Hi-Res Downloads (December 2018)

hfnalbum.pngScottish CO/Christian Baldini
Mozart Opera Overtures And Arias (192kHz/24-bit, FLAC/ALAC)
www.linnrecords.com; CKD460

I wonder how many SCO players here were schooled in Mozart when recording with Mackerras. Anyway, Argentine born composer/conductor Christian Baldini (40) makes his Linn debut with six Mozart overtures. Besides the obvious choices – Cosí Fan Tutte, Don Giovanni, Le Nozze Di Figaro – we also have Idomeneo, La Finta Giardiniera and La Clemenza Di Tito. Each is followed by recitatives/arias sung by BBC Cardiff winner, soprano Elizabeth Watts. Her particular skill here is that she sounds as immersed as if in context of an ensemble performance, while the voice is centred and not too forward. Listen to the overtures in succession – there is marvellous wind articulation in the rapid Figaro! – and you find Baldini brings out their unique characters in an exemplary way. Linn provides comprehensive texts for this Usher Hall, Edinburgh production. CB

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
Soprano Elizabeth Watts pushes the dynamic envelope on this 192kHz rendering but never to the point of (digital) clipping. Her vocal harmonics reach out to an astonishing 30kHz, the orchestral brass and strings to 40kHz. PM


John Scofield
Combo 66 (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; Decca (France)

Having paid tribute to songwriters more on the – shall we say – yeehaw side of the tracks with his Country for Old Men set of a couple of years back, guitarist Scofield returns with Combo 66, so-called as that's his age now. Then again, the album – despite being original compositions throughout – does have a pretty '60s feel, albeit one processed through fuzzy-guitared jazz sensibilities. Oh and combo? Well, in addition to long-serving collaborator Bill Stewart on drums, Scofield is joined here by Gerald Clayton on keys and bassist Vincente Archer. The four have clearly clicked big time, whether on the motoring 'Icons At The Fair' or the even more country/blues 'Willa Jean' – both of which, like all the tunes on this standout outing, benefit from a production job combining close-up information and space to breathe – and of course a great guitar sound. AE

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
This is a genuine 96kHz recording but the levels are pushed a little high on occasion with both Scofield's guitar and Clayton's organ. Otherwise the ~48kHz bandwidth is well used and the post-production shows no sign of spurious noise. PM


Deutsches SO Berlin/Robin Ticciati
Ravel Orchestral Works; Duparc Songs, etc (192kHz/24-bit, FLAC/ALAC)
www.linnrecords.com; CKD610

For his second programme of French music with his new Berlin orchestra, again with mezzo Magdalena Kožená, Ticciati throws his hat into the ring with the three-part Suite No 2 from Daphnis et Chloë (only one track allocated) and Valses nobles et sentimentales. In between there are four songs by Duparc – the Baudelaire setting utterly haunting – and Aux Étoiles, evoking a starry night. (To understand the album's 'Amour et mourir' cover title Google 'Ticciati Ravel' for interview video.) Beautifully balanced, with a completely stable soundstage – ie, not coming forward in forte passges – this spacious and exciting version I rate as at the level of the classic Cantelli and Karajan versions. The eight Valses are set more forward, as are song-tracks 3-5, which for me slighty spoils the sense of programme continuity. CB

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
This predictably reliable Philip Hobbs production for Linn, recorded at The Jesus Christ Church in Dahlem, Berlin, shows some slight noise-shaping but use of the 24-bit dynamic range and ~90kHz bandwidth is excellent. PM


Les Chats Noirs
Les Chats Noirs (192kHz/24-bit, FLAC; DSD64/128)
www.highresaudio.com; Forward Music Italy FMICA990011803

Here's a set that's either absolutely charming – which is a good thing – or entirely bonkers, which is possibly even better. One thing's for sure: with its fragile vocals, swirling accordion and Django-esque guitar, all underpinned by lounge-like electric piano, it couldn't sound much more French if it tried – and then they go and throw in a cover version of 'Video Killed The Radio Star'! That's even crazier than the rest of the set, flicking between French and English, with the instrumentation stripped down and all the kookiness turned up to onze. Yet it manages not to buggle up the song – instead it sounds like it was always meant to be like this. Add in tight, clear production and some striking instrumental timbres, and the only question remaining is whether this will be a delight over the long haul, or a novelty soon wearing thin. But it could be a giggle to take to hi-fi shows... AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
Accordion, manouche guitar and double-bass all feature here in a genuine 192kHz recording (also in DSD64/128 guise from NativeDSD). The vocal tracks ('Video Killed The Radio Star') are recorded a little too 'hot' but otherwise it's a good 'un. PM


Boz Scaggs
Out Of The Blues (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)*
www.highresaudio.com; Concord Records 7205208

If the John Scofield album this month (see above) has a fusion of 1960s, blues and jazz about it, the latest set from jazz/blues veteran Scaggs could have been recorded almost anytime in the past 40 or so years, judging from the Californian sound of opener 'Rock And Stick'. Loaded with top-notch musicians – with the likes of Ray Parker, Jr on rhythm guitar, and Jim Keltner on drums, plus a tight little horn section – the album has plenty of space to explore styles from the straight blues of 'I've Just Got To Know' through to the trio guitar and soaring harmonica of 'Radiator 110'. 'Little Miss Night And Day' sees Scaggs channeling Chuck Berry, and then he changes gear into a dark reading of Neil Young's 'On The Beach'. Add in unforced, natural-sounding production, with the voice and instruments rendered rather well, and this is a keeper, technical reservations notwithstanding. AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
Here's another '96kHz file' where all the analogue feeds are either heavily filtered prior to the ADC, or the final mix is at 48kHz, upsampled into a 96kHz offering. Signal levels are high, with evidence of peak clipping on some tracks. PM