Saturday, March 31, 2012

Vinyl Record News & Music Notes

45rpm Record Turns Sixty-Three Today

written by Robert Benson

Happy Birthday to an old friend, the 45 rpm record officially turns 63 years old today!

The 45rpm record was initially introduced in 1949 by RCA Records as a smaller, more durable replacement for the heavy 78 shellac-based records of the time. The 45 was created by RCA as a competitive move against one their rival record companies, Columbia, which had just introduced the new microgroove 33 1/3 rpm LP. The number 45 came from taking 78 and subtracting Columbia's new 33 to equal the 45. Record companies and consumers alike faced an uncertain future as to which format would survive the 78rpm or the 45rpm; in what was known as the “War of the Speeds.” In 1949 Capitol and Decca started issuing the new LP format and RCA relented and issued its first LP in January 1950. But the 45 rpm was gaining in popularity and Columbia issued its first 45s in February 1951. Soon other record companies saw the mass consumer appeal the new format allowed and by 1954 more than 200 million 45s had been sold.

So On March 31, 1949, RCA Victor released "Texarkana Baby" b/w "Bouquet of Roses" by Eddy Arnold. The first 45 to hit the Billboard charts was "A -- You're Adorable" by Perry Como, listed on the charts on May 7, 1949. The next week, the year's biggest hit appeared on the Billboard charts -- "Riders In The Sky (A Cowboy Legend)” by Vaughn Monroe. The first 45rpm records were monaural and as stereo sound became more prevalent and popular in the 1960s, almost all 45rpm records were manufactured in stereo.

The historical and commercial significance of the 45rpm record has varied over time, the technological developments in recorded music and according to the audience of the particular artists and musical genres. In general, 45 records were more important to the music acts who sold music to the younger audiences (mostly teenagers) who tend to have limited financial resources and shorter attention spans. That said, the golden age for the 45 was in the 1950s and 1960s in early development of rock music. They were affordable and allowed artists the freedom of releasing a single song as opposed to a whole LP. Conversely, some singles helped to launch the sales of the albums that the musicians were promoting.

The length of the songs also evolved. In the 1950s, it was common for songs to be anywhere from two to two and a half minutes long and in the 1960s; the three minute single became the norm. This length was very convenient and fit the AM radio format very well. Millions of demo records were sent out to radio stations with specific instructions as to which song was supposed to be the ‘hit single,’ although there were some DJs that played the ‘B’ sides and those songs became hits. Elvis Presley was one of the first artists to release the ‘double-sided single’, meaning that both songs would ultimately end up on the charts. The Beatles followed suit and were also one of the first recording artists to push the envelope, so to speak and commonly had songs over the three-minute norm. In fact, there are some singles that had to be edited by radio stations and shortened to fit their particular formats. Don McLean’s 1972 hit “American Pie” is an example, the single was split up into two parts on the 45. The Beatles broke new ground in 1968 with their over seven minute epic “Hey Jude.”

The sales of the 45s were recorded on the record charts in most countries in a Top 40 format and these charts were often published in magazines (Billboard), television shows (American Bandstand) and radio programs often had the Top 40 countdown shows (Casey Casem). However, the 45 rpm record can never duplicate the sales figures from when the format was in its heyday because when the 45 was at its peak, it was the way to get music to the music consumer. Today there are too many other formats competing for the music dollar.

Nowadays, they still manufacture 45 rpm records, but on a much smaller scale than decades ago. Indie bands, r&b artists and punk bands love the format; it makes the music affordable for their target audience and, after all these years, 45 rpm records are still highly sought after by record collectors. Happy Birthday to an old friend, here’s for many more!


a few vinyl record reviews from our friends at

Sarah Vaughan – Snowbound – Roulette R 52091/PurePleasure – vinyl

Sarah Vaughan matched with dreamy strings.

Published on March 25, 2012

Sarah Vaughan – Snowbound – Roulette R 52091/ PurePleasure PPAN R52091 (1962) 180gm audiophile stereo vinyl ****:

(Sarah Vaughan, vocals; unknown string section, woodwinds, and rhythm section; Strings arranged and conducted by Don Costa; Originally produced by Teddy Reig; re-mastered by Sean Magee at Abbey Road Studio)

PurePleasure Records, from England, should be commended for re-issuing relatively ignored jazz issues from the 1950s and 1960s, and giving them the benefit of remastering in upgraded sound on 180gm vinyl.

Snowbound was issued during Vaughan’s years with Roulette Records which lasted from approximately 1960 to 1964. Most of Roulette’s issues were produced by Teddy Reig, an inimitable character, who was known for giving his label artists free rein to work their magic. That worked particularly well with the Count Basie Band.

For Snowbound, Sarah was matched with Don Costa, who did the arrangements and conducted the strings and woodwinds. For the eleven tracks on the album, largely ballad standards were chosen, such as “Stella by Starlight,” “I Fall in Love Too Easily,” and “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.”

Sarah’s gorgeous alto and vibrato are put to good use and she does not coast, simply content to earn an easy paycheck. For this ballad collection, Vaughan’s only rival would have been Ella Fitzgerald. Both could have sung from a phone book as their voices were so glorious.

Sassy has her fun with the Gershwin’s “Blah, Blah, Blah,” one of the overlooked compositions of the two brothers. The strings and woodwinds are unobtrusive and give Vaughan the minimal support she needs. They are there for mood setting, and that they do.

On “I Remember You” Sarah shows her ability to bend a vocal or extend with vibrato, a vocal phrase. Her voice was in her prime, and it is a joy today to hear her make each song her own. The remastering by Sean Magee, done at the iconic Abbey Road Studios, is firstrate. The strings and woodwinds are mixed perfectly for listening as they are perfectly set on the sound stage leaving Vaughan upfront, but neither overwhelming, nor so distant as to be irrelevant.

For fans of Ms. Vaughan, Snowbound would be a welcome addition to their collection of this jazz vocalist supreme.

Side 1: Snowbound, I Hadn’t Anyone ‘til You; What’s Good about Goodbye; Stella By Starlight; Look to Your Heart; Oh, You Crazy Moon

Side 2: Blah, Blah, Blah; I Remember You; I Fall in Love Too Easily; Glad to be Unhappy; Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most

—Jeff Krow


Cassandra Wilson – Blue Light ‘Til Dawn – Blue Note/ PurePleasure (2 vinyl discs)

Cassandra Wilson’s Blue Note debut in stunning audiophile clarity.

Published on March 25, 2012

Cassandra Wilson – Blue Light ‘Til Dawn – Blue Note/ PurePleasure PPAN 81357 – 180gm (2 discs) vinyl (1993) ****½:

(Cassandra Wilson, vocals; Brandon Ross, guitars; Charlie Burnham, violin & mandocello; Kenny Davis, bass; Tony Cedras, accordion; Lance Carter, drums & percussion; Olu Dara, cornet; Kevin Johnson, percussion; Vinx, percussion; Don Byron, clarinet; Bill McClellan, drums & percussion; Jeff Haynes and Cyro Baptista, percussion; Gib Wharton, pedal steel guitar; Lonnie Plaxico, bass; Chris Whitley, National resophonic guitar)

Cassandra Wilson’s debut for Blue Note Records, Blue Light ‘Til Dawn, recorded in 1993, was the breakout recording for Ms. Wilson. She had recorded for Brooklyn’s experimental M-Base collective and was finding her voice as a jazz singer when Blue Light was released. It became a hit and Wilson’s career really took off.

Blue Light was blues-oriented and covered an eclectic range of material ranging from legendary bluesman, Robert Johnson to compositions from Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell, while also paying homage to Ann Peebles’ soul classic, “I Can’t Stand the Rain.”

The British audiophile label Pure Pleasure has given Wilson’s album the royal audiophile LP treatment with re-mastering by Blue Note’s Ron McMaster, done at Capitol Studios. The CD release has been languorously stretched out over two LPs with none of the sides exceeding fifteen minutes.

Right off with the Side A initial track, “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” you immediately hear the improvement in acoustics. Cassandra’s smoky, sultry phrasing matched to the steel string guitar’s tone, and Charlie Burnham’s violin set a mood that grabs your attention and tells you something special is happening here. Wilson’s delivery is impeccable and heartfelt. The soundstage is wide and crystal clear.

Percussion, accordion, and various guitars contribute to the down home Robert Johnson classic, “Come On in My Kitchen.” Hand drums and percussion over the trap set add to the intimate feel. Philly soul gets a different treatment on Thom Bell’s “Children of the Night,” as Brandon Ross’ classical guitar is mixed with three percussionists into a heady mix of voodoo rhythms that Wilson’s vocals dart in and out matching the mood being set. Robert Johnson reappears on “Hellhound On My Trail.” Ross’ steel string guitar is mated with Olu Dara’s cornet, and you can sense the escapee just one step ahead of the hounds hot on his trail. Joni Mitchell’s “Black Crow” has more scene-setting as all six percussionists stir the pot while Don Byron’s clarinet provides fills. Wilson’s sultry voice captivates.

“Sankofa,” with an African theme, is a solo for Wilson, and her vocal mix tracks are sublime. Cyro Baptista’s percussion laden, “Estrellas” is ear candy for fans of drum rhythms. Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey” has additional lyrics from “Angel” by Jimi Hendrix. A personal favorite of mine, Cassandra does Van straight ahead. Her vocal range and warm phrasing is so inviting, and Charlie Burnham’s violin solo is a nice touch.

Side D is closed with the title track, and “I Can’t Stand the Rain.” The former benefits from more percussion and Wilson tells the story of a passionate meeting between lovers. The pedal steel guitar of Gib Wharton and violin of Charlie Burnham contribute to the relaxed and potentially memorable late night meeting. Chris Whitley’s National resophonic guitar is the sole instrument Cassandra uses to interpret the latter soul classic. It is given an acoustic deep South blues reading and you can sense it being played in a juke joint at 2 AM.

If you want the “definitive” version of Blue Night ‘Til Dawn, wait no longer. PurePleasure Records’ double-LP issue is sonic bliss.

[Another testament to the superiority of carefully remastered vinyl. Perhaps the highest-res stereo digital has the capability of being closer to the original recording—whatever it is—but the aural artifacts of the best vinyl remain the most pleasing to most ears...Ed.]

Side A: You Don’t Know What Love Is, Come On in to My Kitchen, Tell Me You’ll Wait for Me
Side B: Children of the Night, Hellhound on My Trail, Black Crow
Side C: Sankofa, Estrellas, Redbone, Tupelo Honey
Side D: Blue Light ‘Til Dawn, I Can’t Stand the Rain

—Jeff Krow


Duster Bennett – Smiling Like I’m Happy – Blue Horizon/ Pure Pleasure Records (vinyl)

Duster possessed an uncanny ability to play harmonica, guitar and bass drum simultaneously.

Published on March 30, 2012

Duster Bennett – Smiling Like I’m Happy – Blue Horizon (1968)/ Pure Pleasure Records (2011) 7-63208 180-gram stereo audiophile vinyl, 40:35 ***:

(Duster Bennett – harmonica, guitar, bass drum, high-hat cymbal; Stella Sutton – vocals; Peter Green – guitar; John McVie – bass; Mick Fleetwood – drums; Ham Richmond – piano)

The British blues scene thrived in the sixties. Popular rock groups like The Rolling Stones, Cream, The Animals and Led Zeppelin rebranded American blues and in some ways reintroduced it to their American fan base. However, there was a more traditional blues scene with the likes of John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Long John Baldry and Fleetwood Mac. These bands thrived on the more austere parameters of this genre, without the guarantee of commercial success.

Among this hardcore blues establishment was a modern day one-man-band named Duster Bennett (not a bad moniker at that). He possessed an uncanny ability to play harmonica, guitar (a 1952 Les Paul Goldtop given to him by Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green) and bass drum simultaneously. Green and Top Topham performed with him on mostly original “Jimmy Reed” inspired material. Additionally he was a session player, recording with John Peel (Top Gear) and received some notoriety as an opening act and band member of Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in 1970. His career stalled in the seventies, but he remained popular on the local blues club circuit. Unfortunately in 1976 after performing with Memphis Slim, he died in a tragic car accident.

Pure Pleasure Records has re-mastered his 1968 Blue Horizon debut, Smiling Like I’m Happy to state-of-the-art 180-gram audiophile vinyl. Twelve concise tracks (40 minutes) of predominately original material is performed by the solitary blues band that is Duster Bennett. He is an energetic harp player as indicated by the opening track, “Worried Mind” and is credible as a singer. The format of bass drum-guitar-harmonica shifts between up tempo and slower numbers. However, this concept is hit-or-miss, occasionally affected by repetition. However, “Trying To Paint It In The Sky” is more nuanced with its slower groove, and “Country Jam” reinvigorates the record with frenetic play, while “Got A Tongue In Your Head” is effective driving, electric blues. “Life Is A Dirty Deal” attempts a “down and dirty” statement, but falls short.

Occasional piano runs by Bennett (under the alias, Ham Richmond) add some coloration, but not enough. On “Times Like These” he elicits a two-part harmony from girlfriend Stella Sutton which adds a touch of rootsy charm. The indisputable highlight is the track with Fleetwood Mac, “My Love Is Your Love” Mick Fleetwood and John McVie have always been one of the tightest rhythm sections to ever play and this anchors the tune. Peter Green’s crashing, searing guitar licks are noteworthy. Bennett executes some rolling barrelhouse piano chords and there is significant chemistry. More of this dynamic would have elevated the project.

Though uneven, Smiling Like I’m Happy” is an interesting glimpse of a peripheral contributor to British blues. Pure Pleasure Records has reproduced this album with excellent stereo separation and instrument tone (especially on the harmonica). The liner notes (from 1968) include a humorous description of how to play this stereo record on mono “reproducers”. [That’s strange—since the stereodisc came out in 1958...Ed.]

Side One: Worried Mind; Life Is A Dirty Deal; Country Jam; Trying To Paint It In The Sky; Times Like These; My Lucky Day
Side Two: Got a Tongue In Your Head; Jumping At Shadows; 40 Minutes From Town; Shame, Shame, Shame; My Love Is Your Love; Shady Little Baby

—Robbie Gerson


Nina Simone – Nina Live At The Village Gate – Colpix (1962)/ Pure Pleasure Records (vinyl)

The legendary jazz performer’s 1961 Village Gate set is brilliant.

Published on March 29, 2012

Nina Simone – Nina Live At The Village Gate – Colpix (1962)/ Pure Pleasure Records (2011) PPAN SCP 421 180gr audiophile stereo vinyl, 39:45 ****1/2:

(Nina Simone – piano, vocals; Al Schackman – guitar; Chris White – bass; Bob Hamilton – drums)

Eunice Kathleen Waymon (a.k.a. Nina Simone) did not seem destined to be the next great jazz/blues vocalist. She was a classical piano student, who did not get into Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music (an incident which sparked her predilection toward civil rights), but ended up at Juilliard in New York. Her lifetime appreciation of classical composers like Bach, Chopin, Brahms, Beethoven and Schubert provided a formal background that made her comfortable with jazz, r&b, gospel and popular music of the day.

As the story goes, a demo led to a deal with Bethlehem Records. The stunning debut included a memorable version of “I Loves You Porgy” from the Gershwin musical. Later recordings of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, “I Put A Spell On You” and “Wild Is The Wind” enhanced her reputation as a versatile and daring performer. Simone’s albums have been released continuously, long after her passage. She is revered among musicians in numerous genres.

Nina Live At The Village Gate is an unusual live set that showcases the vocal and instrumental talent of this performer. The opening track “Just In Time” (from the Broadway play, Bells Are Ringing) sets the tone for this unpredictable artist. With her vibrato-alto, Simone removes the song from its popular origins and reinvents it with an edgy interpretation. Unlike her peers, she is an adept musician, combining rhythmic chords and individual notation with forceful technique. Her timing is never interrupted by having to sing and play concurrently. The piano accompaniment of “He Was Good To Me” reflects the classical training as it complements the jazzy nuanced vocals. Simone expresses heartbreak with wistful agony. On the sole instrumental, “Bye Bye Blackbird”, the virtuosity is displayed with transitions from harmonic piano runs to syncopated Monk riffs. Her ability to blend with the rhythm section or lead the group is impressive. There is no doubt that the audience is enthralled by her.

More than stylized covers of standards, the album unleashes some unexpected gems. “House Of The Rising Sun” reverts to 3/4 time as a folk song. Guitarist Al Schackman offers a nimble solo that is contrasted by the ethereal arrangement. Subsequent renditions by Bob Dylan (who allegedly based his 1961 version on this one) and The Animals (with their organ-laden 1964 hit) followed her lead and brought the Appalachian standard into modern context. Known for her dedication to civil rights, a topical bluesy “Brown Baby” features gospel styling and “voice effects”.

Embracing the jazz culture’s awareness of African culture, “Zunga” is revelatory. A chant-based work song from West Africa, Simone pieces together a lighthearted piano intro before morphing into the steady pulse of the number. It is difficult to compare this singer with others. She is truly unique, like a “singing method actor”. Her spirituality is always on display, especially on tracks like “If He Changed My Name” and “Children Go Where I Send You”.

Nina Live At The Village Gate exudes a raw energy—partly due to the live, in-person vinyl sonics—that brings a definitive spotlight to a jazz pioneer.

Side 1: Just In Time; He Was Good To Me; House Of The Rising Sun; Bye Bye Blackbird
Side 2: Brown Baby; Zungo; If He Changed My Name; Children Go Where I Send You

—Robbie Gerson


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

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.


and in music history for march 31st:

In 1949, after nine years of development, RCA Victor introduced the first 45 rpm record, a 7-inch wonder promising better sound and easier playability than the current standard, the 10" 78 rpm record. It was also designed to compete with the Long Playing record introduced by Columbia a year earlier.

In 1956, eleven-year-old Brenda Lee made her television debut on ABC's "Ozark Jamboree," singing the Hank Williams song, "Jambalaya."

In 1957, billed as "the nation's only atomic-powered singer," Elvis Presley played two shows at Olympia Stadium in Detroit.

Also in 1957, in Little Rock, Arkansas, Sun labelmates Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins began their only tour together.

In 1958, Chuck Berry released the single "Johnny B. Goode." The original lyrics referred to Johnny as a "colored boy," but, as Berry later explained, he changed it to "country boy" to ensure radio play. Rolling Stone magazine placed it at #1 on their list of the "100 Greatest Guitar Songs Of All Time."

In 1960, Hank Ballard and The Midnighters recorded "Finger Poppin' Time."

In 1962, the Shirelles released the single "Soldier Boy." i found a 45 rpm record on youtube!

In 1964, the Beatles set a recording industry record that may never be equaled. They held the top 5 positions on the US singles chart with "Can't Buy Me Love" at number 1, "Twist and Shout" at number 2, "She Loves You" at number 3, "I Want to Hold Your Hand" at number 4 and "Please Please Me" at number 5. In Canada, they had nine of the Top 10 singles, while the Australian charts saw them occupying the first six places.

In 1966, the Elvis Presley film "Frankie and Johnny," co-starring Donna Douglas, Harry Morgan, Sue Ane Langdon, and Nancy Kovack, opened in U.S. and Canadian movie theaters.

Inj 1967, at the Finsbury Park Astoria Theatre in North London, Jimi Hendrix played his first UK concert on a bill with the Walker Brothers, Cat Stevens, and Englebert Humperdinck. It was also the first time Hendrix set fire to his guitar on stage. He had to be taken to the hospital because of resulting burns to his hands.

In 1967, the final installment of "Where the Action Is," a weekday spin-off of "American Bandstand," aired on ABC-TV.

In 1969, John Lennon and his new wife Yoko Ono left their "bed-in" at the Amsterdam Hilton to make a quick trip to Vienna for the premiere of Yoko's new film "Rape," a trip detailed in the next Beatles single, "The Ballad Of John And Yoko."

In 1972, the official Beatles Fan Club disbanded. The Beatles Monthly magazine had ceased three years previously.

Television appeared at CBGB’s in New York City in 1974.

In 1977, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, during the intermission of Elvis Presley's concert, he became too ill to return to the stage. The show was cancelled and Elvis was admitted to Baptist Hospital in Memphis the following day, suffering from fatigue and intestinal flu.

In 1978, Wings released their 'London Town' album.

In 1982, the Doobie Brothers announced their break-up after 12 years of performing together.

In 1984, Kenny Loggins started a three-week run at #1 on the US singles chart with “Footloose” – the theme from the film with the same name, a #6 hit in the UK.

In 1986, O'Kelly Isley of The Isley Brothers died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 48. As a trio, the Isleys started as a Gospel group in the early 1950s, switching to R&B in the latter half of the decade. Their first big hit was "Shout" in 1959, followed in 1962 by the original version of "Twist and Shout", later covered by the Beatles. The Isley Brothers' biggest hit came in 1969 with the million-selling "It's Your Thing."

In 1987, Prince released his "Sign O' The Times" album.

In 1989, the World's Largest Twist Party took place when 2,248 twisters joined singer Chubby Checker at Disneyland as part of their "Blast to the Past" celebration.

In 1990, at the Starplex Amphitheater in Dallas, Cher began her 55-date Heart of Stone World Tour, which grossed more than $70 million.

In 1992, Def Leppard released 'Adrenalize,' their fifth studio album and the first since the 1991 death of guitarist Steve Clark.

In 1994, Madonna made a memorable visit to "The Late Show With David Letterman" on CBS-TV. The network had to delete 13 offending words from the audio track before the show aired. She also handed Letterman a pair of her panties. Robin Williams later described the segment as a "battle of wits with an unarmed woman."

In 1995, the singer Selena was killed at age 23 by the president of her fan club, Yolanda Saldívar. In 1997, Warner Brothers made a film based on Selena's life starring Jennifer Lopez.

In 1995, a member of the audience rushed the stage at a Jimmy Page/Robert Plant concert at the Palace of Auburn Hills in suburban Detroit, with intent to stab guitarist Page "to end his Satanic music." Two security guards who apprehended the would-be assassin were stabbed instead, but they recovered from their injuries.

In 2006, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry announced that digital music sales almost tripled around the world in 2005, reaching $1.1 billion in value.

In 2007, a new world record for the longest non-stop concert was set by hundreds of musicians in Japan. The performance began on the evening of March 23 in the city of Omi, with musicians between the ages of six and 96 taking turns with more than 2,000 tunes being performed over 182 hours. Organizers praised the musicians, one of whom carried on despite a major earthquake during her piano piece. The previous world record was set in Canada in 2001 with 181 hours. why?....

birthdays today include: Mick Ralphs, guitar, Mott the Hoople, Bad Company (1944), trumpeter Herb Alpert (1935) and Angus Young of AC/DC (1955)