Audiophile: Vinyl, April 2021

hfnalbum.pngThe Butterfield Blues Band
Speakers Corner/Elektra EKS-7315 (180g vinyl)

Reissued many times, this earned the Speakers Corner treatment not for sonic worth but musical merit. Regarded as Butterfield's best (though some prefer the more purist, raucous debut), there is no doubt it marked a transition in typical blues band repertoire, as exemplified by the title track: a 13m jazz/raga. The band's second album, from 1966, it freed practitioners of the genre, especially young white blues players, from the constraints of the 12-bar format, but this contains enough straight blues not to alienate hard-core fans. The cover of 'Get Out of My Life Woman' is my fave, but it's all exceptional – especially Butterfield's harp virtuosity and Mike Bloomfield's guitar skills. KK


Grateful Dead
From The Mars Hotel
Mobile Fidelity MFSL2-482 (two 45rpm LPs)

Despite my Yankee Baby Boomer status, I have yet to become an admirer of the Dead – they're not even in my top 500 – but I will acknowledge that the further they grew away from the psychedelic excess of the late '60s, the more listenable they became to non-druggies. While hardly approaching their masterpieces – American Beauty and Workingman's Dead – this studio effort from 1974 at least contains songs rather than side-filling, self-indulgent sonic nightmares. Highlights include such fan favourites as 'U.S. Blues', 'Scarlet Begonias' and 'Ship Of Fools'. The guitar work is superlative and the sound is sublime. Jerry Garcia devotees will not be disappointed. KK


The Rolling Stones
Goat's Head Soup
Polydor 02508 93981 (four discs)

How odd: with its cloth-covered box and loads of extras, the best Stones anniversary package so far goes to one of the less-deserving titles – Beggar's Banquet and Sticky Fingers slaughter this album. Included are a new stereo mix of the LP that gave us 'Angie' and 'Silver Train', three bonus LPs deliver rarities, alternate mixes and a 1973 live set filling two of them. This box, however, repeats a mean practice shared with the Lennon set, opposite: the vinyl box lacks the 124pp hardback book in the 3CD + Blu-ray alternative [02508 85032]. Why are they targeting vinyl buyers? Anyway, it's a real feast for the Stones fanatics. KK


Elliott Smith
Elliott Smith
Kill Rock Stars KRS656 (two discs)

One of the more tragic cases in rock history, Smith was found stabbed in 2003, with no coroner's decision made of suicide or murder. He was a sensitive soul likened to Nick Drake, his delicate music infused with British Invasion pop/rock sensibility, and the result was an introspective singer-songwriter with indie credibility. The exquisite, clothbound 25th anniversary reissue of his self-named second album, its original artwork redone in two types of black, sounds simply superb – notably his acoustic guitar playing – further reminding us of what we've lost. The bonus LP contains an unreleased, earliest-known live recording of Smith performing solo. KK