Audiophile: Digital, January 2024

hfnalbum.pngKevin Ayers
Falling Up
Esoteric ECLEC2841

It never occurred to me, an Ayers devotee, to consider that the sound quality of his releases might be way above average. It was always the music and its quirky 'English Eccentric' attitude. OK, so I often used Bananamour for testing gear, but this 1988 album – his 13th, I think – is a hidden gem. Freshly remastered, it captures Ayers' Latin/Caribbean rhythmic tendencies, his wry, alternate-universe-Noel-Coward shtick, the catchy melodies, and crucially, his gravelly vocals. While not quite as subterranean as Paolo Conte, the texture of his voice is something to savour. 'The Best We Have' is a particular standout, especially for transients, bass and stage width. All the more reason to discover this great, lost treasure. KK


Jefferson Starship
Red Octopus
Grunt/Rhino Quadio BA2 585303 (Blu-ray 4.0)

I'm still wondering (but not complaining about) what possessed Rhino to release a handful of albums as Blu-ray audio discs with their original 4.0 quadraphonic mixes. This is the second studio effort from what was actually Jefferson Airplane 2.0, dating from 1975 and at the height of quad's short lifespan. This glossy rock surprised me in that much restraint was shown: no headache-inducing effects to betray the band's psychedelic roots. The best-selling album out of the entire Airplane/Starship canon, reaching No 1 in the US charts, it's eminently accessible and will probably upset fans of say, After Bathing At Baxter's just because it isn't obtuse nonsense. KK


Elvis Presley
From Elvis In Memphis
Mobile Fidelity UDSACD2215 (Stereo SACD)

If you acquired the One-Step vinyl version of this [HFN Nov '23], the SACD serves a purpose for sceptics, or those who want to hear differences between formats. No, this doesn't match the One-Step for warmth or space, but trust me when I say that it ain't far off. If anything, this alternative to the costly vinyl set is a great endorsement of SACD, which still offers sufficient benefits to merit your attention. This is pre-corpulent Elvis, from 1969, and it's packed with later classics including 'In The Ghetto', 'Gentle On My Mind' and, as a bonus cut, 'Suspicious Minds'. Backed by the finest musicians of the day, Elvis then betrayed no clues as to his pending decline. KK


Various Artists
The Art Of HiFi – Volume 02: Soundstage
Octave Records OCT-0034

Aside from the label's refusal to hyphenate 'hi-fi' and the lack of guidance in the liner notes, this is a fine set of superbly recorded live tracks recorded to show off and exploit the concept of space, as delivered by a properly set up two-channel system. The content, as before, comes from the ever-expanding Octave catalogue, including a string quartet, country picking and more, my favourite being Jerry Mohney's swinging jazz tune, 'The Linden Lindy'. The cuts, however, that will prove the most 'fun' thanks to their stomping heels, are the opening and closing numbers: not quite JVC's Flamenco Ole! but then I would hate to count the woofers that destroyed. KK