Saturday, January 14, 2012

Michael Fremer Album Review


James Taylor

Columbia/Mobile Fidelity MFSL 1-354 180LP/SACD

Produced by: Peter Asher

Engineered by: Val Garay

Mixed by: Val Garay

Mastered by: Krieg Wunderlich, assisted by Rob LoVerde



Mobile Fidelity Freshens Up a Classic
by Michael Fremer
December 01, 2011

Cleaned up, hair cut, even shown bowling in the gatefold photo layout, James Taylor, many felt at the time, had clearly sold out to corporate America by signing with Columbia Records. By 1977 his long hair, hippie days were over and so were ours, but many diehards resented the slick shift and were appalled by the whole thing, starting with the cover photo.

But once the stylus dropped in the lead-in groove, it was obvious that the label shift and image change had produced a musically and emotionally re-invigorated James Taylor, one that was able to maintain his former sensibilities while surrounding himself with a less folky, more pop/funky/electrified musical backdrop. You might even say it glows with the bell-toned Fender-Rhodes keyboard sound.

JT went on to become a multi-platinum selling hit and Taylor's biggest since his break-out album Sweet Baby James. True it's a fairly slick-sounding affair despite Taylor's use of many of his long-time cohorts like Danny Kortchmar, Leland Sklar and Russ Kunkel. Taylor's subject matter is sunnier and less self-absorbed. In "Looking For Love" he says he's had enough of self-pity.

He's downright exuberant singing to his girlfriend on the opener, "You're Smiling Face." Between that and "The Secret Of Life," his positive affirmation in which he lets listeners know he's figured it out how to live a satisfied, meaningful life that will allow him to age gracefully.

Obviously, the decades since show that he's lived his own advice. In fact sometimes you just wish he'd take that shit-eating grin off his face and show some emotion!

Side two opens with a reverential, string-drenched take on "Handy Man" that surprised and delighted consumers of the raucous original. There's the backstreet slink of "I Was Only Telling a Lie" that sounds more like something Bowie, Marc Bolan or Humble Pie could have come up with.

The hymnal, Paul Simon-ish "Terra Nova" remains one of Taylor's most beautiful and positive songs with backing by Carly Simon, whose multivoice coda remains memorable . Thankfully "Traffic Jam," an overly cute "gospel/rap" by way of The Coasters with a global warming message well ahead of its time is but a short detour to the love song finale, "If I Keep My Heart," which sounds more like a black r&b ballad than one by a folkie.

Well, a former folkie. This record propelled Taylor far beyond his guitar based folk music and he never looked back. It's success and the new image he'd created for himself removed all boundaries to his stylistic wanderings.

While the production may sound a bit slick, it's such sweet ear candy, you won't care. Val Garay gets the instruments remarkably well separated in space and give you a kick drum and electric bass you can latch onto and ride. All of the instruments receive the same clean, unprocessed treatment and as good as the original Columbia pressing was, Mobile Fidelity does it even better, striking the perfect balance between warmth and clarity. The original's dynamics can't match this edition.

There's plenty worth listening in on within these mixes and the mastering and pressing open a transparent, revealing window onto the action.

Thanks to Michael over at  for the exclusive rights to reprint this material. Stop by for more reviews and features.

©2011 & Michael Fremer - - All rights reserved

Reprinted by Permission

Vinyl Record News & Music Notes

Decemberists To Release Live LP

The Decemberists have recently announced that on March 13 they will release 'We All Raise Our Voices To The Air (Live Songs 04.11-08.11),' which is a 20-track live double-album (and triple-vinyl set) culled from the band's 2011 tour supporting their chart-topping, Grammy-nominated album 'The King Is Dead.'

In concert, the band which includes lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Colin Meloy, keyboardist & accordionist Jenny Conlee, guitarist Chris Funk, bassist Nate Query, and drummer John Moen, with additional member Sara Watkins on fiddle, guitar and vocals deliver an unforgettable live experience full of spontaneity. A band of breathtaking versatility, the Decemberists can reach deep into their rich catalog of songs for gorgeous fok-rock gems (“Rise To Me”), murderously driving rockers (“The Rake’s Song”), expansive suites (“The Crane Wife 1, 2, and 3”), the worst song Meloy ever wrote (“Dracula’s Daughter”), or epic sea shanties that inspire enthusiastic crowd participation (“The Mariner’s Revenge Song”).

The performances on We All Raise Our Voices To The Air are drawn from 12 different shows at venues including the legendary Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Stubb’s BBQ in Austin, Marymoor Amphitheatre in Seattle, and their final two shows at McMenamins Edgefield Amphitheatre in their hometown of Portland, which featured the addition of a horn section that can be heard on several songs.

Disc 1
1. The Infanta (5:15)
2. Calamity Song (3:57)
3. Rise To Me (4:55)
4. The Soldiering Life (3:58)
5. We Both Go Down Together (4:30)
6. The Bagman’s Gambit (8:05)
7. Down By The Water (3:59)
8. Leslie Ann Levine(4:15)
9. The Rake’s Song (3:34)
10. The Crane Wife 1, 2, and 3 (16:20)

Disc 2
1. Oceanside (3:15)
2. Billy Liar (6:33)
3. Grace Cathedral Hill (4:35)
4. All Arise! (4:30)
5. Rox In The Box (3:15)
6. June Hymn (4:20)
7. Dracula’s Daughter > O Valencia! (5:49)
8. This Is Why We Fight (4:35)
9. The Mariner’s Revenge Song (10:20)
10. I Was Meant For The Stage (10:00)


NIGHTWISH To Release 'The Crow, The Owl And The Dove' Single

"The Crow, The Owl And The Dove", the second single from "Imaginaerum", the new album from Finnish/Swedish symphonic metallers NIGHTWISH, will be released in Europe on March 2 via Nuclear Blast Records. Along with the title track, the single will include a previously unreleased song called "The Heart Asks Pleasure First" (theme from the movie "The Piano"). The cut will be available in two different versions, including an instrumental one.

"The Crow, The Owl And The Dove" is featured in three versions: the radio edit, album version and an instrumental.

You can order the single on CD, or as a vinyl in clear or blue color.

Read more at Blabbermouth


Tony Iommi Posts Message

Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi posted his first message in response to his recent diagnosis of lymphoma earlier this week. In a post on Facebook, Iommi wrote:

"My fans, friends & colleagues -

"I just want to say how overwhelmed I am with all your messages of support, thank you so much.

"Well it's not what I wanted for Christmas, that's for sure, but now I can't wait for the test results to come in and get going with the treatment.

"It's really good that the guys are coming over so that we can continue working on the album as things are going great in the studio.

"Well, not much else to say at this time, so thanks again.

"Bless you all,



this out of the lovely state of arizona.....vinyl nerds unite!

Not So Secretly, Eastside Records Comes Back from the Dead

By Amanda Ventura • College Times

There's a rich, nerdy culture that keeps record stores in business. So for audiophiles and vinyl enthusiasts, seeing a beloved record store close its doors is tough. They hardly ever re-open in the same place twice and generally the new locations never seem as convenient as before. Remember when Hoodlums went "on hiatus" after the Great Memorial Union Fire of 2007? The store's relocation on McClintock Drive – so far away from the college crowd – was such bittersweet news. Thankfully, the store is alive and well, and always worth the drive.

Let's hope the same holds true for Mill Avenue Districts' Eastside Records. As we remember it, the store, furnished by innards of various defunct record stores, was a compact goldmine of super obscure and collection-worthy vinyl. It was a place where folks could nerd out with the guys behind the counters and occasionally catch a live show.

Read the rest at ecollegetimes


and in southern california, it seems that the turntable may just be part of the college decor in every dorm....

Vinyls revitalize music industry

By Nick Mindicino · Daily Trojan

Vinyl records are not just for DJs to spin any more.

These hunky, 12-inch pieces of wax are quickly becoming the physical medium of choice among music fans.

In an age when thousands of songs can be stored on a miniscule device like an iPod Nano, younger consumers are discovering that perhaps their grandparents were right all along: Vinyl is the way to go.

And artists, too, are taking note. From smaller bands like Punchline to mainstream artists like Katy Perry, it clearly behooves artists to release a record on vinyl.

Though the landscape seems nearly apocalyptic for CD sales in the wake of the digital downloading revolution, vinyl records are providing a glimmer of hope in their niche markets.

Read the rest at


Taj Mahal – Recycling The Blues & Other Related Stuff – Columbia Records/ Original Recordings Group (45 rpm vinyl)

Rare look at an emerging blues legend is captured on exquisite vinyl.

Taj Mahal – Recycling The Blues & Other Related Stuff – Columbia Records KC 31605 (1972)/ Original Recordings Group 12” 45rpm stereo audiophile vinyl (2 discs), 37:54 total ****:

(Taj Mahal – steel guitar, kalimba, conch, hand claps, upright bass, vocals; The Pointer Sisters – background vocals; Howard Johnson – hand claps, tuba)

When Taj Mahal burst on the scene in the late sixties, it was difficult to classify his music. Playing guitar and harmonica, he fit the bill as a traditional blues artist. Folk enthusiasts appreciated his banjo work as well. He collaborated with a variety of artists, including rock musicians (Ry Cooder). With creative vision, he developed a unique blues mystique. His stage presence led him to, folk and blues festivals, national rock venues and clubs around the world.

His 1972 studio/live album, Recycling The Blues & Other Related Stuff has now been reissued on 45 rpm vinyl. This is an unusual recording with 11 tracks that clock in just shy of thirty-eight minutes. The first seven tracks are live, recorded at the Fillmore West in San Francisco. Side A opens with a “Taj” oddity…a conch solo! Known for experimenting with unusual instruments, the next cut is unexpected. Performing on kalimba (African thumb piano), he manages to extract a rhythmic flow from this “tinny” instrument, as the crowd responds enthusiastically. Switching to his trademark National steel guitar, Taj explodes with forceful strumming and an earthy, baritone voice on “Bound To Love Me Some”. As a solo performer, he has few peers in the totality of his delivery. The set becomes more innovative as the bluesman unveils a banjo for an instrumental, “Ricochet”. With indelible technique, a riveting progression of chord and individual notation transforms bluegrass into modern expression.

Side B starts with a solo a capella gospel song (“A Free Song/Rise Up Children Shake The Devil Out Of Your Soul”). Then, it’s vintage Taj Mahal as he delivers “Corinna” with his raspy vocal style. Without losing the idiosyncratic ambiance, a duet with tuba player Howard Johnson (“Cakewalk Into Town” is an appealing transition to studio material. Side C is some of his best work. Backed by the “unknown” (at the time, anyway) Pointer Sisters, Taj reinvents Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago” and makes it his own. The gospel-laden backup vocals are exultant. The Pointers resonate like soulful Andrews Sisters with their three-part harmonies on “Texas Woman Blues”. The album concludes with a virtuosic solo guitar instrumental, “Gitano Negro”. Easily the longest cut on the album (eight and a half minutes), Taj alternates pensive, delicate phrasing with cadenced strumming. There is an underlying classical structure that coalesces with the up tempo riffs.

ORG Recordings Group re-mastered 45 rpm vinyl is superior to most digital reproductions. Pressed at RTI and mastered by Bernie Grundman from the original analogue master tapes, every nuanced detail, including the rarely used kalimba is pristinely clear. The tones of the steel guitar are rich in texture. Audiophiles and Taj Mahal enthusiasts will want to add Recycling The Blues & Other Related Stuff to their collections.

Side A: Conch Intro; Kalimba; Bound To Love Me Some; Richochet
Side B: A Free Song (Rise Up Children Shake The Devil Out Of Your Soul); Corinna; Conch:Close; Cakewalk Into Town
Side C: Sweet Home Chicago; Texas Woman Blues
Side D: Gitano Negro

–Robbie Gerson

Copyright © Audiophile Audition

AUDIOPHILE AUDITION focuses on recordings of interest to audiophiles and collectors, with an accent on surround sound for music, and on all hi-res disc formats. Over 100 SACD, DVD Video/Audio and standard CD reviews are published during each month, and our archives go back to January 2001.

Special thanks to John at  for the exclusive rights to reprint this material.


Ringo Starr Releasing New Album At End Of Month

Ringo Starr is scheduled to release his new album, 'Ringo 2012,' on January 31 in the US via Hip-O Records/UMe. The nine-track album features two covers, one of Buddy Holly's "Think It Over" and the other "Rock Island Line" as made famous by Lonnie Donegan. Guest appearances include guitarists Joe Walsh and Kenny Wayne Shepherd along with Amy Keys, Michael Bradford, Dave Stewart, Don Was, Steve Dudas, Edgar Winter, Charlie Haden, Richard Page, Kelly Moneymaker, Van Dyke Parks, Benmont Tench, and Bruce Sugar.

Starr produced this album, and it was recorded in Los Angeles and mixed in England. It will be released digitally, on CD and vinyl.

1. Anthem
2. Wings
3. Think It Over
4. Samba
5. Rock Island Line
6. Step Lightly
7. Wonderful
8. In Liverpool
9. Slow Down


Hands Like Houses Reveal Album Artwork

Here is the cover art for Hands Like Houses' new LP, 'Ground Dweller.' Recorded at Chango Studios with Cameron Mizell, the album will be released on March 13 via Rise Records.

1. Antarctica
2. Don't Look Now, I'm Being Followed. Act Normal.
3. This Ain't No Place For Animals
4. Spineless Crow
5. Starving to Death in the Belly of a Whale
6. A Clown and His Pipe
7. The Definition of Not Leaving
8. Lion Skin
9. One Hundred
10. Watchmaker
11. The Sower


and in music history for december 14th:

In 1955, Big Joe Turner, the Clovers, Fats Domino, the Moonglows, the Drifters and the Harptones performed in two shows at the 6,000-seat St. Nicholas Arena in Harlem as disc jockey and concert promoter Alan Freed presented his first Rock and Roll Ball in New York City. Both shows sold out well in advance.

In 1963, at the Flamingo Jazz Club in the Soho section of London, drummer Charlie Watts made his live performance debut with the Rolling Stones.

In 1964, the Beatles (minus Ringo Starr, who was fog-bound in Liverpool) departed from Liverpool for Paris, France for an 18-day run at the Olympia Theatre. Arriving in Paris, John, Paul, and George were met by 60 fans. Ringo, accompanied by roadie Neil Aspinall, arrived the next day.

In 1966, David Jones changes his name to David Bowie to avoid confusion with Davy Jones from the Monkees, just in time for the release of his single, "Can't Help Thinking About Me". He would later say that he chose "Bowie" because he likes that "big American bear-killin' knife."

In 1967, over 25,000 people attend The Human Be-In - A Gathering Of The Tribes at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. The event was a forerunner of major, outdoor Rock concerts and featured The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Big Brother And The Holding Company.

In 1967, the Rolling Stones released the single "Let's Spend the Night Together" in North America.

Released in the United Kingdom as a single in January 1967, "Let's Spend the Night Together" reached #3 on the UK Singles Chart. The song was included on the American version of the Stones' album 'Between the Buttons,' and was also released there as a single. However, due to the then-controversial nature of the lyrics (with its suggestion of casual sex) most radio stations opted to play the flip side "Ruby Tuesday" instead. The two songs charted separately on the US Billboard Hot 100, "Let's Spend the Night Together" stalling at #55 while "Ruby Tuesday" became a #1 hit. "Let's Spend the Night Together" features piano by both Jack Nitzsche and Keith Richards, organ by Brian Jones, drums from Charlie Watts, electric guitar and bass by Keith Richards, lead vocals by Mick Jagger and backing vocals from both Jagger and Richards. Bassist Bill Wyman does not appear on this track.

On The Ed Sullivan Show, the band was initially refused permission to perform the number. Sullivan himself told Jagger, "Either the song goes or you go." A compromise was reached to substitute the words "let's spend some time together" in place of "let's spend the night together"; Jagger agreed to change the lyrics but ostentatiously rolled his eyes at the TV camera while singing them. Ed Sullivan announced that the Rolling Stones would be banned from performing on his show again. In April 2006, for their first-ever performance in China, authorities prohibited the group from performing the song due to its "suggestive lyrics".

In 1970, a display of John Lennon's erotic "Bag One" lithographs opened in London. 2 days later Scotland Yard seized prints as evidence of pornography.

Also in 1970, Diana Ross performed for the last time with The Supremes at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas. During the show, Diana introduces her replacement, Jean Terrell, who will lead the group to seven more Top 40 hits, including the Top 10 entries "Up The Ladder To The Roof" and "Stoned Love" later in the year.

In 1972, Paul Simon released his self-titled solo debut album.

In 1973, Elvis Presley's Aloha From Hawaii concert is broadcast live to an estimated one billion people around the world. The soundtrack is later released as a two record set and becomes one of the King's best selling LPs of the '70s, hitting number one later the same year.

In 1978, the Sex Pistols played their last concert before breaking up. The show was in San Francisco, CA.

In 1978, an L.A. group called Player had the top tune in the US with "Baby Come Back". The song was written by band members Peter Beckett and John Crowley after both had broken up with their respective girl friends. The song reached #32 in the UK.

In 1984, when his "Pipes Of Peace" reached the top of the UK singles chart, Paul McCartney made British chart history by becoming the first artist to have a #1 record while part of a group (the Beatles), in a duo (with Stevie Wonder), in a trio (with Wings), and as a solo artist.

In 1989, Paul McCartney released his album 'Back In The U.S.S.R.' exclusively in Russia.

In 1992, Jerry Nolan, drummer for The New York Dolls, died at the age of 45. He was being treated for bacterial meningitis and bacterial pneumonia at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York, when he suffered a stroke and went into a coma from which he never recovered.

In 1995, Ruby Starr, vocalist for Black Oak Arkansas on their 1974 hit "Jim Dandy" as well as having her own solo career, died of cancer at the age of 45.

In 1999, the January issue of Rolling Stone magazine reveals that the two children of Melissa Etheridge and her partner Julie Cypher were fathered by David Crosby.

In 1999, Metallica sued Victoria's Secret, claiming that the manufacturer infringed on its trademark by marketing a line of "Metallica" lip pencils.

In 2005, a $100,000 statue honoring the late punk guitarist Johnny Ramone was unveiled by his widow Linda at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Johnny died from prostate cancer in September 2004 at the age of 55. Hundreds turned out for the ceremony, including Tommy Ramone – the only surviving band member. Dee Dee Ramone died of a drugs overdose in 2002 and Joey died in 2001 of lymphatic cancer.

In 2007, Amy Winehouse started a two-week run at #1 on the UK album chart with Back to Black (which went on to become the biggest-selling album of 2007 with sales over 1.5m copies).

In 2010, guitar great Jimmy Page was honored with the United Nations' first ever Pathways To Peace Award. Pathways To Peace is an international peace building, educational and consulting organization which has consultative status with the United Nations.

In 2011, as her latest release, "Haven't Seen the Last of Me" raced up Billboard's Dance Club Song chart, 64-year-old Cher was poised to mark the sixth decade in which she had a #1 hit. Her track record of achieving chart topping records includes: The 1960s - "I Got You Babe" The 1970s - "Gypsys, Tramps And Thieves" "Half Breed" "Dark Lady" and "All I Ever Need Is You." The 1980s - "If I Could Turn Back Time" and "After All" (with Peter Cetera) The 1990s - "Believe" "Strong Enough" and "All or Nothing". The 2000s - "Song For the Lonely" "A Different Kind of Love Song" and "When The Money's Gone."

Celebrating birthdays today, january 14th:  1969, L.L. Cool J (James Todd Smith) 1968, T-Bone Burnett 1948, Geoff Tate (Queensryche) 1959 and Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana)