Audiophile LPs  - January 2003

It’s been far too long since we had some audiophile LP reviews - sorry ‘bout that! After all, it's the hi-res format that's been around since the 50s! Working with vinyl just takes a lot more time, which I have been short of. Also have been stymied by some serious problems of both hum and rf in my new home which are finally solved for the most part. So this time we have 15 discs to cover! - coming from Classic Records, Speakers Corner, Sundazed Records, Groove Note, and a little one-off label which provided a CD of the same recording with every LP for comparison.

My present front end for vinyl consists of a SOTA Nova turntable with vacuum hold-down and the original spring suspension replaced with an elastomer suspension, on three Mapleshade threaded Super-Footers, on an MSB Isoplate, resting on top of an Arcici inflatable base. The arm is the original SME-V and the MC cartridge is the Transfiguration Spirit. A Cardas Hexlink .5 meter cable connects the arm to the new Grado phono preamp. I normally bypass the digital processing of my Sunfire AV preamp, using the Source Direct all-analog option. (I also bypass the Sunfire's MM input since the Spirit is MC.) All discs are cleaned on a VPI record cleaner with VPI liquid and then treated with GruvGlide. Stylast is used on the stylus each play as well as Mapleshade's Super Zapper (successor to the Zerostat).

Those of you too young to ever have had a turntable in your system may marvel at the fuss and bother involved in dealing with vinyl. Yet growing numbers of younger audio buffs are buying their very first turntable and discovering the wonderful world of vinyl new and used. (See the second review below for a vinyl format that entails even more bother, if that is conceivable.) Is it all worth it? Yes, and perhaps that is why the LP is not yet by any means a dead format, vinyl sales are up while everything else is down, and they surpass by a long shot the combined sales of both new hi-res formats. More new vinyl playback components are being introduced at hi-fi shows, with some measurable improvements in squeezing the utmost fidelity out of those tiny grooves, using some new technology that wasn’t available back in analog’s Golden Age of the last 50s and early 60s. And prices have gone over the five-figure mark for the most esoteric. Some of those Golden Age LPs from Victor and Mercury have sold to a few young vinyl freaks (who didn’t purchase them for $4.99 originally as some of us did) for over $1000 per mint-condition album.

Eden Atwood - Waves - The Bossa Nova Session (with Bill Cunliffe, piano and arrangements; Darek Oles, bass; Joe LaBarbera, drums; Anthony Wilson, guitar; Peter Christlieb, tenor sax & flute; Scott Breadman, percussion) - Groove Note Records GRV1012-1:

Surprise - lovely thrush Eden Atwood is not from Brazil at all but was born in Memphis and brought up in Montana. You can learn almost more than you wanted to know about Eden from the extensive liner notes included with this LP (and in larger typeface than that on the SACD version). The important thing is does she cut the salsa doing an all-bossa nova album? The answer is a resounding yes - this is an absolutely lovely voice that caresses each tune with a flowing and yet rhythmic delivery that seems to come from inside her rather than just mouthing the words. The arrangements are central to the success of the session and pianist Cunliffe is a master at the keyboard. Wilson is one of the most exciting young guitarists in jazz today, and though I wasn’t familiar with Christlieb his reed contributions add greatly to the ensembles rich backing of the vocals. Atwood’s version of Fool on the Hill is probably the only one I have every heard that I like just as much as the Beatles’ original.

The 33 1/3 9-track LP comes with another 12-inch disc presenting three tracks cut at 45 rpm. The first is a repeat of one on the standard 33 album - Meditation - for comparison. The other two: the title tune Waves, and How Deep Is the Ocean, are additional bonus tracks. Then there is also a separate multichannel SACD of the 11 tracks (repetition of the track for comparison wouldn’t make much sense in this case). Here’s my take on the three formats: The LP version is pretty terrific. The soundstaging in both depth and width is glorious and Eden’s voice sounds perfectly SOTA. Surfaces are dead quiet.

Next we have the SACD. Well, as much as I love vinyl, as a surround sound freak I have to admit this is my favorite. Now you’re in a real jazz club with the group in front of you and walls around you. The front channel match is very close to that of the LP, and in fact turning on the ProLogic II option with the LP source one gets a very similar surround effect to the multichannel SACD. Now, after playing the LP cut that is provided at both speeds - Meditation - I switch over to the 45 rpm side. Well. It’s rather subtle at first but as the effect grows on me I have to admit that Eden’s lovely voice is now more real, more human, more affecting in every way, and the instrumental backing has taken on a greater presence along with her voice. So how about trying the PLII on the 45 source? Uh,uh...In the Sunfire Theater Grand III the ProLogic II is implemented in the digital domain. That means I must take the playback of the vinyl out of the Source Direct mode - which is strictly analog - and put it into the digital domain. Yes, there is now a similar surround field to the SACD but that enhanced breathy realism of Eden’s voice is diminished.Purchase Here

Tracks: He’s a Carioca, O Pato, Meditation (x2), Girl from Ipanema, Once Upon a Summertime, Don’t You Know I Care, Fool on the Hill, Brazil, It’s a Quiet Thing, Waves (Caminos Cruzados), How Deep Is the Ocean.

Basie - Neal Hefti Arrangements - Roulette Birdland Series/Capitol Records/Blue Note Records/Classic Records R-52003 (mono):

The big news about this original Roulette LP - around 1960 - was the cover photo of the atom bomb blast, which was decried by several jazz writers and reviewers as being in execrable taste. Well, 42 years later just look at half of the pop CD or LP covers out there and you’ll probably find artwork that easily surpasses it in bad taste. And after all, the big Basie Band does come on with a big bang like no other band, and in the parlance of those worrisome times (any different today?) the atom bomb blast was the perfect visual corollary.

The next big news - as far as Classic Records is concerned - is that this is one of the first of their new 200 gram Quiex SV vinyl audiophile pressings. Back in the early days of the LP all of them were about this thick and heavy and lacked the raised groove-guard that was later added when discs were thinned down. Now that most audiophile LPs are 180 gram pressings, Classic has taken the next step, eliminated the groove guard and gone to 200 grams, and claims benefits of less warpage, more clarity, harmonic integrity, and spatial detail. Could be, but that last benefit won’t be heard on this LP because it is in glorious single-channel mono! Even though printed on the back of the original line notes reprinted here is a statement that the album is also available on a dynamic stereotape. I didn‘t have that but I did have the stereodisc version of the album - someplace in a box still unpacked (strangely all my Basie LPs seem to have disappeared - there’s a missing section in my Bs).

However, I do remember that the stereo separation on that version was extreme - as were most jazz and pop recordings from the early years of stereo - almost pitting the left half of the Basie band against the right half in a battle of the bands! In addition there was a very annoying buzz thru the entire album on both sides. Surely one or both of these defects prompted Classic to release this classic in monaural form. Evidently a completely separate mono tape was recorded at the session, and it was free from hum. The impact of the band is still extreme - it’s just all of a piece now. It is as successful an example of “deep mono” as many of the reissued classic sessions taped by Rudy Van Gelder. The bass end - a failing area for most early stereo discs - is super-deep and rich as a double mocha. This has long been my favorite Basie album (aside from the Ellington-Basie meeting, First Time) and now its more favorite than ever! Hefti’s arrangements were the epitome of Basie Band wit, originality and sophistication. Of all the different versions of Lil’ Darlin’ this is the hands-down winner; it’s to the Basie opera what the Adagio from Mahler’s Fifth is to Mahler. Dig it! Tracks: The Kid from Red Bank, Duet, After Supper, Flight of the Foo Birds, Double-O, Teddy the Toad, Whirlybird, Midnite, Splanky, Fantail, Lil’ Darlin.’Purchase Here

- John Sunier

MAHLER: Symphony No. 2 in C Minor “Resurrection” - Beverly Sills, soprano/Florence Kopleff, contralto/Univ. Of Utah Civic Chorale/Utah Symphony Orch./Alexander Schreiner, organist/Maurice Abravanel cond. - Recorded in the Mormon Tabernacle - Vanguard/Classic Records ASC 10003 (2 Disc Set):

This is another of the 200 gram vinyl reissues from Classic. The entire Mahler symphony series was recorded by Abravanel in the voluminous venue of the Tabernacle, and in four-channel quadraphonic. The second is a glorious work that has been an introduction to Mahler for many music lovers over the years; it’s a lot more “audiophile” than the equally popular Fourth. There are no tech notes provided to indicate whether Classic mixed the surround channels into the two front for this reissue or only used the front channels - as Reference Recording had done on their LP reissues of quadraphonic originals from Vox. I had recently auditioned the much awaited Berlioz Requiem on a multichannel SACD reissue, also from Abravanel in four channel. I was disappointed by serious distortion - perhaps deterioration of the original tape?

There certainly was no noticeable distortion on this vinyl reissue. The soaring voice of Beverly Sills is beautifully reproduced and the string sections of the Utah Symphony have a sweetness and realism not found on the Vanguard CD reissues. The big climaxes which are Mahler’s stock in trade no longer turn to mush as on most CDs, including recent discings. However, I think whoever mastered the sides made a poor decision in limiting the grooves to the outside half of each side, with the remaining areas blank. I know the extreme proximity to the center label of the final grooves on most of the Mercury Living Presence LPs has caused distortion and rolloff of the high end. But a happy compromise could have been attempted, allowing spreading out of the grooves without making maximum use of the variable-cutting technique (placing quieter grooves closer together) as these discs did. (Some LPs formerly had as much as 30 minutes on a side.) The longest of the individual movements here are 20 minutes, and 24 minutes on a side is supposed to be about the maximum for achieving the best sound on typical LPs. The end result of the cramming-together of the quieter sections of the work is a higher lever of surface noise (in spite of the 200 gram pressings) than I have heard on any recent audiophile vinyl release. Purchase Here

- John Sunier

PROKOFIEFF: Symphony No. 7, Op. 131; Russian Overture - Paris Conservatoire Orchestra/Jean Martinon - RCA Victor/Classic Records LSC-2288 - 45 rpm single-sided version (4 discs!):

Back in the 70s a great many 45 rpm audiophile discs were released by both small and major labels, and I have sizeable library of them. Some were even direct discs, thus combining the best of both analog worlds! If only the music on them were all up to the level of the fidelity (refer here to J. Gordon Holt’s dictum re: the better the fidelity the worse the music). Anyway, Classic Records has brought back 45 rpm in a big way, offering a long list of RCA Golden Age stereo recordings in both 33 1/3 and 45 rpm versions, but with the 45s being single-sided only to gain yet another subtle improvement in fidelity. That means that a half-hour-length work such as this symphony requires a total of four discs - it’s almost like spinning old 78s again - a work such as Beethoven’s Ninth requiring some grunting just to lift up the album. There's no identification of which disc in the series any of these are - all the outside sleeves are identical copies of the 33 1/3 sleeve. In addition to the order of the numbered movments, there are small IDs on each label: A1, A2, B1& B2 - although the two sides of the original LP are now beside the point.

The Seventh was the last big work from Prokofieff before his death in l953. It is modeled on the symphonies of the other great Soviet-era composer, Shostakovich. Whose works seem to continue the general symphonic style of Mahler into the modern era. I once played bass drum in a performance of this symphony so I know it rather well. For years I have had the original 2-track Victor prerecorded tape of this same l959 recording. It still sounds fabulous. A few years I received the 33 1/3 Classic LP reissue of the same. (So now I own five identical-appearing copies of this very same symphony - it's Serge's 7 x 5...) I found it very close but felt the prerecorded tape - at least when fed thru my Robert Grodinsky expander I use on most LPs and tapes - had a bit less forced fidelity and a somewhat warmer and wider soundstage. Comparing the two now I feel the same.

But now enter the 45 rpms: What a lot of bother. Is the sonic result really worth the work cleaning of each of the four discs, labeling them and stacking in the proper order, then getting up every ten minutes or so to take one off and put the next side on? Yes, there is a subtle increase in clarity, high frequency extension, and general realism. The feeling of more “air” around the instruments that one has in comparing vinyl to CD versions is upped in this case, with the 45 version seeming just about as close as you can get to sonic nirvana. But it is extremely subtle - not as hearable as, say, the difference between the CD and SACD layers of most hybrid hi-res discs. It all depends on your system, your hearing, your attitude about convenience, and of course your pocketbook. Purchase Here

- John Sunier

Tom Loncaric and his Orchestra, featuring Paul King, vocalist - I’m Crazy ‘bout My Baby - TL Records HAR22377 - LP + CD version:

This effort was the brainchild of musician Tom Loncaric, who leads a little sextet in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He loves the sounds of classic jazz on great LPs of the past, and wanted to produce a first-class vinyl album by his band. He invited three guest instrumentalists on bass, trumpet and cornet to join his basic group of guitar, tenor sax, drums and bass with himself on piano and King on the vocals. They recorded to analog tape and Stan Ricker did the mastering to disc. Refurbished Ampex tape machines and vintage tube mikes were used. At the same time as doing the vinyl version they pressed CD versions to include with each LP so comparisons could be made.

I followed their invitation and found the CD surprising close when played on my Sony 9000ES with a direct analog feed to my amp. The LP does have the slight edge in more air around each individual player and singer King sounding just a shade more believable if you close your eyes. There is an almost holographic presence of the piano on the left and the drums on right, with the trumpet and bass centered between. But on the other hand I slowly became disturbed by a somewhat less than perfect speed consistency with the piano. The CD version was rock-solid, as all CDs of piano music are - one of their best points. I hadn’t noticed this problem with other piano LPs but then I haven’t auditioned many of them lately. Perhaps the belt on my TT needs cleaning - must check that.

The music? Great fun all around and skilled players all. King is in a strong Sinatra mold while not quite imitating him. Most of the tracks include his vocals: I’m Crazy ‘Bout My Baby, Mama Don’t Want No Peas an/ Rice an/ Cocoanut Oil, Sheik of Araby, What’s the Matter with Love, He Ain’t Got Rhythm, I Get a Kick Out of You, Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone, Body and Soul. Best source:

Die Röhre - The Tube - CORELLI: Concerto grosso Op. 6 No. 7 D Major, BIBER: Battalia a 10, VIVALDI: Concerto alla Rustica in G Major, BOCCHERINI: La Musica Notturna delle strade di Madrid, SAMMARTINI: Sinfonia in F Major - Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra - Tacet L74:

Another effort - this one from Germany - in going back to vintage analog tape and tube microphones in an effort to reach sonic benefits often missing from even today’s advanced digital techniques. The 17-member chamber orchestra plays without conductor and imbues these Baroque selections with a verve and burnished tone that sounds fresh and new. The musical sound effects and tone-painting of both the Biber battle piece and Boccherini’s Night in the Madrid Streets are the sort of thing not usually heard in early music and they add considerable interest to the program. The string tone is excellent; I believe this ensemble uses standard violins instead of Baroque versions. The recorder used was a refurbished Telefunken M5, so vintage that it was an original mono recorder with a second circuit level bolted onto it to create a stereo machine. A Neumann M49 vacuum tube mike dating from 1949 was used. A fine effort with plenty of both musical and technical interest.

- John Sunier

STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring - Chicago Symphony Orchestra - Sir Georg Solti - Decca/Speakers Corner SXL 6691:

You’ll pardon if I don’t analyze the music on this one but get straight to the audio nitty-gritty. It appears that although many LPs pairing this famous work with another Stravinsky selection, Decca wanted back in l974 to give the heavy percussion grooves plenty of land to spread out in for best results, and that makes for a fine audiophile reissue. Speakers Corner follows the same policy as Classic Records in recreating every aspect of the original disc, including the actual record labels, exactly like the originals and with absolutely no notation anywhere that this is an audiophile reissue from Speakers Corner in Germany. I don’t believe I’ve ever enjoyed the work quite so much - not only is it a smashing performance - just the sort of thing Solti could sink his conductatorial teeth into - but the percussive score came across with more of a musical feeling and emotional involvement than any CD version I’ve heard. Purchase Here

- John Sunier

Paul Desmond: Summertime - A&M/CTI/Speakers Corner SP 3015:

This was the first of the CTI sessions Desmond did away from the Dave Brubeck Quartet, produced by Creed Taylor. The band is full of jazz legends, but Desmond himself singled out in the notes what a pleasure it was working with bassist Ron Carter, pianist Herbie Hancock and percussionist Airto Moreira. Desmond sounds very relaxed working with the other sidemen in the superb arrangements of the great Don Sebesky, who brings in classical influences and unusual instrumentation a la Claude Thornhill (French horns) and Gil Evans. Desmond had in fact taken off four months to work on a book titled How Many Are There in Your Quartet? 4This is one of the supreme lyrical/orchestral versions of Gershwin’s much-played Summertime. Rudy Van Gelder was the engineer. Love the idea of icicles on the cover of an album titled “Summertime” - now on a little CD cover the joke might even be overlooked. The disc surfaces were quiet and seldom has Desmond’s unique lyrical timbre sounded so tasty. Tracks: Samba with Some Barbecue, Olvidar, Ob-La-Di, Emily, Someday My Prince Will Come, Autumn Leaves, Where Is Love?, Lady in Cement, North By Northeast, Summertime. Purchase Here

- John Sunier

Ben Webster Meets Oscar Peterson (with Ray Brown & Ed Thigpen) - Verve/Speakers Corner V6-8349:

Here’s another completely original voice on sax. The breathy Webster sound is like no one else - just about as sexy a sax sound as you could summon up. He was dubbed The Frank Sinatra of the Saxophone. The clean analog reproduction brings it home with a clarity and impact that can’t be had with 44.1 CDs. And what can we say about one of the greatest jazz pianists still around today? This is an intimate session dating from 1959 - no battle of the saxes here - and Webster gets perfect support from the towering giant of pianists. Some delectable solos from Ray Brown too. Six of the seven tunes are standards but the Webster/Peterson Duo makes them entirely their own. Webster’s own Sunday is the original, and he’s been doing that one since the 1930s so he should know it pretty good by now! Tracks: The Touch of Your Lips, When Your Lover Has Gone, Bye Bye Blackbird, How Deep Is the Ocean, In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, Sunday, This Can’t Be Love. Purchase Here

- John Sunier

Billie Holiday - Lady Sings the Blues - Clef/Speakers Corner 721 (mono):

The focus here is on Billie, of course, but Harry Sweets Edison is on trumpet with a rhythm section of Barney Kessel, Kenny Burrell and Chico Hamilton. This was before her voice went downhill and the selection of tunes makes it just about the best single all-around Holiday album I could imagine. Included is the wrenching Strange Fruit - probably the most powerful and hard-hitting jazz lyric ever written. The album title was also the title of Holiday’s poignant autobiography. The mono sound is well-balanced and if you are a strict two-channel ‘phile, you will find her highly expressive voice right there solidly between the speakers to an extent few stereo versions can achieve. She sounds so close, intimate and real that most of the Holiday CDs and reissue LPs in my collection will now sound like there’s a sonic blanket over them. A 12-inch square, beautifully-printed insert has the complete lyrics for every single song, and in readable-sized print too. A nice touch that’s mentioned on the front cover of the jacket. There’s also a second insert of notes in both English and German. Tracks: Lady Sings the Blues, Trav’lin’ Light, I Must Have That Man, Some Other Spring, Strange Fruit, No Good Man, God Bless the Child, Good Morning Heartache, Love Me or Leave Me, Too Marvelous for Words, Willow Weep for Me, I Thought About You. Purchase Here

- John Sunier

Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson - (with Herb Ellis, guitar; Ray Brown, bass; Louis Bellson, drums) - Verve/Speakers Corner 6062:

Though recorded a year before the advent of the stereodisc, this l957 session was done in stereo, so Verve was looking ahead to the new format. Producer Norman Granz - who also paired up Peterson with Ben Webster for the above album - had both Peterson and Armstrong under contract. Putting the King of the trumpet and the King of the keyboard together was a natural. These are old standards from the great American songbook but new life is brought to them by these five super jazz men. Top jazz writer Leonard Feather did the original liner notes which are reproduced here, and talks about the advantage of hearing Louis (A. that is) in this intimate setting with “fewer encumbrances” than some of his famous recordings of this period. He goes on to say “Louis needs nobody but Louis - he could stand all alone in the middle of the Sahara, singing selected excerpts from the Tunis telephone directory, and we suspect we could make it for a week without food and water.” Fidelity is excellent, certainly an improvement over the original Verve pressings, of which I have a couple, though not this one. However, when listening on headphones I noted a slight flattening out of the high end of the cymbals and Louis’ trumpet. It seemed to dial in and out on a cyclical basis - perhaps edge curling of the master tape? Remember most old recording tape is acetate - not that different from the nitrate base on which all movies until the 50s were shot and printed. And more than half of them have since disintegrated or burned. Tape isn’t a permanent medium.
Purchase Here

- John Sunier

Booker T. & The M.G.s - Green Onions - Atlantic/Sundazed Music LP 5079 (mono):

This classic of instrumental soul/blues music was one of the big hits of l962 when it was released on the Stax label. The simple, straightforward but funky sound of Booker T. Jones’ B3 organ captivated listeners on the single that is the title track here. Know what the M.G.s stood for? Neither did I. It’s “Memphis Group.” Jones came out of the music scene in Memphis. In this album he covers current hits of clarinetist Acker Bilk and vocalist Mel Torme. I don’t know if there was a stereo version of this LP - after all this was four years into the stereo era - but the mono platter is full of powerful sounds and doesn‘t lack for rhythmic drive. Most record productions early in the stereo era spend more time on the mono mix than the stereo anyway, and the results are probably more the way the musicians wanted it. And the early stereo pressings nearly all had lower levels, more noise and distortion than their mono versions. As all of the Sundazed reissues, this is a 180-gram pressing, and at the low end of audiophile LP pricing too. Tracks: Green Onions, Rinky-Dink, I Got a Woman, Mo’ Onions, Twist and Shout, Behave Yourself, Stranger on the Shore, Lonely Avenue, One Who Really Loves You, I Can’t Sit Down, A Woman A Lover A Friend, Comin’ Home Baby. Purchase Here

- John Sunier

Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited - Columbia/Sundazed LP 5071 (mono):

I feel I’ve sort of outgrown Dylan but I still like to listen to Highway 61. I know this 1965 classic was available in stereo but Sundazed chose to release in mono. Must be a reason, but you ever compare the individual channels on most of the Dylan stereo albums of this period you’ll find very little stereo information anyway. Boy, it’s an amazing nostalgia trip to slice open the shrink wrap on a brand new classic 60s LP like this that looks exactly like you remember from back then! And then to listen to it - ah...doesn’t get any better nostalgia-wise. There’s a gutsiness to the piano, organ and guitars behind Dylan that’s missing on the CD and even the SACD versions. Tracks: Like a Rolling Stone, Tombstone Blues, It Takes a Lot to Laugh It Takes a Train to Cry, From a Buick 6, Ballad of a Thin Man, Queen Jane Approximately, Highway 62 Revisited, Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, Desolation Row. Purchase Here

The Lovin’ Spoonful - Do You Believe in Magic - Kama Sutra LP 5159/Sundazed Records:

More great nostalgia. This terrific folk-flavored band almost became the American version of the Beatles. This double-fold album is full of notes and photos of the Spoonful and lore about their good time music. And just like some CD reissues it even includes five tracks never before issued. The epitome of the folk-rock fusion, the Spoonful was built around harmonica and autoharp-playing John Sebastian - son of the classical harmonica virtuoso of the same name. Their tunes were really great - Sebastian was our own American version of McCartney. I still have a couple of these original Kama Sutra LPs, and though I’ll admit they got some careless treatment in the past, they always suffered from lots of distortion. This quiet and clean pressing is like the sun came out on the Spoonful. No problem making up your mind which sounds the best!

Tracks: Do You Believe in Magic, Blues in the Bottle, Sportin’ Life, My Gal, You Baby, Fishin’ Blues, Younger Girl, Alley Oop, Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind, Wild About my Lovin’, Other Side of This Life, Younger Girl (alt), On the Road Again, Night Owl Blues, Blues in the Bottle (alt), Wild About My Lovin’ (alt). Purchase Here

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band - Elektra LP 5095/Sundazed:
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band - East-West - Elektra LP 5096/Sundazed:

I got into the Butterfield Band at the l967 Monterey Pop Festival. And I liked them so much that I have to say my sporadic blues-listening has never progressed much beyond them. Maybe that’s because the rich and heavily amped backing of guitars, organ, drums and bass behind Butterfield’s vocals and harmonica make the typical spare backing of most blues belters sound really boring to me. His able cohorts included Mike Bloomfield on slide guitar, Elvin Bishop on rhythm guitar and Mark Naftalin on organ. Butterfield sharpened his blues chops with the best of the black bluesmen in the Chicago area. He was able to update the blues sound without losing most of the emotional impact of the originals. These tracks don’t just sit back and twang out the viscitudes of life - they blast it at you with all the stops out. In fact the original liner notes reproduced here have a little box that says: “We suggest you play this record at the highest possible volume in order to fully appreciate the sound of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.” Yowza! The first of their albums has a nice variety of 11 tracks, but it’s the 13-minute East-West track closing out the second LP that’s the real gem here. Other bands such as Country Joe tried their hand at such extended psychedelic instrumentals, but this one sets the standard. I no longer had the original LPs of these, but I did have a prerecorded tape containing both albums. When I realized it was a 4 track prerecorded tape, without Dolby, and at 3 3/4 ips (normal consumer speed was 7 1/2 ips), I decided it made no sense whatever to do an A/B comparison, comprendez? Super hissville.

Tracks: I = Born in Chicago, Shake Your Money-Maker, Blues with a Feeling, Thank You Mr. Poobah, I Gopt My Mojo Working, Mellow Down Easy, Screamin’, Our Love is Drifting, Mystery Train, Last Night, Look Over Yonders Wall; II = Walkin’ Blues, Got Out of My Life Woman, I Got a Mind to Give Up Living, All These Blues, Work Song, Mary Mary, Two Trains Running, Never Say No, East-West. Purchase Here

- John Sunier

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