• A Little Music For Your Listening Pleasure

    I've been on a magnificent music buying binge lately. The recent high resolution additions to the HDtracks online catalog have depleted my bank account enough to make my financial planner call for a time out. Apart from HDtracks I've downloaded more music from Linn Records and tried out a new (to me) download site from Hyperion Records. Since we are still in the downloading dark ages in terms of lossless quality music I picked up most of my music from local independent music stores Down In the Valley, The Electric Fetus, and Cheapo.


     

    Have you ever purchased a couple albums that you couldn't stop talking about? Everything is fine and dandy when the recipients of your enthusiastic utterance are familiar with the artists. Unfortunately most of my non-industry friends look at me like an alien when I mention most of my new found musical treasures. Seeking a more receptive audience and to quench my desire to increase other's musical enjoyment I decided to publish a little article. Nothing beats an introduction to new music or a better sounding version of an existing classic. I won't bore all the CA readers with a long list of albums I've recently added to my collection. I will share the highlights that many readers may enjoy.



    I'll start with some albums and news that many readers have been buzzing about for a little while. HDtracks recently welcomed the Verve Music Group to its online catalog. Artists including Billie Holiday, Diana Krall, and John Coltrane now have albums available in 24-bit / 96 kHz high resolution. I was pleased to read information about the tape transfer process on the HDtracks site. Unfortunately many of us are very skeptical about high resolution music and the possibility it originated from a low resolution source. Fortunately this isn't the case with HDtracks Verve releases.



    "Transfer of these Verve 96K masters has been done using a combination of the best new and vintage equipment available. The carefully chosen original analog masters were played back on vintage Studer 820 tape machines. These machines provide the most stable transport for handling these priceless analog tapes. The analog masters were converted to the digital domain using classic DCS 972 and Lavry analog to digital converters, recorded directly onto a SoundBlade Workstation with minimal processing, in order to allow the music to be formatted for digital distribution. The shortest signal path and highest quality cabling was used to prevent any signal loss, or additional noise to be introduced into the transfer. The entire digital process was driven with the Antelope Audio Atomic Clock, the industry leader in digital clocking technology. It enables the entire digital process to reference the same highly regulated clock master, preventing any loss in the digital signal due to jitter and clock degradation."



    Other very notable high resolution releases available on HDtracks include those from the Concord Music Group family of labels. Hear Music's John Mellencamp, Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan from Stax Records, Miles Davis from Fantasy Records, and Sonny Rollins from Prestige Records.



    Needless to say I've downloaded almost everything from these labels in the last few weeks and all the albums are in true 24/96 high resolution.


     

    Click to visit HDtracks product page.

    jc-lovebilliesrvjc-lushmellencamprollinsmileshh



     


    Cowboy Junkies


    Thanks to some dedicated Computer Audiophile readers / Cowboy Junkie fans I read about the Junkies offering several music downloads via their website. It appears there a few major initiatives happening on the Junkies' site. The first is called the Nomad Series Volume 1-4. Volume 1 Renmin Park is available now as a FLAC download with numerous extras such as lyrics and notes in individual documents. I purchase Renmin Park as soon as I read about it in the forum. If you like the Cowboy Junkies this album is a sure thing. Readers not familiar with the Junkies should visit the site where almost every Junkies' track is available to preview. In addition to the Nomad series and its download availability the Junkies have releases every studio album and have announced future unreleased material available for download. The material available currently is only MP3, with the exception of the Nomad series. Hopefully this improves with some prodding by CA readers. Another initiative taking place on the Junkies' website is the Clubhouse Subscription. Details below.



    Cowboy Junkies - Catalog Link
    Clubhouse Subscription - Link

    About the Clubhouse Subscription: "By paying a onetime fee (US$150) and subscribing to the site you will be able to download all of the music that is currently available for download on cowboyjunkies.com and all of the music that we will be making available on the site between now and December 31, 2011. This will include all four volumes of The Nomad Series. There is currently over 300 Cowboy Junkies recordings available for download on cowboyjunkies.com, over 200 of those recordings you cannot, legally, find anywhere else. With your subscription you will also be guaranteed a copy of the limited edition hard cover book that we will be producing about the Nomad Series (which will retail for around $100 by itself). The book will include all four CDs in The Nomad Series. We plan to have The Nomad Series book available and in your hands in the Fall of 2011, or early in 2012. Your subscription not only covers the cost of the book, but also any handling and shipping charges to anywhere in the world.Before purchasing the subscription please click on the “What You Get” link to make sure that you are clear about what you are buying.


    The Clubhouse Subscription puts a lot of rare and interesting music into your hands and gives you the freedom to access it whenever you choose and it allows us to invest the time, energy and inspiration into works that we feel will, in turn, inspire you. A good investment all around."




     

    Petteri Iivonen - Petteri Iivonen: Art of the Violin


    Soon after bringing my iPad home I started downloading book using the iBook application and the Amazon Kindle app. I purchased a book called The Violin Maker by John Marchese. In the book he talks quite a bit about Bach's Partita No. 2. I couldn't resist finding a high resolution version so I could relate to Marchese's fondness for the classical piece. Petteri Iivonen: Art of the Violin is available in Studio Master quality 24-bit / 88.2 kHz from the Linn Records site.



    About the album: "We recorded this album in Alfred Newman Hall at the University of Southern California, where Hagai Shaham serves on the music faculty, and where Petteri came to study. Newman Hall exemplifies the warm and yet transparent and lively sound of the concerts halls that I favor for recordings, and its acoustics adjust easily to provide different lengths of decay. We chose a legendary Austrian AKG C-24 stereo microphone with the original brass surround CK12 tube, made available to us by Gearworks Pro Audio. We used five-feet long Yarlung-Records-designed interconnects with a flat silver ribbon suspended in air for the dielectric, customized vacuum tube preamplifiers and no mixer. The signal path was as short as we could make it, with as few electronics between performer and final product as we could manage. We always try to record this way, but I feel Petteri's sound lends itself especially well to this sort of minimalist recording technique. I would like to thank our friends Jon Fisher of Gearworks Pro Audio for our beautiful microphone, and Joseph Rauen and Michelle Maestas, our valiant stage crew in Newman Hall, whose USC hospitality and boundless enthusiasm contributed greatly to our recording. We hope you enjoy the results. Bob Attiyeh, producer"



     
    Stephen Hough (piano) - Chopin Late Masterpieces


    Thanks to another CA reader who introduced me to the Hyperion Records site I downloaded another very good album. Fans of Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) should give Late Masterpieces by Stephen Hough (piano) a listen. The download is 16-bit / 44.1 kHz FLAC.



    Liner Notes - Link

     

     





    Marcus Miller - Silver Rain

    At CES 2010 I was listening to a complete audio system in manufacturer's suite the night before the show officially opened. The lead engineer put on Marcus Miller's Silver Rain. About 10 - 20 seconds into the first track the amplifiers instantly shutdown into protection mode. This album has some serious bass guitar that's not only deep and authoritative, it's incredibly articulate on a great audio system. I like the sound but I also like Miller's music. This album is a win-win for me. By the way, the issue causing the amp shut down was actually a bad preamp. As soon as it was replaced everything rocked.



     

     

    Physical Media

    Now for some physical media. None of the next four albums are available in lossless format for download so I purchased them at local record stores or ordered directly from the artist. I'm happy I have the hard copy of a couple of the albums because the artwork, information, and packaging quality is very nice.


     
    Natalie Merchant - Leave Your Sleep, 2 Disc Deluxe Edition


    This album packaging is worth the price of admission by itself. The included 80 page booklet is wonderful as is the music. Visit Natalie's website for great videos and music samples from the album. Album Site Link. In addition, Natalie enlisted famed photographer Mark Seliger to shoot her for the new album images. Readers with large monitors will like this photo. It's the background image from Natalie's site at 1920 x 1091 resolution. It's a wonderful photo. Here's the Link



     







    Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh


    I've been familiar with Erykah Badu for a while but hadn't purchased any of her albums until now. I was so impressed by her video for the track Window Seat that I had to pick up the whole album. As it turns out I'm glad I did get the album. Erykah has a great voice and great music. Readers unfamiliar with the controversial video for Window Seat may be surprised at its content. The video was shot in one take at Dealy Plazza in Dallas. The site of JFK's assassination. Erykah really does strip off all her clothes in public in front of a some shocked and some oblivious people. The video is quite a statement.



     








     

     

    Shelby Lynne - Tears, Lies, And Alibis


    Shelby Lynne's newest release is pretty laid back and complete with tracks 100% written by Shelby. I like every track on the album. Plus the album was mixed by Al Schmitt at Capitol Studios in Hollywood and mastered by Doug Sax & Sonny Nam at the Mastering Lab in Ojai, California. Like Shelby Lynne's previous album Just A Little Lovin' this release was recorded to analog tape.



     

     

     








    David Byrne & Fatboy Slim - Here Lies Love (2 Discs)


    Perhaps the most ecletic release of the year and most interesting album I've purchased in a long time is the new David Byrne and Fatboy Slim album Here Lies Love. The album tells a story through songs about the rise and fall of the Philippines' Imelda Marcos. At first I was uninterested in the storyline, but after reading about the contributing artists I was sold. Appearing on the album are Florence Welch (Florence & The Machine), Tori Amos, Steve Earle, Cyndi Lauper, Sia, Santi White (Santigold), and Natalie Merchant to name a few artists.




     


     
    Comments 46 Comments
    1. Mahesh's Avatar
      Mahesh -
      I wish HDTracks would sell music to non-US residents... *sigh*<br />
      <br />
      Mahesh
    1. firedog's Avatar
      firedog -
      Mahesh-<br />
      <br />
      They don't actually check where you come from. <br />
      <br />
      I put the US address of a relative in the form and my CC info and downloaded no problem.
    1. Mahesh's Avatar
      Mahesh -
      Thanks firedog,<br />
      <br />
      I will give it a try!<br />
      <br />
      Mahesh :-)
    1. villager56's Avatar
      villager56 -
      Hi Chris,<br />
      Thanks for sharing your list. I've had some good luck with HDTracks, too. My favorite at this stage is Jen Chapin's reVisions: Songs of Stevie Wonder.<br />
      <br />
      I've also had some good luck with downloads from Linn, particularly Claire Martin's Too Darn Hot!<br />
      <br />
      Your opening paragraph mentioned Linn, but you didn't include comments on what you downloaded from them and what you thought of it. When you get a chance...<br />
      <br />
      Thanks!
    1. ronfint's Avatar
      ronfint -
      Considering the interest in my JazzFest report, perhaps no one cares for this kind of music, but there are some great flac downloads of current and past JazzFest performances which can be bought and downloaded at <br />
      https://www.munckmusic.com/wms/jazzfest/index.html<br />
      <br />
      Ron
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      The Linn download is by Petteri the violinist. <br />
      <br />
      Ron - Jazz is my favorite genre. Thanks for the report and the link here :~)
    1. ericuco's Avatar
      ericuco -
      Chris - thanks for this article. I have been in the same mode over the past several months, buying 1 or 2 albums each week, whatever my budget allows plus a little extra. Also have the same issue with friends looking at you as if you had two heads when going about your new music finds.<br />
      <br />
      Most of my purchases have been from HDTracks as well as the Cowboy Junkies site and a one from the Boston Symphony site. As you mentioned, the Junkies album (Renmin Park) is really something else. I didn't realize this was part of a series and can't wait for the other albums to be released.<br />
      <br />
      One site you did not mention is the B&W Society of Sound (http://blog.bowers-wilkins.com/) which is subscription based. The most notable hi-rez albums to come out recently are Peter Gabriel's Scratch Your Back album and compilation from the London Symphony Orchestra.<br />
      <br />
      Also, thanks for clear up issue for me. I wasn't sure what to call downloaded music but I guess the term is album which is what I have come to conclude as well. CD's didn't seem right so albums it is.<br />
      <br />
      This whole downloading music thing is one of the things I really enjoy about computer-based music systems. Decide you want to purchase new music, just jump on the computer, find what you want and an hour or so later (depending on format) you are listening to it.<br />
      <br />
      Thanks again for the article. Very timely.
    1. Mahesh's Avatar
      Mahesh -
      Somehow, I've managed to not discover Shelby Lynne... I've been listening to her two previous albums on Spotify today during work, and I really like what I hear. Thanks for the tip!<br />
      <br />
      Mahesh
    1. Erwin S's Avatar
      Erwin S -
      Chris, Erykah Badu is über-cool!<br />
      We saw her in 2008 here @ "Gent Jazz". Chillin' concert!<br />
      Enjoy...
    1. Mike in MD's Avatar
      Mike in MD -
      I have been really amazed by the music on<br />
      <br />
      Entre Amigos (Ron Carter and Rosa Passos)<br />
      <br />
      Xiomara (Xiomara Laugart)<br />
      <br />
      both from HDtracks at 24/96<br />
      <br />
      Although I wish the Chesky brothers were a little more responsive. <br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. wgscott's Avatar
      wgscott -
      Thanks for posting. Looks like the David Byrne CD on amazon is less expensive than the iTunes lossy download. I will definitely buy this on CD.
    1. BobH's Avatar
      BobH -
      Particularly for the heads-up on the 'Junkies' site - now <em>that</em> is the way to do it!
    1. sturgl's Avatar
      sturgl -
      Great stuff. Also from HDT:<br />
      Keith Jarrett's Paris/London: Testament - if you liked Carnegie Hall, you'll love this in 24/96. I love this album through headphones. I'd happily pit the caliber of piano recording on this album against anything I've heard. My wife is an accomplished pianist, and I am an unaccomplished one: I've a pretty good idea of how this instrument should sound.<br />
      <br />
      +1 for reVisions. The sparse arrangements of Stevie Wonder's stuff is lots of fun. Just sax + bass + (female) voice.<br />
      <br />
      Check out John Abercrombie's 3 Guitars in 24/96. Sublime.<br />
      <br />
      Society of Sound (24/48):<br />
      Charlie Winston's Passport. I'm loving this music. Fun, eclectic, sometimes ingenious stuff. He deserves to be better known than he is.<br />
      <br />
      Peter Gabriel's Scratch My Back. This is kinda neat in that it re-hashes old PG stuff with an orchestra. No drums. Can be pretty melancholy. If you liked Peter Gabriel back in the day, this is definitely worth a listen. If not, maybe not.<br />
      <br />
      LSO - I haven't listened to the London Symphony much, and am mostly a jazz guy to begin with. This is a great classical primer featuring one of the world's great orchestras playing some well-known works recorded for fantastic sound. HUGE dynamic swings makes the compilation all the more exciting imho.<br />
      <br />
      Dub Colossus - if you like world/reggae - wow.<br />
    1. dummy's Avatar
      dummy -
      Hey Chris,<br />
      <br />
      I bought both Natalie Merchant and Erykah Badu last week so It's fun to see we have some similar taste. Usually when I read audio mags It's always music that don't interest me much. Also, my all time favorite speaker would be Fidelio's big brother, the Parsifal. It doesn't mean much but It gives me a positive bias towards what you have to say. <br />
      <br />
      And your music room is one of the nicest I saw from a design perspective, or lack thereof. It's very simple and clean (tidy!) yet soothing and quiet with the pale blue and the touch of red on the wall. I like It very much. Not sure If It's because It's a guy thing (audio) but most rooms I see are completely left alone, with cables everywhere and no sense of tranquility whatsoever or a complete design nightmare, especially the thematic home theater rooms. <br />
      <br />
      Anyway, all this to say If you like Miss Badu, I strongly suggest you get her second album "Mama's Gun". A truly exceptionnal album! Her latest is quite good but no contest for Mama's Gun.<br />
      <br />
      Happy listening!<br />
      <br />
    1. ted_b's Avatar
      ted_b -
      As you know I moderate a Hirez Music forum elsewhere and we've been collecting download sites, sources and any "faux" hirez issues out there (like Rhino calling their 16/44 files "high definition"). It's not my place to push it here; simplu to say that there are quite a few of us in this boat. <br />
      <br />
      A one site I love for the content AND quality (and hasn't been mentioned yet here)is the NAIM label (they have quite a few native 24 bit downloads, my favorite so far being great jazz acoustic bass legend Charlie Haden's "Heartplay" collaboration with classical/jazz guitarist Antonio Forcione).<br />
      <br />
      By the way, PG's Scratch My Back is as far from a re-hash of his old stuff as can be. If you checked it out you'd know it has NO Peter Gabriel material..it is all covers (with artists he's then asking to cover him in reciprocation...hence the project title Scratch My Back). Some of the cover choices are quite unusual (not exactly classic rock or pop) and the sound styling will either grow on you or it won't. I love all that is PG so I've given it more time than most artisits......it's recording quality is hard to dabte though, quite good.
    1. sturgl's Avatar
      sturgl -
      Fuck I hate being wrong. Especially publicly. I think I sounded a little insulting re: Peter Gabriel's <i>Scratch My Back</i>. I listed it because I think it's great, certainly not otherwise. I don't know that non-Peter Gabriel fans would get alot of enjoyment out of it - but I sure do. ...and no, it's certainly not a re-hash. I "own" the album in 24/48 flac, care of my Society of Sound membership, and enjoy it very much. Is it original material? Well, the orchestral arrangements must be. You are of course correct Ted: it is not an album of PG's music it all - it is an album of covers, albeit an unusual one, lovingly done. I, wrongly, downloaded the album as soon as I was informed of its release on SoS, listened to it (a lot), heard a lot that I recognized as PG's character "sound" and assumed that it was his stuff. Like an idiot, I failed to check my facts before I posted. Man, I'd swear that "Heroes" was his! So now that I've gone and made an ass of myself...<br />
      <br />
      I love, love Charlie Haden - particularly CH's Liberation Music Orchestra. Ted, I'll definitely be checking out NAIM's offerings - and the hirez forum you moderate! Thanks for correcting me, and for the post. Apologies to all re: my misleading post about <i>Scratch My Back</i>.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Ted - Thanks for the recommendation of the NAIM Label. I can feel my wallet getting thinner :~)
    1. ghook2020's Avatar
      ghook2020 -
      Great article Chris! Nice to see your taste in music is so eclectic!<br />
      <br />
      Thanks for mentioning the local music stores in our Twin Cities. I know we are heading full steam into the digital download age, but I still love passing a rainy afternoon hunting through the racks of vinyl at Fetus, Cheapo, Valley, Roadrunner, etc. We are very fortunate to have so many quality music stores here and I, like you, am doing my best to help keep them in business!<br />
      <br />
      Despite the hit to your finances, I do hope your buying binges will become a regular feature here!<br />
      <br />
      Hook
    1. davidovada's Avatar
      davidovada -
      You got me excited with this information. Alas, it didn't work. If the CC has a billing address outside the U.S. it's still no go.
    1. Mahesh's Avatar
      Mahesh -
      @davidovada<br />
      <br />
      So, the big question is: Can a non-US resident (legally) get a credit card with a US billing address?<br />
      <br />
      Mahesh