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Michael Fremer  |  Jul 31, 2004  |  1 comments

There was a great deal of excitement a few months ago when Toshiba-EMI announced a new series of Beatles albums. The 1970’s EAS series from the label are considered by most collectors to be among the best sounding Beatles albums issued anywhere, but a ‘90’s series issued by the label, and cut from digital masters was expensive and sounded brittle and uninviting, though as usual, the packaging was sumptuous and the pressing quality was pristine.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 31, 2004  |  0 comments

The Eno CD Re-masters From Astralwerks/Virgin

As we reported back in April, Astralwerks/Virgin has remastered Brian Eno’s four classic 1970's albums. Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), Another Green World and Before and After Science using the original masters—as delivered by Brian Eno. No re-equalization or other revisionist alterations have been made in the transfer process.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 30, 2004  |  0 comments

The Tracking Angle Interview: Los Lobos- America's Band

By Michael Fremer

The goodies were stacked on a big table in the corner of the stars' dressing room: an industrial size sack of M&M Peanuts, big bags of Herr's tortilla and potato chips, a jar of Pace brand Thick and Chunky Salsa, fresh fruit, a ten pack of Kellogg's cereals, a plate of muffins, a cheese, tomato and deli platter, jars of Hellman's mayonnaise and Grey Poupon mustard, and some local color- loaves of Stroehmann's Pennsylvania Dutch and white bread and a big red box of Ivins' "Famous Spiced Wafers."

"Did the Los Lobos guys really ask for Pace salsa in a jar? Or did the Electric Factory people figure the beaners would expect it? If Al Kooper plays there do they put out knishes and Cel-Ray tonic?," I'm thinking. I was hungry, but I wasn't going to help myself to the band's food. If I couldn't eat it, I'd memorize it, which I did. And I waited. And waited.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 30, 2004  |  0 comments

MF: Why are there so many guest drummers on your records?

LP: Because I'm a guitar player. I think what happened in the ’70s with all the disco kind of stuff — all the drummers became, like, machines? So that kind of drumming became a prerequisite....

MF: And how did you feel about that? Was that pushed on the band?

Unidentified voice: The White man again! [Laughter]

MF: That was pushed on the band....

Unidentified voice: The evil White Demon! [More laughter]

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 30, 2004  |  0 comments

Los Lobos On Record

This survey omits the group's first independent release (1978), and the La Bamba Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1987)

(Album covers can be found in the Photo Gallery, accessible below the picture of the site mascot, Mr. Eno).

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 30, 2004  |  0 comments

Producer Rick Rubin born in Long Beach, Long Island, New York in 1963, graduated high school in 1981. Johnny Cash, born in Kingsland, Arkansas in 1932, graduated high school in 1950. Yet these two, separated in time by more than thirty years, and by an even wider socio-cultural gap, will forever be linked by the music they created together during Cash’s last decade of life. Rubin’s resurrection of Cash’s career with the release of American Music in 1994 is but one fascinating facet of this enigmatic figure’s twenty year career in music.

In 1984, while a film and video student at N.Y.U., Rubin met Russell Simmons at Danceteria—a New York club where downtown hardcore rockers and uptown rappers mixed comfortably—and the two immediately hit it off, sharing a common musical vision of hard beats and hard rhymes, with Simmons drawing from R&B roots and Rubin from hard rock. Rubin had a vision of melding the two seemingly disparate musical forms and though he’d never produced a record, he sought out the duo of T. La Rock and Jazzy Jay, and out of that came a 12” vinyl single, “It’s Yours,” which was released on Partytime/Streetwise records. It featured rhyming raps set to a loud, hardcore beat with metal overtones. Though the track went on to sell around 100,000 copies—an impressive number for the newly emerging musical genre—Rubin was never paid for his work.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 30, 2004  |  1 comments

MF: Just to change the subject, do you know who P.D. Ouspensky is?

RR: Yes.

MF: Did you read “In Search of the Miraculous?”

RR: Yes.

MF: That book changed my life. I don’t live it but he managed to merge mysticism with science and create a music-based universe.

RR: Have you ever listened to the Gurdjieff piano pieces?

MF: Keith Jarrett recorded some, and Thomas D. Hartmann?

RR: Yes. They are so beautiful. I listen to those quite a lot.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 30, 2004  |  2 comments

MF: You seem like the kind of person who looks around and sees what’s bother you in music—things that are not being done—and you do them. I mean, that’s how you got started in music, essentially. So who’s out there now that’s lying fallow that need to be re-cultivated? Don’t say Yoko Ono.

RR: There are a couple, but I can’t talk about it yet. A couple that I think could really be special.

MF: Have you approached any of them?

RR: A couple.

MF: Well they’ve seen what you’ve done so I can’t imagine it will be as difficult as it might have been getting to Johnny Cash. How about Neil Diamond as a person to do a record with?

RR: He’s one of my favorite artists of all time. Incredible.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 30, 2004  |  0 comments

Note: due to current website technical limitations, accompanying photos can be found in the “gallery” section, accessible near the bottom of the home page.

Last fall, I was invited to visit the Hornslet speaker cabinet manufacturing facility in Denmark. The company builds high-tech boxes for Audio Physic, Linn, Dali, Naim, Aerial Acoustics and a number of other companies. Take a look at a map and you’ll see that Denmark is but a short distance from both Hamburg and Hanover, Germany, home of the big Universal Music tape vault and the Emil Berliner studio. I’ll be in the neighborhood, I figured, so why not swing by on my way to Denmark?

I’d made contact with Gunther Buskies, senior product manager in charge of vinyl reissues at Universal, who worked out of Hamburg, and he offered to drive me to Hanover so I could visit the facility and talk with veteran LP mastering engineer Willem Makkee. Makkee cuts the Universal LP reissues as well as the Warner Music (Europe) series, and most of the Speakers Corner vinyl.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 30, 2004  |  0 comments

Arriving at the Universal facility in Hanover, I was confronted by a large, multi-storied modern facility. I had been led to believe that the site was the original home of Berliner, but in fact, that was elsewhere in Hanover, and instead a small section of the mastering facility’s first floor had been turned into a small museum showcasing artifacts from among Berliner’s effects. Among them was Berliner’s original flat disc gramophone, early plated lacquers and finished discs, his original “Nipper” drawings, other Berliner designed playback devices, and some photos of the inventors. It was thrilling to see the first flat disc playback device “in the flesh.”

Photos lined the walls and corridors: photos highlighting the rich recording heritage of Deutsche Gramophone and other labels now under the Universal umbrella. There were pictures of recording sessions from the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and beyond, featuring Herbert Von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic while a team of recording engineers and technicians in an adjacent control room oversaw the capture to analog tape. There were shots of Karl Bohm, Leonard Bernstein, Seji Osawa, and other luminaries of a bygone era, exuding a gravity, importance and grandeur that people no longer seem to possess anywhere on the planet. That goes for musicians, politicians, you name it. And if you don’t sense it in everyday life, you surely would walking down that corridor taking in those black and white photos.

Frank Doris  |  Apr 30, 2004  |  0 comments

I Love the Music of Esquivel: So Zu Me!

Esquivel: Other Voices, Other Sounds/Four Corners of the World
Bar/None AHAON-090

Esquivel: Exploring New Sounds in Stereo/Strings Aflame
Bar/None AHAON-091

Esquivel: Infinity in Sound, Volume 1/Infinity in Sound, Volume 2
Bar/None AHAON-003

(1 and 2) Produced by Johnny Camacho, (3) produced by Neely Plumb
Reissue Supervision: Paul Williams for House of Hits Productions, Ltd. Digital transfers by Mike Hartrey
Digitally remastered by dbs Digital, Hoboken, NJ

This whole Cocktail Nation, Space Age Bachelor Pad Music revival thing strikes me with extreme bemusement. All of a sudden, a new generation discovers and decides that what was once unhip is now the coolest—whether martinis, leopard skin, kitschy Fifties furniture—or the "easy listening" instrumental music popular at the dawn of the Stereo Age.

Michael Fremer  |  Dec 31, 2003  |  2 comments

Right to the point: no, the 11 new ABKCO limited edition 180g vinyl Rolling Stones reissues ( already available in Europe) do not quite measure up to UK DECCA originals, but who expected that? The tapes are between 35 and 40 years old and the superlative DECCA playback/cutting/plating/pressing chain is long gone. If you have the DECCA originals you’re not shopping for these anyway.

Sure, in an ideal world we’d prefer to have had albums like Beggar’s Banquet, Let It Bleed and Aftermath cut to lacquer directly from the original tapes, but they weren’t. Instead, the final DSD masters created by Bob Ludwig referencing original UK Decca, and US London LPs were used.

Michael Fremer  |  Dec 31, 2003  |  0 comments

This article originally appeared in the final edition of Art Dudley’s Listener magazine, before the Rolling Stones catalog had been reissued, but after the promo sampler had been distributed. The SACD catalog has been out now for some time and it's been a phenomenal success.

Now of course we have the Stones LPs cut from the DSD masters and judging by website visitor’s emails, those who have bought some of these LPs agree that they sound great. Not as good as original DECCAs, but damn good. I just borrowed a Mo-Fi Stones box and will do the obligatory comparison ASAP.

How the material made it from original analog tape to DSD master is included in the Listener article.

Michael Fremer  |  Dec 01, 2003  |  1 comments

He didn't play an instrument and he didn't sing, but Brian Eno was in the band, and the band was Roxy Music. So what exactly did Eno (full name Brian Peter George St. John de Baptiste de la Salle Eno-wouldn't you shorten it?) do for Roxy Music, which he co-founded in London with Bryan Ferry back in 1972? Listen to Stranded the first Eno-free Roxy album and you'll hear something missing. Or, listen to pre-Eno U2 albums, and then to The Unforgettable Fire the first Eno produced U2 album, and you'll hear something added.

Michael Fremer  |  Dec 01, 2003  |  0 comments

A year after Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) and world's apart from it, Eno released what many consider to be his most innovative and evocative album, Another Green World. It took two months to produce-twice as long as each of the previous two albums. Though synthesizer based, the album sounds organic and almost leafy. The set of mostly short, prehistoric and tropical sounding instrumental collages marked a distinct turning point for Eno, a change that would eventually come to dominate his solo recorded efforts and profoundly affect his collaborations with other.

Before recording began, Eno and artist Peter Schmidt created a deck of cards that they called "Oblique Strategies". The cards, each of which contained a specific instruction, were like a more sophisticated version of the old "Magic Eight Ball,” which only answered "yes" or "no". The cards were more about exploring possibilities and choosing directions. Eno used them to help guide him in the production of the record.

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