Friday, August 13, 2010

Michael Fremer Album Review

Preservation (... to Benefit Preservation Hall & The Preservation Hall Music Outreach Program) (new release)
Various Artists
Preservation Hall 2 180g LPs+MP3 download
Produced by: Ben Jaffe
Engineered by: Earl Scioneaux III, others
Mixed by: Earl Scioneaux III, others
Mastered by: Bruce Barielle
Lacquers cut by: "WG" at Nashville Record Productions

Stars Line Up For Preservation Hall Benefit Album
by Michael Fremer
August 01, 2010

sound & music
Stars from across the musical universe donated their time and considerable talents to perform with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on this thoroughly entertaining and superbly recorded double LP set celebrating the Hall’s 50th anniversary.

The stars range from veterans like Blind Boys of Alabama (“There is A Light”), Merle Haggard (“Basin Street Blues”), Dr. John (“Winin’ Boy”), Pete Seeger (“Blue Skies”), Richie Havens (“Trouble Mind”), Tom Waits (“Tootie Ma Was A Big Fine Thing”), Steve Earle (“T’aint Nobody’s Business”) and Del McCoury (“After You’ve Gone”) and youngsters Andrew Bird (“Shake It and Break It”), Paolo Nutini (“Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea”), Brandi Carlile (“Old Rugged Cross”) and Angélique Kidjo with Terence Blanchard (“La Vie En Rose”).

Others contribute as well. Louis Armstrong makes a “guest” appearance too, on Hoagy Carmichael’s “Rockin’ Chair” backed by the Preservation Hall Orchestra. When it comes on and you hear Louis “performing” in the same wonderful acoustic as the still living musicians, it gets kind of creepy! Armstrong’s voice was very well recorded so it must have been taken from a ‘50s or ‘60s production, but from precisely where and how it was stripped from the backing is not explained. I wish it had been.

That’s about the only criticism one could levy against this superbly entertaining and extremely well-recorded set (well, I do have one more: the setting is absolutely perfect for Ray Davies who has lived in New Orleans for some time, though I'm not sure he's living there now. Why no Ray track here?).

I can’t imagine this was recorded analog, though it sure sounds as if it was. And if it was done digitally, why can't all digital recordings sound this good? You can see an RCA 44 ribbon mike capturing Yim Yames’ singing into a megaphone on his rendition of “Louisiana Fairytale' (Yim Yams is Jim James lead singer of My Morning Jacket) so clearly the engineers had good gear to work with, and more importantly the right sonic values.

While the veterans are uniformly great, so are the youngsters, particularly Paolo Nutini’s performance of “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” and Brandi Carlile’s “Old Rugged Cross.” Hell, there’s not a less than brilliant performance on this set (and let’s not leave out the talents of the Preservation Hall Band!) and when you combine that with a stellar, three dimensional, utterly natural, effects-free, timbrally perfect recording that will set your stereo free, I don’t see how you can miss here.

Even United delivered two perfectly pressed, quiet, 180g black biscuits. If you don’t enjoy every drop of this nineteen tune double LP package, you need your head examined.

Because the proceeds benefit Preservation Hall, I didn’t ask for and didn’t receive a promo copy. I bought mine and I’m glad I did both to support the Hall and because it’s a record I’ll be playing repeatedly. You will too if you take my word for it and pick up your own copy.

The set ends with Kidjo and Blanchard’s delightful rendition of “La Vie En Rose” that I promise you will have you heading for the aisles (okay, back to your turntable to lift up the arm), with a big smile on your face. Please read Roger Hahn’s two part article on the history of Preservation Hall and the music it’s dedicated to preserving elsewhere on this site.

Thanks to Michael over at for the exclusive rights to reprint this material.

Copyright © 2008 & Michael Fremer - All rights reserved Reprinted by Permission

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