./..The Recordings... ../..

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The Recordings...

Introduction

There are many ways to present a selection of CDs.  In order not to be redundant with selections presented by others, I have chosen to feed this page with CDs based on two very precise criteria :
1- A musical content that I judge interesting.
2- At least one very high-level audiophile parameter, designed to compare reproduction systems understanding that the limiting factor would depend more on the system than on the CD.
Some of those recordings are out of production by now, but I have included them nevertheless, realizing that many of my friends and clients are able to find them in second hand stores or on the Internet. You will find a selection of CDs and LPs with limited comments.  Contrary to what partisans of each side may believe, both techniques lead to magical listening sessions, provided that the equipment used can unleash all the musicality contained in the media. It is possible that one of the two versions may be better, but I have stood away from this pitfall, because within each technique, pressing and remastering vary considerably. Unfortunately due to the high performance of the systems now available, we must compose with this variation in the quality of the sources.

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American Beauty

Few recent films have so genuinely depicted the everyday life of United States middle class. It does so with desperate tenderness but without any cynicism. Directed by Sam Mendes, the image is superb, and the string of talented actors highly contributes to the success of this original masterpiece.
As for the soundtrack, we must retain the first and last title of the album, two original creations of Thomas Newman. The atmosphere emerging from those two pieces is breathtaking. The recording, wide and full, is an excellent test for imaging, letting you hear successive sound layers unfold. It is also a good test for dynamics, transients and focalization.

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John Jenkins
Consort Music For Viols In Six Parts

Hespèrion - Jordi Savall
Astrée (Auvidis) E 8724 [CD]
Astrée (Naïve) "Musica Britannica" ES 9962 [CD].

John Jenkins, English composer (1592-1678), played the lute and was a virtuoso upon the lyra viol.  Jordi Savall is here surrounded with highly talented musicians. The recording was set in a natural acoustic.
This record contains an element now too rare in many recordings of ancient string instruments: wood…
With regards to the soundstage imaging, it could be better, but the harmonic richness of the violas (this famous wood sound), is such that many other recordings have a «plastic» sound by comparison. This harmonic palette covers a wide but homogeneous sound spectrum, all instruments being from the same era.

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Marc Ribot Y Los Cubanos Postizos
The Prosthetic Cubans

The New-Yorker guitarist Marc Ribot, who played with Elvis Costello and Tom Waits, recorded here a Cuban jazz-rock album with a «garage» sound, in the good sense of the term. Direct, immediate, visceral, which reminds me of the best amateur recordings made with small and affordable Tascam recorders. The highlights here are presence, rhythm and drive, and also the feeling of being part of the band, because the recording respects many fundamental aspects of the phase.

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Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

Anything more notorious than this album…would be difficult.
Miles trumpet seems to be an extension of him. Never the expression «to make one with the instrument» could be better applied. A revealing moment of his simple but direct inspiration.
A particular highlight of this album are the attacks of Miles’ trumpet, which has a distinctive signature; listen to it on «So What»; you will soon learn to differentiate Miles’ attacks and sustains from Winton Marsalis’s or Chet Baker’s. Try this test, listen to Winton’s album «The Majesty of the Blues», my favorite one, where I feel he has his own sound or Chet Baker’s «The Last Great Concert’: My Favorite Songs, Volume 1& 2 (live). You will understand.
There are more than seventy (70) versions of Kind of Blue. The choice can be tricky. Personally, regardless of other flaws, I prefer the original version on the Columbia label. Miles has such a presence on this pressing. And the attacks of the trumpet are in my opinion the most realistic. I have listened to many «audiophile» versions where this realism was just absent.

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Nemesis - Nemesis

Comfortably seated on the couch. No, better yet, floating well above the couch, we are immersed in «Congo» the fifth piece of Nemesis. If like us you have a taste for percussions, for vibraphones and loads of music layers, you will, just like fall under the spell of this Ensemble, whose style is influenced by the South American congas as well as the Indonesian gamelan structure. René Laflamme and Jean de La Durantaye each have their own recording style, but both share the same quest and their joint effort conveys to this album a warm and precise sound, offering an array of textures and a rich harmonic landscape. Day after day our experiences confirm that stereo is still the reproduction mode which is the closest to the audition physiology (specially in the binaural mode, but this is another story…). But for those who would like to experiment with 5.1 surround sound, this record also has a multichannel SACD layer that will enable one to get a charming taste of this different approach. It is not so frequent to experiment a 5.1 recording captured by five tube microphones and engineered by true stereo passionated...


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Tom Waits - Foreign Affairs

Recorded «live» with orchestra, on a two track cassette, in 1997, this soft, gloomy blues/jazz album filled with sublte melodies represents a milestone in the life of Tom Waits. Its a departure form his crooner country style to his revealing «Blue Valentine» style. For us the most interesting aspect of this album is the presence and realism of the recording. Tom's voice. Realism sure to give you goose bumps.


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