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.
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.
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.