Audiophile: Vinyl, September 2019

hfnalbum.pngJennifer Warnes
Another Time, Another Place
Impex IMP6032 180g vinyl

The much-loved Warnes marks 50 years in the business with only her ninth album. For an Oscar/Grammy winner, she's happy to sing backing for others (including my hero, Chris Hillman), but when she puts her name on the sleeve, the material has to match that artistic highpoint of her career: that LP's worth of Leonard Cohen songs. Here she again shows her skills as a peerless interpreter, with songs by Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Mickey Newbury, Mark Knopfler, et al. Warnes moves faultlessly from genre to genre, and the Bernie Grundman-mastered sound – with rich pedal steel, Hammond organ, slide guitar, a choral group and much more – makes it wholly deserving of the Impex imprint. Just buy it! KK


Lightnin' Hopkins
California Mudslide (and Earthquake)
Modern Harmonic/Sundazed MH-8005 (coloured vinyl}

Released exactly 50 years ago, well after the blues had been revived and the remaining living legends had been rediscovered and honoured, this album eschewed the trend to modernise by staying resolutely sparse and rural. All the tracks are originals, one of its themes – especially the sleeve image – being mildly ecological and so relevant today. What distinguishes this from Hopkins' earlier work is stellar sound quality, one of the unexpected benefits of the blues greats being rescued during their dotage. Haunting stuff, the Texas bluesman observing Southern California in the 1960s and yet sounding like it's the 1930s. KK


Stacey Kent
Close Your Eyes
Pure Pleasure/Candid CJS9737 (two 180g discs)

From 1997, Kent's debut, backed by a quintet with husband Jim Tomlinson on sax, and it's remarkable. OK, she was a late starter, at the ripe old age of 30, but she'd paid her dues at Ronnie Scott's. Apparently, Humphrey Lyttelton heard the demos, which arrived unannounced, and became a champion of this New Jersey-born jazz singer. You can hear why, as she works through 11 less-covered selections from the Great American Songbook, remarking in a Billboard interview, 'With this album, I was trying to give a mixture of things that people know and gems that got lost, songs that might get missed out of the great standard repertoire'. Wow, did it pay off. KK


Curtis Mayfield
Super Fly
Mobile Fidelity MFSL 2-481 (two 45rpm LPs)

Which is better – this or Isaac Hayes' Shaft? Who cares? The reality is they're both stellar examples of soundtracks that work as whole albums without the films they accompany. Yes, the impact is increased if you know the movies, but this hit from 1972 is as good as any of Mayfield's solo LPs, and it perfectly conveys the moods necessary to augment one of the true classics of that most urban of genres, the 'blaxpolitation flick' and its tale of America's inner city drug culture. It yielded classics including the remarkable 'Pusherman' and 'Freddie's Dead', and the sound is right up there with Hayes' epic. It's also on SACD [MFSL UDSCD 2204] and that, too, is a knock-out. KK