Unbiased reviews of new vinyl releases, audiophile reissues, and more

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Show Review: McCoy Tyner Quartet -- Live at Yoshi's Oakland, December 29, 2009

Every time you ask someone to name a living jazz icon, the name McCoy Tyner undoubtedly comes up. As pianist for the legendary John Coltrane Quartet from 1960-1965, and as the leader of his own groups thereafter, Tyner has been one of jazz's most influential figures and continues to inspire pianists around the world.

Tyner and his quartet are back at Yoshi's Oakland, for six nights of shows running from December 29-January 3, 2010. Last night, on the first night of the stand, he showed that he still has what it takes to please a crowd, leaving no doubt why he's had such a lasting impact upon the world of jazz.

Monday, December 14, 2009

2009: The Year in Vinyl

2009 has proved to be another great year to be a vinyl collector and audiophile. The vinyl resurgence continues to gain steam, and because of it, more new releases, archival material, and audiophile reissues are being released on vinyl. Here is a sampling of the best in vinyl from 2009.

Archival Vinyl Release of the Year

Neil Young: Sugar Mountain -- Live at Canterbury House 1968 (Reprise 200 gram vinyl)

In November of 1968, Neil Young was still on the heels of the breakup of Buffalo Springfield and had yet to release his solo debut. For two nights at the Canterbury House in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he would treat a small crowd to a preview of his new record as well as select cuts from his efforts with Buffalo Springfield. Canterbury House reveals a nascent performer engaging in goofy banter with the audience, who delivers a simple, raw vocal performance.

When you drop the needle, it's just Neil and his guitar with you in your living room. While this recording doesn't have quite the presence of Massey Hall, the simplicity of the performance and the recording comes shining through and this superb mastering from Chris Bellman should deliver genuine satisfaction to the audiophile purist and is essential for any fan of Mr. Young.

Honorable Mention

Crosby, Stills & Nash: Demos (Rhino 180 gram)

As great as a vinyl reissue can be, hearing unreleased material for the first time can be even better. CSN went back to the vaults to bring this collection of unreleased demo tracks recorded between 1968-1971. The songs have an unvarnished quality to them that allows you to experience something new and different from songs that you've undoubtedly become intimately familiar with over the past three decades. What sets this set apart from many demo packages is its fantastic sound, which Bernie Grundman accomplishes with a minimum of futzing, simply bringing the vocalist and guitars right into your living room.

45 RPM Jazz Reissue of The Year

Tina Brooks: Back to the Tracks (Music Matters 45 RPM)

With its entrance into the jazz vinyl arena two years ago, Music Matters has single handedly changed the definition of what constitutes an ultra-premium audiophile product. Team leaders Joe Harley and Ron Rambach have done everything right in this series. They're picking superb Blue Note titles--with few, if any duds in the bunch so far. They're using the original analog master tapes. The mastering and cutting of these double 45 RPM sets is being done by the veteran team of Kevin Gray and Steve Hoffman, resulting in consistently spectacular sound.

(Left to right: Kevin Gray, Ron Rambach,
Joe Harley, and Steve Hoffman)

Each two-record 45 RPM set comes in a gorgeous, glossy cover made of extra-heavy cardstock. And if all of this isn't enough, there are beautiful, glossy, archival quality Francis Wolff session photos contained inside the gatefold of each and every record issued. The photos alone could easily fetch more than the $50 price of each of these albums.

(Jackie McLean--archival quality photo)

While there are many titles that were released by Music Matters in 2009 that would qualify as superb reissues in the Music Matters series, I'm choosing Tina Brooks' Back to the Tracks for a number of reasons. Brooks happens to be one of my favorite Blue Note aritsts. The album features some of the very best session players of the day, including Blue Mitchell on trumpet and Jackie McLean on alto sax. It exemplifies the famous Blue Note sound, swinging from start to finish. And last but not least, it sounds fantastic--making you feel as if you are "in the room" with the players.

click here to buy
from Music Direct

Honorable Mention

Giant Steps Pictures, Images and Photos

John Coltrane: Giant Steps (Rhino 45 RPM)

Mastered from the original analog master tapes by Bernie Grundman, one immediately notices upon listening to this reissue of this classic title that the 45 RPM format can yield impressive results over 33 RPM, with greater dynamics, faster transients, and more detail immediately coming to the fore. The improved attack and accuracy of the cymbals and realism of the piano are also immediately revealed.

This 45 RPM edition of Giant Steps gives me a similar feeling to listening to my Kind of Blue 45 RPM set. It brings me closer to the performers than I have ever been--and it makes me want to buy a second copy.

Rock Reissue of the Year

Radio City [Vinyl]

Big Star: Radio City (Concord 150 gram, Classic 200 gram Clarity)

2009 saw vinyl reissues of both of Big Star's classic albums: their 1972 debut, #1 Record and their 1974 masterpiece, Radio City. While Chris Bellman did an admirable job on #1 Record, the sonics on his mastering of Radio City are as good or better than the original Ardent vinyl and may very well be definitive.

Available on both 150 gram regular weight vinyl and Classic 200 gram clarity vinyl, this album has simply never sounded better. The bright character of the music has been retained, yet the top end is never strident. The bottom end, as heard on this reissue, brings the music to life in a way that hasn't previously been accomplished. Finally, the all-important midrange faithfully conveys the organic crunch of the guitars and the complexity of the vocals. This reissue is now my preferred way to listen to this power pop classic.

Concord 150 gram

Classic 200 gram

Honorable Mention

Neil Young (Reprise 140 gram)

From the opening instrumental charm of The Emperor of Wyoming, to the fuzz-toned urgency of The Loner and I've Been Waiting for You, to the haunting background vocals of The Old Laughing Lady, this album makes for a compelling listen.

Chris Bellman has done a superb job of transforming this debut album from the sonic mediocrity it has always suffered. In addition to uncovering additional detail, he has kept the EQ on the warm side, and the predominance of vocals, acoustic guitars and strings seem to play better because of it. This is the best I have ever heard this album sound, and it is essential for any fan of Mr. Young.

Soul Reissue of the Year

Marvin Gaye: Let's Get it On (MFSL 180 gram)

This 1973 release was mastered by Shawn Britton for Mobile Fidelity and has very nice stereo separation and imaging, with increased bass extension, more realistic sounding cymbals, and better overall presence than the original Tamla vinyl. The ever-important midrange has also been left intact, allowing Gaye's vocals to shine through with superb clarity and character.

If you don't see your favorite title or you disagree with any of the above choices, feel free to place your comments below. And if there is a particular title you'd like to see reviewed, I'm happy to consider requests. Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Short Spin: Crosby, Stills & Nash -- 180 gram Rhino Vinyl

Rhino continues their vinyl campaign with the reissue of the self-titled debut from from Crosby, Stills & Nash on 180 gram audiophile quality vinyl. Also known as The Couch Album, this 1969 folk rock classic features songs blending three-part harmonies with acoustic as well as psychedelic-flavored electric guitars.

The original gatefold textured cover has been faithfully reproduced and is made of heavy cardstock, and includes an inner lyric sheet. The 180 gram vinyl is housed in Pallas' preferred poly-lined paper inner sleeve, which I prefer to the stiff poly inner sleeves used by RTI. Pallas is known for their ultra-quiet and clean 180 gram pressings, and the copy I received was no exception, playing quietly from start to finish.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Neil Young: Original Release Series discs 1-4 -- 140 gram vinyl review

As part of the Neil Young Archives reissue campaign that started with the Performance Series releases of Live at the Fillmore East, Live at Massey Hall, and Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House, Reprise continues with reissues of Young's first four albums on vinyl.

Each of the first four titles are available either individually on regular weight 140 gram vinyl or in a limited edition numbered boxset containing all four titles on 180 gram vinyl (available exclusively through NeilYoung.com and BecauseSoundMatters.com). For this review, I compared each of the 140 gram versions to early original U.S. pressings as well as a few of my favorite imports and reissues.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Elvis Costello -- My Aim Is True MFSL 180 gram vinyl

Mobile Fidelity has just released My Aim Is True, the first of three promised titles from Elvis Costello. With this 1977 release, Costello mixed elements of pub rock, rockabilly, and reggae and delivered them with a punk attitude that would come to define a large segment of the popular music scene of the late Seventies and early Eighties, with artists like Joe Jackson following in his footsteps.

Costello is backed on his debut effort by the band Clover--except on the single, Watching the Detectives, where he plays with what would become his regular backing band, The Attractions. Detectives was not included on the original UK Stiff album release, but was added just in time for the U.S. Columbia release. This Mofi pressing is likely one of the only vinyl releases to both use the original analog tapes and include *Detectives.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Short Spin: The Gil Evans Orchestra -- Out of the Cool Impulse 45 RPM 180 gram vinyl

Analogue Productions has finally started releasing titles from their highly anticipated Impulse jazz 45 RPM series. Following the success of their 45 RPM Blue Note jazz series, Analogue Productions, along with a new label, Original Recordings Group (ORG), have each embarked upon campaigns to reissue Impulse jazz titles on 45 RPM 180 gram vinyl.

ORG released their initial Impulse titles in April of this year, including the truly exceptional Live at the Village Vanguard. Among the initial titles just released by Analogue Productions is the 1962 classic from The Gil Evans Orchestra: Out of the Cool.

In preparation for this review, I compared the now out-of-print 33 RPM 180 gram stereo reissue from Alto Analogue, as well as an original Rudy Van Gelder mastered stereo Impulse pressing (which was generously loaned to me by Bay Area analog guru and owner of The Analog Room, Brian Hartsell).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Neil Young: Official Release Series Discs 1-4 Remastered Vinyl and Boxset Coming November 24, 2009

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere [Vinyl]

(Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, 1969)
If you are here for reviews of the Neil Young Official Release Series Discs 1-4, please click here to find the Full Reviews.

As part of the Neil Young Archives reissue campaign that started with the Performance Series releases of Live at the Fillmore East, Live at Massey Hall, and Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House, Reprise continues with upcoming vinyl releases of Young's first four albums.

Remastered vinyl editions of Neil Young, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, After the Goldrush, and Harvest will be released on November 24, 2009. The self-titled 1969 debut release will again feature the original cover art, which was changed shortly after the first vinyl pressings were issued forty years ago.

(After the Goldrush, 1970)

The vinyl will be remastered from the original analog master tapes by Chris Bellman, of Bernie Grundman Mastering. Bellman, who has mastered all of Young's recent vinyl titles, including Greatest Hits, as well as the three live Archives Performance Series titles, has received near-unanimous praise for his job on these titles, and based upon his stellar work on each of them, I have high hopes for these remastered releases as well.

Harvest, 1972)

The vinyl will be pressed at the Pallas facility in Germany, which is well known for producing ultra-premium vinyl pressings that are flat, clean, and are virtually silent during playback. Each album will be available individually on regular weight 140 gram vinyl. A numbered boxset limited to 3000 copies worldwide, containing 180 gram pressings of each title will also be available exclusively through NeilYoung.com and BecauseSoundMatters.com. Both vinyl versions will use the same mastering and pressing plant.
Stay tuned for a full review of all four remastered releases!

Click here for the review of Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House Vinyl

Click here for the review of Live at Fillmore East and Live at Massey Hall Vinyl

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Short Spin: David Gray -- Draw The Line Vinyl

Ok, I admit it. I'm middle-aged. The problem with David Gray's latest release, Draw the Line, is that nearly every song reminds me of that fact. There are basically two kinds of pop songs that move me: those that make me feel young, and those that remind me of what it was like to be young. Those that succeed in the latter category often evoke bittersweet images--or some conflict in the listener between what is and what used to be--childhood memories, forgotten places, or lost loves. Draw the Line is unfortunately much more bitter than sweet, with its mostly mid-tempo compositions evoking images closer to lost opportunities, ailing parents and divorce.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Short Spin: Crosby, Stills & Nash -- CSN Demos 180 gram vinyl


On the heels of the outstanding archival release by Stephen Stills, Just Roll Tape, Crosby, Stills & Nash have again gone back to the vaults with Demos, a collection of unreleased demo tracks recorded between 1968-1971. And like Just Roll Tape, the songs have an unvarnished quality to them that allows you to experience something new and different from songs that you've become intimately familiar with over the past three decades.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Beatles: 40th Anniversary Abbey Road Deluxe Vinyl Box -- Coming November 7, 2009

Now that September 9, 2009 has come and gone--and we've had an opportunity to see and hear the stereo and mono Beatles remasters on compact disc, anticipation for the remastered vinyl continues to build. With the originally rumored release date of November 14, 2009 only two weeks away, and still nothing announced regarding their release, it seems highly unlikely that we'll see anything in the way of remastered vinyl by then.

Nonetheless, in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the original release of Abbey Road, there will be a special vinyl edition of the album released on November 7, 2009. The Beatles Abbey Road Deluxe Vinyl box will include a vinyl copy of the album, a t-shirt featuring the original artwork from the 7" single Come Together/Something, and a corresponding poster. This boxset will be released on Vinyl Saturday, which is sposored by the folks behind Record Store Day and will be limited to 5,000 copies worldwide.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sinatra: Live in Paris MFSL 180 gram vinyl

On the heels of their two excellent Sinatra releases last year, Nice 'N' Easy, and Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely, Mofi is back with the first-ever vinyl release of Sinatra: Live in Paris. In this 1962 concert, which remained unreleased until 1994, Sinatra is backed by a jazz sextet--rather than the full orchestra or big band that often accompanied him on live dates. The result is a slightly more intimate experience, where he has the chance to show off his fantastic voice as well as his charm, without the bombast that sometimes comes with a larger band.

When I first heard Sinatra at the Sands, I almost instantly developed a preference for Sinatra live. To me, his charisma and charm are fully realized in his live recordings, and while I still enjoy his studio recordings, I gravitate toward his live albums when I want to hear him. Unfortunately, his live catalog is fairly limited.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Short spin: Jet -- Shaka Rock 180 gram vinyl (w/included cd)

Shaka Rock [Vinyl]

Aussie rockers Jet are back with an all new album, Shaka Rock. Propelled in part by airplay on the popular television series The OC, Jet originally burst onto the scene in 2003 with Get Born, and their brand of classic rock mixed with punk swagger. Get Born proved to be a hell of a fun record and went on to sell in excess of three million copies.

Their 2006 sophmore effort, Shine On was a letdown, both musically, and for anyone who cares about good sound. A particularly glaring casualty of the loudness war, both the cd and vinyl versions of Shine On were terribly loud and compressed--to the point of being "brickwalled" so badly that I simply couldn't enjoy listening to them.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

John Coltrane (September 23, 1926 - July 17, 1967)

Yesterday, John Coltrane would have been 83 years old. Amazing, that he's now been gone longer than he was with us. Still, he continues to entertain and inspire us, day after day.

After two weeks of listening to virtually nothing but The Beatles, I've taken a break from them. And in celebration of Coltrane's life, I've been playing his music all day, and I hope that you'll join me in celebrating his larger than life spirit.

Below, I've included some of my favorite photos, as well as live performances of So What (with Coltrane on tenor) and My Favorite Things (with Coltrane on soprano and Eric Dolphy on flute). I hope you enjoy them.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Beatles Remastered: Stereo Revolver -- Review and Vinyl Comparison

the beatles! Pictures, Images and Photos

In 1966, The Beatles released their seventh studio album, Revolver. Heralded as one of the first psychedelic albums, Revolver features the use of reverse guitar, tape loops, and other effects on songs such as Tommorow Never Knows and I'm Only Sleeping. Revolver may also be the height of George Harrison's influence, featuring three songs written and sung by him.

Unlike the stereo version of their previous album, Rubber Soul, which features hard-panned left-right placement of vocals and instruments--and a hole in the center, the stereo Revolver features a more natural stereo mix. Today, Myvinylreview reviews the remastered stereo compact disc, which is found in the Beatles Stereo Box Set and can also be bought as a single cd.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Second Listen: The Beatles in MONO Remastered Box Set -- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Released in 1967, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band marked the Beatles most ambitious recording project to date. Originally released on vinyl in both mono and stereo, the mono version quickly went out of print and has never been issued on compact disc until now. Favored by many hardcore fans as representing the true intention of the band, a mythology has developed behind the mono version and many younger fans are now hearing it for the first time.

While there will always be some debate over which is the greater version of the recording, there is no doubt that the mono Pepper remaster has been about as highly anticipated as any other of their recordings, save The Beatles (White Album) in mono. Given that interest, Myvinylreview reviews the Pepper mono remaster today.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

First Listen: The Beatles in MONO Remastered Box Set (The White Album)

On September 9, 2009, EMI released the long-anticipated remasterings of the Beatles U.K. catalog. For the first time on compact disc, all of the albums originally released on mono will be available, along with a two-disc Mono Masters set, which collects all of the singles and non-album mono tracks. These mono discs are packaged in a box set entitled, The Beatles in Mono and the individual titles will not be available separately.

Unlike the stereo box set, the mono set is being produced in limited quantities and is likely to become a collectible in the future. This mono set was manufactured in Japan and has exquisite mini-LP packaging, which replicates the original vinyl packaging right down to the Sgt. Pepper's and White Album inserts.

Monday, September 7, 2009

First Listen: Beatles Remastered Compact Discs vs. U.K. Stereo Vinyl (Abbey Road)

Well, the day is finally almost here--9/9/09 is two days away. And if you haven't yet decided whether to buy the remastered cds, are wondering how they sound compared to your Blue Box or original U.K vinyl, or you're still waiting for newly remastered vinyl, you've come to the right place. While Myvinylreview can't make up your mind for you, we're going to try to help you over the next week with a review and comparison of a different album each day. First some stereo issues, then some monos.

Because this is first and foremost a vinyl review site, I do not plan on comparing the original issue 1987 compact discs to these remasters. Instead, I will compare them to original and reissued U.K. vinyl: Original Yellow and Black Parlophones, one-box, two-box (Blue Box era), '82 reissue Parlophone monos, and U.K. Apples.

Today, we'll start with the Beatles' last recorded effort, Abbey Road. Originally released on September 26, 1969, Abbey Road was the Beatles last recorded effort (though Let it Be was released later, it was actually recorded earlier) and is generally considered to be their album with the highest fidelity and is a perennial fan favorite.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It Might Get Loud: Movie Review and Extended Preview Trailer

From director Davis Guggenheim, comes a documentary film about the guitar and three famous players: guitar god Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, U2's The Edge, and Jack White III (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather).

Unlike much of the usual documentary fare, It Might Get Loud does more than follow these three famous guitarists around. Guggenheim has each musician take you on their personal journey of guitar discovery, and then allows you to be a fly on the wall during a two day "summit" at a Los Angeles soundstage where the three meet. Archival footage is interspersed sparingly to give context and only enriches the experience of meeting these artists.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Cars: S/T MFSL 180 gram vinyl

In 1978, with new acts like Blondie and Elvis Costello already tasting some success, The Cars burst onto the new wave scene with their self-titled debut album. The band went on to release five more albums over the next ten years, including the massively successful 1984 release, Heartbeat City, which netted four top 15 hits.

Despite this commercial success, fans of the band almost universally agree that the band never again reached the heights they acheived with their debut, which is considered by many to be one of the finest debut rock albums ever. The Cars not only plays like a greatest hits album, but has aged quite well and doesn't have the dated sound that plagues so many synth-based records of the era.

Monday, August 24, 2009

SNEAK PREVIEW: The Black Crowes -- The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion 180 gram vinyl

In 1992, at the height of the grunge movement, one band could be counted on to release a straight-ahead rock album in the tradition of The Rolling Stones, The Faces, and the Allman Brothers. That band was The Black Crowes. Led by brothers Rich and Chris Robinson, The Black Crowes originally broke onto the rock scene in 1990 with their highly successful debut album, Shake Your Moneymaker, which spawned two number one album oriented rock hits--their cover of Otis Redding's Hard to Handle, and the acoustic ballad, She Talks to Angels.

Their followup effort, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, was released in 1992, and is widely considered by fans to be their best. It took the band to even greater heights than their first, garnering them four number one album oriented rock singles: Remedy, Sting Me, Thorn in My Pride, and Hotel Illness.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Short Spin: Stephen Stills -- Just Roll Tape (April 26, 1968) 180 gram vinyl

Almost two years ago, Stephen Stills released his archival recording entitled, Just Roll Tape (April 26, 1968), to very little fanfare. And late last year, in the midst of the vinyl release of Neil Young's Massey Hall concert and the increasing speculation about his forthcoming Archives project, Rhino released Just Roll Tape (April 26, 1968) on 180 gram vinyl.

As Young's live archival releases, Live at the Fillmore East, Live at Massey Hall, and Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House, continue to receive richly deserved attention, I think this archival release from Stephen Stills deserves your attention as well.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Beatledrops: Samples of Beatles Mono and Stereo Vinyl, CD, Remasters

NEW: Click here to read the Review of the 2009 Remastered cd of Abbey Road

NEW:First Listen: The Beatles MONO Box Set (The White Album) Review and Comparison to U.K. Vinyl

With the remastered Beatles compact discs arriving in less than a month, interest in Beatles pressings, both vinyl and cd, stereo and mono are at a high not seen since the original compact discs were released over twenty years ago.

September 9, 2009 cannot come soon enough for many, but don't expect vinyl collectors to dump their collections-- with the price of the mono and stereo boxsets each topping $200, not everyone will automatically pony up the bucks for the remastered cds. Many are hoping for remastered vinyl, others will continue to search for the best sounding vinyl already out there on Ebay and elsewhere.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Dead Weather - Horehound 180 gram vinyl review

Jack White is back with his latest supergroup, The Dead Weather, and their first release, Horehound. With Jack White (The White Stripes and The Raconteurs) on drums/vocals, Jack Lawerence (The Raconteurs, The Greenhornes) on bass, Alison Mosshart (The Kills) on lead vocals, and Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age) on guitar, synthesizer, and organ, White shows once again that he has a knack for bringing just the right mix of talent together.

Funky grooves, fuzzed-out bass, eerie organ lines, Cream-era fuzztone guitars, vocals straight from hell, and White's John Bonham-inspired drumming combine to create a consistent mood throughout the record that evokes part Crossroads, part Hell's Kitchen. For those who found Robert Plant's foray into the swamp with Alison Krauss much too angelic, this Alison goes the opposite direction, and her vocals, like White's, take the listener to a much darker place--in fact, their voices are so similar, that when they're singing together, their voices tend to meld together as one.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Miles Davis: Kind of Blue -- to be released on Classic Records 45 RPM Clarity Vinyl ?

Kind of Blue Pictures, Images and Photos

Last year, Classic Records introduced their latest 200 gram proprietary vinyl formula: Clarity Vinyl. Following this initial rollout, however, they have been relatively slow in releasing titles pressed on this new formula.

After a handful of Blue Note jazz titles and more recently, the Big Star reissues, Classic has just announced some additional titles to be released on the Clarity formulation, including 45 RPM 4 LP single-sided sets of Norah Jones' Come Away With Me, Dave Brubeck's Time Out, and most interestingly, Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain.

While Sketches of Spain is itself a great record, its re-release in the 45 RPM format suggests what Classic might have in store: the re-release of the venerable Kind of Blue on 45 RPM Clarity Vinyl. What's the big deal, you ask?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wilco: The Album -- 180 gram vinyl (w/ included cd) -- Win a Free Copy Here!

wilco album Pictures, Images and Photos

Wilco is back with Wilco (The Album), their seventh studio album and follow up to their 2007 release, Sky Blue Sky. Nonesuch simultaneously issued the cd and vinyl/cd combo packages, allowing vinyl fans wanting the album right away to be able to get it without having to "double dip," as often happens with new releases. As usual, this review will concentrate on the vinyl release and will compare the sound quality of the vinyl and cd versions.

The single 180 gram vinyl was pressed at the Pallas plant in Germany and arrived perfectly clean, flat, and played with nary a pop or tick. Pallas continues to be a standard bearer for the production of super-premium quality vinyl pressings and is only rivaled by the best pressing plants in Japan. The gatefold cover is made of heavy card stock and comes with a printed color sleeve. The vinyl itself is housed in an audiophile quality poly-lined inner sleeve.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Green Day: 21st Century Breakdown 180 gram vinyl

21st Century Breakdown [Vinyl]

Green Day is back with 21st Century Breakdown, their eighth studio album and follow up to their 2004 Grammy-winning effort, American Idiot. While American Idiot was a concept album, their current release takes things one step further and presents a full-blown rock opera, complete with three acts: Heroes and Cons, Charlatans and Saints, and Horseshoes and Handgrenades.

Pressed at Record Industry in The Netherlands, the vinyl arrived clean, flat, and was virtually noise-free during playback. The gatefold cover is made of standard weight cardstock and the two 180 gram platters are housed in poly-lined paper sleeves, a nice detail that helps keep the vinyl from obtaining paper-scuffs. A full-size lyric sheet is also included.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Update: Big Star #1 Record and Radio City Reissues -- Classic Records 200 gram Clarity Vinyl vs. 150 gram Standard Vinyl

Several months ago, Concord Music Group and Classic Records both reissued vinyl editions of Big Star's first two albums, #1 Record and Radio City and I was able to obtain copies of the 150 gram standard vinyl pressings from Concord Music Group in advance of their general release. In reviewing them, I compared them primarily to the original Ardent vinyl, and the reissue of Radio City fared much better in the comparison than did #1 Record. Click here to read the full reviews:

When Classic released their versions several weeks later, it was discovered that both the Concord and Classic versions used the exact same mastering from Chris Bellman of Bernie Grundman Mastering. The only difference between the releases was the vinyl formulation and pressing. Concord used 150 gram standard vinyl; Classic used their new 200 gram Clarity vinyl formulation.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Kind of Blue at 50 -- Jimmy Cobb's So What Band -- Show Review


2009 marks the 50th anniversary of the recording of the seminal jazz album from Miles Davis: Kind of Blue. In celebration of this anniversary, drummer Jimmy Cobb, the only surviving member of the sextet, is touring with his appropriately named, So What Band, and is performing the entire Kind of Blue album.

Last night, I saw Cobb and his sextet perform two complete album sets at Yoshi's in Oakland, California. The elder statesman Cobb, was joined by Wallace Roney on trumpet, Javon Jackson on tenor sax, Vincent Herring on alto sax, Larry Willis on Piano, and John Webber (filling in for Buster Williams due to illness) on bass.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Neil Young vinyl update: Archives Vol. 1 1963-1972; Neil Young S/T, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, After the Goldrush, Harvest -- Remastered

Click here to read about remastered vinyl releases of the first four albums just announced for November 24, 2009!

Neil Young has finally released his long awaited Archives volume one, 1963-1972 boxset. Released simultaneously on Blu-Ray, DVD, and compact disc, vinyl lovers have been left wondering whether there will be a vinyl release. While the sound quality of the Blu-Ray discs (24/192) is excellent (I viewed and listened to the Archives vol. 1 Blu-Ray preview disc), fans who are highly invested in their vinyl rig or would simply prefer to sit in their listening chair and listen to the music while flipping through the archives book, will still be clamoring for a vinyl release. And if the Fillmore East, Sugar Mountain, and especially Massey Hall vinyl releases are any indication, the vinyl will surpass the digital releases in sonics (click here for prior review of Fillmore and Massey; click here for prior review of Sugar Mountain).

Friday, May 22, 2009

Short Spin: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers -- Moanin' 200 gram mono vinyl

Today brings a new feature to My Vinyl Review: The Short Spin. In this feature, I'll periodically cover a record I currently have in my regular rotation, and I'll review it without extensive comparisons to other vinyl or cd versions.

With the recent rush of 45 RPM jazz releases, I've spent a good deal of time with them: listening, reviewing, and flipping. And as sonically rewarding as they are, sometimes you want to get the experience of full album sides rather than getting up every five or ten minutes to flip the record. Furthemore, you don't necessarily want to spend $50 or $60 for every title. With these things in mind, I pulled out a classic Blue Note mono title released by Classic Records.

In 1958, Blue Note released Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers' Moanin' as Blue Note 4003. In addition to Blakey on drums, the session featured a blistering Lee Morgan on trumpet, Benny Golson on tenor sax, Bobby Timmons on piano, and Jymie Merritt on bass. The record starts out with the title cut, written by Timmons, which will get your toes tapping and fingers snapping, and is undoubtedly one of the all-time classic hard bop tunes. It swings from start to finish, and features superb performances from all of the players, most of all Morgan and Golson. The rest of the album features a mix of originals and covers, and while none are as iconic as Moanin', there are plenty of noteworthy performances and no filler to be found.

This pressing is part of the excellent Blue Note Mono series from Classic Records. Like the rest of the series, this release was mastered by Bernie Grundman from the original master tapes, pressed onto high quality 200 gram vinyl, and housed in a premium glossy cover made of extra-heavy card stock.

The sonics on this record are excellent, imparting a wide dynamic range. The soundstage of this mono pressing reaches well behind the speakers, and despite being mono, one still has a very nice sense of the players at the date.

Tonality is what one would expect from Bernie Grundman, and all but those who are ultra-senstive to high frequencies should appreciate his approach of smoothing things out only so much, without significantly altering the original recording style of Rudy Van Gelder.

Low level detail is very good--there is a very different tone imparted to Morgan's, at times shrieking trumpet, than to Golson's rich, reedy sax. And Blakey's drums and cymbals have a realism that propel the tunes forward. Only the piano, at times can sound boxy, which I attribute more to the original recording than any mastering issue.

I have been very pleased with the Blue Note reissues from Classic Records, and this title is no exception. While it doesn't have the last degree of detail or dynamics of its 45 RPM counterpart, this mono pressing represents an excellent value with excellent sound, all-analog mastering, and very nice packaging.

Highly Recommended

Monday, May 18, 2009

Coming Soon: Green Day -- 21st Century Breakdown 180 gram vinyl

Green Day has just released their eighth studio album, 21st Century Breakdown. This latest release from the trio is their first since the highly acclaimed 2004 rock opera, American Idiot, which has proven to be one of my favorite rock records of the decade. The domestic vinyl release of American Idiot was pressed on two discs of 180 gram vinyl and half-speed mastered by Stan Ricker and sounds fantastic.
Click here to read the full review now.

While it will likely prove difficult for the band to reach the heights of American Idiot with this latest effort, I have high hopes for it both musically and sonically. The vinyl is currently only available for pre-order and isn't scheduled for release until June 16. I do plan to review it upon release.

In the meantime, I just found a digital download of 21st Century Breakdown at Amazon for $4.99--and it even comes with an exclusive bonus track. Amazon had a similar promotion for the latest U2 album, and it didn't remain at the low price for very long. While you won't get audiophile quality sound from the 256 kbps download, vinyl fans can get a copy of the album now for the car or computer, and not feel like they're double-dipping when they buy the vinyl.

I haven't listened to my copy yet, but I wanted to let you know about this deal before it went away. During the next month, you can decide for yourself whether you like the record, and I'll plan on reviewing the vinyl as soon as it comes out. As always, I'll give you the scoop on the things vinyl fans care about: mastering, pressing quality, and packaging.

click here for
MP3 download

click here
for vinyl