Showing 10 posts of 17 posts found.

Philip O'Hanlon's demo lps blues playlist

Audiophiles and music lovers are always on the hunt for new music. There are many classics audiophile albums here, though I’m sure I’ve forgotten some. I can assure you that all of these are musically compelling. I try to avoid albums that have just one stand-out track.

This is Part 1 of 6, in which we focus on the blues albums on my list of demo material LPs. Included below is the album and the actual track that is superb both musically and sonically.


Listen on Tidal

This weekend at RMAF, Philip will be guest DJ from 2 – 3 PM everyday in the Eclipse room (#2014), spinning a restored Luxman PD-444 turntable; which celebrates its 40th  Anniversary this month.

If you have never heard well executed mono, you have no idea as to how rich and palpable it sounds. I’ll be bringing my original UK first pressing of the Beatles Sgt. Peppers in mono. Also, Buddy Holly will come alive—Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and many more legends—should be a blast.

In Music, Philip O’Hanlon

View Mono Playlist

Interesting journey through the Blues, incorporating some of the best Blues from the USA and beyond. Back in the 60s and 70s in England and Ireland, many of the most prominent rock musicians were probably more steeped in the blues tradition than their American counterparts.

Listen on TIDAL

Hope you enjoy it !



This year at T.H.E. Show Newport 2016, I spent an hour every afternoon in Eclipse’s room (#410) playing SACDs from my personal collection. I created a compilation from my SACD collection to highlight the capabilites of the remarkable Eclipse TD nearfield monitors. If you’re interested in listening to the playlist, I added it to TIDAL. The only album missing is the SACD of Vanessa Fernandez’s When The Levee Breaks (Groove Note) and we used the acoustic version of the title track. We also played the same song downstairs in the big room on 1/4″ tape and it was jaw-dropping amazing. We demonstrated for the first time in public the new Luxman D-05u (SACD player with a USB input, $4990) and also the new Luxman L-590AX Mark II (Pure Class A, $9990).

Listen on TIDAL

It’s great to have friends! I spent the morning calling friends, catching up and asking what terrific new music we should showcase during AXPONA this weekend.

For those of you who are attending AXPONA in Chicago this weekend, I will be in the Wells Room on the lower level (Kyomi Audio) playing both vinyl and digital music. You can also find me in Rosemont 3 (Music Direct’s room) on Friday and Saturday from 3 to 4 pm spinning vinyl.

AXPONA Music Preview

PCM Files

David Leisner and  Zuill Bailey  - Arpeggione
David Leisner and Zuill Bailey – Arpeggione [24-96]

At John Marks suggestion, I downloaded this exquisite album of cello and guitar from Pro Studio Masters. When Fiona (daughter) was a baby and had trouble sleeping, I used to play a different version of Schubert’s “Sonata for Arpeggione and Piano in A minor, D.821” specifically the first movement – 1. Allegro moderato. I plonked Fiona on my shoulder, held her close and slipped in the CD (in the dark) and hit play. Within a few seconds, she would settle down and I walked around the office for the next twelve minutes before putting her back to bed. Fiona’s favorite was Mischa Maisky (cello) and Daria Hovora (piano)—the album called: Schubert: “Songs without Words” on DG.

David Leisner and Zuill Bailey – Arpeggione [24-96]

This is an interesting twist on the same music—the piano has been replaced by a guitar and it’s superbly well recorded. Saint-Saens’ “The Swan” cello / guitar duet works really well. The De Falla 7 Popular Songs are also interesting and well executed. Album concludes with Paganini’s “Variations on One String, on Moses” by Rossini. A very interesting blend of rare and well known—a little for everyone and definitely worth checking out. Also available on CD.

Read John Marks’ review of David Leisner and Zuill Bailey’s Arpeggione.

Quad DSD

Iván Fischer
Iván Fischer
Iván Fischer & BFO – Mahler 3 recorded by Tom Caulfield

Grammy award winning recording engineer Tom Caulfield dropped by last Thursday night and played his MC recording of Iván Fischer & BFO – Mahler 3 in Quad DSD. JRiver 19 on that computer was too old to play Quad DSD, so we listened to just the front L & R channels.

Up until now I had not heard any native Quad DSD recordings that I thought musically worthwhile. What I heard was second rate musicians playing third rate music. The kind of audiophile dreck you listen to once, comment that it sounded amazing but you would be perfectly content never to hear it again.

Fischer’s Mahler 3, first movement was in a different league; a first rate performance by a superb conductor in his prime. Tom’s recording technique is quite purest. He uses a tree with five microphones. The mic feed is connected directly to the Merging + Horus digital audio workstation. This recording does not spotlight the instruments but rather, lays them out in a perfectly natural soundstage. You can hear the wind instruments are at least 20 if not 30 feet behind the strings. I heard at one stage there were percussion off to the left hand side, but deep into the soundstage off in the wings.

With quad DSD, I have never heard such a quiet noise floor as well as a beautiful rich timber. The soundstage was truly remarkable—we’re not talking about left and right but rather, an immense depth. We were truly transported to the Bela Bartok National Concert Hall.

I can’t wait to play this in true stereo at Axpona (with the center channel information folded into the L & R channels). I am sure this native Quad DSD recording will be a terrific seller for Channel Classics – Bravo!

sibelius trio
Family trio: Jean, Linda and Christian Sibelius
Sibelius Piano Trio – Piano trio in D major, “Korpo trio”,
for violin, cello and piano. 1. Allegro moderato. Completed in 1887.

In 1881 Sibelius (aged 15) and his siblings had formed a trio in which Linda played the piano, Christian the cello and Janne the violin. Their mother played the harmonium with the children. “We played together; Janne played the violin, Kitti the cello, mother the piano or the harmonium. Janne composed for piano and violin at a fairly early age, and I had to accompany him from the notes he had written down, which was not easy,” Linda Sibelius later recollected.*

His early works must be seen against their background: the music is astonishingly good considering that it was written by a teenager who, apart from a few piano lessons, had received no instruction and who had studied musical theory on his own with the help of just a couple of books.*

The “Korpo Trio” is his fourth Piano Trio and we feel it shows all of the young creativity of similar early Beethoven and Mozart Piano Trios. There is a wonderful joyfulness, creativity is flowing and delightful melodies are abundant. This recording by The Sibelius Trio is the first since the music has not been published yet. The musicians played off of copies of the original manuscript, written in Sibelius’ hand. These Finnish musicians are very accomplished and are to be commended for bringing these obscure treasures back in to the light of day.

Recorded at the Samuelli Hall (Orange County Performing Arts Center) last week of March 2016 in Quad DSD in multi-channel on a Merging Technologies “Horus” digital audio workstation by Tom Caulfield. Bob Attiyeh from Yarlung Records was kind enough to permit us to showcase this preview during AXPONA.

* from the Jean Sibelius website.

Beethoven Symphonies 5 & 7 Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Manfred Honeck
Beethoven Symphonies 5 & 7
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Manfred Honeck
Beethoven Symphonies 5 & 7
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Manfred Honeck

“A recording of Beethoven is always a great occasion and event. The marrying of the music’s historic interpretation with the brilliance off the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s playing and the fantastic technique of Soundmirror have made this recording, comprised of three live concerts from December 2014, possible. It has been a joy to look deeply into that which Beethoven has composed, while also discovering the sense and content of the music and the thus the reason why it has been written. For me, this is always the most beautiful part of the creative process.”

Manfred Honeck’s musical notes

We will play comparisons of this superb recording in DSD64 vs DSD128 vs DSD256. The interesting thing about the ESS DAC chips that NADAC uses (along with many other manufacturers) is that they sound dramatically better at the higher DSD sampling rates, because there is little or no processing going on inside the chip. You will hear a noticeable improvement in sound quality as the sampling rate increases.

By the way, the team at Soundmirror, (whose outstanding orchestral, opera and chamber recordings have received more than 70 Grammy nominations and awards and has recorded for every major classical record label) is now recording for Reference Recordings under a new series called FRESH!. This is also available on SACD.



Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 “Organ”
Michael Stern – Kansas City Symphony

Composed at his artistic peak, Camille Saint-Saens said of his Symphony No. 3 “With it I have given all I could give, what I did, I could not achieve again.”

Keith Johnson recorded the Kansas City Symphony at Kansas City’s Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, which has a wonderful 5,548-pipe Casavant Frères organ. This recording shows that you don’t need globally fêted artists to craft a performance of finesse, luminosity and drama.

This recording from an audiophile’s perspective has a distinct edge in that it’s a state of the art recording and musically it’s a compelling performance. Also available on CD.

Vanessa Fernandez - When the Levee Breaks
Vanessa Fernandez – When the Levee Breaks
Vanessa Feranndez – “When The Levee Breaks”

Preliminary Notes: Listening to these records, I am most impressed by the arrangements. These are not note for note copies of the Zeppelin songs but use the melody as a foundation and build upon them. Charlie Bisharat’s violin introduction to Kashmir is superb and his playing throughout the album is exemplary. It does not make sense to try and outperform Jimmy Page, so to offer up the violin instead of Jimmy Page’s blistering original guitar work is inspired. So the new arrangements and vocal delivery are new and exciting, while still returning to well-loved rock classics.

Ms. Fernandez certainly has an interesting take on the Zeppelin Canon; it’s compelling stuff. Looking forward to playing these over the weekend. I’ll probably have to wait a couple of years before getting a copy of When The Levee Breaks on tape. If Use Me on tape is anything to go by, it will be well worth the wait.

Hope to see you at AXPONA this weekend.

Listen on TIDAL.

This is not intended as a “Best Of” Irish music—rather an introduction to 40 years of Irish recorded music, selected by an Irish music lover.

Tidal has expanded their catalog, so this is an opportunity to savor some truly stunning albums from an island on the western tip of Europe. From folk and traditional folk through the blues to new age and climaxing with some tasty rock.

Enjoy and happy listening.

Listen on Tidal

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.

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

Sitting by the water’s edge on Lake Tahoe, the waves roll gently towards the shore. The music rolls tenderly along the waves. Just as no two waves are the same, here the music from all over the globe washes gently over us, each song a unique experience. Best enjoyed late at night with a small shot of Jameson’s 1780 Irish Whiskey. Don’t be afraid to share this with your friends. <Playlist on TIDAL>

  1. “Sun in my Mouth” from Björk’s 2001 Vespertine. Vespertine is a lush, gorgeous swell of midpace electronica, symphonic strings, and Björk’s uniquely alien, spectral vocals. Björk is ever-so-different from any other singer, through her sheer originality and independence from mainstream music. Other formats available on multi-channel, SACD and DVD-Audio offer an even more enveloping experience.
  2. “All the Way” from the 2001 debut CD of Norway’s Solveig Slettahjell promises a bright future. This album features Solveig singing mainly jazz ballads in a setting that spans from a 12 musician ensemble to trios and duets. The maturity of the Slow Motion Orchestra’s members and the restrained and subtle approach of Sletttahjell contribute to the success of this release.
  3. “Mr. Curiosity” from Jason Mraz’s Mr A.Z. Produced by the legendary Steve Lillywhite (U2, Rolling Stones, Dave Matthews Band, Peter Gabriel, Talking Heads, et al). Mraz explores the art of self-loathing in “Mr. Curiosity,” pokes fun at the communication barrier between men and women.  Pristine clear vocals, rich in texture.
  4. “Sleza by Mussorgsky” from Mischa Maisky’s Vocalise: Russian Romances. Cellist Mischa Maisky and his accompanist on piano Pavel Gililov continue their exploration of the cello as vocalist with these stunning cello/piano transcriptions of Russian works for voice and piano. Sleza (A Tear). The recorded sound of the recital is phenomenally fine and the applause seems as warm as the music. All of the ambience has been captured and the cello tone is warm & realistic. Pandora commented listening to this “Its just like as if we were in Founder’s Hall (Orange County Performing Arts Center) and they were right in front of us.”
  1. “Romance – Larghetto” by Chopin played & conducted by Krystian Zimerman, Polish Festival Orchestra from Chopin’s First Piano Concerto. Zimerman hand-picked each and every member of his orchestra from among the finest young musicians in Poland, with the specific purpose of performing a world tour of the concertos on the 150th anniversary of Chopin’s death. This recording is the result of that tour. As conductor and soloist, Zimerman blends the orchestral sound perfectly with his own performance, capturing every nuance with adroit delicacy, perfectly dovetailing every phrase.
  2. “Everything must Change” by Oleta Adams from Music from Zalman King’s Red Shoe Diaries (1992 Television Movie).  The Gospel singer Oleta Adams first came to my attention on the Tears for Fears 1985 album Songs from the Big Chair. A rich, dark recording, loads of atmosphere. Ms. Adams has a remarkable voice which she can direct from a gentle whisper to a roar in less than a second. A small gentle piano accompaniment  opens out to a jazz band with strings and drops back to the piano caressing her  first rate vocal delivery.
  3. “Little Musgrave” from Planxty’s 1980′s The Woman I Loved So Well.  The founding members of Planxty — Christy Moore, and his schoolmates Dónal Lunny, Liam O’ Flynn, and Andy Irvine — initially came together to provide instrumental accompaniment for Christy Moore’s 1973 album, Prosperous.. The sessions proved so inspiring that the musicians agreed to continue working together. After  six successful albums together, Planxty disbanded in 1983. (They were never to make much money from album sales, and were substantially in debt by the time the group dissolved.)  Though not available on Tidal, if you like Irish folk, the Planxty album to buy would unequivocally be Live 2004. Although this was Planxty’s first live performances for over twenty years, they were by all accounts momentous in both legendary import and artistic quality. And judging from the hour or so of music taken from these concerts which is enshrined on this CD, the extravagant claims are wholly justified. Sound quality is clear and the instruments are nicely fleshed out. Some of the tracks on this album, create goosebumps. Christy Moore also performs Little Musgrave on the Live 2004 album; check out he difference in his voice after twenty years – he still has the chops.
  1. “Good Thing” from Saint Etienne’s Tales from Turnpike House 2006. Its a `concept’ album which over twelve songs describes the daily lives of the residents of a fictitious housing estate. It’s all here – harmonies, Bacharach-worthy melodies and that tasteful Saint Etienne infectiousness that just grabs you tighter with each listen. Sarah Cracknell delivers pristine clean vocals in front of a nicely layered soundstage.
  2. “Ev’rytime We Say Goodbye” from Simply Red’s Simplified; features both stripped-down versions of Simply Red’s classic songs and a fresh recording of some material with only a piano as accompaniment. Mick Hucknall has been one of England’s most successful singer / songwriters in the past two decades having sold over 50 million CDs. His delivery is melodic & impeccable; the recording is stunning, sparse – impeccable. Demonstration quality.
  3. “Goodbye my Lover” from Back to Bedlam. This stunning debut by James Blunt, a British soldier (served in Kosovo) turned musician–will take your breath away ! In the melancholic ballad “Goodbye my Lover”, James pleads with his departed love to remember the good times they had together and try to be his friend. He ends with the plaintive, “I’m so hollow baby .. I’m so hollow.”
  4. “Slow Down (The Way It Goes)” from Those The Brokes (2006) by The Magic Numbers.  The male & female vocals are quite startling and a breath of fresh air,  that sounds like nothing else out there today. Refreshing.
  5. “Voce Vai Ver” from Amorosa. Rosa Passos has been one of Brazil’s best-beloved acoustic bossa nova interpreters since the 1990s, when she first came on the scene… Her pitch perfect voice is almost girlish and coy, but her supple phrasing shows her to be a true veteran. The arrangements are simple and direct — and beautifully performed, with style and feeling. The recording quality is absolutely first-rate as well, thankfully not over-produced.
  6. “Tristeza E Soldao” from the 2003 album Mares Profundos by Virginia Rodrigues. Here she delivers her own unique interpretation of Afro Sambas, originally recorded in 1966 by Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes, some of the most important compositions in samba.. I first came across her remarkable vocals on a Luka Bop sampler. Literally the voice of an angel; if her voice does not put a chill up your spine, you should book an appointment with your local physician…  Her first two albums are even better.
  7. “Quello Che Vale” from 1999’s Lampo by Italian Gianmaria Testa; a singer/songwriter with a wonderful deep, scratchy voice.  The recording quality helps uncover the first rate performance … the music transcends the boundaries of language. Despite his success, Testa never quit his day job as station master at the train station in Cuneo,  N. Italy, and was careful to schedule tour dates only when he knew his co-workers wouldn’t be taking vacations.
  8. “Il Suono della Domenica” from 2010’s Chocabeck by Italian Zucchero Fornaciari; a singer/songwriter with a wonderful blues voice. Zucchero is the Italian word for sugar. In his career, spanning four decades, Zuccheroi has sold over 40 million records around the world and has recorded with everyone from Miles Davis, B B King, Eric Clapton, Sting, Jeff Beck to Luciano Pavorotti.
  9. “Eu Não Sou Da Sua Rua” from Marisa Monte’s 1991 album Mais; produced by Arto Lindsay with musical contributions from John Zorn & Ryuichi Sakamoto. The result has all the airiness and grace of the best Brazilian music, but with rock and new jazz overtones shading the music. Typical of modern Brazilian productions, sparse and not over-produced. A pity the original CD has not been remastered recently.
  10. “It’s All in the Game” from the 1987 release Everybody’s Got a Little Soul by Carmel.  Ms. Carmel McCourt is one of those gifted singers seemingly always working on the peripherary of success. While moderately popular in France, success has eluded here jeer in the US and in Britain where she hails from. She has a rough, edgy voice, but sings & plays in a melodic trio of really talented musicians.
  11. “Smaoinim” from Enya’s album Shepherd Moons, The meticulous production defines her sound and achieves continuity even while weaving together tender ballads, piano based, massively layered vocal harmonies, with symphonic synthesizer movements. While Enya’s pristine voice isn’t especially strong, her voice possesses a vulnerability that reflects the lyrics’ sense of personal searching.  Her melodies are memorable and Smaoinimis especially haunting – one of those tunes that plays continuously in your head.

Listen on TIDAL

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.

Listen on TIDAL

This is a wonderful compilation that I am delighted to be able to share with my friends. When I originally tried to assemble this on Tidal, many of the songs were unavailable so I put it aside. It’s now complete. Originally compiled in 2009, this album cost me a small fortune in time & $$, as I polled on all the forums and asked people’s advice as to what music they use to make out. I ended up buying about forty odd CDs and pulled the best 80 minutes that played nicely together. I hope you & your significant other enjoy this album. Music is for sharing.

Listen on TIDAL