Jump to content




Nicky Hopkins (1944-1994) was one of the best keyboard artists of the classic rock era.   He passed at only 50 years of age, much too early.  He worked with the Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Who and many other groups.   Listen to Sympathy for the Devil on the Beggars Banquet album and you will know what I mean.   Maybe the best rock piano track ever.   Thanks Nick.




The Songs Remain the Same (Only Better)

The Songs Remain the Same Only Better (previously published at blog.talkofthemountain.com)   Over the last couple of years I converted my compact disc collection to digital files. This allows me to enjoy the music in whatever venue I happen to occupy: car, living room, basement lair (aka the "country bunker"), MARC commuter train, interplanetary shuttle or molecular transport. No need to lug the discs and player with me and through the magic of miniaturization I simply plug a AudioQuest Dragonfly Red DAC (digital-analog converter) into the lightning connector on an iPad. Said iPad reads the files from a terabyte-sized storage device and to the headphones via the DAC which happens to include a headphone amp.

Apple has presented a bit of a hurdle in connecting high capacity storage to their portable devices. You cannot just plug something in. In this case a tiny RAVPower FileHub connected to a 1TB external storage device is wirelessly sending files via a built-in wi-fi. Does one terabyte seem like overkill? Au contraire, so far my music collection consumes over 250GB. To date this does not include video but someday ...

Once down the path of hosting a file-based music collection, purely digital distribution attracted my oft fleeting attention. These days my favorite purveyor is HDTracks who has become one of if not the largest seller of digital music files. My travel system is optimized for 24 bit/96kHz and the remastered version of the Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club" album presents an incredibly clear sound at this bit depth and resolution. At this point let me say that not all recordings will present in an improved fashion in uncompressed format(s). Something that was heavily manipulated, compressed during recording, mixing or mastering, or otherwise adulterated may not offer a perceptible sonic improvement at 24 bit/96kHz (or for that matter anything over the lowly CD's 16 bit/44.1kHz) and occasionally one may even prefer the MP3 rip. YMMV but modern recordings and remasters from quality source material including HDTracks cofounder David Chesky's Binaural+ Series do quite well in the upper stratosphere of lossless file containment.

Of course after I had "ripped" all the discs to digital files using MP3 encoding, the benefits of a lossless format became obvious as my audio playback chain improved. Nothing wrong with MP3 when listening in a noisy environment but with KEF headphones running through the Dragonfly, baby wants, even needs lossless compression. So a second pass was made of digitizing the CDs using the dBPoweramp CD Ripper and saving to the Apple ALAC file format. In the no-good-deed-goes-unpunished department, I now wish I had used the open-source FLAC format but hey, who's to say I won't re-re-rip all those discs?

Chip Gallo

Chip Gallo



Relf was 33 when he died from electrocution, in the basement of his home, while playing his improperly earthed (electrically grounded) guitar. Relf had dealt with several health issues throughout his life, including emphysema and asthma, which may have contributed to his inability to survive the electric shock.   If you have ever heard the Yardbirds version of (H. Wolf's) "Smokestack Lightning" Kieth did the harmonica solo.  Maybe the best harmonic solo ever.     Thanks Mr. Rief    




Good reading material

People have asked how I go about sorting out systems - and find my answers very unsatisfactory. Well, I have come across a book which very nicely addresses some of the key areas where I find a lot of the issues arise - and gives a lot of suggestions of very, Gasp!!, technical gear that can be used to chase these things down. It's a very practical book, minimum high falutin', equations for equations sake guff - what I find especially endearing is that there are a lot of cheap and cheerful tricks and tips offered; these are what I would instinctively go for  ...   The book? https://www.amazon.com/Troubleshooting-Cookbook-Product-Designers-Electromagnetics/dp/1613530196




Eamonn Flynn / Special Event 45 - Yeah You Right / Blue Coast Records

Links to listen and purchase: https://bluecoastmusic.com/eamonn-flynn/special-event-45-yeah-you-right   Album Title:  Special Event 45 - Yeah You Right Artist:  Eamonn Flynn Label:  Blue Coast Records Provenance: Recorded in DSD256 and mixed on analog console to DSD256   This post: “okay... the big question... who out there is ready to record live and in the studio direct to DSD? No fixes, no overdubs, no headphones... JUST LIVE” popped up in my Facebook feed. It was posted by Cookie Marenco an audio engineer who owns a studio and record label in Belmont, California just south of San Francisco. I’d recorded with Cookie before, producing and playing keyboards on two albums at her studio and I remembered her working some deep, warm sounding audio magic behind the desk. I knew she was fanatical about capturing great sound and great performances. I knew it was always a great and hilarious hang with her and Patrick her main engineer. I remembered the view from the hills of Belmont looking over Silicon Valley from behind her studio and one time seeing a family of deers come up to check out the music or more likely eat some of her plants. Within two minutes I had responded: ”I nominate ... ME”. Two days later I was situated behind her Steinway grand piano getting ready to lay down eight of my new songs, one after the other, recording direct to DSD. I have always been a session and touring piano and keyboard player, supporting other people’s music. But a year ago I finally stepped out in front and recorded an album of my own songs and put a band together to play them live. The album was called ‘The Irish Channel’ and it was an amalgamation of my years playing both American and Irish music. People seemed to respond to it very well and I was having a ball in my new role as a ‘frontman’ so I’d written a new bunch of songs for a follow up album. I sat up the night before the session furiously finishing those last few elusive lyrics.   https://bluecoastmusic.com/eamonn-flynn/special-event-45-yeah-you-right

Now Playing...

So...I see 20th Anniversary Edition; and I'm like "no way, is I Should Coco...20 years old"! 😲   It's not; the 20th Anniversary Edition...came out 3 years ago, lol.  




The Driftless / Long For The Dory / The Driftless

Links to listen and purchase: https://bluecoastmusic.com/the-driftless/long-for-the-dory   Album Title:  Long For The Dory  Artist:  The Driftless Label:  The Driftless Provenance: Recorded to 2" analog tape and mixed through analog console to DSD64.   Beautiful folk americana songs. Abundant in well thought out lyrics layed over spacey melodic grooves. The Driftless returns with a well put together album.   https://bluecoastmusic.com/the-driftless/long-for-the-dory

Jenna Mammina & John R. Burr / Special Event 10 / Blue Coast Records

Links to listen and purchase: https://bluecoastmusic.com/jenna-mammina-john-r-burr/special-event-10   Album Title:  Special Event 10  Artist:  Jenna Mammina & John R. Burr Label:  Blue Coast Records     Jenna Mammina and John R. Burr came to Blue Coast Studios to perform duets for Blue Coast Special Event 10. Delicate and bright, Jenna's voice is contrasted by John's skillful piano accompaniment. The fullness and depth of these recordings will captivate any listener. Blue Coast Special Event 10 was recorded with no headphones, overdubs or edits. The only thing you will hear is the pure talent and chemistry of Jenna and John.   https://bluecoastmusic.com/jenna-mammina-john-r-burr/special-event-10

San Francisco Symphony / Mahler Symphony No. 6 / SFS Media

Links to listen and purchase: https://bluecoastmusic.com/san-francisco-symphony/mahler-symphony-no-6   Album Title:  Mahler Symphony No. 6 Artist:  San Francisco Symphony Label:  SFS Media Provenance:  Originally Recorded in DSD 2.8MHz.   Mahler Symphony No. 6 in A Minor Composers before Mahler had been great and expressive communicators, but no one is less guarded than he in his emotions and in the intensity of what he asks us to experience with him. His Sixth Symphony is a work of enormous exploration, of testing musical limits. Here Mahler has pushed his technical abilities as a composer and his perceptual boundaries as a human being. His first audiences were shocked and frightened by this new kind of soul-baring music. He himself was so unnerved by what he had done in his Sixth that he was in tears at the first rehearsals. The Sixth looks unflinchingly at the obsessive, destructive nature of man, the unremitting capacity of humankind to hurt itself. In its final pages, it regards destiny and realizes there will be no mercy. But there is more than despair in these pages. There is utter honesty, humor, tenderness, and, in the third movement, homage to the power of love. Mahler said that a symphony should mirror life. His entire symphonic output is a testament to that belief, and nowhere did he realize this credo so powerfully as in his Sixth Symphony. In listening to the frenzy and sorrow of this music, it is difficult to grasp how someone experiencing these feelings could write them down. Mahler himself doubted that he could compose this and maintain his sanity. But the Sixth is an extraordinary example of his desire to communicate, his need to tell others that they were not alone in experiencing the existential terror that has so sadly become a part of modern life. The need to communicate was, ultimately, what brought him through the process of composition, and what enabled him to write this Herculean piece. It is his faith and commitment to the comforting and transforming power of music that has inspired us in giving this performance and that we hope will be felt by our listeners. —Michael Tilson Thomas, from liner notes   https://bluecoastmusic.com/san-francisco-symphony/mahler-symphony-no-6

Joshua Lowe & the Juncos / At the Feet of Old Bristlecone / Joshua Lowe

Links to listen and purchase: https://bluecoastmusic.com/joshua-lowe-the-juncos/at-the-feet-of-old-bristlecone   Album Title:  At the Feet of Old Bristlecone Artist:  Joshua Lowe & the Juncos Label:  Joshua Lowe Provenance:  Recorded to 2" analog tape and mixed through analog console to DSD64.   The Juncos is a tight knit trio of acoustic charged roots music. Americana in the truest sense, The Juncos mix together a slew of styles ranging from folk, alt-country, jugband, bluegrass, and old-timey. Their live performances are high energy acoustic explosions of screaming violin solos, three part harmonies, and foot stomping fun. Joshua Lowe (lead singer and songwriter) writes songs with one foot in the American roots past with songs about down and out drunkards, sick of love ramblers, and snow bound ghosts.   This session was recorded live in the studio directly to 2" analog tape without the use of headphones (except for a few overdubs). This style of recording lends itself to a more musical interaction and results in emotionally charged performances combined with superb sonics. Dynamic Mastering is a proprietary mastering technique developed by Cookie Marenco and was used for this project. It uses no compression to create the CD master. The listener may want to TURN UP THE VOLUME to enjoy this record and to hear the full dynamic range without distortion.   https://bluecoastmusic.com/joshua-lowe-the-juncos/at-the-feet-of-old-bristlecone  

Julian Müller / Special Event 32 / Blue Coast Records

Links to listen and purchase: https://bluecoastmusic.com/julian-muller/special-event-32   Album Title:  Special Event 32 Artist:  Julian Müller Label:  Blue Coast Records Provenance:  Recorded in DSD64 and mixed through analog console to DSD128   You all need to experience Julian Müller, one of Blue Coast’s newest singer songwriter finds! Think of him as a ‘male Norah Jones’ (If you liked Quiles and Cloud, you'll love Julian Müller, in fact some may remember him singing backups for them). We call this style of music "Acoustipop" -- intimate and contemporary, performed live without overdubs. Check out ‘Little Bird’ and have a handkerchief close by to wipe your tears. These songs will remind you of love lost and love found.   This kind of recording reveals total musicianship. It was recorded in E.S.E. (Extended Sound Environment) and accompanied by Maria Quiles and Rory Cloud.   https://bluecoastmusic.com/julian-muller/special-event-32

Christian McBride / Out Here / Mack Avenue

Links to listen and purchase: https://bluecoastmusic.com/christian-mcbride/out-here   Album Title:  Out Here Artist:  Christian McBride Label:  Mack Avenue Provenance:  Recorded and Mixed to 96kHz, 24-bit WAV PCM.   When he hit the jazz scene like a comet at age 17, McBride’s huge, woodsy sound and precocious agility invited comparisons to the legendary bassist Ray Brown. The late jazz bassist was not only renowned for performing on classic jazz dates with modern greats from the 1940s onward, but also for his central role in trios led by Oscar Peterson as well as his own stellar trio ensembles afterward. Once McBride recorded with Brown as a member of the early ’90s group Superbass, the association was bound to stick. He loved Brown as a mentor and father figure, but avoided leading a trio because of the inevitable comparisons.   Helming a trio was the furthest thing from McBride’s mind—until an Inside Straight appearance in 2009 became a trio date due of the absence of saxophonist Steve Wilson and vibraphonist Warren Wolf. But instead of calling for replacements for two members of Inside Straight, he opted for expedience and played the gig with pianist Peter Martin and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr.   Out Here is McBride’s 11th recording as a leader. Since the early 1990s he has recorded on over 300 dates as a sideman. Aside from relatively recent travels with Pat Metheny; Chick Corea, Roy Haynes, John McLaughlin and Kenny Garrett; the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour – 55th Anniversary; and residencies and artistic leadership roles with organizations ranging from New York’s 92nd St. Y and Jazz House Kids to NJPAC, McBride has toured consistently for several years with his own quintet, Inside Straight. He also fronts the Christian McBride Big Band, whose Mack Avenue recording, The Good Feeling, won the GRAMMY® Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album in 2012—his third GRAMMY win overall.   https://bluecoastmusic.com/christian-mcbride/out-here

San Francisco Symphony / Masterpieces in Miniature / SFS Media

Links to listen and purchase: https://bluecoastmusic.com/san-francisco-symphony/masterpieces-in-miniature   Album Title:  Masterpieces in Miniature  Artist:  San Francisco Symphony Label:  SFS Media Provenance:  Recorded and Mixed to 192kHz, 24-bit WAV PCM, except for Trk.6 The Alcotts from A Concord Symphony, recorded to 96kHz, 24-bit WAV PCM.   My earliest musical memories go back to my parents’ home. They lived in a small ranch-style house surrounded by orange groves and cactus in the then very rural San Fernando Valley. Music was an important part of their lives, and they had a collection of 78RPM records that embraced Bach, Brahms, Britten, Broadway, Villa-Lobos, Sibelius, and Stravinsky.   They both played piano. We had a vintage Steinway upright with a rosewood case. My mother played carefully, following the notes in her volumes of Mozart and Grieg. My father, who barely read music, could play anything by ear. All he had to do was hear something once and he’d do a pretty reasonable rendition of it, with occasional outtakes to his basic Yiddish Tin Pan Alley style.   One musical source my parents had in common was a big red book that lived on the piano. It was a collection of short pieces called something like Music the Whole World Loves to Play. The book contained pieces like Grieg’s The Last Spring, Cui’s Orientale, Schumann’s Happy Farmer, Liszt’s Liebestraum, Sibelius’s Valse triste, and Beethoven’s Für Elise. I had my own little book called something like Miniatures of the Masters. The wonderful tunes in these books were often being played by one or another of us as people were cooking, reading, or just being at home.   As my musical education continued, I began to encounter these pieces, and many others like them, played as encores by the great musicians whose recitals my parents and I attended. These pieces made unforgettable impressions when played by masters like Heifetz, Piatigorsky, Rubinstein, or Arrau. It was electrifying to hear and see Rubinstein play Falla’s Fire Dance, his hands flying up from the keyboard, or Heifetz playing Sinding’s Suite so rapidly that his bow became a blur.   But perhaps even more memorable were the quiet and tender pieces they played, like Debussy’s Rêverie. These pieces were haunting, unforgettable. They seemed to explore the realms of vanished emotions, like wistfulness. They seemed like elusive and charming recollections of long ago. Under the hands of the masters, they possessed a profound simplicity.   Later I had the opportunity to discover just how seriously artists like Rubinstein and Heifetz regarded the playing of these pieces. In a master class they could devote as much time to them as to a whole movement of a famous sonata. They were aware of every gesture, every color, every little hesitation—and of finding a way to make this all seem spontaneous. I drank it in.   https://bluecoastmusic.com/san-francisco-symphony/masterpieces-in-miniature

Suzie Daines / Like A Hummingbird Flies / Suzie Daines

Links to listen and purchase: https://bluecoastmusic.com/suzie-daines/hummingbird   Album Title:  Like A Hummingbird Flies Artist:  Suzie Daines  Label:  Suzie Daines Provenance:  Recorded in DSD256 and mixed through analog console to DSD256   Special Mother's Day single release by Suzie Daines.   https://bluecoastmusic.com/suzie-daines/hummingbird

San Francisco Symphony / Beethoven Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph II | Symphony No. 2 / SFS Media

Links to listen and purchase:
Album Title: Beethoven Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph II | Symphony No. 2
Artist: San Francisco Symphony
Label: SFS Media
Provenance: Recorded and Mixed to 96kHz, 24-bit WAV PCM.   On February 20, 1790, Austria was shaken by the death of its leader, Joseph II, who had been Holy Roman Emperor from 1765-90 and ruled the Hapsburg realms in his final decade. His progressive philosophy led to outstanding advances in judicial equality and religious tolerance, and his liberal bias won admiration from persons of a humanitarian bent. One of his siblings was Maximilian Franz, Elector of Cologne, a Bonn-based principality of the Holy Roman Empire. Among the musicians in the Elector’s service was nineteen-year-old Ludwig van Beethoven, who was showing considerable talent and ambition as a composer. The local Lesegesellschaft (Literary Society) asked Beethoven to write a funeral cantata, to words by the local monk Severin Anton Averdonk, for a memorial service for Joseph II scheduled for March 19 in Bonn. It seems the work was not completed in time, and a performance planned the following year in a nearby town was also scrapped, apparently because of the cantata’s great difficulty. It is a remarkable work, powerful in its rhetoric, specific in its depictive persuasiveness—as when the bass sings in an ominous recitative of the monster Fanaticism plunging the world into darkness. Although Beethoven never heard this cantata performed, he did get practical use from it; he recycled several of its ideas into his 1805 opera Leonore (later Fidelio), including phrases of the soprano’s soaring aria-with-chorus Da stiegen die Menschen that resurface in the opera as an exaltation of freedom.
In 1792, Beethoven left Bonn to establish himself in Vienna, where he spent the rest of the decade refining his composing technique, gaining a foothold in the city’s musical and social establishment, and making a modest mark through a stream of new works. By 1800, he was ready to unleash his First Symphony. It was warmly received, and three years later he included it on the program when he introduced his Second Symphony not to the new work’s immediate advantage. Wrote one critic: “The First Symphony is better than the later one because it is developed with a lightness and is less forced, while in the Second the striving for the new and surprising is already more apparent. However, it is obvious that both are not lacking in surprising and brilliant passages of beauty.” Familiarity bred growing enthusiasm, and by 1837 we find the composer Hector Berlioz extolling the Second Symphony’s distinctive virtues: “The Scherzo is as openly cheerful and playful in its fantasy as the Andante [sic] was happily serene, for this symphony is cheerful throughout. Even the warrior-like verve of the first Allegro is entirely free of violence; one can sense only the youthful ardor of a noble heart that keeps intact the finest illusions of life.”
—excerpt from liner notes by James M. Keller   https://bluecoastmusic.com/san-francisco-symphony/beethoven-cantata-on-the-death-of-emperor-joseph-ii-symphony-no-2