Album Reviews

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Mark Smotroff  |  May 12, 2023  |  10 comments

On Record Store Day 2023, Rhino Records issued another entry in their fine series of super-deluxe multidisc vinyl box sets celebrating the road trips of the Grateful Dead, a 180g 5LP box set titled Boston Garden, Boston, MA 5/7/77 (a.k.a. Boston 5.7.77). This new edition is an important historical puzzle piece in the band’s storied legacy, effectively completing a trilogy of live releases culled from their epic spring 1977 tour peak. AP’s resident Deadhead Mark Smotroff got his hands on one these new limited edition collections, so read on to see his reasoning as to why it’s an instantly essential entry in the Dead’s live legacy on vinyl. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  May 10, 2023  |  2 comments

Cookin’ With Jaws and the Queen: The Legendary Prestige Cookbook Albums is a wonderful new 4LP stereo box set collection from Craft Recordings that offers cause for rejoicing among fans of soul jazz, and most specifically fans of saxophonist Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis in particular. Culled from three classic 1958 Cookbook session recordings, the albums in this box are some of the backbone entries of a musical artform that would explode in popularity over the next 20 years, and ultimately onward into the 21st century. Read Mark Smotroff’s ready-to-serve review to see if the Cookin’ With Jaws and the Queen box set is indeed tasty enough to add to your regular LP-listening diet. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  May 03, 2023  |  15 comments

Beatles fans generally fall into two camps when it comes to how they feel about Paul McCartney’s solo and Wings eras — they either love them, or they more or less loathe them. That said, one Wings album we’ve really grown to love over the years is April 1973’s Red Rose Speedway. We’ve explored different pressings of this LP all along the way, and it’s always hinted there might be something sonically stronger hidden within the grooves. And now, with the half-speed mastered Record Store Day 2023 180g 1LP release of Red Rose Speedway, we finally have an answer. Read Mark Smotroff’s review to find out why this new RSD 2023 vinyl edition is worth your spinning time. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Apr 21, 2023  |  3 comments

The Jazz Detective label has done truly great work in preparing Chet Baker’s new 180g 2LP set, Blue Room: The 1979 VARA Studio Sessions in Holland, for its Record Store Day 2023 release on April 22. Read on to see why Mark Smotroff feels should be near the top of your own RSD 2023 acquisition wishlist. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Apr 07, 2023  |  3 comments

These days, a new Depeche Mode album is cause for celebration, and the band’s just released 180g 2LP set, Memento Mori, is worthy of deep listening and devoted examination. Read Mark Smotroff’s review to see if Memento Mori stands tall with other classic entries in Depeche Mode’s storied vinyl catalog. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Apr 05, 2023  |  11 comments

Two fascinating and enlightening new, concurrent Frank Zappa live albums come from the spring of 1980, an underexplored period of his career when he toured with a somewhat stripped-down reinvention of his touring group. The 2LP Zappa ’80 Mudd Club set was recorded near the start of the tour on Zappa’s beloved Nagra reel-to-reel analog portable in the storied, tiny New York club, while the 3LP Zappa ’80 Munich release is Frank’s very first all-digital live recording of the same band at the end of the tour, as captured in a huge German arena. Read on to see how Mark Smotroff feels both recordings stack up in the ever-expanding Zappa-on-vinyl catalog. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Mar 29, 2023  |  8 comments

While we haven’t followed every twist and turn of the career of Miley Cyrus, we have kept open ears and open minds regarding her evolution as an adult and bona-fide recording artist, someone not to be dismissed outright because of preconceived notions about who she is and where she comes from. To that end, AP editor Mike Mettler asked Mark Smotroff to check out her hit new LP Endless Summer Vacation, and here’s what he discovered. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Mar 24, 2023  |  3 comments

A new 180g 2LP edition of Elton John’s classic January 1972’s Honky Château album has just been released, and it includes two sides comprising solely of unreleased session demos. Mark Smotroff gives us his take on the expanded edition one of the Rocket Man’s most hailed early LPs, the one that kicked off an incredible chart runs of six consecutive No. 1 albums. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Mar 17, 2023  |  21 comments
Beginning in 1952 and extending into 1953, Savoy Records issued a five-volume series of 10-inch LPs dubbed The Birth of Bop. Taken as a whole, these recordings present a fine snapshot of many movers and shakers in the bebop music-making universe of the times. And now, Craft Recordings has collected them all into the newly remastered The Birth of Bop 10-inch 5LP box set. Read Mark Smotroff’s review to see why this high-quality release belongs in your vinyl collection. . .
Mark Smotroff  |  Mar 10, 2023  |  2 comments

In 1972, Stax Records — the influential Memphis-based label that brought the likes of Otis Redding, Booker T. & The M.G.s, and Albert King to the world — recognized the need for a large-scale, highly visible public event to help heal America’s fractured African American communities. Craft Recordings, the current owners of Stax’s tracks, has seen fit to honor the gamechanging event that was duly dubbed Wattstax with a fantastic 50th anniversary reissue series, the jewels of which are a pair of timely analog-mastered gems: Wattstax: The Living Word and The Living Word: Wattstax 2. Get into the Wattstax groove by reading Mark Smotroff’s review of both of these fine 140g 2LP collections. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Mar 03, 2023  |  7 comments

Jazz pianist Brad Mehldau launched onto the jazz scene in the 1990s, and he quickly made his mark as one of the more important modern-day jazz pianists of our times. Mehldau’s latest effort, Your Mother Should Know: Brad Mehldau Plays The Beatles, is a live tribute album that celebrates the very scope of The Fab Four’s music itself — and, ultimately, its impact on popular music as we know it today. Read Mark Smotroff’s review to see if Mehldau’s new LP is worthy of spinning on your own fab turntable. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Feb 24, 2023  |  8 comments

In the mid-1990s, Elvis Costello stunned many in the music world with the release of an outstanding song he composed with no less than the great hit-making maestro Burt Bacharach, the composer of many iconic pop standards, acclaimed film soundtracks, and even a Broadway show. Soon enough, they collaborated on a celebrated full album, Painted From Memory, and now, 25 years later, the scope of their work together is being properly feted in both 140g 2LP+4CD and 140g 2LP editions of The Songs of Bacharach & Costello. Read Mark Smotroff’s review to see which version of the release immediately belongs in your collection. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Feb 17, 2023  |  3 comments

Vince Guaraldi Trio’s acclaimed 1962 release Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus finally receives a truly well-deserved 180g 1LP upgrade via Craft Recordings and the company’s acclaimed Small Batch one-step series. Read Mark Smotroff’s detailed review to see if this very special RTI-pressed edition is worthy of your attention, and your wallet. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Feb 10, 2023  |  4 comments

There are many reasons why you’ll likely want to pick up the new 180g 1LP remaster of John Lee Hooker’s classic 1962 blues benchmark Burnin’, as great music and great sound are just part of the equation. Read on to get Mark Smotroff’s firsthand experiences spinning this scorchin’ blues classic via this all-analog remastered LP from Craft Recordings. . .

Mike Mettler  |  Feb 08, 2023  |  35 comments

Can we call it Countdown to Excellence? To wit: Does Countdown to Ecstasy, the second entry in Analogue Productions' comprehensive all-analog 200g 2LP Steely Dan UHQR series, up the ante on the standard they’ve already set with last fall’s inaugural release, Can’t Buy A Thrill? Read Mike Mettler’s in-depth, 2,500-word review to find out. . .

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