A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald Performed By Clare Teal Recorded Direct-to-Disc

Recording direct-to-disk is difficult enough. The entire side has to be cut in one long take. Consider a big band vocal album like this, which has four songs per side. The orchestra and singer have to be ready as soon as the cutting stylus hits the lacquer and then they have to perform flawlessly on each track, pausing but a few seconds between songs.

Often these records sound stilted and mannered as no one wants to produce a "clam" and ruin the whole thing but here everything works perfectly, with the mellifluous Clare Teal backed by The Syd Lawrence Orchestra—a brash and brassy ensemble. Incredibly, it was ll rehearsed, mixed and cut to lacquer at Air Studios in one day!, under the supervision of producer Mike Valentine and co-producer Francoise Valentine.

So first, who is Clare Teal? She's well-known in the U.K. In 2004, the then thirty one year old singer was signed to Sony Jazz, in a deal that at the time was the biggest recording deal in U.K. jazz history. She grew up listening to her father's 78rpm record collection and fell in love with big band vocal music, particularly the records of Ella Fitzgerald.

Teal, for all intents and purposes, sounds like a 1940's era singer transported to 2016, not just in her phrasing but particularly her vocal timbre. I can think of no other female vocalist today who hits this particular nostalgic mark and does so without it sounding forced or archaic. Instead it sounds refreshing and generous.

The repertoire is of course familiar: "I've Got You Under My Skin", " Begin the Beguine", "I Get a Kick Out of You", "Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead", "Night and Day", "Anything Goes", "That Old Black Magic" and "Too Darned Hot".

Everyone's ears perked up when I played this at RMAF. The playing is crisp (under the direction of Chris Dean), the arrangements are dynamic with nicely placed hard-driving kick drum accents, and Clare sounds, for all intents and purposes, like the fourth Andrews Sister.

We should be grateful that someone is taking the time and spending the money to produce a direct to disk record but more grateful that the music lives up to the sonic promise. But next time, get the writing on the jacket's spine going in the right direction!

jth496's picture

Mikey, it's "vocal timbre."

Michael Fremer's picture
Write! I'll ficks it
pbnaudio's picture

When posting album reviews you frequently include a link to a reseller of the album I find this feature very helpful.

Thanks in Advance

Peter Noerbaek

PAR's picture

I think that Mike Valentine sells his recordings direct:

Mike Valentine himself is also a very interesting guy. He's an ex-BBC sound engineer who retrained as a movie cameraman and director. He is one of the movie industy's top underwater photographers. For example he filmed (and I think was second unit director) on the recent(ish) James Bond movie " Casino Royale". Remember the end of the main story where the Venetian Palazzo collapses into the Grand Canal? That's Mike's work.

I was fortunate to hear some of his private recordings played via his Nagra digital ( sorry to use that word here) recorder at a small audio show a few years back. Just wonderful stuff.

Michael Fremer's picture
So interesting. I had no idea.
PeterPani's picture

was one of the best Bond movies ever. And the end with the collaps astonishing.

Dpoggenburg's picture

Acoustic Sounds has it in stock

dolsey01's picture

I pre-ordered this on a whim when I saw it in a mailing. Maybe I need to listen to it again but my first impressions weren't that great. Maybe my expectations were too high, I was thinking something like the Sara K D2D from Stockfisch records, which I would go overboard and say is an 11 out of 10 for sound quality. Something to look forward to when I have listening choice paralysis.

dolsey01's picture

So I pulled this out last night and listened to it again, but my feelings haven't changed much. I feel like her vocals are mic'd too low and everything else overpowers them. Then again, my system cost less than Mr Fremer's SAT tonearm so that might account for what I'm hearing, but I still have a pretty decent 5 figure setup.

markbrauer's picture

I think not. The Acoustic Sounds page displays the DSD logo for this album and the album cover says "Direct Cut", not Direct to Disk. My impression is that it was recorded direct to DSD, mixed (usually meaning conversion to PCM and maybe back to DSD), and then "Direct Cut to lacquer. Another glaring example of record companies not providing provenance info.
But, if it sounds great, all could be forgiven.
P.S. I notice Elusive Disk offers a non-Direct-Cut LP for half the price.

eFlatBlues's picture

Chasing the Dragon also has the Vivaldi Four Seasons Direct Cut to Vinyl LP also produced by Mike Valentine. On the cover it says "In creating this album, state of the art valve microphones were fed into a Neve desk and then via a pure analogue path directly to the Neumann VMS80 lathe."
The back cover of the "A Tribute To.." lists the cutting lathe as Neumann VMS80 so I'm inclined to believe it really is what Mikey says. Good enough for me, I've ordered it!

markbrauer's picture

led me to this nice article about the LP
which explains the recording process used - and it is indeed a true Direct to Disk production.
What made me suspicious was the DSD logo on the Acoustic Sounds page for the album (maybe placed there by mistake?) and the "Direct Cut" claim instead of the usual D2D. I look forward to hearing it.

Muso's picture

... direct to disk recordings! The Vivaldi is wonderful (I ordered after I caught your review of it). I just ordered this one - thanks for the heads up.

Muso's picture

This is a fantastic record! Everyone is ON. Bands playing this kind of music can sometimes sound a bit staid, particularly when the red light is on. I wonder if they forget that this was the rock and roll of its time. These guys play it raucous, dynamic, swinging, with verve. The vocals are stunning, she's a great singer. The recording itself captures all of it - it's lush and dynamic.

Watch the volume control - if you turn up the quieter beginning of a song too much, your woofers may get launched across the room by the last chorus. :-)

If you like this kind of music, this is a superb way to hear it!

Kirby's picture

A new D2D I can afford ! Great.