Michael Fremer  |  Aug 01, 2003  |  1 comments

A cold-steel stoic intensity inhabits the faces of Canadian folksingers Ian Tyson and Sylvia Fricker on the cover of their 1965 Vanguard album Northern Journey. The photo’s low light and blue cast amplify the title’s message. Combine the front cover with the scholarly ethno-musicalogical liner notes you’ll find on the back—perhaps a reflexive reaction to the commercialization of folk music back then and an attempt to separate Ian and Sylvia from many trite, packaged folk acts of the time—and you have an almost forbiddingly chilly surface.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 01, 2003  |  1 comments

You won’t be buying these two LPs for their sonics. Primitive television show soundtracks from a Compton, California based local program recorded before an appreciative live audience, provide listeners with a “way back machine” glimpse of another time, and seemingly another universe—especially when you consider the music for which Compton’s currently best known.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 01, 2003  |  1 comments

The good news is that playing before an audience, Alison Krauss and her crack back-up band Union Station can replicate the Bluegrass/pop fireworks—instrumentally and vocally—that they set off in the studio. That’s the bad news too, as whatever interplay there was between the group and the audience has been excised, and the arrangements and performances shed little new light on the mostly familiar tunes. That’s just fine by the fans, judging by the raucous, appreciative audience reaction at this concert, recorded at the Louisville Palace, in Louisville Kentucky, April 29th and 30th, 2002 while the group toured in support of New Favorite (Rounder 11661-0485 hybrid multi-channel SACD/Diverse Vinyl DIV001LP 180g LP). The fans at home obviously approved as well, as the album quickly went Platinum. One track, the familiar “Down to the River to Pray,” was recorded live on the “Austin City Limits” television program.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 01, 2003  |  2 comments


Jon Anderson was always busy exhorting listeners to “Get up!,” “Look around,!” “See yourself!,” etc. His lyrics feel like a Tony Robbins self-improvement course (“Take the straight and stronger course to the corner of your life,”), but Anderson and co. were doing it first and setting the self-help lectures to bombastic musical constructions. Because of Anderson’s lyrical themes, Yes could be preachy, pretentious, mechanical and cold, but you had to respect the musical craft—especially the rhythmic suppleness (it was smart to unleash Bill Bruford) and the group’s sophisticated manipulation of dynamics.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 01, 2003  |  1 comments

If you were going to pick one album from the Kinks Katalog for an SACD remastering it wouldn’t be Low Budget and that’s all there is to it. Not that it’s a bad Kinks album. It’s just not one of their best, though it was certainly one of the group’s most popular. Leave it to the public to ignore Arthur, The Village Green Preservation Society and Lola Versus Powerman and the Money Goround not to mention Face to Face and Something Else while driving Low Budget to gold sales status.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 01, 2003  |  1 comments

The monophonic master tape of this 1958 Prestige session recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s Hackensack home studio has probably had more tape head contact over the past few years than it had for the first 30 plus years of its life. Along with this 2 LP set and SACD, there’s a 180g Acoustic Sounds LP still in print, there was a 1998 JVC XRCD reissue, a 1993 DCC Compact Classics gold CD, a standard CD, a 20 bit mastered edition, a Japanese 20 bit “LP sleeve” edition and probably a few others as well. Do a search on and you’ll find a confusing jumble of Soultrane editions priced from $6.49 to $49.00 (the out of print DCC Compact Classics gold CD), none of which are identified in adequate detail. As you’d expect, www.acousticsounds does a better job of identifying this recording’s many iterations.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 01, 2003  |  0 comments

In his 35 year recording career with Fairport Convention, with ex-wife Linda, and on his own, Richard Thompson has made some great records and some that were ill-conceived and didn’t work, but none, in my opinion, that could be declared complete failures. Thompson’s guitar always pulled him through the weaker episodes, even as the team of Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake often sabotaged his sound during the late ‘80s/early ‘90s with their overproduction, studio tricks and other superflous sonic thickets. That’s just my opinion, and for all I know, Thompson loved that stuff. Maybe you’re a long-time fan who stayed away during that period, despite some superb songwriting and performances: 1991’s Rumor and Sigh (Capitol EST 2142 LP) for instance, which included the mischievous “I Feel So Good,” and the transcendent “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.”

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 31, 2003  |  First Published: Dec 31, 1969  |  0 comments
Since the mid-sixties, producer Joe Boyd's name has been synonymous with the British folk/rock scene. Through his Witchseason productions, Boyd produced the classic albums of The Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, Richard and Linda Thompson, Nick Drake, Martin Carthy, and Sandy Denny among others. During that fertile musical period, the Witchseason logo on an album was an ironclad guaranty of good music- and fine sound.
Michael Fremer  |  Jul 31, 2003  |  First Published: Dec 31, 1969  |  0 comments

In a career spanning almost 30 years and 18 albums, Joan Armatrading has established herself as one of the most durable and respected artists in popular music. Her honesty and integrity as both a musician and world citizen are rare in a field that regularly breeds shooting stars.

Born in the West Indies on the island of St. Kitts in 1950, and moving to England when she was 7, Armatrading absorbed both the lilting, sunny rhythms of the Caribbean and the grittiness of post-industrial Birmingham. Her tough, yet vulnerable musical stance has influenced two generations of performers, attracted to her unique, difficult to categorize brand of music.

Matthew Greenwald  |  Jul 31, 2003  |  First Published: Dec 31, 1969  |  0 comments

Matthew' Greenwald Sparks Van Dyke Parks

MG: Well, let's first hit that great rewind button in the sky... After you attended Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh, I believe that one of the first professional jobs that you got as a musician was playing clarinet on Art Linkletter's television show, "House Party"...

Van Dyke Parks: (Laughter) No, I came out to California expecting that job to be waiting for me... It didn't happen. (Laughter)

MG: So, you came out here and lived with your older brother, Carson?

VDP: Yeah, we lived in Seal Beach.

MG: So I guess at that time you kind of set the clarinet aside and learned 'Raquinto' style guitar... Did the two of you play coffee houses?

VDP: Well, we played all of the hip places to play. We played all the way from San Diego to Santa Barbara. We went up and down the coast and played all these places.