J. Ford (Music); P. Miller (Lab)

J. Ford (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Sep 01, 2014  |  0 comments
His first monikered material for two decades is ‘solo’ though created over several years with adopted-out son James Raymond and accentuated by guests – a Mark Knopfler solo for opener ‘What’s Broken’, Chet Baker-soft trumpet solo from Wynton Marsalis on ‘Holding On To Nothing’, and underpinned almost throughout by fine beat-skipping rhythms from Steve DiStanislao. Unlike his 1993 album A Thousand Roads, however, those visiting don’t overstay their welcome – this is Crosby to its core, traditionally presented and thoughtfully constructed on a span from jazzy folk to quite dark rock, and slathered in those signature stacked vocals, staking a claim to the West Coast soft-rock sound of Eagles and Toto in his choruses on ‘Dangerous Night’, and layering harmonies over a four-bar bridge of ‘What’s Broken’ like some manually-made Mellotron. A delight. JF Sound Quality: 85% Hi-Fi News Lab Report Though close-miked, compression is held in check by Croz’s engineers resisting the temptation to hit the 0dBFs limit, most peaks ending at a sensible –6dBFs to –3dBFs.
J. Ford (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jan 01, 2014  |  0 comments
The trio’s first full-length album from 1990 is delightfully presented despite the sampling issues (below), whether Cole’s preparatory throat-clearing on opener ‘My Foolish Heart’ or the fine ‘live to two-track’ mix which leaves Ms Cole’s vocal thrillingly tactile, warmed by only the lightest of reverb. Her team is terrific – it takes confidence to barrel-bang the keys as Aaron Davis does on ‘Girl Talk’ and to vamp so sympathetically as on ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ (this immediacy is well worth the occasional fluff and vocal pop). And on the slower numbers his softly recorded piano augmentations slide into synchronicity with David Piltch on bass, whose own spotlight comes when slam-dunking the dem-room delight of ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ and giving good wood for Smokey Robinson’s ‘Cruisin’’, with a sax solo from John Johnson. A tight trio tackled with integrity.
J. Ford (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jan 01, 2014  |  0 comments
A new reissue of Oldfield’s fifth album from 1982, which saw him less prog, more folk and pop, along with Vocoder and Fairlight CMI moments aplenty, the marvels of their day. Newcomers may be surprised to encounter Hall & Oates hit ‘Family Man’, but it’s Oldfield’s song and this is where it first appeared – ably sung by Maggie Reilly, though less so on the bonus live set from Cologne. These 1982 live tracks (8-15) hardly merit the 24/96 treatment, though include a fine ‘Tubular Bells Pt 1’, and show how the multiple personalities of the 24-minute ‘Taurus II’ combined less incongruously in its live arrangement than in the studio, where it spasms between splices of jazz-rock, fusion and ye olde Robin Hood music. Note that the physical 2CD version comes with a DVD of surround mixes and 12-minutes of video.
J. Ford (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jan 01, 2014  |  0 comments
Authentically Norwegian as Torvik and trio may be, Tranquil Fjord commences just as you might fear, the opening title track plinking a New Age path into a gentle guitar-led arrangement, meandering slowly through shallows rather regimented in their quantisation, and underlain by an intrusively full-width soundstage granted to the percussion of Hermund Nygård – close-miked snare brushes lent distracting prominence. These two qualities, forward percussion and ‘swinglessness’, continue even on speedier pieces such as ‘Kryssande’ and ‘Land Veg Helm’, bass and guitar each lacking a fully resolved space in either soundstage or equalisation, all three performers instead firing from the same place. When Torvik gives his guitar synth a few directionless refrains at the close of ‘Endelaus Veg’, it encapsulates the general meaninglessness of it all. JF Sound Quality: 70% Hi-Fi News Lab Report Unlike the ‘96kHz’ Mike Oldfield: Five Miles Out download (reviewed here) the limited ~20kHz bandwidth of this 24-bit recording is perfectly in keeping with its claimed 44.
J. Ford (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Dec 01, 2013  |  0 comments
The severe stereo delivery of this 1960 recording (drums and piano hard left, bass and Coltrane hard right) prevents a natural soundstage here, but arguably preserves a channel-separated clarity through which Coltrane’s post-Miles quartet can deliver its early modal exploratory of two Gershwins, one Cole Porter, and that unlikely choice of kitten-friendly ‘Sound Of Music’ title tune which yielded an (edited) hit for the group. While this version of the quartet featured Steve Davis on bass prior to the long-term arrival of Jimmy Garrison, it still points a path towards ‘A Love Supreme’, being loaded with Elvin Jones’ free-flowing drumming and McCoy Tyner’s percussive piano comping plus extended solos, given generous space by Coltrane, who sits out a full five minutes of the title track while making his first recorded outing on soprano sax. Marvellous stuff. JF Sound Quality: 90% Hi-Fi News Lab Report The graph above shows the 96kHz digitisation of this vintage recording (a 192kHz rendering would not capture any more useful information).
J. Ford (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Dec 01, 2013  |  0 comments
Devotees will need little convincing of the merits of HD Krall, resolving her soft dynamics and expanding the silences of this 1997 album of love song standards performed with her trio guitarist Russell Malone, whose rhythm figures verge on the subliminal at times, while Christian McBride returns to double bass duties provided previously for Ms Krall’s sophomore release, Only Trust Your Heart. Lacking that album’s percussion (though often retaining its high levels of vocal reverb – witness the sparse take on Billy Myles’ ‘My Love Is’), this fourth album’s vibe is even later-night and lighter, and Ms Krall’s confidence higher, her vocals pushing out for the Peggy Lee sass ’n’ swing of ‘I Don’t Know Enough About You’, but more often purring her parts with that delicious delicacy – her Chet vocal and sensitive piano dynamics a particular delight on ‘Gentle Rain’. JF Sound Quality: 85% Hi-Fi News Lab Report This 96kHz rendering shows the same slightly elevated (analogue) noise floor we’ve seen with other DK albums. Vocal harmonics (real or from a downstream limiter) often extend out to 20kHz.
J. Ford (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Dec 01, 2013  |  0 comments
It is 30 years since Jarrett’s mesmerising Standards Trio with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette took its first try at taking known tunes to unknown places, but there’s nothing remotely stale in this 2009 performance recorded live in Switzerland. From the start the trio’s familial empathy allows a spectacular rise from an unpromising intro into Miles Davis’ ‘Solar’, while the big J’s melodic modifications of ‘Stars Fell On Alabama’ are as entrancing as the bastard rhythm slices of ‘Devil And The Deep Blue Sea’ are baffling. The grail here is the central 20-minute coupling of Bernstein’s ‘Somewhere’ with Jarrett’s own complementary composition ‘Everywhere’, the former’s bluesy sequences yielding rich plateaus of improvisation. All is enhanced by engineer Martin Pearson’s delivery of both ambient soundstaging and close stereo-miked piano clarity; you’ll never miss a moan.
J. Ford (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Nov 01, 2013  |  0 comments
96kHz/24-bit ALAC/FLAC/WAV, moscd4010 (supplied by www. naimlabel. com) It’s not uncommon that a recording identified as compromised in the Lab Report might still sound quite marvellous to these ears. Here, however, something was clearly wrong, with distortion hovering at the edge of audibility, pressuring the peaks and affecting image clarity on busier tracks like ‘Listen To Me’ and the surprising bottle-neck blues of ‘Dust My Broom’.
J. Ford (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Sep 01, 2013  |  0 comments
An appropriate title for this mish-mash of styles and songs, delivered perhaps too effortlessly by the venerable guitar god as he plucks well-ripened plums from his portfolio of styles. He Marley ups Taj Mahal’s ‘Further On Down The Road’ and carbon-copies Peter Tosh’s country-reggae crossover ‘Till Your Well Runs Dry’. Then he backs up to the 1930s for four tracks: a softly-softly ‘The Folks Who Live On The Hill’; a sloppy duet with Paul McCartney on ‘All of Me’; a slide-guitar moan through Lead Belly’s ‘Goodnight Irene’; and a downright dreary ‘Our Love Is Here To Stay’. There’s livelier stuff, including two original compositions, while the highlight is perhaps an unexpected cover of Gary Moore’s ‘Still Got The Blues’ with Stevie Winwood guest-grinding the Hammond organ.
J. Ford (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Sep 01, 2013  |  0 comments
44. 1kHz/24-bit ALAC/FLAC/WAV, Naimcd180 (supplied by www. naimlabel. com) A fine example of how rock can benefit from retention rather than wholesale flattening of dynamics, Fun Lovin’ Criminals frontman, Radio 2 DJ, TV panellist, writer and former marine Huey Morgan pours his life experience into a rich album, not so much ‘solo’ as with a group of long-term friends (‘my gang’).

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