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Jazz Fusion/Soul/Prog

Deodato

Prelude & Deodato 2

Ray Davies

Themes from The Exorcist, The French Connection, The Sting and other great films & Flashpoint

Hiroshima

Hiroshima & Odori

The Main Ingredient

Euphrates River

 

Vocalion – New SACD releases (April 2018)

 

Vocalion’s April 2018 release once again sees a widening of the scope of our industry-leading quadraphonic SACD reissue programme. Both rock and disco join our SACD release slate for the first time, with six ’70s classics (across three hybrid multi-channel SACDs) making their high-resolution bow in both stereo and quad. And for the jazz-fusion enthusiast, we also have a stereo-only reissue of a hidden gem from one of the genre’s standard bearers.

Headlining this month’s release is a disc compiling the debut and sophomore solo albums from multi-talented guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer Rick Derringer, All American Boy and Spring Fever. When All American Boy was released in 1973, Derringer was only 25, but already an industry veteran of more than ten years – aged 16 with his group The McCoys he’d had a No. 1 hit with Hang On Sloopy, and the years following his professional apprenticeship had seen him playing with and producing both Johnny and Edgar Winter. All American Boy is best known for the hit single (and Derringer’s signature tune) Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo, but the remainder of the album is consistently strong, showcasing Derringer’s talent across a range of styles from foot stompers (Teenage Love Affair) to country rockers (Cheap Perfume) to throwback pop (It’s Raining). Co-produced with frequent Eagles collaborator Bill Szymczyk and featuring contributions from Edgar Winter, Captain Beyond drummer Bobby Caldwell and Joe Walsh with his Barnstorm band, All American Boy is widely considered to be Derringer’s highpoint as a solo artist.

Rick Derringer “Spring Fever” original LP inner sleeve

Derringer was working at breakneck pace in the year following the release of All American Boy. In addition to an increasing profile as a session guitarist, which saw him playing on records for the likes of Steely Dan and Todd Rundgren, Derringer also found time to produce and play on both Johnny Winter’s Saints & Sinners and the Edgar Winter Group’s Shock Treatment albums. As a member of Winter’s group, he’d embark on a colossal five-month, seventy-date tour in 1974 to promote Shock Treatment, and his extended road sojourn would have a powerful effect on his second solo effort, 1975’s Spring Fever. A decidedly more arena-rock-oriented affair than All American Boy (especially on tracks like the anthemic Don’t Ever Say Goodbye), Spring Fever saw Derringer backed by a core rhythm section comprised of Utopia bassist John Siegler, Frampton’s Camel drummer John Siomos and his old compatriot Edgar Winter on keyboards. It also featured guest appearances from the likes of the New York Dolls’ David Johansen and Return to Forever’s Chick Corea. While Spring Fever failed to replicate All American Boy’s commercial success (its only single, a cod-reggae remake of Hang on Sloopy, was a minor chart hit) the album redeems itself in its deeper cuts. Amongst them are a swaggering cover of Rufus Thomas’ Walking the Dog and Derringer’s own autobiographical Skyscraper Blues (both of which allow him to show off his blues chops), while the criminally underrated Aerosmithesque rocker He Needs Some Answers is so catchy that the title may as well be questioning why the song was never released as a single.

Rick Derringer

 

Canadian rock trailblazers The Guess Who are spotlighted on a disc that unites arguably their two finest latter-era albums, 1973’s #10 and 1974’s Road Food. After toiling in semi-obscurity for most of the ’60s, the group would hook up with producer Jack Richardson and sign with RCA records in 1968. Emerging from the unlikely musical mecca of Winnipeg, Manitoba, they’d release a string of Canadian and US hit singles through 1969 and 1970 that included These Eyes, Laughing, Undun, No Time and American Woman. However, just as American Woman was in the midst of its three-week run at No. 1 in the US charts in May 1970, tensions within the group boiled over and lead guitarist Randy Bachman quit the band. Vocalist and keyboardist Burton Cummings, bassist Jim Kale and drummer Garry Peterson regrouped quickly, enlisting hometown guitarists Kurt Winter and Greg Leskiw to replace Bachman, scoring big later the same year with Share the Land. With the 1972 additions of guitarist Donnie McDougall (who replaced a departing Greg Leskiw) and bassist Bill Wallace (who replaced a departing Jim Kale) the band solidified what many fans and critics feel is their finest lineup. Unfortunately, that pedigree was no guarantor of success, as the band found out with the January 1973 release of Artificial Paradise, which failed even to crack the Top 100 US LP chart.

The Guess Who

Recorded in the immediate wake of Artificial Paradise’s disappointment (and released just five months later), #10 acts as something of a diary for how the group was feeling at the time, chronicling their collective exhaustion, disappointment and frustration. In contrast to its weary lyrical tone however, #10 finds a band at its peak both instrumentally and vocally, battle-hardened from nearly a year of relentless touring. From tracks like the frenetic Musicione (a remarkable combination of searing lead guitar and gorgeous vocal harmonies) and the epic rocker Cardboard Empire to country-inflected gems like Lie Down and Take It Off My Shoulders, #10 boasts a depth in both songwriting and playing that the band’s earlier pop hits would struggle to match.

Released in April 1974, Road Food covered many of the same topics as #10, but it also showed a realisation amongst the band that it didn’t have to entirely abandon its AM pop roots in pursuit of FM album credibility. The result was not only a more varied album, but also a more commercially successful one. The album’s first single, Star Baby, was a moderate hit, and its second single, Clap for The Wolfman (featuring a vocal cameo from legendary DJ Wolfman Jack) reached No. 6 in the US charts, making it the group’s first US Top 10 hit since 1970. Counterbalancing the album’s radio-friendly singles are some of the band’s best deeper album tracks, from the ominous One Way Road to Hell to the barbershop-meets-jazz (with a twist) of Straighten Out to the epic seven-minute album closer, The Ballad of The Last Five Years.

 

The Hues Corporation (L-R: Fleming Williams, H. Ann Kelley and Bernard “St. Clair” Lee)

Pop-soul trio The Hues Corporation are the subject of this month’s third disc, which pairs two of their most successful albums for RCA, 1974’s Rockin’ Soul and 1975’s Love Corporation. After honing their craft as a live act (primarily on the Tahoe-Vegas lounge circuit) for the better part of five years, the group found its way on to RCA’s radar after appearing in the 1972 Blaxploitation cult classic Blacula and featuring on its accompanying soundtrack. Seen by the label as something of a spiritual successor to another of its acts, The Friends of Distinction (who were in the process of breaking up at the time), RCA went as far as pairing the group with producer John Florez, who’d helmed the Friends’ hits Grazing in the Grass and Going in Circles. Their debut album, 1973’s Freedom for the Stallion, yielded a moderate hit with its eponymous title track, but when a follow-up single stiffed, the label was ready to give up on the album – and possibly the group. That is, until word filtered back to RCA from their A&R reps in New York that another track from the album, Rock the Boat, had become a sensation in the city’s underground dance clubs, or “discotheques” as they were increasingly becoming known. With this club success in mind (and anticipating radio play for the song), Florez went back into the studio and remixed Rock the Boat, enhancing the bass drum and bass guitar, and making the other rhythm instruments sound bigger and snappier – in the process creating one of the first of what would later become known as disco remixes. Released as a single with little fanfare in February 1974, the remix bubbled under for a couple of months, but the summer of 1974 saw disco music make its move from underground phenomenon to mainstream sensation, and Rock the Boat rode that wave right to the top of the pop charts in July. Selling a staggering two million copies before the year was halfway through, the song would become the first disco song ever to top the US pop charts.

In the aftermath of Rock the Boat’s worldwide success, RCA would issue The Hues Corporation’s sophomore LP, Rockin’ Soul. Released in November 1974, it would produce another Top 20 pop hit for the group with its dancefloor-oriented eponymous title track. The album also features New Orleans R&B legend Allen Toussaint’s I’ll Take a Melody, the swinging Barry White ballad How I Wish We Could Do It Again, and Ease on Down the Road (from the hit Broadway musical The Wiz), along with five other originals from group founder/manager (and Rock the Boat writer) Wally Holmes. RCA also wisely included John Florez’s remix of Rock the Boat on Rockin’ Soul – while it may have been unusual to have the same studio recording on two consecutive albums, Florez’s remix was the hit version that most listeners were familiar with, and from a commercial standpoint there was no reason not to include it.

1975’s Love Corporation found the group working with wunderkind producer David Kershenbaum, who’d go on to produce hits for Joan Baez, Joe Jackson and Duran Duran amongst others. The swirling strings and syncopated hi-hat of its Philadelphia soul-influenced title track would net the group another moderate hit, and much like that song, the influence of Philly soul (which was dominating the R&B charts at the time) is felt strongly throughout the rest of the album. Other standout tracks include the Holmes original When You Look Down the Road, which features a gorgeous three-part vocal harmony set against a slinky funk backdrop, and Danny Moore’s Follow the Spirit, which recalls some of the O’Jays work from the same period. Despite the breezy nature of some of the songs on these two albums, the musical accompaniment is top-notch. Immaculately produced and arranged, they feature a cadre of some of the decade’s finest studio talent, including Larry Carlton, Joe Sample and Wilton Felder of the Crusaders, future Toto keyboardist David Paich, drummers Jim Gordon and Ed Greene, as well as sax players Ernie Watts and Tom Scott.

 

The Weather Report “Night Passage” lineup (1980) L-R: Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Peter Erskine, Jaco Pastorius, Robert Thomas, Jr.

While it may seem like a stretch to suggest that a Grammy-nominated album that made it to No. 2 in the Billboard Jazz LPs chart is underrated, in the highlight-strewn fifteen-year recording career of Weather Report, 1980’s Night Passage is exactly that. With an approach that emphasised collective improvisation and continuous rhythmic movement over individual soloists, the avant-garde explorations of the group’s eponymous 1971 debut and 1972’s I Sing the Body Electric fulfilled the promise of Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew fusion innovations, arguably more so than Davis’s own subsequent albums. A mid-decade move toward heavy funk on albums like Sweetnighter, Mysterious Traveller and Tale Spinnin’ put the band not only at the vanguard of the fusion movement, but also in the enviable position of being critically lauded and commercially successful.

With a reputation for scintillating band interplay, the group was almost as well known for a lineup that was in a state of constant flux, with principals Wayne Shorter (sax) and Joe Zawinul (keyboards) joined by a revolving cast of some of jazz’s best players. The band would see bassists Miroslav Vitouš and Alphonso Johnson, and drummers including Alphonse Mouzon and Chester Thompson, pass through its ranks across its first half-dozen studio albums, none of which featured the same lineup twice. The recruitment of fretless electric bass virtuoso Jaco Pastorius in 1976 ushered in the group’s most successful period, beginning with 1977’s platinum-selling Heavy Weather, which yielded a genuine radio-friendly hit single (and jazz standard) in Birdland.

The addition of Pastorius was also the first building block in what would become the group’s longest lasting (and most highly regarded) lineup, a process that was completed when drummer Peter Erskine joined the band for the tour supporting 1978’s Mr. Gone. After years of receiving consistently glowing reviews for their albums, Mr. Gone saw the band coming in for some condemnation, with some reviewers (most notably DownBeat, in a scathing 1-star review) suggesting that the album’s more highly orchestrated (and heavily overdubbed) sound had robbed it of its excitement. The criticism seemed to light a fire under the band to reassert its dominance as an improvisational unit – the first result was 1979’s Grammy-winning 8:30, a live album culled from a series of incendiary shows at the end of the Mr. Gone tour.

The recording of 8:30 proved to be such a positive experience for the group that when it came time to record an album of new material in 1980, they elected to pursue a hybrid approach that leveraged the intensity of their live performances with the sonic possibilities of a studio setting. Expanded to a quintet for the first time since 1977 by the addition of jazz-trained hand drummer Robert Thomas, Jr., the band honed their new material on the road for nearly six months before entering LA’s The Complex studios, where one of its soundstages was transformed into an impromptu concert venue. On 12 and 13 July 1980, Weather Report would play two shows each night in front of an invited audience of 250, with the best of those performances culled to produce Night Passage. The layers of overdubs from the band’s previous two albums are supplanted by a much more immediate improv-centric approach, from the shuffle groove of Zawinul’s bop-influenced eponymous album-opener to the aptly named Fast City, where both he and Shorter take remarkable solos. Speaking of Shorter, Night Passage finds him at the forefront of the group possibly more than on any other album, his deft touch on the sax evident throughout, including on the gauzy ballad Dream Clock and an energetic cover of Duke Ellington’s Rockin’ in Rhythm. Pastorius is also given ample room to shine, turning in his finest composition in the meditative waltz ballad Three Views of a Secret, not to mention a staggering bass solo in the middle of Port of Entry. Although Night Passage wasn’t this lineup’s swansong (they’d record one more album in the midst of disintegrating), it remains a high-water mark in their vast discography.

 

Michael J. Dutton has meticulously remastered all four discs that make up this month’s release from the original stereo and quadraphonic master tapes, maintaining their original tonality and dynamic range for optimal sound quality. Each disc is also accompanied by extensive, newly-written liner notes.

This release marks the worldwide high-resolution debut of the stereo mixes of all seven of these albums, and the first time that the Derringer, Guess Who and Hues Corporation quad mixes (which have been out of print since the late ’70s) have been available in any digital format.

David Zimmerman, Toronto, 2018

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New Dutton Epoch release – April 2018

Dutton Epoch release – April 2018

Dutton Epoch enjoyed a very active recording programme during 2017, all now coming together for a series of remarkable CD issues.  The first batch features the BBC Concert Orchestra at Watford, together with the Royal Northern Sinfonia at Gateshead with conductors Martin Yates, David Lloyd-Jones, Ronald Corp and John Andrews.

W.S. GILBERT & ALFRED CELLIER

The Mountebanks

John Andrews, BBC Concert Orchestra, BBC Singers

2CDLX 7349

The year started with a five day recording session at Watford, from 18 to 22 January.  The programme was John Andrews’ revival of a charming and entertaining light opera, in fact the ‘G & S’ operetta that Sullivan didn’t write.  W. S. Gilbert’s composing partner in this enterprise was Alfred Cellier, musical man of the theatre and Richard D’Oyly Carte’s Music Director at London’s Opera Comique, where he was experienced in conducting the nightly runs of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most successful operettas, and later took H.M.S.Pinafore to the USA, and The Mikado to Australia.  His closeness to the team included working with Sullivan to extract the overture of Pirates of Penzance from its parent score at the last possible moment. In fact Cellier was helping Sullivan write Sullivan! Thus when in the late 1880s there came a pause in Gilbert and Sullivan’s co-operation, Gilbert had a new partner available to step in and take the load.  Sadly it actually came too late for poor Cellier, who died on 28 December 1891 before he had completed scoring his opera. The music director of the Lyric Theatre stepped in and completed it and it was first seen in January 1892, and ran for 229 performances with a provincial tour.  There were occasional amateur productions but it was forgotten after the Second World War.

The scheduling of the recording days was based upon the availability of the singers and so those present never got to hear the music in sequence – a magic that only became apparent when the first edit was circulated to participants.  The BBC Concert Orchestra sessions customarily start after lunch on the first day which then continues until the late evening.  So we had a first day running 2:30 to 5:30 and 6:30 to 9:30.  The remaining days started at 10:30 and went through to a 5:30 finish.  Thus the various soloists sang their numbers in succession on any particular giving a particular perspective on the music.

In fact it quickly became apparent that Cellier achieved a distinctive sound in his orchestrations and as the sessions started with the four movement Suite Symphonique of 1878 (the last movement became the Overture to The Mountebanks) we had every opportunity to enjoy this inventive contribution to mid-Victorian orchestral music.  So the story that The Mountebanks must have been Cellier writing latter day Gilbert and Sullivan is far from true; here is a delightful d’Oyly Carte work that has a life of its own, and we have to thank The Amber Ring for producing new performance material.  J. Donald Smith who has edited the multiple sources to establish the recorded text writes ‘it is a masterpiece in its own right’.  This is surely the case and it needs to be heard to appreciate its many charms in this vivid exploration.

CHARLES VILLIERS STANFORD

Violin and Piano Concertos

Northern Sinfonia, Martin Yates, Leon McCawley, Sergey Levitin

CDLX 7350

Four sessions later the Dutton team reassembled in the wooded ambiance of Hall One at The Sage in Gateshead on 2nd June, for a two day recording with the Royal Northern Sinfonia conducted by Martin Yates.  In this very sympathetic acoustic for more classically scored music, three early Stanford manuscripts were heard.  This had been very much Martin Yates project and he had edited them from the original scores, found in Newcastle University Library – presumably a legacy of the late Frederick Hudson.  These manuscript works consisted of the Concert Overture dated July 30 1870 – reputed to be the earliest Stanford ms extant; and two concertos: the Concerto in B flat for Piano and Orchestra dating from 1873 and the Violin Concerto of 1875.  The soloists were pianist Leon McCawley and Sergey Levitin, violin.

The Piano Concerto is a charming work with poise and an engaging flowing solo line, but the Violin Concerto in D major is a much more ambitious canvas, completed on 2 September 1875, and already showing how quickly the young Stanford was maturing.  Soloist Sergey Levitin again joined the Dutton team to explore unfamiliar repertoire and impressed at a first hearing with the authority he brought to the music.  Stanford had intended it for a virtuoso of his time, the Italian violinist Guido Papini, but in the event it was never played.  Here elements of Stanford’s mature style are becoming apparent and one wonders why Stanford never included it among his numbered concerti.

Taking account of the splendid acoustic at The Stage and the amiable working atmosphere with all concerned it was good to hear Stanford’s early music come to life so vividly, and the soloists project their discoveries with such commitment.

EDWARD ELGAR

Short Orchestral Works

David Lloyd-Jones, BBC Concert Orchestra

CDLX 7354

Dutton’s ninth recording session in 2017 saw a return to Watford and the BBC Concert Orchestra on 18 and 19 September, for sessions with conductor David Lloyd-Jones, exploring Elgar’s short orchestral works, many of them familiar, and all played in David’s newly published authentic editions in his Volume 23 of the Elgar Complete Edition.  As he writes in his booklet note for Dutton they ‘could be considered as representing the very essence of Elgar’.  There were many magical moments as we were taken through this Elgarian panorama by a man who having edited all the editions being played had them in his very bones.  This extended from the very earliest Air de Ballet – Lloyd-Jones calls it ‘an Elgarian apprentice work ‘– of 1881, first heard in Worcester that year by the local Worcester orchestra, led by Elgar himself. It was long forgotten and lost but now makes a charming start to this recorded repertoire.

In the acoustic of the Collosseum (familiar to an earlier generation as Watford Town Hall) this was a rewarding recording session as a succession of familiar themes were shaped by an orchestra that was as clearly revelling in its delights as their conductor.  And yet we were hearing much of it through new ears.  Sevilliana, Salut d’amour, Three Bavarian Dances, the Minuet Op 21 and the familiar Chanson de Matin and Chanson de Nuit. May-Song with the ad-lib harp part, the first recording of Canto Popolare  (from In the South) in a version for small orchestra, and the orchestral version with solo of the song Pleading.  The choice of soloist in Pleading is optional but it was an inspiration to give it to solo violin, and as we heard Charles Mutter’s delicate soaring violin line it was immediately obvious that this is the correct scoring, and the music becomes another of those Elgar violin lollipops. It was a magical couple of days and it was so good to hear all these pieces together in one place on such a sympathetic occasion.

INA BOYLE

Ronald Corp, BBC Concert Orchestra, Benjamin Baker, Nadège Rochat

CDLX 7352

Still at the Watford Collosseum, on 8 to the 10 October, with the BBC Concert Orchestra Dutton rounded off its 2017 recording season with a programme of music by the Irish student of Vaughan Williams, Ina Boyle, who died in 1967. Conductor Ronald Corp had first taken an interest in Ina Boyle for Dutton back in 2012 when he conducted her orchestral tone poem The Magic Harp on a Dan Godfrey celebration programme for the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.  For those who have never heard her music more than one person present was comparing it to E.J.Moeran.  Six works were recorded all written between 1919 and 1942.

The Concerto for Violin and Orchestra of 1935 was played by Benjamin Baker with a sweet tone.  This is a rhapsodic work in which the three movements are played without a break.   Corp and the soloist managed the current of the music with sympathetic attention to detail but never losing the ebb and flow of a delightful discovery.

Boyle wrote three symphonies and it was good to hear the earliest of these, with the subtitle Glencree (‘In the Wicklow Hills’) which dates from 1924-1927.  Maybe almost a programmatic three movement tone-poem, a succession of musical tourist postcards – ‘On Lacken Hill’ – ‘Nightwinds in the Valley’ – ‘ Above Lough Bray’, but the energy of the middle movement when heard in the hall persuaded one that this was indeed  a work of some stature whose appearance on disc is long overdue.

A short piece for cello and orchestra, Psalm, dating from 1927, was powerfully played by the young cellist Nadege Rochat, and the programme was completed by four short orchestral works: Overture for orchestra (1934);

Wildgeese (1942); A Sea Poem: Theme, variations and finale for orchestra (1919)

and Colin Clout  (‘A Pastoral after Spenser’s “Shepherd’s Calendar”) (1921).

These were very enjoyable sessions and as work followed work Ina Boyle was revealed as a composer of some personality and engaging invention; everything we heard was a delight. Conductor Ronald Corp was clearly as enthusiastic as those in the control room and the BBC Concert Orchestra responded with their customary sympathy for the music.  This was Dutton’s 56th CD programme with the Concert Orchestra and as ever one was just amazed at how they projected the music even at a first take.  Producer Neil Varley (who recorded all four CD programmes covered in this note) was the authoritative and encouraging voice on the talkback.

LEWIS FOREMAN

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Vocalion New Releases Jan 2018

 

From the top of the pop charts to the heart of Nashville, Vocalion’s January release celebrates the music of two of the most popular vocalists of the 60s and 70s, along with the guitar stylings of one of country music’s most pivotal figures. Maintaining Vocalion’s industry-leading commitment to bringing the widest range of quadraphonic material to SACD, this new release features six albums across four hybrid multichannel discs.

The New Year is a time for fresh starts and new beginnings, rebirth and renewal, and headlining this release are two albums that represented all of those things to Art Garfunkel. Alongside his partner (and childhood friend) Paul Simon, Garfunkel had spent most of the 60s crafting some of the most critically and commercially successful pop music of the decade – a string of iconic hits that included The Sound of Silence, Homeward Bound, Mrs. Robinson, Cecelia and Bridge over Troubled Water. But Garfunkel was suddenly a man without a country in 1971, when Simon unceremoniously ended their collaboration shortly after the duo won a raft of Grammy awards for their multi-platinum juggernaut, Bridge over Troubled Water.

The split took its toll on Garfunkel, who studiously avoided music in its immediate aftermath – working first as an actor, and then spending a year as a prep school maths teacher. But when he re-emerged as a solo artist with 1973’s Angel Clare, it was clear that Garfunkel was ready to re-embrace his first love and to do it on his own terms. Co-produced with long-time Simon & Garfunkel collaborator Roy Halee, the album found Garfunkel backed by many of the studio musicians from Bookends and Bridge over Troubled Water, along with newcomers like Jim Gordon, Larry Carlton and Michael Omartian. More than 18 months in the making, the album would be hailed by Rolling Stone as “one of the most lushly produced pop albums ever made.” Angel Clare would yield three successful singles – the Jimmy Webb-penned All I Know (which peaked at #9 in Billboard’s Hot 100 and spent four weeks at #1 in the Adult Contemporary chart), along with a calypso-fied take on Van Morrison’s I Shall Sing and Paul Williams & Roger Nichols sentimental Traveling Boy, both of which enjoyed success on both the Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts.

Emboldened by Angel Clare’s success, Garfunkel pushed even further out of his comfort zone for 1975’s Breakaway. To do this, he enlisted the help of star producer Richard Perry, who’d helmed a string of hits for some of the biggest names in music, including US #1s for Harry Nilsson (Without You), Carly Simon (You’re So Vain), and Ringo Starr (Photograph and You’re Sixteen). Conceived as a romantic album by Garfunkel and Perry, Breakaway featured songwriting contributions from both established writers such as Stevie Wonder, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Bruce Johnston, as well as emerging talents like Gallagher & Lyle and Stephen Bishop. The epitome of a big-budget album, it was recorded at no less than eight different studios, with an all-star cast that included musicians from bands like Little Feat, The L.A. Express, and the Plastic Ono Band, not to mention Andrew Gold, Nicky Hopkins, David Crosby and Graham Nash. Breakaway would yield two more Adult Contemporary #1s for Garfunkel – his reworking of the jazz standard I Only Have Eyes for You (which also topped the charts in the UK) and its eponymous title track, which bristled with British pop sensibility courtesy of Scotland’s Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle. However, the album’s one stylistic outlier is arguably biggest attraction – My Little Town, Simon & Garfunkel’s first recording collaboration since 1970. A classic Simon composition, the song’s cynical, hard-driving look at the constrictions of small town life stood in stark relief to the duo’s gorgeous vocal blend, which sounded as if they hadn’t been apart for a moment in the intervening five years. Released as a joint single (it would also feature on Simon’s 1975 album, Still Crazy After All These Years), the track would continue Simon & Garfunkel’s winning ways on the charts, peaking at #9 in the Hot 100 and spending two weeks at #1 in the Adult Contemporary charts.

Widely regarded by both fans and critics as the pinnacle of Garfunkel’s solo output, these two classic albums are expanded with extensive new liner notes that chronicle both their creation and the events that led up to their making.

We move to Nashville next, for a disc that compiles two albums chronicling some of country songbird Lynn Anderson’s earliest (and biggest) hits for Columbia Records. Discovered by Chart Records label boss Slim Williamson when she accompanied her mother (an accomplished songwriter who’d written hits for Merle Haggard) on a trip to Nashville when she was just 18, Anderson would go on to record a string of top-10 country hits for the label through the latter half of the 60s. But it wasn’t until she signed with Columbia in early 1970 and relocated to the Nashville area with her husband Glenn Sutton that she became a bona fide superstar. Sutton, one of the prime architects of the “countrypolitan” sound (an approach to country music that emphasised lush orchestral and vocal backings, with pop crossover success squarely in its crosshairs) would produce all of Anderson’s early work for the label. The pair would work at a prodigious pace, recording and releasing three albums in 1970 alone. It was that third 1970 album, Rose Garden, which propelled Anderson in to the musical stratosphere, when its title track became one of the most successful songs of 1971. Reaching #3 in the US pop charts (and #1 in the country charts) the single was also an international crossover smash, finding the upper reaches of the pop charts in more than 15 countries worldwide. Replicating the lightning-in-a-bottle pop success of Rose Garden proved difficult in the following years, but Anderson remained a stalwart on the country charts, with a four subsequent number one singles in the next three years, along with ten albums in a row in the country top 20. The second album in this compilation, Lynn Anderson’s Greatest Hits, collects many of the chart successes she had for Columbia both before and after Rose Garden’s breakthrough. Drawn from the first eight albums she recorded for the label between 1970 and 1972, it contains the country #1s You’re My Man and How Can I Unlove You along with top-10 hits like Cry, Listen to a Country Song and Stay There ‘til I Get There.

Just around the corner from Columbia’s Nashville recording studio is RCA’s historic “Nashville Sound” studio, and it was there that country guitar virtuoso and producer Chet Atkins recorded the two albums that make up the final disc in this release. One of the most important figures in the evolution of country music, Atkins first signed as a recording artist with RCA in 1953. By 1957 he’d been put in charge of the label’s Nashville division, but his newly-assumed production duties didn’t put a dent in a recording career that often saw him release three or even four albums a year. As a producer, Atkins was a key figure in the development of what became known as the “Nashville Sound” – by supplanting honky-tonk country staples like fiddle and steel guitar with elements from 50s pop music like strings and backing vocals, he was one of a handful of producers who helped rescue country music from the commercial doldrums it found itself in after the rise of rock ‘n’ roll in the mid-50s. By the late 60s, Atkins had become so valuable to RCA that they’d made him a vice president of their country division, giving him oversight over everything that it recorded and released. The extra workload did slow the pace of his recording career somewhat, but Atkins still managed to put out an album every year. It’s from this period that the two albums featured on this compilation are culled – 1967’s Picks the Best, and 1973’s Superpickers. Both critically acclaimed (Picks the Best was a Grammy winner and Superpickers was nominated twice) these two albums show two very different sides of Atkins’ world-famous “thumb and two fingers” picking style. Picks the Best finds Atkins in easy listening mode across a selection of well-known melodies including You’ll Never Walk Alone, Insensatez (How Insensitive) and El Paso, backed by a gentle rhythm section and a bed of strings. Superpickers explored another of Atkins’ passions – improvisation. The album finds him backed by an all-star cast of nearly a dozen of Nashville’s best studio musicians including Johnny Gimble, Charlie McCoy, Weldon Myrick and Hargus Robbins. Atkins affords ample solo opportunities to all of his cohorts across a selection of country gems, and in turn they coax some of his most agile jazz-infused playing in years. The result is an album that flows like a down-home jam session from beginning to end.

As with all of Vocalion’s previous SACD offerings, all of the albums that make up this release have been meticulously remastered by Michael J. Dutton from the original quadraphonic and stereo master tapes, and maintain their tonality and dynamic range as intended by the original producers and engineers.

Vocalion Hybrid SACDs play in three ways – high-resolution multichannel (quadraphonic), high-resolution stereo and standard 44.1kHz/16bit CD stereo. The SACD layer (which contains both multichannel and stereo programmes) is playable on any SACD-capable device, while the CD layer provides stereo playback on any standard CD player.

David Zimmerman

Toronto, 2018

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Dutton Epoch October/November 2017 New Releases

Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Daniel Barenboim, Artur Rubinstein, James Levine, Lorin Maazel, Charles Gerhardt …

Dutton Epoch has revived some of the finest recordings made by CBS and RCA during the quadraphonic boom of the 1970s, and presents them across six individual SACDs.

Leonard Bernstein’s Concert for Peace, a protest at the Vietnam War, took place in Washington Cathedral during January 1973 and featured a spellbinding performance of Haydn’s Mass in Time of War. Here it’s coupled with Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic’s reading of Haydn’s Symphony No. 96, “Miracle”. James Levine conducts the London and Chicago symphony orchestras in Mahler’s First and Fourth symphonies respectively; also featured is Levine and the CSO’s recording of Brahms’s First Symphony, which has been remixed in quadraphonic sound especially for this limited edition reissue. Daniel Barenboim and Artur Rubinstein’s cycle of Beethoven piano concertos were recorded with the London Philharmonic in 1975, and are widely considered the definitive interpretations. However, the four-channel recordings were issued in Japan only and thus are extremely rare – this reissue makes available once more the quadraphonic versions of Concertos Nos. 3 & 4.

The New York Philharmonic under Pierre Boulez is heard in an all-Stravinsky programme comprising Petrushka (“immortal hero of every fair in all countries,” according to the composer), the early Scherzo Fantastique of 1907-08, Symphonies of Wind Instruments and the Diaghilev-commissioned Pulcinella Suite. Lorin Maazel and the Cleveland Orchestra present a wonderfully authoritative reading of Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, originally recorded in 1978; augmenting this reissue is Maazel conducting the New Philharmonia, the Ambrosian Singers and mezzo-soprano Yvonne Minton in Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody, recorded during November 1976 at All Saints Church, Tooting.

A disc devoted to the music of film composer Dimitri Tiomkin rounds off this release. RCA house-conductor/producer Charles Gerhardt leads the National Philharmonic Orchestra in music from Hollywood classics Lost Horizon, The Guns of Navarone, The Big Sky, The Fourposter, Friendly Persuasion and Search for Paradise. Recorded at the Kingsway Hall in brilliant, full-bodied sound by Decca engineer Kenneth Wilkinson, this reissue also includes a suite from Tiomkin’s score for The Thing from Another World, which makes its debut in quadraphonic sound.

All the music has been remastered from the original analogue tapes (stereo and quadraphonic), and these SACDs are fully compatible with standard CD players.

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Vocalion – October 2017 New Releases


Vocalion’s October 2017 release places the accent on soulful, funky sounds with a clutch of classic albums spread across three separate SACDs.

Flautist extraordinaire Dave Valentin, who passed away earlier this year (2017) at the age of 64, was not only one of the instrument’s great virtuosos but also a leading exponent of Latin jazz. Born in the South Bronx in 1952, he grew up listening to the music of such Latin icons as Johnny Pacheco, Richard Egües, Tito Rodriguez and Tito Puente. By the age of ten he was playing percussion in New York’s Latin clubs and by sixteen had enrolled at New York’s High School of Music and Art as a percussion major. Switching to flute, he studied with Hubert Laws and later joined the bands of pianist Ricardo Marrero and percussionist Manny Oquendo. Turning pro in the early ’70s, he would perform in Africa, Brazil and the Philippines, play with Latin supergroup the Fania All-Stars at Madison Square Garden and begin to receive plaudits from music industry giants such as Quincy Jones.

In 1977, Valentin was invited to play on the demo sessions for violinist Noel Pointer’s Phantazia album, which was being overseen by GRP, the production company of arranger-composer-pianist Dave Grusin and recording engineer Larry Rosen. Grusin and Rosen were so impressed with Valentin that they asked him to participate in the sessions for Grusin’s upcoming One of a Kind album. Unbeknownst to Valentin, Grusin and Rosen were also about to sign a deal with Arista Records that would see the creation of a new imprint, Arista GRP. On the lookout for artists, Grusin and Rosen immediately thought of Valentin, who quickly found himself on the receiving end of a recording contract.
Valentin’s first two albums for Arista GRP, 1978’s Legends and 1979’s The Hawk, were both critical and commercial successes, and his third album, 1980’s Land of the Third Eye, which Vocalion has reissued, continued that thread, balancing funk and R&B with the flautist’s unique brand of Latin jazz. The album contains the jazz-funk staple Sidra’s Dream, while other tracks include covers of Earth, Wind & Fire’s Fantasy and The Doobie Brothers’ Open Your Eyes, plus two Valentin originals. The flautist is backed by an all-star lineup featuring Marcus Miller and Lincoln Goines (bass guitars), Buddy Williams and Tito Marrero (drums), Dave Grusin (keyboards), Michael Viñas (guitar) and Roger Squitero (percussion). This reissue, comprising both standard PCM CD and high-resolution stereo SACD layers, marks Land of the Third Eye’s first ever appearance in CD or SACD format, and includes a lengthy liner note detailing Valentin’s career and music.

From CTI, the imprint of legendary jazz producer Creed Taylor, comes the albums Prelude and Deodato 2, both of which showcase the talents of Brazilian keyboardist-composer-arranger Eumir Deodato. A native of Rio de Janeiro, he began his career in the early ’60s working for Luiz Bonfá, Marcos Valle and Antonio Carlos Jobim before moving to the US in 1967 where he quickly made a name for himself – he would soon start arranging for luminaries such as Frank Sinatra and Milton Nascimento.

His work on Nascimento’s 1969 album Courage brought him into contact with Creed Taylor, and when Taylor set up CTI in 1971, he wasted no time in engaging Deodato’s arranging skills. Deodato’s early CTI work included his beautiful orchestrations for Astrud Gilberto and Stanley Turrentine’s 1971 album Gilberto with Turrentine, and by 1972 Deodato himself had earned a solo contract with the label. He struck gold with his first effort, the aptly titled Prelude, thanks to Creed Taylor’s penchant for getting his artists to record jazz/crossover versions of well-known classical pieces. In Deodato’s case, it was the Sunrise fanfare from Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, which had become popular through its use in Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Deodato’s funked up, Fender Rhodes-laden reimagining of it brought both him and CTI chart success – it would become an international hit – and while it casts a long shadow over the remainder of the album, Prelude nevertheless contains several other gems. Notable among them is the Latin-flavoured jazz of Carly & Carole (Deodato’s tribute to singer-songwriters Carly Simon and Carole King) and the low-slung funk of September 13, powered by Billy Cobham’s muscular drumming.

The sequel, Deodato 2, recorded during April and May 1973, adhered to the same formula: funky originals alongside his interpretations of various classical pieces. And although it failed to emulate the success of its predecessor, Deodato 2 is arguably the better album, containing one of Deodato’s finest compositions in the dramatic Skyscrapers – sounding for all the world like a theme in search of a film – and superb jazz-rock adaptations of The Moody Blues’ Nights in White Satin and George Gershwin’s immortal Rhapsody in Blue. Both Prelude and Deodato 2 feature stellar lineups, including CTI regulars Ron Carter and Stanley Clarke (basses), Billy Cobham (drums), Hubert Laws (flute) and Airto Moreira (percussion). As well as the original stereo mixes, Vocalion’s reissue includes the quadraphonic mixes of both albums (their first ever appearance in digital format), which were made by Rudy Van Gelder at his historic studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Heard in four-channel sound, both Prelude and Deodato 2 are given new and exciting life, and rounding out this reissue is a detailed essay giving the full lowdown on Deodato and the music itself.

The final title in this batch compiles two albums fronted by music industry mogul Cecil Holmes. After a stint at the Casablanca label, where he was National Vice President and Manager of R&B Operations, he joined CBS Records in the early ’80s. As the label’s Vice President of Black Music A&R, he would spend the next ten years shaping the careers of Michael Jackson and Luther Vandross, overseeing Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing comeback and unwittingly ushering in the second coming of the boy band era when he gave New Kids On The Block their first recording contract in 1986. But before all of that, he’d been with the New York-based Buddah Records, where his acumen as an A&R man had earned him multiple industry awards and numerous gold records; he’d also been instrumental in signing Gladys Knight & The Pips and had shepherded the careers of leading artists including The Isley Brothers, Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions.

Holmes himself was no musician, so when he decided to be the frontman for an album drawing together themes from the Blaxploitation genre, he turned to arranger-composer Tony Camillo as the man who would put it all together. The result was 1973’s The Black Motion Picture Experience on the Buddah label. Credited to The Cecil Holmes Soulful Sounds, it was performed by an all-star studio orchestra (including bassist Bob Babbitt and drummer Andrew Smith) and featured mean, funky takes on Blaxploitation staples such as Isaac Hayes’s Shaft, Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly, Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man and Billy Preston’s Slaughter.
Encouraged by the album’s success (it sold a reported 100,000 copies in its first year), Holmes quickly commissioned a follow-up, Music for Soulful Lovers. Released towards the end of 1973, it looked to the then current crop of hits by soul music luminaries including Barry White, The Stylistics, Stevie Wonder, Al Green and others. And Tony Camillo was on hand once more to provide a series of groovy arrangements performed by a studio orchestra comprising many of the musicians who’d contributed to The Black Motion Picture Experience. The album also includes three original songs by Tony Camillo (two of which have Holmes himself laying down his best Barry White-style love rap), prefiguring Camillo’s own solo success with his band Bazuka, which had a US Top 10 hit in 1975 with the song Dynomite. Vocalion’s reissue marks The Black Motion Picture Experience’s and Music for Soulful Lovers’ premiere digital release, and this Hybrid SACD contains the original stereo and quadraphonic mixes of both albums.

Michael J. Dutton has remastered everything from the original tapes, ensuring that this wonderful music reaches the ears of 21st-century listeners the way it’s supposed to.

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Vocalion August SACD Release


For Vocalion’s August release, we’ve taken a deep dive in to the vaults of the RCA and Columbia labels, and surfaced with a treasure trove of recordings from the heyday of quadraphonic sound. Covering country, rock, R&B and jazz fusion, this new release of five albums across four SACDs represents Vocalion’s most varied slate of quadraphonic offerings to date.

Leading off are two albums (compiled on one SACD) from RCA country-rock stalwarts Pure Prairie League, which find the band making the most of the unlikeliest of second chances. The Ohio natives recorded two albums for RCA in 1972, but just as their star was beginning to rise, original lead vocalist Craig Fuller was jailed for draft evasion. Unable to tour without him, record sales stalled and RCA dropped the group. Flash forward a year and the remnants of the band had regrouped with ex-Sacred Mushroom vocalist and lead guitarist Larry Goshorn, and embarked on nearly 18 months of college campus touring. This would create a level of grassroots support for the group that RCA couldn’t ignore, especially when they managed to sell nearly three times as many albums as an unsigned band in 1974 as they did when they were with the label in 1972.

After signing with RCA for the second time in late 1974, the band paired up with super-producer John Boylan for the two albums that comprise this reissue, 1975’s Two Lane Highway and 1976’s If the Shoe Fits. Boylan, who’d been pivotal in Linda Ronstadt’s early success (including the recruitment of a backing band that would go on to become the Eagles) and who would produce Boston’s breakthrough debut album immediately after, was perfectly suited to taking Pure Prairie League’s road-honed interplay and elevating it with a layer of studio polish. If contemporaries like The Byrds, Poco and the Eagles were on the rock side of the country-rock railroad track, Pure Prairie League found itself a little more on the country side. Both Two Lane Highway and If the Shoe Fits have plenty of rock sensibility (and were both Billboard Top 40 hits as a result), but they also never forget where they came from, boasting plenty of pedal steel, banjo, and chicken pickin’ – not to mention guest appearances from the likes of Chet Atkins, Don Felder and Emmylou Harris. This new double album compilation marks the high-resolution debut of both the stereo and quadraphonic mixes of these albums.

Making its worldwide digital debut as part of this release is The Jimmy Castor Bunch’s 1973 hidden gem, Dimension III. To say that Castor, a multi-talented R&B singer/songwriter/producer/arranger/saxophonist (and self-proclaimed “Everything Man”), had a colourful career would be an understatement. Starting as a doo-wop singer, by the age of 15 Castor (almost by accident) had become the author of a hit single when neighbourhood friends Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers covered his own group’s I Promise To Remember as the follow-up to their smash hit Why Do Fools Fall In Love, taking the song to No. 10 in the US R&B charts in 1957. Plying his trade as an arranger and studio musician for most of the next ten years, Castor would go from doo-wop singer to sax-playing Latin soul bandleader. His new group landed a leftfield hit in 1967 with Hey Leroy (Your Mama’s Calling You), a song that perfectly paired Castor’s gonzo sense of humour with his ability to craft an irresistible groove.

Castor’s uncompromising attitude would lead to a fall out with the label that released Hey Leroy and he’d return to relative obscurity in the following years, but by late 1971 his band (now called The Jimmy Castor Bunch) had signed with RCA. His first album for the label (which one critic described as “grunge funk”) seemed destined to stay underground, but when FM radio DJs started playing the album cut Troglodyte (Cave Man) it became a word-of-mouth sensation. Released as a single in early 1972, it made it to the upper reaches of both the US Pop and R&B Top 10. A second album was rush-released by the end of the summer but underperformed, and an obvious cash-in single, (Luther the Anthropoid (Ape Man), didn’t even crack the Top 100. Castor, who feared being pigeonholed, knew he had to change things up and Dimension III was the result.

Eschewing much of the aforementioned “grunge funk” and scatological humour of his previous two RCA albums in favour of sophisticated horn and string arrangements and a stronger focus on melodic songwriting, Dimension III sees Castor employing every one of his many talents to great effect. Castor divided the album into vocal and instrumental sides, and the vocal side finds him tackling a wide array of R&B, from modern cinematic funk to sweet soul and even a little bit of the doo-wop of his youth. On the instrumental flipside, Castor stretches out as a soloist for the first time on one of his records, proving in the process that his sax playing may be the most polished of all his talents.
One of the first QuadraDisc LPs that RCA ever released, Dimension III holds the unique distinction of being a “single inventory” title, meaning the four-channel quadraphonic mix was the only mix of the album done, as the label wanted to tout the backwards compatibility of quadraphonic records with existing stereo systems. In the wake of Castor’s acrimonious departure from RCA in late 1973, the label took Dimension III out of print and it has remained that way – until now. This new SACD edition presents the original quadraphonic mix in all its glory, along with a stereo fold-down of the quad mix – more than forty years later the universal compatibility of the QuadraDisc fulfilled in a way its inventors could never have imagined.

Another album making its high-resolution debut in both quadraphonic and stereo is Carlos Santana and Alice Coltrane’s 1974 genre-bending collaboration, Illuminations. Equal parts rock, free jazz and jazz fusion, the album was part of the culmination of Santana’s most prolific period, one that between solo and group activity saw him release seven albums in less than three years. When the hit-making original Santana band, beset by escalating internal strife, imploded in late 1971 following a disastrous South American tour, it could have easily spelled the end of Carlos Santana’s recording career. Instead, it had the opposite effect. Santana’s quest to challenge himself both musically and spiritually in the wake of this turmoil would fuel a prodigious output that included 1972’s Caravanserai, 1973’s Welcome and 1974’s Borboletta with the Santana band, and solo collaborations with Buddy Miles (1972’s Live!) and Mahavishnu John McLaughlin (1973’s Love Devotion Surrender) along with the release of a sprawling triple-LP live album (1974’s Lotus) in Japan.

Released just a month before Borboletta in September 1974, Illuminations stands as a unique entry in Carlos Santana’s nearly fifty-year recording career. Brought together by a shared interest in Eastern philosophy, along with Santana’s love for John Coltrane (it was the two Coltrane covers on Love Devotion Surrender that had caught Alice Coltrane’s initial attention), the album is a departure from everything Santana had done previously. As Santana said in his 2014 autobiography The Universal Tone, “the music really took me farther away from that classic Santana sound than almost any other recording – farther away but closer to where my heart was.” Although it’s co-billed to Santana and Coltrane, the album is a collaborative one in the truest sense, with saxophonist Jules Broussard and keyboardist Tom Coster afforded equal space for solo exploration alongside Santana and Coltrane – no single musician dominates proceedings. Mention must also be made of the rhythm section, which includes Miles Davis/Bitches Brew alumni Jack DeJohnette on drums and Dave Holland on bass, and Alice Coltrane’s sweeping string arrangements – the grand vista in front of which the instrumental excursions take place.
Not only was Carlos Santana one of Columbia’s most popular artists, but between solo and group endeavours he was also their most prolific single producer of quadraphonic product, with all twelve of his efforts between 1969 and 1977 seeing a quad release. The Santana albums are regarded by many quad enthusiasts as the gold standard for the format, and Illuminations – the first of these historic studio albums to be released in high-resolution – is no exception.

Last, but far from least, is jazz fusion trailblazer Return to Forever’s studio swansong, Musicmagic. Recorded after the breakup of the group’s longest lasting and most commercially successful lineup, the album finds founding members Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke supported by keyboardist-vocalist Gayle Moran, drummer Gerry Brown and a four-piece horn section headed by CTI sax man (and returning RTF charter member) Joe Farrell. The departure from Return to Forever of guitarist Al Di Meola and drummer Lenny White – who’d appeared on 1974’s Where Have I Known You Before, 1975’s Grammy-winning No Mystery and 1976’s platinum-selling Romantic Warrior – has divided fans for forty years. But Musicmagic offers a fascinating insight into Chick Corea’s unquenchable thirst to satisfy his creative muse at almost any cost. Gayle Moran’s lilting vocals on Musicmagic have also proved equally divisive, and while they aren’t the first on a Return to Forever record (Flora Purim was the featured vocalist on their initial two albums in 1972) they certainly add a new wrinkle to the band’s sound. At first blush, Musicmagic may seem like the classic “sell-out” album, where a band adds a vocalist in the hope of mainstream fame, but Moran’s voice is employed more as a textural or arrangement tool. Often, it bookends or divides the long instrumental workouts for which Return to Forever is famous, rather than becoming the focal point of the album. While Musicmagic may have a slightly more urbane, refined feel than the fireworks unleashed by the band’s previous lineup, it’s no less fascinating or challenging. Corea’s and Clarke’s gifts for harmony and melody are placed centre stage, and the music is often so highly arranged and rhythmically intricate that at times it approaches the progressive rock territory of bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Yes.

Released in April 1977, Musicmagic holds the somewhat ignominious distinction of being the last quadraphonic popular music release ever by Columbia Records. Somewhat paradoxically though, it’s also one of the best – the product of nearly ten years’ experience by one of the market leaders in the format. Because it was released so late in the day, the quad version of Musicmagic enjoyed the briefest print run of any Columbia release, becoming a highly sought-after item in the years since. Vocalion’s new SACD aims to rectify this superb album’s status as a rarity, making the quad mix available for the first time since 1979, alongside its stereo counterpart in high resolution.
All the albums in this release feature new and extensive liner notes, and have been expertly remastered by Michael J. Dutton from the original master tapes to maintain their original tonality and dynamic range.
Vocalion Hybrid SACDs play in three ways – high-resolution multichannel (quadraphonic), high-resolution stereo and standard 44.1kHz/16bit CD stereo. The SACD layer (which contains both multichannel and stereo programmes) is playable on any SACD-capable device, while the CD layer provides stereo playback on any standard CD player.

David Zimmerman

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Vocalion SACD New Releases – June 2017

During the 1970s, several British and European artists signed to Philips found their music enjoying a second life in 4-channel quadraphonic sound as part of the company’s Japanese 4DX series. For the June 2017 release, Vocalion has sourced six superb albums from the 4DX archive and repackaged them across three individual SACDs.

First up is a pair of albums by British session trumpeter, arranger and composer Ray Davies, in which he leads his group The Button Down Brass. As one of London’s first-call session players, Ray has appeared on thousands of recordings, among them numerous pop hits including Downtown (Petula Clark), It’s Not Unusual (Tom Jones), The Last Waltz (Engelbert Humperdinck) and Big Spender (Shirley Bassey). “It would be easier to name the pop records I wasn’t on,” he says.

Comprised of Ray’s fellow session musicians, The Button Down Brass had its genesis in a session he did for Reader’s Digest during the mid-60s. “They wanted something like Herb Alpert, two trumpets and a trombone, small group sound. It was for these records they sent out in America – record clubs – and they sold hundreds of thousands of the things. They didn’t know what to call it, and the guy from Reader’s Digest came up with Button Down Brass. Everybody said it sounded nice, a bit unusual – Ray Davies and The Button Down Brass. Other people used different names for brass, and they never took off. But Button Down Brass stuck.” The Button Down Brass soon became recording artists themselves, releasing a series of easy listening albums on the Fontana label. By the early ’70s, the group had switched to Pye, under the aegis of staff producer Tony Palmer. But when Palmer went freelance, he took The Button Down Brass with him, signing them to Philips.

The albums made as part of that deal (and the subject of Vocalion’s reissue) – 1974’s Themes from The Exorcist, The French Connection, The Sting and other great films and 1975’s Flashpoint – both feature hard-hitting film and TV music from the pens of Lalo Schifrin, Patrick Williams, Quincy Jones, Joseph Koo, Elmer Bernstein and others. In Ray Davies’ exciting arrangements, classic themes like Bullitt, Enter the Dragon, Kojak and Magnum Force come up afresh, with plenty of solo space for session stalwarts Alan Hawkshaw (keyboards), Alan Parker (guitars) and Alf Bigden (drums). And the quadraphonic element makes all the difference; for example, Alan Hawkshaw’s outlandish Moog effects in Enter the Dragon sit in the back speakers while the brass section screams away in the front ones.This reissue marks both albums’ debut in SACD or indeed any digital format, and contains the original stereo and quadraphonic mixes.

Vocalion favourite Paul Mauriat makes a welcome return with a further two albums, Penelope (1972) and Holidays (1973), which presented quadraphonic remixes of 24 titles culled from his back catalogue. Originally produced for the Japanese 4DX series, this reissue makes them widely available for the first time.

Completing the June 2017 release is the Swingle Singers 1972 album The Four Seasons, an utterly charming close-harmony vocal interpretation of pieces by Vivaldi, Pachelbel, Bach, Marcello and Mozart. These arrangements by group founder Ward Swingle, with their characteristically light and jazzy touch, open out beautifully in the quadraphonic mixes, the voices’ ethereal quality enveloping the listener.

Everything has been remastered from the original stereo and quadraphonic tapes, and these SACDs additionally include high resolution stereo versions of each album.

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Dutton Epoch – May 2017


Lewis Foreman reports on Dutton Epoch revivals and musical explorations
Session photographs by the author

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Scott of the Antarctic – the complete score

Arriving in Dundee, on 31 August 2016, for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s recording of Vaughan Williams’s complete score for the film Scott of the Antarctic, one was immediately struck by the sight of Scott’s Antarctic research ship Discovery moored alongside the new museum in its name, almost opposite the station. Discovery was Terra Nova’s predecessor, the vessel of Scott’s expedition of 1901-4.

It is a revelation to hear, in sequence, every note that Vaughan Williams wrote late in 1947 for the then unmade Ealing Studios’ film of Scott of the Antarctic. There have been previous attempts to revisit some of the unheard music Vaughan Williams sketched for the film, but now conductor Martin Yates, with the support of the composer’s Estate, has transcribed from the original manuscripts all the music, which comprises some 41 beautifully rounded numbers. In providing this door to all the music Vaughan Williams conceived for the story of Scott and his companions, Yates has achieved something truly remarkable.

Vaughan Williams subsequently reworked some of this material in the Sinfonia Antartica, but to hear his first vivid reaction to the story – before the film was shot – is extraordinary, not least for the speed of its composition (he wrote an hour and twenty minutes of music in the space of just two or three weeks). This epic musical canvas stands independently beside the Sinfonia Antartica as a gripping symphonic experience in its own right.

It is worth reminding ourselves that British film music came of age during and immediately after the Second World War. The groundwork for Vaughan Williams’s achievement had been prepared by considerable activity in the 1930s, and we might, in retrospect, mark out the work of the GPO Film Unit (one of whose luminaries was the young Benjamin Britten) as well as the appearance of a number of notable films.

Possibly the most celebrated British film music before the war was Arthur Bliss’s Things to Come. Although piano arrangements of several numbers from Bliss’s score appeared as sheet music, public interest was only fully engaged by Walton’s Shakespearian scores, the many wartime documentaries with music by all the leading British composers, and such popular 1940s films as Oliver Twist (Arnold Bax), Dangerous Moonlight (Richard Addinsell), The Winslow Boy (William Alwyn), Anna Karenina (Constant Lambert) and Christopher Columbus (Arthur Bliss). British film music’s standing was reinforced by the Daily Mail British Film Festival at the Leicester Square Theatre in 1946, a well-publicised British Film Festival Concert in Prague, Louis Levy’s film music concerts and the BBC’s repeated programming of extracts from various scores.


Ernest Irving (on the podium) and Vaughan Williams at the original Scott of the Antarctic recording session

Vaughan Williams was therefore writing for a receptive public, and had started scoring films during the war. He approached Muir Mathieson in 1940, and quickly wrote the music for 49th Parallel, Coastal Command, The People’s Land and The Story of a Flemish Farm. In 1947, Ernest Irving, Music Director of Ealing Studios, asked Vaughan Williams to score the film Scott of the Antarctic. “I believe,” wrote Vaughan Williams, “that film music is capable of becoming, and to a certain extent already is, a fine art … perhaps one day a great film will be built up on the basis of music.” As already mentioned, the writing of his Scott film music was accomplished quickly. By the end of 1947, he had produced a substantial number of separate movements, some in full score – in fact, Vaughan Williams presented the music as a sequence of coherent musical miniatures. And this is all the more remarkable given the extent of the score, which had been written without having seen anything on screen; he worked only from Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s book The Worst Journey in the World, with its haunting photographs, and which in effect served as a draft script.

Vaughan Williams obtained the director’s enthusiastic backing for his approach, which was not to illustrate individual moments in close detail. He was clearly fired by the project; armed with a copy of the script, he went home and set to work. From the dating in Vaughan Williams’s letters, we find that by the time Irving was ready to send him a timed list of the cues requiring music, the score illustrating the composer’s own selection of episodes in the story had already been posted. Irving wrote to Vaughan Williams on 9 January 1948 thanking him for the scores, which he said he “devoured with avidity.” He announced that he would like to record the music at Denham Studios on 6 February, and noting that it included a vocalising soprano, asked the composer to name his preferred soloist – it would be Mabel (later better known as Margaret) Ritchie. In this new recording, Ilona Domnich perfectly catches the required vocal nuance.

Vaughan Williams’s first response to the project came before any of the film was shot. The fact that Irving recorded most of the music immediately means that he had already experienced it live and had it in his head. It also meant that Irving and his staff were able to use a patchwork of extracts of Vaughan Williams’s music as needed. The film music historian John Huntley noted that the composer didn’t seem at all phased when Irving and the production team started to cut the music to the film and found that it fitted.

In a letter to Vaughan Williams, Irving wrote, “Regarding the timings, I am afraid no amount of bullying on my part will produce measurements of film that has not yet been shot.” In fact, the strategy of recording the music so early worked in Vaughan Williams’s favour, as stock colour footage of the panoramic views of the Antarctic was used, and, in some instances it would seem, additional footage was available to accommodate the span of the music. This may possibly be the case in Snow Plain, which runs almost five minutes. Thus, it was possible to argue for the reinstatement of stock colour footage of Antarctica that had already been edited out, which in turn allowed some of the composer’s big set pieces to be used complete. Indeed, it could be argued that the music made the colour footage possible in the cinema.

Typical of the previously unheard discoveries is the lovely pastoral miniature for Oriana, Wilson’s wife. Atmospheric and delicate use of the strings is also notable in the two connected numbers for Scott’s wife Kathleen, as she models a sculpture of her husband’s head (still to be seen at London’s Waterloo Place, below lower Regent Street). Little of her music survived onto the soundtrack, however, and even then is so softly heard as to lose any impact. As a standalone piece, it comes into its own.

In his Scott film music, Vaughan Williams employed an innovative sound palette, especially in the use of percussion including tam-tam, tubular bells, glockenspiel and xylophone. The orchestral piano is also used as part of the tuned percussion, while in the original score recorded here he asked for wind machine, which in the film was replaced by real wind sounds. It was restored when the music was reworked for the Sinfonia Antartica.

In addition to vocalising soprano solo, Vaughan Williams’s score called for women’s choir. Irving was initially worried that the soprano voice might conflict with the dialogue, though in the event the disembodied, ethereal effect caused no problem. We first hear the voices in the second movement, Antarctic Prologue, which in the film appears as a brief atmospheric prologue before the beginning of the story in England is told. Voices later appear in Kathleen 1 (the sculpture scene), Scott and Oates in the Rain, The Death of Oates, and the female choir without solo in the Blizzard. Other features typical of Vaughan Williams’s use of the orchestra include the organ, which adds a pagan power to Aurora 1, the music when they are on the glacier (Climbing the Glacier, Scott on the Glacier and Descending the Glacier) and the final bleak scenes of The Discovery of the Tent and the Bodies and the End Music. Characteristic Vaughan Williams wind solos include the cor anglais in Snow Plain and the rumbustious euphonium in Base Camp.

When Martin Yates and the RSNO recorded the vocal music, the placing in the hall was very effective for those present, the orchestra on the platform and, facing down the hall towards them, the wind machine. Between them was soprano Ilona Domnich and, to her right in the gallery, the women’s choir. It was fascinating to hear live in the hall and is vividly caught in Dutton Epoch’s recorded sound.

Less than half the music that Vaughan Williams wrote was used in the film. The music has become familiar through its later use in the Sinfonia Antartica, the development of which took three years, from 1949 to 1952, and was first heard in Manchester on 14 January 1953.

The scene on Scott’s ship Terra Nova at Cardiff docks (actually filmed at Falmouth) features one atypical number – possibly not by Vaughan Williams – the Queen’s Birthday March, in popular Edwardian style, though there is no credit to another hand. The Terra Nova’s departure features Kathleen and a tearful Oriana standing in the crowd on the quayside, to the strains of Vaughan Williams’s brass harmonisation of Will Ye No Come Back Again, which includes a telling four-bar coda separated from the tune, but unheard in the film. After the ship has sailed, Scott opens a telegram that had arrived as they left, and reads Amundsen’s announcement that he is going south. Vaughan Williams provides a ten-bar cue, unused in the film.

The great strength of Vaughan Williams’s score is in its underpinning of the grandeur and immensity of nature and the ice, together with contrasted episodes featuring the penguins, the ponies and natural phenomena such as the aurora and aphelion (the return of the sun, when the earth is farthest from the sun and the sun smallest in the sky). This, the main musical sequence, with its heroic washes of arpeggiated woodwind and fortissimo brass fanfares leading to the strings’ affirmative melody, is launched by Terra Nova’s departure from Ross Island.

When Vaughan Williams’s complete score is heard in the sequence of the story, it becomes apparent that he had provided the film with a remarkable extra dimension, rather as William Walton had been instrumental in creating much of the impact of Olivier’s Henry V, five years before. But more than that, we now have a vast quasi-symphonic canvas on an almost Wagnerian scale, and in its own way is as satisfying an achievement as the Sinfonia Antartica, which it spawned three years later.

William Walton and Arthur Bliss: Violin Concertos

Dutton Epoch has recorded the Walton and Bliss Violin Concertos with violinist Lorraine McAslan, but using the original orchestration of the Walton, unheard since 1940. The idea of recording the original version of the Walton Concerto originated after comparing the two orchestrations of the Walton Viola Concerto, where the original still has its adherents. When considering the Violin Concerto, one was faced with trying to appreciate the very different orchestration of the first version in the now rather dim sound of its only (78-rpm) recording – in which the commissioning dedicatee, Jascha Heifetz, was the soloist. After the earliest performances, Walton rescored it but without altering the solo part.

So when the proposal to record the first version in modern sound was being discussed, the present writer approached Oxford University Press, was sympathetically received, and visited Oxford to view the score and the original parts. In doing so, it became clear that while the original solo violin part – as published in 1939 – had not changed, Walton had made dramatic changes to the orchestration, reinforcing the romantic nature of the work in the version by which we know it today. Permission was given to record the first version and we are delighted that it is now appearing.

The sessions took place at Watford Colosseum. Presented in the clarity of a Dutton Epoch recording, we can now fully appreciate Walton’s first thoughts, which perhaps are more a reflection of a pre-Second World War musical world. In some places, the orchestration is completely different, while in others the percussion – murky in the original wartime recording – changes; we might feel the loss of the castanets and glockenspiel in the second movement, and gong and bass drum in the third, to be regrettable. Roy Douglas, who prepared many of Walton’s scores for publication, certainly felt that he had gone too far in removing much of the percussion. Now listeners can make their own assessment, with the eloquent violin of Lorraine McAslan and the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Martin Yates to guide them.

The Walton and the Bliss Violin Concertos make a compelling programme, and the Bliss Concerto of 1954/55 remains perhaps one of the most impressive British violin concertos not in the day-to-day repertoire. Lorraine McAslan not only underlines its lyrical qualities but also she plays every note – reinstating the minor cuts that are sometimes made.

Hubert Clifford: The Cowes Suite and other works

Australian-born composer Hubert Clifford started his musical career in Melbourne, but came to England in 1930 and remained there for the rest of his career. He started by teaching music in a boys’ grammar school, moved to the BBC as wartime Empire Director of Music and composed much library music for media use, which is still heard today. He became Alexander Korda’s Music Director at London Films. Among other coups, he commissioned zither player Anton Karas for Carol Reed’s film The Third Man, and whose Harry Lime theme went round the world. Clifford later became the BBC’s Head of Light Music.

Although many of Clifford’s later scores have been recorded, a good number of the earlier ones remain unknown, many of which were written in Australia where, in the 1920s, he was a pupil of Fritz Hart. These and his film music have remained in the composer’s original manuscript. We thus started this project with a pile of fading manuscript scores, several bearing the original Melbourne first performance programmes. In association with the composer’s daughter, the present writer contacted an informal team of copyists and arrangers – Graham Parlett, David Bednall and conductor Ronald Corp ‒ who have originated performing materials thanks to the modern miracle of Sibelius software. Also included is what may be Clifford’s last work, The Cowes Suite, commissioned by the BBC and played from printed copies provided by the BBC Music Library.

Clifford was a musician of many parts and this wide-ranging exploration of his art, covering a 30-year span, allows us to hear his tuneful early orchestral works written in Melbourne, including Dargo: A Mountain Rhapsody, a glorious Moeranesque evocation of his childhood home. Two of his film scores, Left of the Line (1944) and Hunted (1952), also receive first recordings. Commissioned by the Canadian Army Film Unit, Left of the Line was written for a documentary about the Canadian forces at D-Day. Ronald Corp has edited the manuscript into a continuous narrative, the music underscoring a succession of comparatively brief episodes on the screen.

Clifford’s music for Hunted, Dirk Bogarde’s first high profile feature, takes us to the black and white world of the early 1950s, in an energetic and emotionally inflected score, the tone set by the arresting title music. In the film, the music consists of discrete numbers often separated by long passages without music. Graham Parlett has edited Clifford’s score into a vivid concert suite.

The Cowes Suite, Clifford’s light-hearted commission for the BBC’s 1958 Light Music Festival, celebrates famous yachtsman Uffa Fox, and provides colourful contrast, completing a tuneful and unfamiliar programme. The BBC Concert Orchestra, originally intended for The Cowes Suite’s first performance, have light music in their veins and throw off Clifford’s music, under the spirited direction of Ronald Corp, in their usual polished style.

Cécile Chaminade: Callirhoë: Ballet Symphonique & Concertstück for piano and orchestra

Conductor Martin Yates pointed out the remarkable qualities of the comparatively few large-scale orchestral works by French composer Cécile Chaminade, best known for her piano miniatures, some of them not quite as easy as many drawing room pianists might have wished. The search for a coupling for Chaminade’s Concertstück Op. 40 for piano and orchestra, and wondering about the four-movement ballet suite from Callirhoë, led to Martin’s discovery of her “ballet symphonique” Callirhoë Op. 37, running nearly fifty minutes. Discovering that both works were premiered in the early spring of 1888, they seemed an obvious coupling.

The complete Callirhoë is a world premiere recording. In fact, it is the first hearing of the complete ballet for very many years – can it really be over a century? – and what a delightful and varied discovery it proves to be; surely a score that needs only to be heard to find producers wanting to see it danced again.

As mentioned, Chaminade has been remembered for her piano miniatures, but pianist Victor Sangiorgio’s brilliant performance in the Concertstück reminds us of what a romantic and affecting composer Chaminade could be when given an extended musical canvas. Sangiorgio’s exhilarating fluency reinforces the image of a French romantic composer at the very peak of her art.

Maximilian Steinberg: Symphony No. 4 Turksib & Violin Concerto

On 21 and 22 June 2016, the Dutton Epoch team were in Glasgow, their first time with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in the new RSNO Centre at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. The RSNO have vacated their long-familiar home, Henry Wood Hall, in the former Trinity Church, where over the years Dutton Epoch has recorded more than 40 CD programmes. It was with the music of Maximillian Steinberg that the bright new hall greeted the Dutton Epoch team.

Steinberg was a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov – also his son-in-law – in pre-Revolutionary Russia, exhibiting all the orchestral and lyrical characteristics that one might expect from such a heritage. (Steinberg himself would later be a teacher of Shostakovich.) The composer of five symphonies, Steinberg wrote just one instrumental concerto, the unpublished Violin Concerto; his last work, it was completed in 1946, the year of his death.

In the concerto, violinist Sergey Levitin gives a spellbinding performance, seemingly oblivious of the music’s many technical demands. Indeed, Levitin encompasses the virtuosic writing with complete authority while finding its passionate and romantic manner. The concerto’s first movement, unlike the symphony, to quote Guy Rickards’ booklet notes, “is valedictory and autumnal (especially in the central span).” But the music ends with an irrepressible scherzando rounded off, like the symphony, in a sunlit C major. This is a major yet forgotten score by a significant composer of his time.

The Turksib Symphony – Steinberg’s fourth – completed in 1933, celebrates the building of the Turkestan-Siberia Railway.

Using Kazakh folk melodies and in four richly scored movements, it is quite different to the Violin Concerto. This, the acceptable face of Socialist Realism, is a gripping and outgoing score that invites repeated listens. Martin Yates delivers it all with punch and vigour, and the RSNO respond with great panache.

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Dutton Epoch Quadraphonic SACD Releases – January 2017


January 2017 sees an exciting addition to our range of SACD titles. On this occasion we have delved into the archives of CBS and RCA for five new reissues on the Dutton Epoch label, each featuring some of classical music’s most eminent artists. Recorded in the early and mid-1970s, these albums were issued originally in discrete four-channel (quadraphonic) sound. And like the SACD-quadraphonic reissues on Epoch sister-label Vocalion, these SACD reissues include both the quadraphonic and stereo recordings in high-resolution transfers alongside the stereo recording in regular 16-bit, 44.1-khz CD sound, making them fully compatible with standard CD players and SACD-specific players. Michael J. Dutton has transferred the music exquisitely from the stereo and quadraphonic analogue masters, which has ensured that full justice is done to the superb quality of the original recordings.


Guitar virtuoso Julian Bream turns to the lute for a programme of baroque music (some of it in his own orchestral transcriptions), including concertos by Vivaldi and Handel as well as the lesser-known Karl Kohaut (1726-84). The product of a family of Bohemian musicians, Kohaut was considered the finest lutenist of the day and spent much of his career in Vienna where he wrote a number of symphonies and lute works. An added extra takes the form of Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, in which Bream returns to the guitar for a sumptuous reading of this timeless work. These recordings, with sympathetic backing from the Monteverdi Orchestra under John Eliot Gardner’s direction, were made for RCA in 1974 and ’75 by Bob Auger – an early advocate of quadraphonic sound in the classical field – at London venues Rosslyn Hill Chapel and the Barking and Walthamstow town halls.


The baroque theme is revisited in two CBS albums by Israeli-born violinist Pinchas Zukerman. Recorded at the Abbey Road Studios by Robert Gooch, Roy Emerson and Mike Ross-Trevor, both are devoted to Vivaldi’s concertos. Drawn from the great master’s Opus No. 8, Concertos Nos. 1-4, better known as The Four Seasons, constitute the first album, while the second includes Concertos No. 5-8, the first two bearing the titles La tempesta di mare and Il piacere respectively. Zukerman is not only the soloist – he also conducts the English Chamber Orchestra, with harpsichordist Philip Ledger providing the continuo part.


English-born organist Edward “E” Power Biggs immigrated to the US in the early ’30s where he recorded prolifically, in the process sparking a revival of interest in organ music and its composers. Among his latter recordings is a 1973 CBS album of two concertos by Liechtensteinian composer, organist and pedagogue Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901): the F Major Concerto of 1884 and the G Minor Concerto of 1894. “His contribution to organ literature was without parallel,” Biggs observed in his liner notes. “For, in the flowering of the romantic in music, it was Rheinberger who gave renewed life to the organ concerto – a form that, in the 18th century, had enjoyed a vigorous birth through the genius of Handel, Haydn and Mozart, but that had not suited the composition techniques of 19th-century composers such as Beethoven, Schubert and Schumann.” In addition to these immaculate performances, with Biggs accompanied by The Columbia Symphony conducted by Maurice Peress, the Epoch reissue includes another fascinating artefact – a rare quadraphonic EP in which Biggs provides commentary on the history of the organ concerto aided by examples of Rheinberger’s music.


Artur Rubinstein and The Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy feature in a pair of RCA albums from the early ’70s. First up is Rachmaninov’s immortal Second Piano Concerto, recorded here in the wonderful acoustic of Philadelphia’s Scottish Rite Cathedral. In his memoirs the composer recounted the circumstances behind the Second Concerto’s creation: in 1900, up against a compositional block, he went to a Dr. Nikolai Dahl, a psychiatrist specialising in autosuggestion, and was virtually hypnotised into overcoming his hang-up, and then created in almost a single burst of energy both this concerto and the second two-piano suite. Rubinstein’s and Ormandy’s interpretative genius combine in this moving version of one of Rachmaninov’s best-loved works. The second album, which, remarkably, was recorded in just two three-hour sessions at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music, is concerned with the music of Manuel de Falla and Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns. De Falla is represented with the three-movement Nights in the Gardens of Spain (Noches en los Jardines de España), a brooding evocation of Andalusia by night that has been described as “the apotheosis of Andalusian music.” The Second Piano Concerto of Saint-Saëns, who is best known for his suite The Carnival of the Animals, was composed in 1868 to a commission from conductor-pianist Anton Rubinstein – and here it is given illustrious treatment by the Rubinstein-Ormandy team.

In addition to being one of the 20th century’s great conductors, Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977) devoted much energy to transcribing works of Johann Sebastian Bach, tailoring them to suit the very special qualities of the great Philadelphia Orchestra with which his name was synonymous. A sequence of albums for RCA in the 1970s marked Stokowski’s last recordings, and material from that period comprises the final title in this batch of Dutton Epoch SACD reissues.

1975’s Stokowski conducts Bach – The Great Transcriptions, recorded by Bob Auger at St. Giles’ Church, Cripplegate, London, includes, among others, orchestral versions of Chaconne (from Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin), Preludio (from Partita No. 3 in E major for solo violin) and Aria (Air on the G-String) (from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major). Of the album’s final piece, Komm, süsser Tod, Stokwoski said, “This poignant and soul-searching melody was composed by Bach about 1736. It is one of the melodies published by Schemelli in his book of sacred songs, Musicalisches Gesangbuch. Bach edited the songbook, providing several of his own compositions and adding figured bass to other melodies. In giving this sublime melody orchestral expression, I have tried to imagine what Bach would do had he the rich resources of the orchestra of today at his disposal.” This release is completed by Stokowski’s arrangement of Brünnhilde’s Immolation, part of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, the last of the cycle of four operas making up Der Ring des Nibelungen. Using RCA’s multi-track analogue masters from the 1974 sessions at Abbey Road Studios, Michael J. Dutton has created a superb new quadraphonic mix, and one that is a considerable improvement over the 1990s Dolby surround sound CD reissue.

Two additional SACD reissues on the Vocalion label tie-in nicely with the Epoch titles, namely a disc of symphonic works by Hungarian composer Miklós Rózsa, and a disc of music by Villa-Lobos coupled with music by Spanish composers, played by the Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra. Recorded in Rome, the Rózsa conducts Rózsa album was issued by RCA in 1965 on a stereo LP; for this reissue Michael J. Dutton has remixed it in surround sound from the original multi-track tapes. The two Kostelanetz albums, Plays Music of Villa-Lobos and Conducts Music from Spain, both from 1974, were to all intents and purposes demonstration discs, designed to show off quadraphonic sound. The first includes a suite from the operetta Magdalena, adapted by Robert R. Wright and George Forrest from Villa-Lobos’s original score, and the programme is filled out with such well-loved pieces as Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5, The Little Train of the Caipira and Prelude – Introduction (No. 1 from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4) in which Kostelanetz is the piano soloist. The second album features such staples of the Spanish repertoire as Jota (Final Dance) from De Falla’s The Three-Cornered Hat, Albéniz’s Triana from Iberia and Granados’s The Lady and the Nightingale from Goyescas – and several items feature American soprano Maralin Niska.

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“Quadraphonic sound”

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“Quadraphonic sound”

It’s one of those phrases that evokes images of some of the groovy excesses of the 70s, along with pet rocks, deep pile carpeted everything, and bell bottom jeans. The prevailing wisdom in the decades since quad’s commercial demise in the second half of the decade has been that it was a blip on the musical radar, a gimmick that rightly never caught on. The truth of the matter is not only more complex than that; it’s also more intriguing as well.

The move from mono to stereo records in the late 1950’s ushered in an unparalleled decade of growth for the music industry, and so ubiquitous was the acceptance of the new format that within a few years of its introduction the de facto name of the device you played your records on went from being “the hi-fi” to “the stereo”. It was with that success in mind that nearly a decade later the recording industry was hoping to capture that same lightning in a bottle again, by introducing 4-channel discrete “quadraphonic” sound for the consumer. While the decision to put two more speakers behind the listener may have its roots in somewhat cynical financial motives (it is the music business, after all), what producers, engineers and musicians who embraced the format quickly realised was that a four speaker setup opened up a world of new sonic possibilities. This didn’t just mean putting sounds directly behind the listener; rather that because the four speakers actually formed four stereo sound fields (front, back, left and right sides) it was now possible to place sounds anywhere in 360 degree radius around the listener. You could have a horn section beside you, or backing vocalists or a choir behind you, sit on the drummer’s throne surrounded by drums, or feel like you’re in the studio with a rock band, guitars howling behind you as the rhythm section pounds in front. This 360° sound field also for the first time afforded the possibility of putting listeners in to acoustic spaces; whether it was experiencing sound reverberating off the cavernous walls behind you in of the historic cathedrals of Europe during an organ recital, or slapback echo from a rock band hitting the walls in Columbia’s Studio B in New York, for the first time the listener could be in the performance rather than a passive observer from afar.

There had been sporadic releases of quadraphonic recordings by smaller labels as early as 1969, but the quadraphonic era was really inaugurated when RCA Records released more than 50 albums from their back catalog on quadraphonic 8-track tape in December 1970, including releases from The Guess Who, The Friends Of Distinction, Henry Mancini, Jose Feliciano, Arthur Fiedler and The Boston Pops, Eugene Ormandy and many others. The next major player to enter the quad marketplace was CBS, when in January 1972 their Columbia and Epic labels released several dozen back catalog titles remixed for quad, including albums from Janis Joplin, Santana, Johnny Cash, Johnny Mathis, Sly & The Family Stone, Ray Conniff, Percy Faith, Leonard Bernstein and others. Both CBS and RCA continued to release quad product throughout 1972, joined by a growing chorus of other labels including ABC/Dunhill, A&M, Atlantic, EMI, Decca, London, and Vanguard. By the time Elektra, Warner Bros., CTI/Kudu, and UA had released quad product in 1973 however, it was becoming clear that the industry was becoming locked in to an intractable format war when it came to LPs, the dominant delivery format of the time. The recording industry believed strongly that one of the main reasons for the success of stereo records in the 60s was that they were backwards-compatible with mono turntables, and so 10 years later they mandated the same compatibility for quadraphonic records: they had to play back in quad, stereo or mono without any detrimental effect to the sound. Making stereo records that were mono-compatible had been a relatively easy task, but fitting 4 channels where there had previously been 2 (and before that, 1) was infinitely more difficult, and there were competing philosophies on how to accomplish this task. On one side there were so-called “matrix” formats (SQ, QS, DY, and EV-4), which used a fancy version of phase shifting to mix 4 channels in to two, and then un-mix them using a decoder on playback. On the other side was the “discrete” format, CD-4, which used a modulation technique similar to the one used to bring stereo sound to FM radio, effectively stacking the rear channels on top of the front ones, and required a special turntable needle and a demodulator to ‘un-stack’ the channels for playback. With considerable sums of money on the line in both hardware and software sales, by 1973 the industry was in a Mexican standoff: Columbia, Epic, Stax, CTI, Vanguard and others released records in the SQ matrix format, ABC/Dunhill, Pye, Project 3, and Ovation released records in QS matrix, and RCA, Warner Bros, Elektra and Atlantic released their records in the CD-4 discrete format.

If this all seems confusing, it’s because it is. Even more detrimentally, it made playback of an extensive quad collection almost prohibitively expensive because none of the various formats were compatible with each other, and each one required its own decoder. If you wanted to listen to Santana, Chicago, Aerosmith, or Pink Floyd in quad you had to buy an SQ decoder, while Steely Dan, B.B. King, Joe Walsh or Keith Jarrett required a QS decoder, and if you wanted to listen to Frank Sinatra, The Doors, Henry Mancini, or Joni Mitchell you needed a CD-4 demodulator and an expensive Shibata tip stylus for your turntable. Buying a 4 channel amplifier and new speakers – a prerequisite for any quad system – was already a significant financial outlay and for many consumers the idea of having to buy several more pieces of outboard gear to deal with the various formats was a step too far. For those who did take the plunge, the results were often underwhelming; early matrix decoders produced very little front to back channel separation, and CD-4 demodulation was temperamental at the best of times, often giving the demodulated sound a gritty, sandpaper-like quality. Despite these drawbacks, quad saw exponential growth in both the number of albums released and sales of product in 1973 through 1975 with even more labels issuing their first quad releases, including Arista and many others.
But in an industry that was selling millions of copies of stereo albums at the time, quad’s status as a niche format was viewed as a failure. A perfect example of this is Santana’s ‘Abraxas’ album: it sold almost 175,000 copies in quad by 1975 (the kind of sales numbers that would have given most bands hit record status) but compared to the over 2 million copies the stereo version had sold by that point, it almost paled in to insignificance. The number of quad releases fell off a cliff in 1976, and by 1978 the industry’s grand experiment with releasing surround sound music was over, at least for a couple of decades anyway.

Ask any fan of quadraphonic sound about its decline and you’ll almost always get a series of wistful “what ifs” in response. “What if the technology was better?”, “what if the format had lasted long enough to make it on to cassette or CD?”, “what if the industry had been able to agree on a single standard? “ The reason for this isn’t mass nostalgia, as a large percentage of the people who collect quadraphonic music these days aren’t even old enough to remember the format in its first go-round. The truth is there’s a magic in these recordings, a sense of three-dimensional engagement that’s still evident even on a crackly LP played through a 40 year old decoder, or a wobbly 8-track tape that truth be told didn’t even sound that great when it first came out of the shrink-wrap. That magic is no accident either as these quadraphonic mixes were produced by many of the top producers and engineers of the 70s, and most of the leading recording studios in the United States and Europe were equipped for quadraphonic mixing. The industry may have stumbled at the final hurdle in the 70s by failing to find a viable consumer format for quadraphonic sound reproduction, but just as with the stereo versions of these albums, they took the utmost in care in creating the quadraphonic mixes. As a result we’re left with a legacy of literally thousands of surround sound mixes, an absolute treasure trove representing every genre of popular and classical music from one of the golden ages of recorded sound.

A lot has changed since the heyday of quadraphonic sound, but as the old adage goes “everything old is new again” and in the late 1990s surround sound in the home had its second coming thanks to home cinema systems and blockbuster movies. This also gave another life to surround sound music, which has seen release across a variety of digital formats over the last 15 years. Amongst these, there’s one that would have blown the minds of the label executives and engineers who were looking for the perfect backwards-compatible surround sound disc in 1970. It’s called Super Audio CD (or SACD) and it’s truly a marvel of modern engineering. SACDs are, in technical terms, a dual layer hybrid disc. What this means in practical terms is that the disc is actually two discs glued together, both facing the same way; the bottom one is a plain old stereo CD, and on top of it is a high-resolution SACD, which can contain both stereo and surround sound versions of the album. What this means is that these discs will play in almost any device: if you put one in a CD player, it will play as a stereo CD, but if you put it in an SACD-capable player it will know to look for the SACD portion and play it back instead, either in high resolution stereo, or surround. There’s no denying CDs sound good, but the high resolution sound produced by SACD is like the equivalent of HD video for your ears, and almost indistinguishable from the original master tapes. SACD has been embraced by several labels, including Vocalion, who care not only about the music they’re releasing but how good it sounds. When you buy an SACD disc, not only do you get the ultimate bargain in a disc that actually contains three versions of the album you’re purchasing (CD stereo, SACD stereo, and SACD surround) you’re also making a vote with your wallet that both sound quality and music in surround matter.

If you have a home cinema system, the good news is that you may already be equipped for SACD playback, with no decoders, demodulators or other fancy hardware gizmos needed. Sony (one of the co-creators of the SACD format) has included SACD playback in almost all of their Blu-Ray players to date, including their latest flagship model, the UHP-H1. If the Blu-Ray or DVD player you have doesn’t support SACD playback there are a number of economical options from a variety of manufacturers including Sony (most BDP series Blu-Ray players and BDV series home theatre in a box systems), Oppo (every model from their highly regarded BDP-105 and 103 down to BDP-80), and many models from Marantz, Denon, and Pioneer, amongst others. Most players will list which disc formats they support in the specifications in the back page of their manuals, and there’s an additional wealth of information available online as well.

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys listening to music you owe it to yourself to unlock the potential that exists within SACD – once you’ve heard your favourite artists in surround sound you’ll never want to hear it any other way.

David Zimmerman
Toronto, November 2016

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