Philip’s Playlist Series – Box of Fun on TIDAL, 2006, inspired by Randy Cribb of Audio Advice

I was asked by Randy Cribb of Audio Advice in Raleigh NC to provide him with a compilation “You should consider putting together a demo disk with more tunes that show off dynamics and bass, as that is what gets most people really excited when listening to speakers”. If every track were widely dynamic, it might be a little uncomfortable to listen to at length as the amplitude will vary dramatically. So I opted to bookend the dynamic pieces with an interesting selection of bass. Again a whole lot of boom, boom, boom bass will be boring so instead we vary the kinds of bass from track to track; you will find baritone, bass drum, double bass, electric bass, synth bass..

01. Fanfare for the Common Man by AARON COPLAND, performed here by Leonard Bernstein & New York Phil. From Copland’s autobiography: “Eugene Goossens, conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, had written to me at the end of August about an idea he wanted to put into action for the 1942-43 concert season. During World War I he had asked British composers for a fanfare to begin each orchestral concert. It had been so successful that he thought to repeat the procedure in World War II with American composers”. A total of eighteen fanfares were written at Goossens’ behest, but Copland’s is the only one which remains today in the standard repertoire.

The Reference Recordings version Of Fanfare Of The Common Man with Eiji Oue conducting the Minnesota Orch. has a more visceral presentation, sadly not available on Tidal yet.

The first version I heard of this was performed by Emerson, Lake & Palmer in 1977 and had more of a rock up-tempo feel. Eiji Oue’s classical arrangement is no less exciting and is more defined in the classical realm; The bass drum will shake walls, and let you know exactly how well defined the low frequencies are in any system.

02. Norbu from the 2001 OST Himalaya by BRUNO COULAIS, performed by the Bulgarian SO. I first heard this piece at a demonstration by Focal’s Gerard Chretien of the JM Lab Grand Utopia Be in Munich at the High End Show. Bruno Coulais has captured the heart, spirit and mystery of the remarkable people of Dolpo (Nepal). The soundtrack is evocative and even without images, transports us to their magical world somewhere between heaven and earth. From the grandeur of the highest mountains on earth, you are at once engulfed in the Tibetan life; you live their experience through the deep guttural chants, singing bowls, and drums. The music on this soundtrack is sublime.

03. Yesterday from BOYZ II MEN second album, imaginatively entitled II.. According to the RIAA, Boyz II Men are the most commercially successful R&B group of all time. Their four-part harmonies blend so smoothly they are perfectly suited to this a cappella version of the Beatle’s classic. Their baritone is capable of great bass. Does your system allow you to follow each voice individually ?

04. Little Black Numbers from KATHRYN WILLIAMS’s Old Low Light. This minimalist, tender song, sung with no pretence, suits her mellow vocal. Closely miked vocal heightens the sense of intimacy, double bass, acoustic guitar, trumpet accompaniment benefit from a sparse arrangement.

05. Certainly (Flipped It) from ERYKAH BADU ‘s 1997 Baduizm: produced by Craig Street (who produced a couple of the earlier Cassandra Wilson albums – both of which are musically & sonically superb, later went on to produce Norah Jones’ remarkable debut album) Badu’s voice is effortlessly smooth as she croons her way through these slightly hip-hop-flavored slices of R&B. Cavernous bass in the hip-hop vein is a lot of fun.

06. One is the Magic # from JILL SCOTT’s debut album Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1. Another marvelous proponent of the neo-soul movement – India Arie, Erykah Badu, Meshell Ngegeocello, D’Angeleo…One is the Magic # opens differently to most of the other songs on this album, with a Spanish/Flamenco-sounding trumpet and temp. Scott sings of multiplying and subtracting, dividing and adding which is all well and good, but when it all boils down to her, one is the magic number! Also available on LP – remarkable bass & dynamics.

07. Window by FIONA APPLE from Extraordinary Machine 2006. In 2003, this album (produced by Jon Brion) was up and ready to go, but her Epic “shelved” it because they didn’t feel it had enough singles. Then, an internet DJ apparently leaked the tracks all over the internet, and when mad Fiona fans heard it, they went ballistic. Why keep this brilliant album “shelved”? What the hell? “Free Fiona”, a website dedicated to getting this album released was then erected. Extraordinary Machine 2006 {subsequently reworked by producers Mike Elizondo [Eminiem & 50 cent] & Brian Kehew} shows huge strides in maturity from her earlier albums. Unreservedly one of the best albums of 2006. Also available on LP – remarkable bass & dynamics.

08. Stop, Look Listen (To Your Heart) from MICHAEL McDONALD’s 2004 Motown 2. Best known as one of the lead vocalists with The Doobie Brothers; Michael McDonald released two albums of Motown covers, his melancholy voice is ideally suited to the task. Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart) includes a gorgeous duet with Toni Braxton. Interesting arrangements flatter these new versions of the old songs but don’t diminish the originals’ strengths. Also available on MC SACD for an even more enveloping experience.

09. Tempted from SQUEEZE’s Big Squeeze 2002. Often compared to Lennon and McCartney, songwiriters Difford and Tilbrook wrote many gems of English pop music. Tempted was produced by Elvis Costello, with keyboard player Paul Carrack’s perfect vocal (who incidentally replaced Jools Holland). Originally released in 1981 on East Side Story; one the band’s early masterpieces.

10. The 3 R’s (The Magic Number) from JACK JOHNSON’s Curious George OST. The best movie soundtracks not only make the films they are a part of, a better movie, but they can also stand alone as a musical entity. This album was originally marketed towards children, but the music is so wonderful that it has quickly caught on with teenagers, college students, and adults. It truly is an album that everyone in the family can enjoy. Johnson’s delivery is melodic and musically accessible for all ages; the recording has been meticulously mastered and has a great “you are there” quality as well. Demonstration quality.

11. Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me from THE FLYING NEUTRINOS Live from New Orleans. Fronted by vocalist Ingrid Lucia and her trombonist cousin Todd Londagin, – who is absolutely superb. The New Orleans jazz quintet, the Flying Neutrinos play “Mr. Zoot Suit” as an exciting retro-30’s big-band tune with a surprising arrangement that will keep you playing it over and over. The Django Reinhardt style guitar provides wonderful rhythm, while the audience is really participating during the solos. This will leave you smiling..

12. Just a Little Bit of Love by CURTIS MAYFIELD from 1996’s New World Order. In 1990 Mayfield was paralyzed from the neck down when a lighting scaffold fell on him at a Brooklyn concert. Though he could no longer move his arms and hands, he continued to write songs by singing lyrics and melodies to his family and staff. To record New World Order, Curtis Mayfield had to lie flat on his back with a boom microphone and record a single line at a time. Mayfield’s soprano was as smooth as ever and he was still capable of sliding into his trademark falsetto. The guitars and synthesizers were played by a group of studio musicians in the Mayfield style. While the arrangements by Narada Michael Walden, Daryl Simmons, and Organized Noize had the stamp of a Mayfield production. The emotion conveyed easily makes up for the overly compressed sonics.

13. it would be so EASY, 2006 Thuinderbird by CASSANDRA WILSON; with the help of producer T Bone Burnett, Ms Wilson strays away from her usual Jazz diva fiefdom. Here is an excellent cross-over album, particularly effective when she ventures into soul / R&B. More contemporary than earlier efforts such as Blue Light Til Dawn; contains more keyboards and percussion with lots of programming and drum looping than Ms Wilson’s usual fare. Demonstration quality.

14. Soon I Will Be Home by MINO CINELU’s 2000 self titled album. Studio percussionist who played on Miles Davis’ early 80’s albums, then joined Weather Report in the mid eighties, Mino Cinellu features guitarist Mitch Stein and bassist Richard Bona, while Cinellu plays over a dozen instruments himself, his voice is haunting and distinctive. The production is superb – if you like Hi-Fi, this album will truly let your system strut its stuff.

15. Shining Star from Wood II by BRIAN BROMBERG. Mr. Bromberg is in a very small class of the greatest bass innovators. Shining Star is a spellbinding acoustic bass solo of Earth, Wind & Fire’s classic tune. Mr. Bromberg gets a terrific growl out of his 300 year old upright bass. Demonstration quality.

16. Palestine, Texas from The True False Identity by T-BONE BURNETT 2006. Burnett is a successful producer (Grammy, Oscar nomination) hence almost fifteen years have passed, since he released his last own solo album. On The True False Identity, Burnett seems to be unconcerned with pop, instead relying on his own instincts to provide the sonic palette. Musically difficult, this is true grit and bone – a la Tom Waits. Expect to have to listen to this quite a few times before you can truly grasp what is on offer. Upright bass, clashing skeletal percussion – superb. Also available on DualDisc, which has a 24 bit stereo version of the CD, poetry & some video.

17. Title & Registration from DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE’s 2003 album Transatlanticism an interesting catalogue of long distance relationships; Title and Registration has great lyrics, the hand bell solo at the end is very melodic and beautiful. Sounds even better on SACD.

18. Believe (Nobody Knows) from 2015’s The Waterfall by MY MORNING JACKET. One might be confused & consider them a Brit pop band who play indie sounding pop-rock with forays into progressive, folk, alternative and psychedelia. But no, they hail from Louisville KY. Their music tends to be happy, with a lot of variation between and even within the songs; well worth exploring.

19. Epiphanies (Fanfares and Chorales) from RON NELSON’s Holidays & Epiphanies. Conductor Leonard Slatkin may have described Ron Nelson best. “Nelson is the quintessential American composer. He has the ability to move between conservative and newer styles with ease. The fact that he’s a little hard to categorize is what makes him interesting.” Demonstration quality.

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