3 days later than promised but better late than never.
Demo Compilation XVIII was literally an ongoing year-round project. All year long, we would go through the recurring cycle of putting the best songs aside, purchasing the LPs and then frequently got disappointed that while the CD sounded great, the aggressive filtering hid many of the recording’s blemishes that became transparent when the LP was played.
Mr. Moustafa from The Grand Budapest Hotel soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat was a delight on the CD, but after downloading the high rez version from High HD tracks, we found it was sonically challenged. There was a wonderful hammered string instrument that provided the principal melody but it sounded completely over-modulated.
Similarly, we must have listened to “Froot” off of Marina & the Diamonds LP Froot a couple hundred times. On the car stereo it always put a smile on our face and lifted our spirits whenever our equilibrium felt challenged. Unfortunately, sonically it suffered from a heavy hand with the dynamic compression.
But fear not, there are many gems here. In fact, there are so many that we put together this year’s compilation in three formats:
CD – Our CD version of the compilation version features many songs not available on Tidal. As space was limited, we had to edit some songs to be able to place nineteen songs within the physical constraints of 700MB.
Tidal – The Tidal version had an advantage of having two hours of play time allowed, and we did not have to worry so much about the time constraints. However, Tidal plays the CD version and not the vinyl rip we used on our CD compilation and the High Rez versions. Also many of the hard-to-find albums are not available on Tidal yet. While the CD, High Rez download & LP all come from the same recording / mix; they may use a different EQ master. The LP sometimes benefits from less compression than the purely digital formats. The vinyl rips can only be heard on the CD & High Rez version of Demo XVIII. tidal.com/playlist/ed20b055-9054-4820-99c7-c2abe43e2daa
High Rez – Sonically, this version is the creme de la creme, the ne plus ultra. Most of the tracks were high rez downloads. Where available, we purchased the LPs and compared the two versions side by side. A few tracks were only available on CD, so that’s what we went with. After all, a well-recorded CD can still beat the sonic pants off of a poorly recorded LP or SACD.
Of note is the Hérold ballet “La Fille Mal Garde”. That is another DECCA sonic masterpiece from the 1960s that we managed to get our hands on a DSD transfer from the analogue master tape.
We are particularly proud of Christy Moore’s cover version of Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, which we had to abbreviate for the CD. Our friends on the listening panel suggested for space reason, I should remove the electric guitar solo at the end of the song for this compilation . Wonder how great it would sound if it were played on a mandolin.
Speaking of mandolins, check out Avi Avitel – sublime maestro.
Leonard Cohen’s live album Can’t Forget: Souvenir of the Great Tour is superb with many great tunes. While the CD was released in May—due to a backlog of orders at the record pressing plants—the LP still has not been released. However, it should be available in the next few months. If you like Leonard Cohen, this is a must-buy.
While reading Alan Sircom’s review of the Merging Technologies NADAC, he mentioned the track “Welcome to My World” from Delta Machine. Goodness! DM has done a fantastic job of reinventing itself and delivering totally fresh music that sounds awesome. This is a fantastic track for sorting out systems. As the music progresses the choruses get more and more complex and only the really good systems will keep all the different instruments coherent and distinct.
Meanwhile, on the subject of artists reinventing themselves, have you listened to Justin Bieber recently? He’s made quite the comeback. His single “Where Are Ü Now” displaced Adele’s “Hello” from #1 on the Pop Charts. We ordered the LP Purpose from Germany for our daughter, Fiona for Christmas but it would come as a belated Christmas present instead as it would arrive after CES instead.
Many attentive listeners will already be familiar with London Grammar & Gregory Porter, both of whom we have been championing for the past couple of years. James Bay did not make it on to the CD, but is on the Tidal and High Rez versions.
Lineup for the CD:
01. “Small Blue Thing” – Suzanne Vega
02. “So In Love” (abridged) – Cecile Mclorin Salvant bonus track from the LP For One To Love
03. (Vivaldi) “La Biondina in Gondoleta” – Avi Avital
04. “Billie Jean” – Civil Wars EP Unplugged at MTV
05. “Hey Now” – London Grammar – LP
06. “Se Voce Me Ama” – Melody Gardot & Cayetano Velosa
07. “A Piece Of Me” – Lori Lieberman
08. “No Love Dying” – Gregory Porter
09. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” (abridged) – Christy Moore
10. “Got a Little Secret” (Live at Auckland Soundcheck 2013) – Leonard Cohen
11. “Lester’s Methadone Clinic” – Sonia Dada
12. Hérold – “La Fille Mal Gardée” Act 1 – 16. Simone
13. “Song for My Father” (abridged) – Horace Silver
14. Sibelius Violin Concerto in D minor Op.47： III. Allegro ma non tanto (abridged) – Akiko Suwanai
15. “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” – Adele
16. “Welcome To My World” (abridged) – Depeche Mode
17. “Where Are Ü Now” – Skrillex Diplo & Justin Bieber
18. “Handcuffs” – Prince Royce
19. “Can’t Feel My Face” – The Weeknd
20. “Run On” – Moby & The Blind Boys Of Alabama
A note on the “Behind the Scene”, backstory of this compilation:
We had severe technical problems this year. Trying to purchase a replacement CD-RW mechanism for my Alessis Masterlink was close to impossible. Actually it was impossible. We bought three “new” drive mechanisms last year but none of which was the correct model as advertised.
Fortunately, we have a Marantz portable CD recorder from ten years ago that we set aside as it was too complicated to use. Necessity being the mother of perseverance, we dug out the Owner’s Manual and over a couple of days, we figured how to make this burn my compilation. The Marantz CDR-420 has an advantage over the Masterlink in that it has a USB connection to the internal hard drive. So we edited the tracks in KORG’s Audiogate, converted everything to 16/44.1 WAV and plonked the compilation into the internal HD of the Marantz. We should have the Masterlink up and running again after CES. It will be interesting to compare its output to that of the Marantz.
We had to sell our demo Luxman PD-171AL turntable. While waiting for our new Luxman shipment, we were out of a turntable for a few days. So we visited friends with our recording gear and used their state of the art turntables for the vinyl rips (more on that after CES). In most cases these are noticeably superior to the equivalent high rez digital download.
Off to CES but want to thank our friends for their help. Without that, this year’s compilation would not have been possible.
Thank You List
Alan Sircom – music selection
Bruce Falls – music selection & vinyl recording
Jeff Aldrich – listening panel & music selection
Joe Cali – music selection
John Quick – music selection
John Suveges – listening panel
Jon Iverson – music selection
Luke Manley – music selection
Paul Stubblebine – music selection
Rick Brown – listening panel & music selection
Steve McCormack – music selection
Steve Williams – listening panel, music selection & vinyl recording
Ted Denney – listening panel