Audiophile: Vinyl (December 2018)

hfnalbum.pngDoug MacLeod
Break The Chain
Reference RM-2519 (two 45rpm,180g vinyl LPs)

Vintage LPs, e.g., Muddy Waters' Folk Singer, have been audiophile totems for decades, but rare are new titles. MacLeod's third for Reference ticks all the boxes: higher-speed playback, 180g vinyl and half-speed mastering. It is, as ever, a lesson in the genre; like Messrs Mo', Bibb, Mahal and Cooder, MacLeod's approach to the blues is almost academic, but the set is amply electric rather than primarily acoustic. The benefit, in the context of HFN, is sound that's massive, visceral and weighty. The content? As earthy as it gets, but at times, seriously rocking. The atmosphere throughout? As open as I've ever heard. Check out the title track on YouTube and your next move will be to order this! KK


Ruth Brown
Miss Rhythm
Pure Pleasure PPAN18026 (mono; 180g vinyl)

One of those sadly under-appreciated pioneers of R&B, and, ultimately, a founder of rock 'n' roll, Ruth Brown was a prototype for belters and shouters like Tina Turner, as well as soulful singers à la Aretha. This album was released on Atlantic in 1959, compiled from tracks first issued as 78s and singles, many of them R&B hits. Its 12 cuts were recorded between 1954 and 1959, with backing musicians including King Curtis and Sam Taylor. Despite a piecemeal approach to LP assembly, the quality is astounding: songs from composers as highly regarded as Bobby Darin, Leiber & Stoller, Ahmet Ertegun and Brook Benton attest to her versatility. Simply dazzling. KK


Original Soundtrack
The Minx
Modern Harmonic/Sundazed MH-8070 (pink vinyl LP + DVD)

What a find! This reissue of a $200 collector's item – aside from being the score to an X-rated film from 1967, and thus of interest to soundtrack enthusiasts – is seriously coveted because it contains prime sunshine/psyche pop by The Cyrkle, known for the hit 'Red Rubber Ball' and for being managed by Brian Epstein. That gives it a Beatles link, however peripheral. Supplied with a DVD of the film (which I've yet to watch…), the lavish set transcends the salaciousness of the film because the music is perfect pop. It is, effectively, the group's third album. If you loved the sound of Harper's Bizarre, Sagittarius and others of that ilk, this is a must-own LP. KK


Matthew Sweet
100% Fun
Intervention Records IR-019 2LPs (180g vinyl)

Fans of this wildly eclectic pop/rock maestro – suitable for devotees of everyone from Marshall Crenshaw to Big Star to Cheap Trick – will love the crystal-clear sound of this, his 1995 follow-up to Altered Beast (also due from Intervention). Staggering stuff, it's all jangly guitars and power chords from a prime practitioner of what must be 'Third generation post-British Invasion envy'. It ranges from the juggernaut opener, 'Sick Of Myself' to the gentler 'We're The Same', foreshadowing his hommage to the 1960s with ex-Bangle Susannah Hoffs. Released with Intervention's peerless attention to sonic quality, the gatefold contains an LP's worth of bonus tracks. KK