Friday, February 12, 2010

Michael Fremer Review

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

Neil Young (new reissue)
Neil Young Official Release Series Discs 1-4 Box Set

Warner Brothers/Reprise 4 180g LP, numbered Box Set

Produced by: Neil Young, Jack Nitzsche, David Briggs, Elliot Mazer, others
Engineered by: various engineers
Mixed by: various mixers
Mastered by: Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering

Review by: Michael Fremer

When Buffalo Springfield broke up, Neil Young set about building his solo career. The high-production work with Jack Nitzsche that had created classics like “Expecting to Fly” and “Broken Arrow” brought Neil back to the producer/keyboardist/orchestrator, who gained fame working with Phil Spector but the results on Young’s eponymous debut album were not as memorable. In fact, many critics and fans alike back in 1969 considered the album a disappointment and a misstep.

The “overproduction” charge was compounded by two issues: first was the original mix that buried Young’s voice, second was the label’s disastrous choice to master using the Haeco-CSG system. Invented by Howard Holzer, A&M’s chief engineer, Haeco-CSG was about cost cutting not sonic improvement.

By the late ‘60s, stereo had taken hold among album buying youngsters but most rock was still heard on AM radio or FM in the car, which was mostly monophonic. Stereo records played back monophonically usually produced terrible results: folding stereo down to mono upped common L/R information by 3 dB, which is major. That means vocals placed in both channels so they’d appear in the phantom center channel would be way too loud in mono. Not many rock singers of the era needed that kind of exposure, so Holzer invented a system to deal with the problem.

Unfortunately, his solution was to phase-shift common L/R right information so that it didn’t get the 3dB boost. Imagine, though, what happened to image focus and soundstage clarity! It produced a sonic mess that ruined many releases of the era, including Neil’s debut and Roots The Everly Brothers’ superb “comeback” album that inexplicably hasn’t been reissued yet on vinyl.

Neil remixed the first album, made sure it was mastered without Haeco-CSG and put a wide banner with his name on it at the top of the front cover in an effort to save the debut but it was too late. The album never recovered. Relatively rare original pressings with the first cover, mix and Haeco-CSG processing were quite collectible for a time, going for hundreds of dollars. I’m not sure what the going rate is today.

Time has actually been kind to Young’s debut. “The Loner” and “I’ve Been Waiting For You” are fuzz-tone laden standouts. “I’ve Loved Her Too Long” maintains its warm grip and even the surreal, Dylanesque overreach of “The Last Trip to Tulsa,” with Young’s acoustic guitar center stage and his voice off on the right channel, arrives nicely burnished through the time tunnel.

One could argue that the first album isn’t a high priority but no one would say that of the next three in this four, 180g LP box set: Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, After the Goldrush and Harvest.

With a set list that includes “Cinnamon Girl,” the title tune, “Round and Round,” “Down By The River,” and “Cowgirl In The Sand,” the second album with Crazy Horse is a hard-rocking, no-nonsense follow-up to the tentative debut and contains no filler. But surely you didn’t need to be told that.

Nor do you need to be told about the enduring folk/rock brilliance of After the Goldrush or Young’s greatest album chart success Harvest. If you do, you’re not forking over the big bucks for this 180g box set anyway. You’re more likely to opt for a 140g individual album or two.

What you’re really interested in hearing about is the sound quality of these reissues. But first a word about the packaging: Warner Brothers has gone to the trouble and expense of using deluxe paper over cardboard jackets that are authentic to the originals, though there are barcodes, new catalog numbers and updated mastering credits— all tastefully and respectfully done. All original posters and inserts are included. Pick up the new Harvest and you’ll be hard-pressed to tell it from the original, so perfectly does the new, thick outer paper stock match the original.

What’s very different about these reissues though, is the sound: I have multiple originals of all of them, including both the original Haeco-CSG version of the debut album and the re-do (obviously, though Warner Brothers and Young went with the original cover, the second mix was used) and I have to tell you, these reissues, mastered by Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman and pressed at Pallas in Germany (buy a copy of my second DVD It’s a Vinyl World, After All and you can take a guided tour of Pallas, shot in high definition), sound far superior to the originals.

Look, I’ve been listening to these four albums for up to forty years now and I was not prepared for what I heard on all four of these albums. Grundman’s chain is sounding better than ever after what I hear are a series of upgrades.

Starting with the second album, Young arranged for multiple voices, often his own multi-tracked, but never before have the individual voices been so clearly locked in three dimensional space and timbrally distinct. The way the voices project into 3D space (including Young’s main centered one) is positively eerie (assuming your system can reproduced this, because trust me, it’s in the grooves in a way it’s not on the originals). Instrumental textures are far richer, fuller and better defined. Harmonics are fully fleshed out. Reverb trails extend to infinity before disappearing into background pitch blackness. There is so much more there there in every respect, it’s almost stupefying.

You can see Young before the microphone and experience every little vocal tick and breath pressurization. It’s not important because you can hear these details. It’s important because hearing them imparts greater meaning to the proceeding and certainly a greater appreciation of his singing and the deliberateness of his communications skills.

I wish I could tell you that the 140g versions, pressed, I assume, from the same stampers, sounded as good, but even correcting for the VTA/SRA differences, they don’t. They do sound plenty good, mind you, and better than the originals, but not quite as good as the 180g versions contained in the box set. And good as the Blu-ray versions are at 192k/24 bit, they don’t touch the vinyl.

So, my advice is: when the numbered, limited edition box is finally introduced shortly, if you’re as big a Neil fan as I am, don’t hesitate until it’s too late. Buy and enjoy this box set.

Warner Brothers, thanks to the tireless and meticulous efforts of Warner Brothers Senior Vice President and vinyl fanatic Tom Biery, demonstrates yet again, that it is possible for a major label to do vinyl correctly: cutting from analog masters, pressing at the best plants and packaging to provide fans with the genuine experience. It’s sad that the others don’t have the will to properly manage the task.

Music News & Notes

Japandroids Announce Singles Series

Vancouver's Japandroids have announced that they'll be releasing five new singles this year in order to give the people what they want (raucous, heart-on-sleeve rock, obviously). The singles, the first of which is due out on April 13, will feature songs that were recorded during the Post-Nothing sessions on the a-side and covers on the b-side. Thusly, yhe first single, titled "Art Czars," will be backed with a cover of Big Black's "Racer X."


Robert Plant Recording Album With Buddy Miller

Led Zeppelin veteran Robert Plant is recording an album for release later this year which is being produced by Americana singer/songwriter Buddy Miller. The word leaked out earlier today in Bristol, Tennessee's Herald Courier as part of an article on songwriter and instrumentalist Darell Scott.

Scott is quoted in the article as saying “Those two-plus weeks were some of the most memorable times I’ve ever had in the studio. The number-one thing is that Robert loves music. You think they’re posing and just getting through it, but I was humbled with how Robert Plant loved the music – old country, blues, rockabilly.”

While the actual contents of the album are not known, the article mentions that Plant recorded the traditional song Cindy.

Plant will be performing February 25 at London's famed Abbey Road Studios with a 72-voice choir and American singer/songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman. The concert is for the charity Cancer Research UK.


The Apples In Stereo Announce New Album In Their New Musical Scale

On April 20th, studio obsessed indie-pop band The Apples in Stereo will unleash the cosmic happiness that is "Travellers in Space and Time" (Yep Roc/Simian/Elephant 6). And on April 16, the band kicks off a US tour in support of the album.

Continuing the tradition of curating support acts on their tours, The Apples will be joined on the road by New Orleans band Generationals (Park the Van) and Athens band Laminated Cat who recently released their debut album "Umbrella Weather" through Garden Gate Records.

"We choose bands to tour with based on who we want to listen to every single night, and who we want to turn other people on to," enthuses The Apples' Robert Schneider. "The Generationals are a fantastic band with strong songs and interesting productions - plus we have the Louisiana connection going on, with my having grown up in Ruston. Laminated Cat are the best young psychedelic band in the world, in my opinion - one of my favorite bands, beautiful and strange, like Syd Barrett riding on the Olivia Tremor Control. This tour is going to be awesome!"

As some of you may already be aware, Schneider has invented a new musical scale called the Non-Pythagorean Musical Scale. The scale was first included on the band's last studio album, "New Magnetic Wonder." To expand upon it, "Travellers in Space and Time," includes "C.P.U.," the first pop song ever written with this new scale.


Bonnaroo Announces 2010 Lineup

Superfly Productions and A.C. Entertainment are excited to announce the initial lineup for the 2010 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. The ninth annual four-day camping and music festival will be held on June 10 - 13 on the same beautiful 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee, 60 miles south of Nashville. A full list of confirmed acts follows, and more will be announced in the coming weeks. The final Bonnaroo 2010 lineup will total over 125 bands and over 20 comedians performing on 13 stages over four days. Tickets are on sale now exclusively at

Perhaps bringing you the most diverse and ambitious lineup to date, the 2010 event draws world-class acts from a staggering range of musical worlds. This year the festival features the Dave Matthews Band, Kings of Leon, Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z, Weezer, Flaming Lips performing Dark Side Of The Moon, The Dead Weather, Phoenix, John Fogerty, Jimmy Cliff, Tenacious D, Zac Brown Band, Avett Brothers, Norah Jones, LCD Soundsystem, Tori Amos, The National, Jeff Beck, Michael Franti, Against Me!, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Baaba Maal, The Melvins, Thievery Corporation to name but a small portion of the deep lineup. Wonder's Bonnaroo performance marks a rare festival appearance for the legend, whose illustrious songbook continues to be as influential and significant today as ever. Bonnaroo veterans Kings of Leon are the first band in the history of the festival to start on a tent stage and work their way up to the coveted headlining slot. They were first booked to play a tent stage early in the day in 2004. They have gone on to perform at Bonnaroo several times, each appearance bigger than the last. This will be one of the very few appearances the band will make in 2010.

The largest and most revered music and camping event in the country, Bonnaroo has elevated the American rock festival to an unprecedented level. As the only round-the-clock major US music festival, Bonnaroo packs an unparalleled amount of entertainment options into its four days. The event has offered its attendees the amenities and community spirit of a small city, with 24 hours of activities including a comedy theater, cinema festival, jazz club, silent disco, arcade, Internet caf├ęs, restaurants, yoga classes and hundreds of high quality craft vendors. Since its inception, Bonnaroo swiftly earned its status as the country's premier music and arts event. The Wall Street Journal called Bonnaroo "one of rock's best festivals," continuing to hail that the 2009 lineup "fairly bursts with some of the most gifted acts in rock and pop." Entertainment Weekly called it "the best of all sonic worlds," while the New York Times said, "Bonnaroo's very loose mandate - and a wise one for any festival - is to choose performers who deliver in a live performance, with current hits and studio expertise as lower priorities. One of the pleasures of the festival is that it defies narrowcasting: It's not an Americana festival, an indie-rock festival, a gathering of 2008-9 hitmakers or anything but what its producers and, presumably, ticket-buyers are happy to hear." Rolling Stone called Bonnaroo "one of the 50 moments to change the history of rock and roll."

Once again, Bonnaroo has created a couple of unique ticketing options for its fans. The festival is offering a special payment plan in whichtickets will be available for five (5) payments of $50.00 plus applicable fees. In addition, fans will have the option to purchase a Bonnaroo Green Ticket that will help to support the development and implementation of sustainable improvements at the festival for years to come. Festival organizers are constantly looking for ways to be aggressive with mitigating the event's environmental impact and raising awareness about green issues.

As part of Fuse's three-year deal with Bonnaroo, the network will be back as the exclusive television partner of the festival. Fuse will be reporting live from Bonnaroo throughout the weekend and will air a special, featuring interviews with the hottest bands and performances from this year's star-studded lineup.

2010 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival Confirmed Artists:

•Dave Matthews Band
•Kings of Leon
•Stevie Wonder
•Tenacious D
•The Flaming Lips with Stardeath and White Dwarfs perform "Dark Side of the Moon"
•The Dead Weather
•Damian Marley & Nas
•Norah Jones
•Michael Franti & Spearhead
•John Fogerty
•Regina Spektor
•Jimmy Cliff
•LCD Soundsystem
•The Avett Brothers
•Thievery Corporation
•Rise Against
•Tori Amos
•The National
•Zac Brown Band
•Les Claypool
•John Prine
•The Black Keys
•Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers
•Jeff Beck
•Dropkick Murphys
•She & Him
•Against Me!
•The Disco Biscuits
•Daryl Hall & Chromeo
•Jamey Johnson
•Kid Cudi
•Baaba Maal
•Kris Kristofferson
•Medeski Martin & Wood
•The xx
•Dan Deacon Ensemble
•The Melvins
•Gaslight Anthem
•Miike Snow
•Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
•Dr. Dog
•They Might Be Giants
•Punch Brothers
•Blitzen Trapper
•Blues Traveler
•Miranda Lambert
•OK Go
•Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
•Martin Sexton
•Dave Rawlings Machine
•Mayer Hawthorne and the County
•Jay Electronica
•Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
•Ingrid Michaelson
•The Dodos
•Manchester Orchestra
•The Temper Trap
•Cross Canadian Ragweed
•Big Sam's Funky Nation
•Carolina Chocolate Drops
•Tokyo Police Club
•The Entrance Band
•Local Natives
•Brandi Carlile
•Mumford & Sons
•Diane Birch
•Monte Montgomery
•Julia Nunes
•The Postelles
•Here We Go Magic
•Hot Rize
•Neon Indian

Local brewfest combines beer and vinyl

KLCC’s Microbrew Festival showcases a variety of exclusive brews and vintage tracks

By Andrew Hitz | Scene reporter

Radio station KLCC’s annual Microbrew Festival is bringing some of Oregon’s best brewers to town.

The two-day festival kicks off Friday and will showcase 50 small breweries from as near as the Pacific Northwest and from as far away as Belgium, and many of the brews were made exclusively for the festival.

KLCC, Lane Community College’s licensed National Public Radio broadcaster, has been hosting the event for nearly two decades as the station’s primary fundraiser. “Our motto is ‘Keeping the fun in fundraiser,’” organizer Gayle Chisholm said.

The event is more than just a beer-tasting extravaganza. The festival has more than 100
different small-batch beers, but also has opportunities for people to collect old vinyl records.

“Our first year, we were clearing out the records at KLCC and decided that we would sell some of them at the festival,” co-organizer Kris Fox said.

Now the station has people donate albums for them to sell at the festival to supplement what they pick from their archives.

“It’s kind of a fun activity when you’re holding a beer and flipping through vinyls,” Chisholm said.

Read the rest of the article here:

This Date In Music History-February 12


Ray Manzarek - Doors (1939)

Rick Frank - Elephant's Memory (1942)

Joe Schermie - Three Dog Night (1945)

Stanley Knight - Black Oak Arkansas (1949)

Steve Hackett - quit Genesis in 1977 for solo work (1950)

Michael McDonald - Doobie Brothers (1952)

Neil Conti - Prefab Sprout (1959)

Gary Whelan - Happy Mondays (1966)

Paul Crook - guitarist, worked with Meat Loaf, Anthrax and Sebastian Bach (1966)

Chynna Phillips, Wilson Phillips (1968)

Jim Creeggan - Barenaked Ladies (1970)

They Are Missed:

Born on this day in 1915, Lorne Greene, star of the NBC TV show Bonanza. He had a US #1 single "Ringo," which made him the second Canadian to have a US #1 single. Greene died on September 11,1987.

Oliver ("Good Morning Starshine") died of cancer in 2000.

American bassist and songwriter John London died in 2000 (age 58). Worked with The Monkees, James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt.

Blues singer Screamin' Jay Hawkins died in 2000 (age 70). A Golden Gloves boxing champion at 16, he was married nine times, spent two years in jail, was temporary blinded by one of his flaming props on stage in 1976. He recorded "I Put A Spell On You" in 1956, covered by The Animals, CCR and Nina Simone.

Born today in 1958, Grant McLennan, bass, vocals, songwriter, The Go-Betweens and solo. McLennan died in his sleep at his home in Brisbane, Australia on May 6, 2006.

Eldee Young of the Ramsey Lewis Trio ("Hang On Sloopy") and Young/Holt Unlimited ("Soulful Strut") died of a heart attack in 2007.


The Miracles' "Shop Around" became Motown's first million-selling single in 1961.

In 1964, the Beatles returned to New York City by train from Washington, D.C. for two performances at Carnegie Hall. There was such a demand for tickets that some extra seating was arranged surrounding the stage. Tickets ranged from $1.65 to $5.50.

In 1965, Pye Records announced that they'd signed 'the British Bob Dylan,' when they added Donovan to the label.

The law raided Rolling Stone Keith Richards’ house in 1967where they find “various substances of suspicious nature.” Richards’ legal troubles along with the drug related arrests of Mick Jagger and Brian Jones nearly halts the Stones.

Jimi Hendrix returned home to Seattle in 1968 where he received a key to the city and an honorary high school diploma. He also played for the students of Garfield High School from which he had dropped out.

In 1970, John Lennon performed "Instant Karma," on BBC TV's 'Top Of The Pops,' becoming the first Beatle to have appeared on the show since 1966.

"Roundabout" was released by Yes in 1972.

Al Green went to #1 on the US singles chart in 1972 with "Let's Stay Together," his only US chart topper.

Barbra Streisand started a six-week run at #1 on the US album chart in 1977 with 'A Star Is Born.'

The Police recorded their first single, 'Fall Out ' for £150 ($255) at Pathway Studios, London in 1977.

In 1977, Blondie, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and the Ramones all appeared at the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles, California.

Axl Rose walked off the stage during a Guns N’ Roses concert in Phoenix in 1988. Their subsequent shows supporting David Lee Roth are canceled as rumors circulate that Rose has a) lost his voice or b) been fired from the group.

Alice In Chains’ “Jar Of Flies” tops the U.S. album chart in 1994. It’s the first EP to hit #1 on the survey.

Celine Dion started a four week run at #1 on the US singles chart in 1994 with "The Power Of Love," the singers first US #1 hit.

In 1995, Van Halen, scored their first US #1 album with ‘Balance.’

Mariah Carey started a two-week run at #1 on the US singles chart in 2000 with "Thank God I Found You."

In 2001 - The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Napster to stop its users from trading copyrighted material without charge.

In 2003, Former Doors drummer John Densmore took out legal action against The Doors keyboard player Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger for breach of contract, trademark infringement and unfair competition. The band had reformed with Ex- Cult singer Ian Astbury and former Police drummer Stewart Copeland. Densmore said "It shouldn't be called The Doors if it's someone other than Jim Morrison singing." I agree.

During a press conference at West Hollywood's Whisky a Go Go club in 2007, Sting confirmed that The Police were getting back together. The band were set to kick off a world tour on May 28 in Vancouver, Canada, supported by Sting's son Joe Sumner's band, Fiction Plane.

In 2009, Limp Bizkit announced that they have reunited to tour and record an album, with all five original members. "We decided we were more disgusted and bored with the state of heavy popular music than we were with each other," reads a joint statement from singer Fred Durst and guitarist Wes Borland.

Also in 2009, Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen landed in second and third place (behind Madonna) on Billboard's Moneymakers list, after raking in more than $157 million and $156 million, respectively, in ’08 music sales and tour revenue. The Police were #4 earning just under $110 million.