November 13, 2010

Playlist Week of 11-13-10

* Veracini: Sonatas (Holloway/Mortensen/ter Linden) (ECM CD)
* Geminiani: Cello Sonatas, Op.5 (ter Linden/Mortensen) (Brilliant Classics CD)
* Handel: Trio Sonatas, Op.2 & 5 (Academy of Ancient Music/Egarr) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)†
* Venice Baroque Orchestra (Marcon/Carmignola): Concerto Veneziano (Archiv Produktion CD)
* Ravel: Daphnis et Chloe (Boston Symphony/NEC Chorus/Munch) (RCA-Victor CD)
* Charles Mingus: The Great Concert of Charles Mingus (Paris 4-19-64) (Verve 2CD)
* Sun Ra: Pathways to Unknown Worlds/Friendly Love (Evidence CD)
* John Coltrane: The Complete Africa Brass Sessions (Impulse! 2CD)
* John Coltrane: Impressions (Impulse! CD)
* Anthony Braxton Large Ensemble: Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT 5-08-08 (AUD CDR)
* Anthony Braxton Septet: Hursaal Chamber Hall, San Sebastián, Spain 7-25-08 (FM CDR)
* Anthony Braxton Quartet: Opéra Théâtre de Besançon, France 6-27-08 (AUD CDR)
* Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Moscow) 2008 (Leo CD)
* Mary Halvorson Quintet: Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12 CD)
* Tom Rainey Trio: Pool School (Clean Feed CD)
* The Beatles: Please Please Me (2009 mono) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: With The Beatles (2009 mono) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: A Hard Day’s Night (2009 mono) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Beatles For Sale (2009 mono) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Beatles For Sale (2009 stereo) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Help! (2009 mono) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Rubber Soul (2009 mono) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Rubber Soul (1965 (2009) stereo) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Rubber Soul (1987 (2009) stereo) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Rubber Soul (U.S. stereo) (Capitol CD)
* The Beatles: Revolver (2009 mono) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Revolver (2009 stereo) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (2009 mono) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour (2009 mono) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Mono Masters (Apple/EMI 2CD)
* Grateful Dead: Oklahoma City Music Hall, Oklahoma City, OK 11-15-72 (SBD 3CDR)
* Grateful Dead: Go To Nassau (GDP/Arista 2CD) †/‡
* Van Morrison: A Night in San Fracisco (Polydor 2CD)
* Lucinda Williams: Live @ The Fillmore (Lost Highway 2CD)†/‡
* Yes: The Yes Album (Atlantic/Mobile Fidelity CD)
* Yes: Fragile (Atlantic/ Mobile Fidelity CD)
* Yes: Close To The Edge (Atlantic/Rhino CD)
* Genesis: Duke (Atlantic LP)
* Robert Pollard: We All Got Out of the Army (GBV, Inc. CD) †/‡
* Robert Pollard: Moses on a Snail (GBV, Inc. CD) †/‡
* Boston Spaceships: Our Cubehouse Still Rocks (GBV, Inc. CD) †/‡



A year later, The Beatles remasters continue to astound me. The mono box is just awesome, from its jewel-like packaging to the audiophile sound quality. Yes, standard Redbook CDs can sound good—if you try! I tend to prefer the mono mixes in general, but some of the stereo remasters are truly revelatory, particularly Beatles For Sale. The vocals are amazingly lifelike and the stereo effect actually manages to achieve an exquisite three-dimensional ambience surrounding the chiming acoustic and electric guitars. This was an album I had mostly overlooked, but it has since become one of my favorites—especially in stereo.

Rubber Soul is perhaps the most problematic album of them all, with no fewer than four different versions to choose from. The mono mix is, of course, the most cohesive whereas the original 1965 stereo mix is a murky mess. In 1987, George Martin remixed the album for compact disc and that is the version that is used on the new remaster. Sadly, Sir George utilized primitive digital tape for his mixdown and while the remaster certainly improves on the original CD, the high frequencies still suffer from a grainy hardness that is grating on the ear. Oh, and then there is the “butchered” version of Rubber Soul released by Capitol in the United States, with some songs were added while others deleted and the whole thing slathered with an extra bath of reverb. As a Yank, I grew up with this version and, for me, the U.S. sequence nicely emphasizes the new folk-rock aspect of their songwriting during this period, making it in some ways my favorite version—even in yucky hard-panned stereo. Heresy, I know!

Revolver is more of a toss-up: the mono is, as usual, just exactly perfect, yet the stereo remaster sounds great too, with a vivid, Technicolor presentation. But when it comes to Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour, the mono mixes are where it’s at; they are very, very different from the stereo versions, meticulously constructed for maximum psychedelic impact. As John Lennon insisted, “you haven’t heard Pepper until you’ve heard it in mono.”

Not to quibble, but I do wish they had included all the relevant singles on each canonical album instead of relegating them to a separate set of discs. Yeah, sure, I understand why they wanted to preserve the integrity of the original albums, blah blah blah—but it still seems kind of chintzy when most of them are barely thirty-five minutes long and the singles are so integral to their epoch. Oh well, it seems ridiculous to complain; the folks at Abbey Road did a spectacular job in delivering the definitive edition of The Beatles catalog. Rumor has it a vinyl edition is forthcoming. We’ll see if they lavish the same kind of care and attention to detail on these as they did with the CDs, which are impeccable. If the LPs are mastered from the high-resolution digital files (and the plating and pressing is of good quality), they could sound quite stunning.

What is it about The Beatles that makes their music so timelessly enjoyable? I don’t know. But I do know one thing from listening to a whole bunch of bootlegs over the years: they worked exceedingly hard to achieve this kind of perfection. They spent hours and hours making zillions of re-takes and they always just chose the right one, the one where the spark caught fire and magic happened. It is, I think, this sense of craftsmanship that enables these songs—these specific recordings—to appeal to a broad swath of humanity and stand up to near-infinite hearings.

Now, how about a definitive edition of the uproariously funny (and incredibly strange) fan-club Christmas messages? ‘Tis the season and all…Heh heh…I’m not going to hold my breath on that one.


Robert Gable said...

I'm completely impressed with the list of Beatles albums you've just listened to. And yet, after reading all that, my first reaction is to google Boston Spaceships.

Rodger Coleman said...

Yah! Boston Spaceships rawks!

Sam said...

Thanks for this update on the Beatles remasters. They really did do a great job--and while I agree that it would have been nice to have the singles on the same discs, I can live without them that way if they're gonna sound this damn good.

The American versions of all the early albums are, of course, burnt into my DNA. To this day, I can't hear the end of "What You're Dong" without supplying in my head the beginning of "Yes It Is" the way it appears on "Beatles VI." That being said, it kinda pisses me off that we Americans didn't get "Drive My Car" as early as the Brits did. I have to disagree with you on this one--the British "Rubber Soul" is far superior. It distorts what the Beatles were up to to say that with "Rubber Soul" they were moving in a folkier direction--especially since both "It's Only Love" and "I've Just Seen a Face" originally appeared on "Help!"

Looks like you've been delving into some recent Braxton as well--I'd love to hear your thoughts on his most recent Wesleyan directions.

Here's my list from last week:

Playlist 2010-11-15

*Art Ensemble of Chicago with Muhal Richard Abrams: 1974-07-08 Laren, Netherlands (CDR)
*Art Ensemble of Chicago: 1976-10-12 Stockholm (CDR)
*Art Ensemble of Chicago: 1977-11-12 Ann Arbor (CDR)
*Art Ensemble of Chicago: 1978-06-01 Padova, Italy (CDR)
*Art Ensemble of Chicago: Nice Guys
*Art Ensemble of Chicago: Live in Berlin
*Art Ensemble of Chicago: 1979-04-30 Athens GA (CDR)
*Available Jelly: Bilbao Song
*Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers: 1965-03-07 Cine-Tele SoundStudio, London (CDR)
*Anthony Braxton: 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006, Comp. 350, 351
*Charles Mingus Sextet: 1961-10-21 Birdland, NYC (CDR)
*David Torn Prezens: 2008-03-14 New Haven CT (CDR) disc 2
*Animal Collective: Fall Be Kind
*Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti: Before Today
*Beatles: Unsurpassed Broadcasts, 2nd ed. (CDR) Vol. 6, 7, 8
*Blind Man's Colour: Season Dreaming
*Circulatory System: Signal Morning
*Bob Dylan: Ten of Swords (boot CDR) disc 7
*Fela: Open & Close
*Fela: Afrodisiac
*Fela: Monkey Banana
*Fela: Excuse O
*Grateful Dead: 1972-07-26 Portland OR (CDR) "Dark Star > Comes a Time"
*Grateful Dead: Dick's Picks 36 (Philadelphia 1972) disc 3
*Grateful Dead: Dick's Picks 11 (Jersey City NJ 1972) "Dark Star > Cumberland Blues"
*Icy Demons: Fight Back!
*Instruments: Cast a Half Shadow
*John Lennon & Yoko Ono: Double Fantasy Stripped Down
*Mars Volta: Frances the Mute
*Rolling Stones: Nasty Music (boot CDR) disc 1
*Secret Square: Secret Square
*Zombies, et al.: Into the Afterlife

Reading log 2010-11-15

*Barth, John. The Development (started)
*King, Stephen. Full Dark, No Stars (started)
*Gaiman, Neil, et al. The Absolute Sandman, vol. 3 (finished)
*National Lampoon Presents True Facts: The Book (finished)
*Sterne, Laurence. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (Florida Ed.) (reread/finished)
*Moore, Steven. The Novel: An Alternative History: Beginnings to 1600 (in progress)

p.s. Happy Birthday!!

Rodger Coleman said...

Hey, Sam, I won't argue with you that the UK version of "Rubber Soul" is superior (and, yes, the folk-rock stuff was definitely happening on "Help!"). I'm just saying that the US version of "Rubber Soul" accentuates that aspect and, since I know that version so, well, I tend to enjoy it.

Re: Braxton. Well, after plowing through the Iridium box, I decided to keep listening in chronological order. Fascinating stuff--especially the Diamond Curtain Wall groupings.

Thanks for the b-day greetings!