Audiophile Favorite on CD Gets All-Analog Release

MP3s spread “virally.” Large corporate interests didn’t push them. Vinyl is resurgent for the same reason. It’s a ground up movement. Construct that way and you have a strong foundation for a long-lasting building. That’s what gives hope for vinyl’s long term growth and sustainability.

About a decade ago the German audio company Burmester produced a not-for-sale CD compilation for use as a marketing tool. One track on that disc, Hugh Masekela’s “Stimela (The Coal Train),” has been spreading virally in audiophile circles, passed from one enthusiast to the next.

Go to an audio show anywhere in the world and you’ll hear that track a rootin’ and a tootin’ and a WOO WOO-ing it’s way out of many a demo room, not because the person playing it has actually bought it, but because he or she has gotten a CD-R copy of the virally spread Burmester compilation. Amazing.

Why the audiophile enthusiasm? That’s easy: the sound of the live recording is extraordinarily good and the tune contains a dramatic message of racial oppression and redemption that builds measure by measure to a dramatic conclusion.

Acoustic Sounds’ Chad Kassem found the tape’s current owner, Sheridan Square (which had bought the rights from Triloka) and, in the spirit of giving the customer what it wanted, issued the entire album from which Burmester took the one track, as a spectacular sounding double 45rpm set.

Believe me, this double 45 makes the CD sound like digital dog crap. If you thought the CD version sounded good, you ain’t heard nuttin’ yet.

Here’s what drives me crazy about audiophiles: no sooner does Analogue Productions issue the set then it becomes a big seller. Now, good for Analogue Productions and good for Hugh Masekela, assuming someone pays him royalties.

But, truth be told, there’s nothing particularly great musically here. It’s basically corny “Afro-Pop” not that far removed from what Herb Alpert and the teenie weenie brass did for Mexican music in the early ‘60s—not that there was, or is anything wrong with “Tijuana Taxi” or “Spanish Flea,” or the rest of that stuff.

There’s the coal train song, a show bizzy version of Masekela’s hit “Grazing In the Grass” and a lot of pop-stuff filler. By the way, did you know it was Hugh playing trumpet on The Byrds’ “So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star?” It was.

So what drives me crazy about audiofools is this: they all love Kind of Blue, right? Like Dark Side of the Moon, it’s like printing money or pouring water from a spout. And that’s fine too, but a few years ago Masekela released a really fine AAA, double 200g Quiex SV-P jazz album on Straight Ahead (Straight Ahead 101), a label co-owned by Bernie Grundman, and it sunk into oblivion, even though the sonics are spectacular and it (superficially) resembles KOB much as this Masekela album does Herb and the Teenie Weenie Brass. We’ll forgive Straight Ahead for spelling Billie Holiday’s name “Billy.” I did it once that way in The Tracking Angle.

So yes, by all means, enjoy Hope because it sounds spectacular and it’s easy listening much like what Lenny Castro does for SNL (but with a township sway), but for Chrissake, check out Hugh’s much better and better sounding jazz album while you’re rootin’ and tootin and WOO WOO ing. Okay?

Music Direct Buy It Now