Monday, 26 January 2009

Deep Purple - Who Do We Think We Are 1973 [2005 Gold Disc AFZ 027]

Who Do We Think We Are 1973 [2005 Gold Disc AFZ 027]

Genre: Rock
Format: APE + cue + log
Released: 1973
Label: Audio Fidelity
Number of Discs: 1
Line Up :

Ritchie Blackmore - lead guitar
Ian Gillan - vocals, harmonica
Roger Glover - bass guitar
Jon Lord - piano, organ, keyboards
Ian Paice - drums

Track Listings:

1. Woman from Tokyo – 5:48

2. Mary Long – 4:23

3. Super Trouper – 2:54

4. Smooth Dancer – 4:08

5. Rat Bat Blue – 5:23

6. Place in Line – 6:29

7. Our Lady – 5:12

Who Do We Think We Are was the last album that the Mark II lineup of Deep Purple recorded. Arguably, this is the finest lineup the rock legends ever had. It seems only fitting that Audio Fidelity decided that it was worthy of its 24KT Gold treatment. This series of gold disc releases are destined to be coveted collectors items as soon as they hit the racks and it makes that much more enticing to own such fine recordings for your own collection.

I always loved “Woman From Tokyo” but after hearing “Rat Bat Blue” in this format, it is by far the best track on the album. Ritchie Blackmore was at an apex playing his patented blues-rock licks and all seven tracks prove that unequivocally. There are many great Deep Purple albums and the previous release Machine Head certainly rivals this album in many ways. It is a tough call picking which one is the best.

It takes a crisp clear 24KT Gold format to make you sit up and take notice of how important these albums are to the history of rock music. I noticed some things right away while listening to this great album. The bass and drums are up front like never before and the sound is explosive, keeping up with Blackmore's blistering guitar lines.

I could not ask for more on this release, I heard one of the best Deep Purple albums ever recorded, and with a new lease on life, featuring a sound that would make the pictures on your wall jar loose if you turned it up loud enough. This is the way rock 'n' roll was meant to sound all along.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Bad Company - Bad Company 1974 (2006 Gold HDCD AFZ024)

Bad Company
Bad Company 1974 (2006 Audio Fidelity Gold HDCD AFZ024)

Genre: Rock
Format: Flac + cue + log
Released: 1974
Label: Audio Fidelity
Number of Discs: 1
Line Up :

Paul Rodgers - vocals, guitar, piano
Mick Ralphs - guitar, keyboards
Simon Kirke - drums
Boz Burrell - bass

Track Listings:

1. Can't Get Enough

2. Rock Steady

3. Ready For Love

4. Don't Let Me Down

5. Bad Company

6. Way I Choose

7. Movin' On

8. Seagull

On its first album, Bad Company — led by former Free singer Paul Rodgers and original Mott guitarist Mick Ralphs—resembles Free in i?? structural starkness and early Mott in its stormy directness. In Bad Company, Robert Benton's overlooked 1972 western from whose title the group got its name, the chief characters, Civil War-era teenage romantics, displayed a sort of swaggering innocence that was quite affecting. The personality of this appealing new band is similar.

The rhythm section — bass player Boz Burrell and another former Free member, drummer Simon Kirke—plays with such economy you'd think they're penalized for hitting unnecessary notes. But they make up for the spareness of their lines through the sheer muscularity of their playing (Kirke is as physical a hitter as any I've heard). This hard, spartan bottom forms a tangible base for the exploits of the two front men.

Rodgers's voice is Bad Company's virtuoso instrument; he's one of the most impressive rock singers of the decade. He shares with Rod Stewart a vocal delivery that derives its expressiveness from a shifting emphasis on its jagged edge and its sweet, delicate center. Although Rodgers's expressive abilities match Stewart's, his taste in material as yet does not. He's always depended on his own writing or that supplied by other members of his bands for practically every bit of material he performs, a decision that has often forced him to make more out of the songs he sings than is actually there (lack of consistently strong material may well have prevented Free from making it in America). With Bad Company, Rodgers persists in his insistence on group-produced songs, but fortunately Mick Ralphs has as deft a touch with a rock & roll song as he does with a guitar line. His three songs on the album (he collaborated on two others with Rodgers) are highlights.

Ralphs, like Rodgers, will never win any awards for his verbal skills — although each at his best is capable of writing lines with the hard-hitting simplicity of first-rate R&B lyrics. But with Bad Company, as with Mott, Ralphs's manipulations of conventional rock & roll elements — bolstered by his fluid and exciting guitar work—show consistent inventiveness. His "Can't Get Enough" (built around the Zeppelin-like riff Mick played in Mott's stage version of "One of the Boys") and "Movin' On" contain nothing that hasn't been done a thousand times before, but each sounds irresistibly fresh. Ralphs's "Ready For Love" (which he sang himself on All the Young Dudes), has the measured, somber gait of a Free song in the verses, with explosions of accumulated tension in the choruses. On the other hand, his tough riffing bolsters but can't substantially upgrade Rodgers's inane and melodically drab "Rock Steady" (Paul's other solo-written song, "The Way I Choose," is considerably better).

But with "Don't Let Me Down," one of their collaborative efforts, Rodgers and Ralphs hit a higher level than either has managed singly. Perhaps working as a team has bolstered the confidence of each and made it easier to take some chances: They've taken the mood as well as the chief phrase from the haunting Beatles' song, and they've dressed it in an arrangement that extends beyond their usual self-imposed bounds, encompassing an ascending sax line, a big-sounding vocal chorus and an expansive overall feel. Along with the similarly dusky "Ready For Love," "Don't Let Me Down" is the most dramatic thing on the album, suggesting an area for Bad Company to explore further on its next recording.

This is an uncompromising album, reflecting the wills as much as the talents of the participants, and it's all the more impressive in light of the fact that it was recorded immediately after the group's formation. The stylistic rigidness of Bad Co. may prevent the band from becoming a supergroup right off the bat, but the album's raw strengths will surely draw diehard rock & roll listeners. With upgraded material — perhaps including non-originals—more stylistic daring of the sort displayed on "Don't Let Me Down" and the maturation of the already rewarding relationship between Rodgers and Ralphs, Bad Company could become a tremendous band.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Sting - The Dream of the Blue Turtles 1990 [MFSL UDCD528]


The Dream of the Blue Turtles 1990 [MFSL UDCD528]

Genre: Rock/Pop
Format: WV + cue + log
Released: 1985
Label: Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab / UDCD-528
Number of Discs: 1

Line Up :

Sting - lead vocals, guitar, bass guitar, double bass, keyboards
Omar Hakim - drums
Darryl Jones - bass guitar
Kenny Kirkland - keyboards
Branford Marsalis - saxophones
Dollette McDonald, Janice Pendarvis - backing vocals

Pete Smith, Elliot Jones, Jane Alexander, Vic Garbarini, The Nannies Chorus, Rosemary Purt, Stephanie Crewdson, Joe Sumner, Kate Sumner, Michael Sumner - additional background vocals
Danny Quatrochi - additional background vocals, synclavier
Eddy Grant - congas (track 7)
Frank Opolko - trombone (track 2)

Pete Smith and Sting - Producers
Pete Smith and Jim Scott - Engineers
Max Vadukul and Danny Quatrochi - Photography
Michael Ross and Richard Frankel - Art direction and design

Track Listings:

1. If You Love Somebody Set Them Free

2. Love Is The Seventh Wave

3. Russians

4. Children's Crusade

5. Shadows In The Rain

6. We Work The Black Seam

7. Consider Me Gone

8. Dream Of The Blue Turtles, The

9. Moon Over Bourbon Street

10. Fortress Around Your Heart

The Police never really broke up, they just stopped working together — largely because they just couldn't stand playing together anymore and partially because Sting was itching to establish himself as a serious musician/songwriter on his own terms. Anxious to shed the mantle of pop star, he camped out at Eddy Grant's studio, picked up the guitar, and raided Wynton Marsalis' band for his new combo — thereby instantly consigning his solo debut, The Dream of the Blue Turtles, to the critical shorthand of Sting's jazz record. Which is partially true (that's probably the best name for the meandering instrumental title track), but that gives the impression that this is really risky music, when he did, after all, rely on musicians who, at that stage, were revivalists just developing their own style, and then had them jam on mock-jazz grooves — or, in the case of Branford Marsalis, layer soprano sax lines on top of pop songs. This, however, is just the beginning of the pretensions layered throughout The Dream of the Blue Turtles. Only twice does he delve into straightforward love songs — the lovely measured "Consider Me Gone" and the mournful closer, "Fortress Around Your Heart" — preferring to consider love in the abstract ("If You Love Somebody Set Them Free," one of his greatest solo singles, and the childish, faux-reggae singalong "Love Is the Seventh Wave"), write about children in war and in coal mines, revive a Police tune about heroin, ponder whether "Russians love their children too," and wander the streets of New Orleans as the vampire Lestat. This is a serious-minded album, but it's undercut by its very approach — the glossy fusion that coats the entire album, the occasional grabs at worldbeat, and studious lyrics seem less pretentious largely because they're overshadowed by such bewilderingly showy moves as adapting Prokofiev for "Russians" and calling upon Anne Rice for inspiration. And that's the problem with the record: with every measure, every verse, Sting cries out for the respect of a composer, not a pop star, and it gets to be a little overwhelming when taken as a whole. As a handful of individual cuts — "Fortress," "Consider Me Gone," "If You Love Somebody," "Children's Crusade" — he proves that he's subtler and craftier than his peers, but only when he reins in his desire to show the class how much he's learned."Reviews by Stephen Thomas Erlewine"