Audiophile: Digital, February 2024

hfnalbum.pngTaj Mahal
Stony Plain SPCD1470

Like BB King singing 'Don't Get Around Much Anymore' and Albert King's 'The Very Thought Of You' a lifetime ago, Taj Mahal – no stranger to audiophiles – proves yet again that blues singers can really swing with the Great American songbook. Paying homage to one of the great dance halls in Harlem, Taj sings his way through Duke Ellington, Gershwin, Arlen and others, with 14 amazing numbers including 'Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby', 'Summertime', 'Baby It's Cold Outside' (with folk/blues singer Maria Muldaur) and more. This is simply the most delightful CD I have heard in years. And if it weren't for the sublime sound quality, it could have been recorded way back in 1947. Sheer bliss. KK


Black Sabbath
Rhino Quadio BA2 3104 (Blu-ray 4.0)

Another from the debut quartet of original quadraphonic mixes reissued on Blu-ray by Rhino, this is undeniably one of Black Sabbath's most highly-regarded albums. Their second studio effort, first released in 1970, it gave us such treasured nascent gothic metal anthems as 'War Pigs' and the title track – surely a cornerstone of the genre – while it's also a reminder of pre-dotage Ozzy in his pomp. And the lessons about remastering for purists continue: this is true 4.0 as originally issued, not a 5.1 simulacrum, so pedants will hear what Osbourne & Co created at the time, with a remarkable dearth of gimmickry. Let's hope Rhino has more of these planned. KK


Martin Denny
Deep Exotica
Righteous PSALM23:116D (two discs; mono)

Despite infuriating me to the point of apoplexy, I'm reviewing this as it contains four entire albums from a now-forgotten pioneer of the early stereo era. Dating from 1957-1959, here are the first three volumes of the Exotica series, plus the legendary Quiet Village, of which I have at least three copies on pre-recorded open-reel tape. Denny's shtick was loungecore – what we now call easy listening – but with added oddball sounds. Alas, whoever curated this much-needed set opted for mono despite the stereo albums being peerless audiophile milestones. Phil Spector was wrong: it's like re-releasing Lawrence Of Arabia in black-and-white and 4:3. KK


Miguel Espinoza Fusion
Octave Records OCT-0031

If you recall 1970s audiophile vinyl, when JVC pressed some of the best-sounding LPs ever heard, this will put you in mind of Flamenco Ole!. I'm no authority on the genre, but it charms me with the sound of floors and tables being slammed with the heels of the dancers and energetic acoustic guitar work, while the melodies evoke a Spain which is surely of the past. By now, you know the form: Octave has taken up the mantle for releases that aren't reissues of extant titles, instead originating sublime SACDs in pure DSD256. With one of the top flamenco guitarists in a ten-piece ensemble, the focus is on his playing, not the heel clacking. But guard your woofers. KK