Album Reviews

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Mark Smotroff  |  Aug 26, 2022  |  20 comments
In May 1969, The Who’s Tommy was a near instantly iconic release which — in a make-or-break moment — stabilized the then-precarious career of Britain’s now legendary rockers. As one of the first rock operas — and still one of the best and most successful of them — Tommy caused quite a sea-change in the pop/rock music world by opening new doors and possibilities for composers, producers, and fans alike, and its impact is still felt to this day. The good news is, Tommy has just been reissued by Polydor/UMC in a quite wonderful half-speed-mastered 180g 2LP edition. Read on to find out exactly why this version of Tommy belongs in your collection and on your turntable, post-haste. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Aug 19, 2022  |  16 comments

The ongoing Verve Records and Acoustic Sounds reissue series has once again delivered a new vinyl edition of an iconic album that is arguably better than the original in most every way. This new reissue of the October 1956 mono vocal jazz classic Ella And Louis features singing legend Ella Fitzgerald at a superstar-ascending crossroads, teamed with one of the architects of modern jazz, Louis Armstrong — a.k.a. “Pops,” a.k.a. “Satchmo,” a.k.a. “Satch.” Read onward to find out why this new 180g edition honors the now-rare originals while improving upon them in many ways. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Aug 12, 2022  |  10 comments

An excellent new, 180g half-speed-mastered vinyl reissue of The Who’s December 1967 classic third studio album The Who Sell Out has recently been released by Polydor/UMC, and the results are quite impressive. If you are a serious fan of this record, there is enough significant new detail resonating in this new Abbey Road Studios-cut 1LP edition to make it worth your while to pick up. Read on to find out all the details. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Aug 05, 2022  |  9 comments

The Oscar Peterson Trio’s seminal 1964 release We Get Requests features his classic trio at a creative peak. This fine recording is an especially fantastic listen in a pristine new Verve Records/Acoustic Sounds Series 180g 1LP presentation that’s coming out August 19 via UMe. This reissue delivers on so many levels, and is in every way better than my original 1960s-era vinyl pressing. Read on to learn why this new edition is worth pre-ordering right now. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Jul 29, 2022  |  4 comments

Fleet Foxes’ new live and mostly acoustic A Very Lonely Solstice LP leans more toward the full-album concert experience I was hoping for on record. There is a nice sense of the church ambiance — this performance was recorded live at St. Ann & The Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn, New York in December 2020 — that wonderfully captures the woody essence of Fleet Foxes bandleader Robin Pecknold’s strummy nylon-string guitar. Read on to learn more. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Jul 22, 2022  |  22 comments

The prospect of reviewing a new, ultra-deluxe 180g version of the March 1958 hard-bop classic Relaxin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet has been simultaneously daunting and exciting. It is the first time I’ve gotten my hands on one of these tasty, fancy editions that’s an upstanding member of Craft Recordings’ popular and acclaimed Small Batch series. This series uses RTI’s noted one-step vinyl manufacturing process, which effectively delivers a pressing made off a first-generation metal mother made from the original lacquer. Good news: The Craft Relaxin’ LP is nicely centered, fairly flat, and RTI’s special Neotech’s VR900 vinyl formulation is especially quiet and transparent. Read on to glean more. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Jul 15, 2022  |  12 comments
In some ways, it is curious that Craft Recordings has chosen to reissue Hampton Hawes’ 1958 outing Four! (exclamation point very much included) as the first entry in his Acoustic Sounds series, as Hawes’ earlier quartet sessions with guitarist Jim Hall were apparently highly regarded back in the day. Personally, I’m glad they have reissued this album. For one thing, the all-analog mastering by Bernie Grundman feels very sympathetic to the time period and to the recording. Read on for more...

Mark Smotroff  |  Jul 08, 2022  |  2 comments

Trio ’65 showcases pianist Bill Evans as a career artist in a growth phase. This Acoustic Sounds Series, QRP-Pressed 180g LP reissue of a consummate Verve Records/Rudy Van Gelder classic handily answers the following question very much in the affirmative: Do I really need this version in my collection?

Mark Smotroff  |  Jul 01, 2022  |  13 comments
Reviewing The Very Best of The Beach Boys: The Sounds of Summer, the massive new 60th Anniversary 180g 6LP Beach Boys box set retrospective from UMe/Capitol/Brother Records, has been a daunting yet fun challenge. That said, having its contents mixed and mastered by the band’s longtime engineer/archivist Mark Linett has enabled a remarkable continuity from track to track — no small task, given the diversity of music and technological differences in recording across a 60-year period.
Mark Smotroff  |  Jun 24, 2022  |  23 comments

There’s a striking new reissue from Craft Recordings I’m sure many jazz fans and collectors are as excited about as I am: 1957’s The Poll Winners. This LP features three of the greatest jazz musicians of their time — Barney Kessel on guitar, backed by Shelly Manne on drums and Ray Brown on bass. How does Craft's QRP-pressed 180g reissue sound and compare to my original LP? In short, it is pretty fantastic. The new edition is much bigger-sounding in many ways, notably on the low end. Read on to find out more. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Jun 17, 2022  |  19 comments
I discovered New York’s Grizzly Bear in a most typical way, for me — over the in-store PA system at Amoeba Music here in San Francisco. When their in-store play got to the band’s then-big hit — “Two Weeks,” from their May 2009 album Veckatimest — I realized I had indeed previously heard the song’s distinctive, earworm-inducing, millennial-whoop-flavored signature hook. Soon enough, I started collecting the Grizzly Bear catalog on vinyl. While I’ve enjoyed my 180g Veckatimest reissue, I’ve long suspected there might be more depth tucked away in the recording. Thus, I was excited to learn the good folks at Vinyl Me Please were re-releasing Veckatimest in a half-speed mastered, 45rpm colored vinyl edition.
Malachi Lui  |  Jun 04, 2022  |  22 comments
By 1981, The Clash was in shambles. Seeking more direction following their 1980 triple album Sandinista!, co-frontman Joe Strummer and bassist Paul Simonon rehired the band's notoriously difficult original manager, Bernie Rhodes, to the dismay of other co-frontman Mick Jones. Jones sought to continue the band's expansive forays into dub, reggae, and hip-hop, while Strummer wanted something more streamlined. Yet despite all of that, plus drummer Topper Headon's spiraling heroin and cocaine addiction, The Clash toured and managed to record new material at The People's Hall in the Republic of Frestonia (a small area in West London populated by squatters hoping to secede from the UK) as well as Electric Lady Studios in New York City.
Malachi Lui  |  May 31, 2022  |  14 comments
Between the excessive sprawl of 2013's James Murphy-produced Reflektor and the failed experimentation of 2017's punchable Everything Now, it might seem as if Arcade Fire spent the last decade actively trying to lose people's interest. Now, however, they're back; at least, that's what their Nigel Godrich-produced new LP WE wants you to think. Split into more introspective "I" (A) and outward-facing "WE" (B) sides, WE is a concise 40-minute summation of the band's previous work. Every Arcade Fire record finds them striving for epic heights and always falling short, though you can't say they're not trying really hard.
Michael Leser Johnson  |  May 16, 2022  |  2 comments
In my previous review of the Korppoo Trio by the Sibelius Piano Trio and Yarlung Records, I spoke a great deal about the recording philosophy of this boutique classical outfit and their AAA, 45rpm chamber music records. From the same recording sessions that brought us that exquisite romantic delight, we have another outing with musicians Petteri Iivonen, Juho Pohjonen, and Samuli Peltonen, this time with a decidedly different program.