, um, particular tastes, but nothing peculiar is to be found in TDP. This one nails the guitar jazz ensemble playing easy-going music with just enough swing to draw you in and hold you tight genre. Be prepared for this one to grow and grow on you.

Available from HDtracks

Johnny Adams: One Foot in the Blues (Rounder, 1996)
In typical New Orleans fashion, Adams has spent his career firmly committed to jazzsoulblues. His warm vocals in front of an unrestrained Hammond organ on top of HUGE bass grooves will get your booty swaying and show up any weakness in your woofers. Of Adams’ dozen or so releases, this one is the sonic standout. One Foot may not be among the most essential of blues records, but it certainly does entertain exactly as the blues are fashioned to do.

Available from HDtracks

Tori Amos: Under the Pink (Atlantic, 1994. Remastered 2015)
Under the Pink, what shall I call thee? Singer-songwriter? Check. Pop? Check. Album Rock? Check. Under is one smart and diverse album, lavishly written, arranged, and produced. Amos bares her soul through word and music in a way that draws you in with no effort on your part. The 20th anniversary remastering represents the best of mainstream—but not audiophile--production.

Available from HDtracks

Andrew Bird: Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of (Wegawam Music, 2014)
Have you ever listened to a song ten times in a row because of the lyrics? Things did that to me. The profound imagery in the lyrics to “My Sisters Tiny Hands” and “The Giant of Illinois” will leave you agog contemplating the mysteries of life and death. Bird really outdid himself reinventing Handsome Family songs in this album of pure Americana about death, despair, and drankin’. The immediate, vintage, tubey sound constitutes both cake and icing in this instant classic.

Available from Amoeba

Brad Potthoff listens to and can’t help but ruminate on a diversity of musical genres and periods at his residential desk during the workday where he plies his trade in academic publishing. An amateur in the true sense of the word, Brad grew up spinning all manner of records from the age of four that his much older siblings had cast off. Although he sourced his first post-collegiate stereo from a dumpster, a big pair of electrostatic speakers at an audio show in 1991 ruined him for life. An avid reader about all things musical and audio, Brad is a native Texan married with two children, one of whom begs him to buy a turntable to put those “twelve-inch musical discs” back into service. Until then, streaming and CDs alone must suffice.

Share your Lovely Recordings with us!

CarterB's picture

Streaming some of these on Tidal right now. Love Johnny Adams voice--Tidal doesn't have that record but has some others. The Reference recording first listed has higher res on acoustic sounds.

RubenV's picture

Thanks for sharing. The perfect opportunity for me to discover a lot of "new" well recorded music for me.

24bitbob's picture

Great list, diverse and interesting too. I've spent the last couple of days getting lost in Rodrigo y Gabriella's live performance (sat there, two rows back if you will). I'll check out the others too.
A great contribution, and much appreciated.

BradleyP's picture

I'm gratified that my suggestions are resonating with AudioStream readers. I'll tell you, I had a ton of fun and would be honored to do it again down the line if Mr. Lavorgna would like.

Here's the denouement. A family member read my comment about my son begging for a turntable, and the next day we got an e-mail saying we could have theirs! Now we have every manner of digit flowing and disc spinning on our stereos.