Welcome to the third in a series of vinyl round-ups. Where we take an audiophile look at vinyl issues, looking at both content but also pressing and mastering quality. In this issue: Don Cherry, Bo Diddley, Bill Withers, Planet Of Man and Mr Bungle.
Beautifully packaged, DON CHERRY’s Live In Stockholm (**** Caprice)sees free and experimental jazz from 1968 and 1971. The essence of fluidity, Cherry’s explorations offers, not form, but colour. A good quality mastering is more essential for this record than most. Because of the general cacophony, you really need sufficient instrumental separation to be able to delineate between each distinct band member. While the overall presentation is a touch cool and lacking in engagement, the analytical aspect is, oddly, useful for this avant-garde jazz variant
One of the great rock’n’roll albums. From 1957, BO DIDDLEY’s self-titled debut (**** Sundazed) might offer one beat but, frankly, that’s all you need with this LP. This issue offers high gain – so watch that volume knob isn’t too high when you spin it. Also, Diddley’s voice is placed high in the mix so his vocal ‘blooms’ over the top of the track but doesn’t mask the midrange that is fulsome in its detail, while the reverb helps his guitar to sound otherworldly.
Spread over two LPs, BILL WITHERS’ At Carnegie Hall (***** Mobile Fidelity) is a 1973 classic, highlighting Wither’s melancholy soul. Live albums are notorious for their lack of audiophile characteristics but this release puts up a fight to prove that assertion wrong. There’s plenty of dynamic force, air and separation on this release to deliver that ‘live’ feel while Withers’ vocal has enough emotive nuance to carry you easily over all four sides of this LP.
First time on vinyl, CODE III’s 1974 album, Planet Of Man (****Wah Wah) was a product of Manfred Schunke’s experiments with binaural recordings. Combining spacey electronics with folky vocals, Schunke would also work closely with Lou Reed and Can (Tangerine Dream’s Klaus Schulze appears on this LP). In keeping with its 70s vintage, the mastering here retains the rather warm original presentation while the upper mids and treble have distinct roll offs that add to the cosy atmosphere. This slightly restricted dynamic range is no great problem when you are feature vintage synths, however. If anything, the mastering adds to the hypnotic effect.
MR BUNGLE’s California (**** Music On Vinyl) exhibits a gamut of orchestration but, frankly, it needs something to control the range of swirling styles: jazz, Zappatronics, Middle Eastern, country…and on we go. Despite the bands notoriously ‘difficult’ reputation, give this LP time and it will click. Due to the complex arrangements, the mastering needs to cope with complex switches in instrumentation as well as varying time signatures, which it does with aplomb. Because this is a nicely quiet master, I would encourage that you bump up the volume and bathe in the extra detail.