Hi-Res Downloads, August 2018

hfnalbum.pngBobo Stenson Trio
Contra La Indecisión (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; ECM 578 6976

Piano-trio jazz doesn't get much more perfect than this, both in terms of performance and recording – the latter particularly special, even by the high standards of the always-reliable ECM label. With bassist Anders Jormin, who has worked with Stenson for more than 30 years and is credited with more than half of the compositions here, and superb percussionist Jon Fält, Stenson's trio is the same last heard on 2012's Indicum. Here they kick off with the track that gives the album its title, 'Contra La Indecisión', written by Cuban guitarist Silvio Rodríguez. And it's instantly clear what's on offer: close-recorded, delicate piano, weighty yet subtle bass and gloriously detailed work on skins and cymbals – I urge you to listen to their driving, rhythmic exploration of Erik Satie's 'Élégie', which is totally delicious. This album is never less than totally accomplished, on every possible level. AE

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
With so much rock/pop/blues material being recorded into the endstops, it's a blessed relief to discover a contemporary jazz trio that makes almost perfect use of the available dynamic range. Recorded at 96kHz, peaks rarely exceed –6dBFs. PM


Earthtones (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; Brushfire Records B0027335-02

The latest album from Canadian singer Afie Jurvanen's Bahamas solo project opens with guitars zinging back and forth between the speakers, but just as you're expecting a solid beat to be laid down, in comes his voice, close-miked and personal, and you're away in the world of Earthtones. And a satisfyingly soulful world it is, combining his voice with the drumming of James Gason and superstar bassist Pino Palladino, plus backing vocals from Felicity Williams, swinging from toe-tapping funk to fabulous harmonies and crisp, inventive guitar licks. On 'Show Me Naomi' they hit a winning groove backed by gospel vocals, while 'So Free' liberates Palladino's bass, again with fabulous vocal harmonies. And through it all there's Jurvanen's remarkably flexible voice, at turns breathy and plaintive, and then rapping on 'Bad Boys Need Love Too' against a slinky bass-line. AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
Recorded too hot, the levels of analogue noise also vary by 20-30dB as those very close-miked vocals get, well, too close to 0dBFs. The final rendering is at 96kHz but there's some lower-rate content in the mix and spuriae, too, at 18/36kHz. PM


Bettye Lavette
Things Have Changed (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; Verve Records B0028016-02

Any reviewer could be forgiven for thinking 'Oh gawd, not another album of Bob Dylan covers', but from the opening licks of Bettye Lavette's Things Have Changed it's clear this is something very different indeed. Produced by Steve Jordan, who also drums, it features former Dylan guitarist Larry Campbell, Leon Pedarvis on keyboards and the ever-reliable bassist Pino Palladino. This is a band that sounds tight, driving and full of soul, perfectly setting off Lavette's vocal range. She snarls, she cajoles and she belts, delivering Dylan's lyrics with full meaning and force, getting to the heart of classics including 'It Ain't Me Babe' while making 'The Times They Are A-Changin'' sound scorchingly fresh. Even the less-known tracks here are illuminated by the recording, band and voice, meaning this isn't just another Dylan covers album – it's in a class of its own. AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
The subtler intros to trks 3, 6 and 7 deliver the best sound, for when 'Betty Jo' winds up her pipes and is joined by guitar and – especially – keyboards, the recording is a little too hot. Much of the ultrasonics is noise/distortion. PM


Chris Thile
Thanks For Listening (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)*
www.highresaudio.com; Nonesuch 564711-2

I guess you either get A Prairie Home Companion or you don't, but there was a major change to the popular US radio show in 2016 when founder and long-term mainstay Garrison Keillor stepped down, replaced by Chris Thile. As this album, drawn from songs Thile wrote to open each week's episodes, shows, the performer/comedian/mandolin virtuoso has kept things on a pretty even keel. Diehards needed not to have worried – with Thile at the helm it's equally as good, just different. Although dedicated Trumpians may not take too well to his dissection of social media on 'Feedback Loop', or the wistful look back to the pre-Donald days of 'Stanley Ann', the recording puts Thile's voice very up close and personal. The lyrics are as important as the evident musicianship here, with only occasionally too much emphasis on the plosives and sibilants. AE

Sound Quality: 75%


Lab Report
There's some evidence on trks 6, 7 and 9 of mixed-rate content [black spectrum], probably from the backing cast that were recorded at different times (places?). The master looks like analogue tape, digitised at 96kHz, but with little above 28kHz. PM


Imelda May
Life. Love. Fresh. Blood (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)*
www.highresaudio.com; Decca 572 9629

Singer-songwriter Imelda May has gone much more mainstream country on her latest album. With the ever-reliable T Bone Burnett on the faders, she's well served by the excellent recorded sound and, of course, the sheer quality of her voice, which is about as far as you can get from the auto-tuned mainstream fodder to which we're exposed these days. However, if there's a criticism to be made of what is still a catchy, engaging album, with much to enjoy, it's that one can almost predict where every track is going, both musically and lyrically. So there are no surprises here, and while that makes for a comfortable listen, it's just a bit too predictable for those looking for some forks in the road to pique their interest. Super-clean though that production may be, this album is very much cruising straight down the middle of the highway. AE

Sound Quality: 75%


Lab Report
There's great passion driving May's vocals, much of it sensitively recorded on what looks like analogue tape (limited to ~28kHz). Louder sequences show brief signs of clipping, however, and trk 16 is upsampled from CD [black spectrum]. PM