Work of Art – Winds Of Change – Soundkeeper Recordings SR4005 – 24/96 audio-only stereo DVD-R, 60:16 ****:
(Art Halperin – guitar, ukulele, vocals; Al Maddy – guitar, ukulele, vocals; Jon Rosenblatt – guitar, mandolin, pedal steel, vocals; Sue Williams – bass, percussion, vocals; Patrick Conlan – drums, percussion; Jared Weintraub – guitar, vocals; Barry Diament – guitar)
Soundkeeper Recordings is trying to make a statement with their engineering technology. The ultimate goal is to capture musicians organically, without the enhancements of multi-tracking or overdubs. In essence, a live performance is being reproduced with “average” volumes directly to stereo. Dynamic compression is not utilized. According to founder Barry Diament (who worked at Atlantic Records), musical balance is achieved by physically moving the instruments and players. Accordingly, acoustic-friendly venues are selected for the artists. The formats include CD-R, DVD-R, 24/96 files-on-disc DVD-R and 24/192 files-on-disc DVD-R. Soundkeeper does not offer downloads.
The latest release from Soundkeeper is Work Of Art’s Winds Of Change. Recorded at Christ Church in Sparkill, New York, the 13-track DVD features songs by guitarist/vocalist Art Halperin. He is backed by a cadre of guitars and other stringed instruments. The opening title track captures the warmth and pristine resonance of the session. An up-tempo folk/pop song (four line verses and four line chorus) features a lot of guitar and is bathed in glowing backup vocal harmonies. There are different arrangements to take advantage of the talented band. “Tomorrow We Will Never Know” takes on a folk waltz with a nimble mandolin touch at the end. Halperin has an effective reedy tenor (a la Arlo Guthrie), and displays self-assurance and range. On “My Love For You”, there is an eloquent a capella intro before the song adopts some rockabilly vibes. There are usually some unexpected chord changes that make the songs interesting. The harmonic singing style is reminiscent at times of The Everly Brothers, especially on “September Nights”. In the simplified aural landscape, the instrumentation has a lot of texture and nuance. There are guitar echoes and fades with occasional modulation.
There are festive numbers (“Nobody Knows”) that are accessible, but have elements of spontaneity. The guitars have rich tonality and surround the melody on “I’m Not Sure”. Shifting instrumental gears, “Another Day Without You” approximates traditional folk structure with a dynamic opening and accelerating tempo. Jaunty blues infuse “Singing It For You” with a festive vibe in the manner of Eric Bibb or ‘Keb ‘Mo. The New Age context of “Going Vegan” is transformed by a Latin (almost calypso) undercurrent. Everything feels like a live performance. The final cut, “On My Way To You” has an “encore” vibe with its high energy and tempo breaks.
Winds Of Change is fresh and engaging. The core musical sensibility that Work Of Art comprises is palpable in HD. All of the guitars (acoustic, electric, pedal steel and mandolin) emit an inherent glow, like 180-gram vinyl. This is bona fide audiophile recording.
TrackList: Winds Of Change; Tomorrow We Will Never Know; My Love For You; Together; September Nights; Nobody Knows; I’m Not Sure; Another Day Without You; Feeling Of Hope; Going Vegan; Fly To You; Singing It For You; On My Way To You