On A Higher Note - Update; Great New Gear & Wonderful New & Old Music.



COVID
Earlier this year, between April & October I was scheduled to present new products at five HiFi Shows, between April & December, & was supposed to assist at sixteen Dealer Events. Clearly have not been able to showcase any new products at the moment. But our suppliers continue to innovate & produce wonderful new products. Here is what is happening, each brand on a separate post, and the music will be split between our recent finds and MORmusic (Magnum Opus Rediscovered at www.MORmusic.today).

Happy listening. Philip
 

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Modi air-bearing turntable = delivers an extraordinary flow to your music.

Introducing the “Modi” Bergmann’s latest air-bearing turntable, using trickle-down technology from the Galder turntable. The Modi enjoys the Galder’s remote pump ON/OFF flexibility.
No switches needed to activate or disengage the pump, just press the speed button once to wake up and a second time to spin the platter. The pump shuts down after two minutes of hibernation.
Modi will accommodate two tonearms, up to 12” each. One Bergmann linear tracking, air bearing tonearm can be installed, though a larger air pump would be needed.

The platter is centered by a steel spindle, running in a very frictionless, low noise and hard-wearing polymeric bearing material, and floats on a thin air cushion, which lowers the mechanical bearing noise to an absolute minimum- if any. (A traditional bearing solution, which keeps the platter centered AND support the platter weight, makes a higher level of mechanical bearing noise, as the contact point between spindle top and platter, generates a very high pressure – and hereby noise.)
By floating on an air cushion, the platter also gains the advantage of very good mechanical isolation from its surroundings.
Speed stability also benefits from the air-supported platter, giving a musical flow that is really extraordinary – not necessarily measurable but audible.
Prices start @ $9,990 inc. an Origin Live “Silver” tonearm and an external air pump & power supply.

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Soon to be released 505 Phono stage underneath the 404.


MoonRiver 404 Reference integrated Amplifier.

Following the worldwide success of the Moonriver 404 integrated amplifier, the 404 Reference version moves several steps further in improving the already excellent performance of the 404 classic model. The design, form, use, and ergonomics are similar but the major difference is in the heart of the amplifier: heavily updated power supplies.
Retail Price $4,995 shipping late November 2020.


MoonRiver 505 Phono Stage.

505 external phono stage; tube input stage, four inputs. Fully adjustable from the front panel.
Approx. $3,000 - 3,500 retail, expected in late December 2020.
 
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Graham LS5/8S - A Classic Design Revised, Smoother Than Ever.


Revised Graham LS5/8, the revision is called LS5/8S.
Benefiting from the knowledge acquired from the 2019 redesign of the LS5/5, many aspects of that technology have been re-applied to the LS5/8S.
The most visible are the slots around the 12” woofer; the results are surprisingly effective, but their operation is highly counter-intuitive.. Placing a slot in front of a loudspeaker makes the unit behave like a smaller unit. In other words, the point at which it starts to become directional is changed to a higher frequency. This makes a useful difference to the off-axis response, and so in a room, you hear a smoother frequency response through the crossover region. The slots work to control the off-axis response of the drive units which results in a smoother response through the crossover regions in typical listening environments, allowing easier placement.

The new SEAS tweeter delivers extended HF response in comparison to the Audax tweeter in the original LS5/8. Upgraded crossover components, all from the redesigned LS5/5.
Tweeter adjustment on the LS5/8S is via a switch, instead of moving soldered wires which need to be unsoldered & resoldered in the new position on the original LS5/8. So heavily damped rooms can be given a little more sparkle while overly bright rooms, with too many hard surfaces, can be tamed.
All in all some nice sonic improvements, smoother midrange with a more extended high-frequency response. Coupled with easier room placement, this should be a fun, dynamic speaker system.
Will be more expensive than the original LS5/8 but should be considerably less expensive than the LS5/5.
$$ TBD.

Happy listening. Philip

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Isabeau Corriveau - A Leap Of Faith; this beautiful lady is a harpist, flautist, composer with a gorgeous voice. Her music style is principally Irish & British folk music but tastefully updated. Her seven-piece band play interesting & fresh arrangements of well-known folk songs. We used Blackbird on Demo XXII and also play Scarborough Fair at many HiFi Shows & Dealer Events; it’s seen through the eyes of the female lover for a nice change. Isabeau is a wonderful singer, her voice beautifully equipped for folk and her harp is a welcome respite from the normal guitar.
During the CD / LP comparison we were hard-pressed to find one format noticeably sonically superior to the other. We preferred the 2xDSD upsampling on the Ethos.
Both the music & sound quality are intriguing. Well worth seeking out as it’s an album that will grow on you over time and reveal itself. I’m amazed that this album has sailed underneath the radar of so many music lovers.


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Dominique Fils-Aimé’s debut album Nameless. Musically & sonically this album is a clear 10-10.
She has a couple of terrific cover songs, Strange Fruit, made famous by Billy Holiday and Feeling Good. Otherwise, her own compositions are really strong; we played Birds (on Demo XXII) - I am at a loss for words, simply stunning.
Her lead vocals & backing singing are so interwoven: clever and a joy to
Hard to find on vinyl but well worth the trouble. This is a MUST HAVE album.

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Lori Lieberman & The Matangi String Quartet - The Girl And The Cat with the LP played on the Bergmann Galder and the CD on the Gryphon Ethos. This is such a revealing recording that you can hear Lori breathe into her microphone on both the CD & LP. The strings are glorious and both plucked & bowed strings have a rich, dense texture. In this comparison, we felt that the LP was richer, fuller with a better-developed midrange and more palpable presence.
You can read Michael Fremer’s review of this album here. Pandora’s interview here.


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Ray LaMontagne - Monovision.

Ray LaMontagne takes the simplest & probably most difficult approach to “MONOVISION,” his eighth album. Solo work in the truest sense of the term, Ray LaMontagne played all the instruments, wrote the songs, and even engineered and produced this 10-song collection.
MONOVISION revels in its own nostalgia, existing as both a time travel to the folk and Americana of the late sixties and a timeless, gentle 2020 offering that harkens to simpler days. It’s a warm, relaxed sound that is sure to find many sympathetic ears over the coming years.
Ray LaMontagne borrows influences from some of the best: Neil Young, Van Morrison & John Denver - I’m grateful that his delivery is not as saccharine as John Denver. Still it's a light & sweet dessert, wonderful for a late-night wind down. Sound quality is as superb as any album we have come to expect from Ray.
I’ve already selected “We’ll Make It Through” for inclusion in next year’s Demo XXIII.


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Mavis Staples - Live in London.

This album captures Mavis Staples live at the Union Chapel in London with her band performing some of the greatest songs from her musical catalog while celebrating her 79th birthday.
Live in London deliberately dodges a few of her signatures—“I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself,” the Staple Singers enduring crossover hits from the early ’70s are nowhere to be found. Instead she draws attention to the four records Staples made after Ry Cooder’s We’ll Never Turn Back (2007). The journey begins with the Jeff Tweedy-produced You Are Not Alone—the 2011 Grammy Winner for Best Americana Album—and the end of the road is 2017’s If All I Was Was Black. Surrounded by songs written by Tweedy, Justin Vernon, and Ben Harper, Talking Head’s“Slippery People” acts as a reminder that Mavis Staples never resisted incorporating the latest rock or pop fashions into her gospel-inflected soul. If you are looking for live versions of “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself,” look elsewhere - Live: Hope at the Hideout (2007).
Small peeve - why only three sides on vinyl ? Musically & sonically, well worth checking out.


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Anne-Sophie Mutter, John Williams - Across The Stars, 2 LP
John Williams And Anne-Sophie Mutter, 2 Geniuses For The Price Of One
(Courtesy of NPR)

“Mutter met Williams at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a few years ago, and politely begged him to write a piece for her.
"She said, 'Write 10 bars — 10 measures of music. That's all you have to do. Just a little portrait,' " the composer remembers. "The summer ended, and Christmas came, and a box of Christmas cookies arrived from Germany from Anne-Sophie. I thought, Oh my God, I have to make 10 bars of something for this lady. She's many things, but one thing she is not is a woman you can say no to. And the 10 bars became 140 bars or so, in a piece that I call 'Markings' — read 'scribblings.' "
Sometime later, over dinner, Mutter suggested doing a whole album of new arrangements of Williams' famous movie themes for solo violin and orchestra. The result is Across the Stars, on Deutsche Grammophon, which features hits including "Hedwig's Theme" from Harry Potter and "Yoda's Theme" from The Empire Strikes Back, as well as deeper cuts such as themes from Cinderella Liberty (1973) and Dracula (1979).
The classical world has always kept film music and its composers at arm's length, or treated it with outright disdain. Williams has done more than anyone else to legitimize the art form in those hallowed halls, both through the sheer quality of his writing and his ability to adapt film music to fit the classical format.”

Sound is of demonstration quality. Music utterly enchanting. What are you waiting for ? Buy it.

Happy listening. Philip[
 
MOR = Magnum Opus ReDiscovered.

Noteworthy Re-Issues.

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Jack Johnson - Brushfire Fairytales. Original release 2000.

Jack Johnson's debut album launched out of a garage 20 years ago. The album has stood the test of time selling over 2.5 million copies to date. Remastered by Bernie Grundman from the original analog tapes, this is a true AAA edition pressed at RTI on 180g vinyl delivering a sonic quality dramatically superior to the original 2000 release.

The style of Brushfire Fairytales is a direct result of Johnson's upbringing in Hawaii and his favorite pastime: enjoying the relaxed vibe & surfing. Mellow, smooth, and soulful, Johnson's vocals sway with a folksy blues and complement the loping bass.
Grundman brings new life to this album and the record delivers that "in the room" ambiance. There is a lot of spacious dynamics here due to the sparse instrumentation at play at any given moment. Flake and All Understood are rich and lush... I especially like Ben Harper’s slide guitar and Tommy Jordan’s steel drums on Flake and how they blend perfectly into the composition. On the other hand, The News and Sexy Plexi are intimate as Jack’s voice slices through the black silence. Front & center stage is Jack’s vocals, then his clean guitar, followed in the background by the drums, which are crisp. The snares are struck to perfection. The arrangements definitely subscribe to the less-is-more philosophy ... it feels like you're in the studio with Jack & friends. It's a stunning effort overall and Bernie Grundman brings you closer to those original tapes. For an album that I have loved for two decades, I never imagined that it could be sonically improved on so much.


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David Gray - White Ladder. Original release 1998



David Gray: Irelands Greatest Hit

David Gray, an impoverished Welsh electro-folk singer, made a record in his spare room that became the biggest selling album of all time in Ireland selling over 350,000 copies by 2002 Bear in mind that the Republic of Ireland had a population less than 4 million at the time. ‘White Ladder’ was originally released in Ireland, on 27 November 1998, entering the Irish chart at number 25. 61 weeks later, and for the first time, the album went to number 1 on 24 January 2000, spending six weeks at number 1, and subsequently spent much of the next four years in and around the top 10. It eventually went 23x Platinum and remains the bestselling album in the Republic of Ireland; at one stage, it was said that one in every four Irish households had a copy of the album. In a nation that produced U2, the Corrs, and Clannad, White Ladder remains the best-selling album of all time.
"It's a study of one of the biggest David vs Goliath stories of all time. A man with nothing but the support of a tiny country that leveraged that into a global success. It's full of hope, as we celebrate the legacy of a DIY spirit that is Ireland to the core.” David Gray: Irelands Greatest Hit - documentary director Donal Scannell

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White Ladder was recorded in his spare room (photo above), first released in November 1998 through Gray's own record label, IHT Records. This was David Gray’s fourth album after he was dumped by two different record labels due to the dismal sales of his first three albums. While he was with Virgin Records he was applauded for his talent, emotive voice, and songwriting skills, yet he never quite found a mainstream audience. Gray took out a second mortgage on his home, borrowed money from friends & family and self-released one thousand CDs of White Ladder. Having little money for promotion, sales in the United Kingdom when the albums were released were dismal. Gray sent some CDs over to Irish DJs in the off chance that they might play a song or two. The record became a massive word of mouth success, with Irish audiences the first to embrace the now-iconic set of songs that include This Year's Love, Please Forgive Me, Sail Away, and Babylon. Almost three years later, the album finally topped the charts in his native UK and went on to sell seven million copies worldwide.

The electronic percussion of White Ladder betrays its origins as a home-recorded folktronica album—the hollowed-out trip-hop drums of “Nightblindness” bear the requisite influence of Radiohead’s “Climbing Up the Walls,” But the electronic drum beat was fresh & innovative in 1998, especially in the context of folk music and as is always the case, twenty years later, the album has held up well. Many listeners connected with the lyrics and the rough strokes on the acoustic guitar are music to my ears and soul and the lyrics touch and at times even hurt my heart because they ring true. Lyrically, the best part is the take no crap song "say hello wave goodbye” (Soft Cell) and overall the open and honest feel of each song.

For the 20’th Anniversary since its original release in the United States, this iconic album was re-mastered and released on white vinyl and is simply wonderful.


The album has been stretched over four sides of vinyl, so the music has plenty of room to breathe. Each song is strong and superbly crafted, both in terms of arrangement and delivery. Standouts, "Babylon", "Please Forgive Me" and "This Year's Love," are touching and likely to bring a tear to the ear of the listener. But the whole album is strong and most enjoyable to listen to straight through. This album is definitely a much-needed addition to any high-quality music collection.
BTW, the original 2000 CD plays extremely well on the Gryphon Ethos (CD player, upsampled to DSD 2X) and is not inferior to the 2020 remastered LP. Enjoy.


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Peggy Lee - Ultimate, 2LP

This 2-record set is a great tribute to Miss Peggy Lee for her 100th Year. Here is a wonderful collection of some of the Midwest singer's most memorable upbeat songs, delivered on pristine vinyl. From an audiophile’s POV, the album kicks off with “Fever” (1958) and closes with her own remarkable ballad - “Is That All There Is” (1969). Lee takes credit for the arrangement of “Fever” — just bass, a little percussion, and finger snaps. The song, a heavily rewritten version of an earlier hit by rhythm & blues stylist Little Willie John, embodied the coolness and sophistication, that distinguished Lee and helped bring a new standard of restraint to pop singing.
“Black Coffee” (1953) is a signature song for Lee and it fits like a glove. It’s not blues, but Pete Candoli’s muted trumpet and sparse Lou Levy piano give it a properly forlorn bluesy quality. “A woman’s born to weep and fret. To stay at home and tend her oven. And drown her past regrets in coffee and cigarettes.” Sensuality oozes off the grooves.
Like Billie Holiday and many of the vocalists she admired, Lee discovered how to channel her troubles into art that dissolved the boundary between public expression and private pain. Describing a live performance of “Is That All There Is?,” a half-spoken art-house ballad that gave Lee her last big hit in 1969, her biographer, James Gavin pinpoints a moment in which “anger crept into her voice”:
The sound quality is crystal clear and the charming songs are a joy to listen to. The recording dates range from 1947 to 1969, including Capitol and Decca releases. As an introduction to Miss Peggy Lee (as she liked to be called), this is, indeed, the “ultimate.”
Double LP set pressed on 150-gram vinyl at Quality Record Pressings, KS.
 
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MOR = Magnum Opus ReDiscovered.

Must-Have Re-Issues
These albums will make your system sing, truly remarkable albums both musically & sonically.
Classic albums that we have all heard countless times, but never at this sound quality. The cheapest improvement to your system. Enjoy.

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Dire Straits - Dire Straits. Mobile Fidelity, 45 RPM, 2LP. Original release 1978

When first released in Ireland in 1978, Dire Straits’ debut was an immediate sensation, here was a fully formed band with an inspired lead guitarist and truly memorable songs. Catapulted by the single “Sultans of Swing”, the album went to Top Ten throughout Europe. After having lived through the U.K.’s punk period in the mid-seventies, when lo-fi recording quality was the norm, it was refreshing to discover the first Dire Straits album, original music with great sound quality. Mark Knofler has such a distinctive guitar style.

If you were a Dire Straits fan during your College days, you’ll want to upgrade to this; it is a HUGE sonic improvement over every previous release. Well developed, driving bass, that distinctive guitar, coupled with terrific, memorable songs. This is my fifth copy of the album on vinyl; this is the one to own.


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Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out, 200g 45rpm 2LP. Original release 1959.

Virtually all serious and even casual music lovers ought to be familiar with, or at least are likely to have heard The Dave Brubeck Quartet, even without realizing it for the quartet's best-known hit "Take Five" has graced the soundtracks of multiple films, including "Mighty Aphrodite," "Pleasantville" and "Constantine."

The piece is famous for its distinctive, catchy saxophone melody, as well as its use of unusual 5/4 time so distinctive, it's a rare jazz track that became a pop hit.
Time Out is a jazz and audiophile classic. Every music collection needs a copy. And now, mastered by Bernie Grundman and cut at 45 RPM on 200-gram premium vinyl, pressed at Quality Record Pressings, Analogue Productions brings you the definitive copy. The new reference.



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Joan Armatrading 180g LP. Original release 1976

I am not in love
But I'm open to persuasion
East or West
Where's the best
For romancing


When I first heard Love & Affection in 1976, I was smitten. Great vocals, smart lyrics, and wonderful delivery. I could empathise with the young woman’s exhilaration at being in love. The male backing vocal, which has been described as a "honeyed baritone", was performed by American actor and singer Clarke Peters. The alto saxophone was by Gallagher and Lyle session player Jimmy Jewell. The rest of the album was equally compelling with its mixture of acoustic folk, tinged with jazz, and the occasional rock seasoning. A remarkable confluence of gifted folk singer/songwriter meets a rock producer delivering an album fleshed out with some of England’s finest folk & rock musicians.

Joan Armatrading’s self-titled, third album has aged well, and deservedly so. Kudos to A&M for hiring Glyn Johns as engineer & producer to provide a muscular edge to this unique West Indian folkie. Glyn Johns In 1971 worked as engineer/producer on The Who's - Who's Next, the Faces’ - A Nod Is as Good as a Wink...to a Blind Horse, and the Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers.
So in 1976, Joan Armatrading surrounded herself with some choice English musicians; including Jerry Donahue of Fairport Convention who provided superb guitar on both Love and Affection and Save Me. Bryn Haworth’s played slide guitar on "Like Fire" and mandolin on "Somebody Who Loves You" which added some nice texture. Drummers Dave Mattacks (Fairport Convention) and Kenney Jones (Faces, Small faces & The Who) were employed by Glyn Johns as appropriate to the different songs.

Like the Dire Straits debut album, here was a new talent, who arrived fully formed with a unique style & delivery. (Though this was her third album; she was “new” to me. and I was gob-smacked by this muscular folk-rock album. Four decades later, her songs are fresh & moving as ever, and a real window into the heart of a young woman. "Down to Zero" captures the essence of heartbreak; "Water with the Wine" describes the joyful regret a young woman feels after having been seduced.
This is both an audiophile demo disc, with depth, realism, breathing dimensionality, and a music lover’s delight. Highest recommendation


Happy listening,
Philip
 
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Gryphon Ethos on an Artesania dedicated rack. Photo credit Joseph Cali Systems Design, Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles, CA.

Gryphon - Ethos

Hard to believe that the Compact Disc has been around since 1982 and only now are we hearing something scarily close to “the perfect sound”.
At the simplest level, the Ethos is a CD player. A CD player that can up-sample to high-resolution PCM or DSD, even allows you to turn off the upsampling altogether. But not only is the Ethos able to up-sample to DSD but it also has a selection of filters.
The DAC on the Ethos can be accessed through different digital audio formats, making the Ethos a versatile player/DAC combo.
The DAC in the Ethos is the most sophisticated that Gryphon has ever designed and its sonic performance delivers a wonderful emotional experience, hitherto unavailable from a 5” audio disc or digital music file.

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Gryphon was rightly praised for the sound quality of the Mikado CD player and while it was a stunning CD player in its own right, it was not competitive with the best analog turntables of it’s day.

Given that the sound performance of the Ethos can easily compete with today’s finest analog turntables, speaks volumes about the absolute sound quality of this beautiful piece of functional art.. It does not have the bloom that vinyl adds to the music. But if you want to be honest, then let’s compare the 2 track, ¼” tape at 15 IPS to the CD and LP. I think many of you will agree that the CD sounds more uncolored like the tape. But when all is said & done it's pretty difficult to make this comparison valid because we are usually listening to different mastering sessions.

It really is a joy to rummage through my thousands of CDs & SACDs and play them on the Ethos and in many cases, feel as if I were listening to an album for the first time. Never realized there was so much information on a regular 16-44.1 disc. Amazing. Recent listening sessions comparing the CD to the LP:
Beatles - Abbey Road (2019),
Lori Lieberman - The Girl With the Cat,
Isabeau Corriveau - A Leap Of faith,
David Gray - White Ladder
Kari Bremnes - A Lover In Berlin
Jack Johnson - Brushfire Fairytales

My only regret is that I was unable to share the musical pleasure that the Ethos is capable of at HiFi Shows & Dealer Events across the continent in 2020. Hopefully next year?
 

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Isabeau Corriveau - A Leap Of Faith; this beautiful lady is a harpist, flautist, composer with a gorgeous voice. Her music style is principally Irish & British folk music but tastefully updated. Her seven-piece band play interesting & fresh arrangements of well-known folk songs. We used Blackbird on Demo XXII and also play Scarborough Fair at many HiFi Shows & Dealer Events; it’s seen through the eyes of the female lover for a nice change. Isabeau is a wonderful singer, her voice beautifully equipped for folk and her harp is a welcome respite from the normal guitar.
During the CD / LP comparison we were hard-pressed to find one format noticeably sonically superior to the other. We preferred the 2xDSD upsampling on the Ethos.
Both the music & sound quality are intriguing. Well worth seeking out as it’s an album that will grow on you over time and reveal itself. I’m amazed that this album has sailed underneath the radar of so many music lovers.


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Dominique Fils-Aimé’s debut album Nameless. Musically & sonically this album is a clear 10-10.
She has a couple of terrific cover songs, Strange Fruit, made famous by Billy Holiday and Feeling Good. Otherwise, her own compositions are really strong; we played Birds (on Demo XXII) - I am at a loss for words, simply stunning.
Her lead vocals & backing singing are so interwoven: clever and a joy to
Hard to find on vinyl but well worth the trouble. This is a MUST HAVE album.

View attachment 70803
Lori Lieberman & The Matangi String Quartet - The Girl And The Cat with the LP played on the Bergmann Galder and the CD on the Gryphon Ethos. This is such a revealing recording that you can hear Lori breathe into her microphone on both the CD & LP. The strings are glorious and both plucked & bowed strings have a rich, dense texture. In this comparison, we felt that the LP was richer, fuller with a better-developed midrange and more palpable presence.
You can read Michael Fremer’s review of this album here. Pandora’s interview here.


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Ray LaMontagne - Monovision.

Ray LaMontagne takes the simplest & probably most difficult approach to “MONOVISION,” his eighth album. Solo work in the truest sense of the term, Ray LaMontagne played all the instruments, wrote the songs, and even engineered and produced this 10-song collection.
MONOVISION revels in its own nostalgia, existing as both a time travel to the folk and Americana of the late sixties and a timeless, gentle 2020 offering that harkens to simpler days. It’s a warm, relaxed sound that is sure to find many sympathetic ears over the coming years.
Ray LaMontagne borrows influences from some of the best: Neil Young, Van Morrison & John Denver - I’m grateful that his delivery is not as saccharine as John Denver. Still it's a light & sweet dessert, wonderful for a late-night wind down. Sound quality is as superb as any album we have come to expect from Ray.
I’ve already selected “We’ll Make It Through” for inclusion in next year’s Demo XXIII.


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Mavis Staples - Live in London.

This album captures Mavis Staples live at the Union Chapel in London with her band performing some of the greatest songs from her musical catalog while celebrating her 79th birthday.
Live in London deliberately dodges a few of her signatures—“I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself,” the Staple Singers enduring crossover hits from the early ’70s are nowhere to be found. Instead she draws attention to the four records Staples made after Ry Cooder’s We’ll Never Turn Back (2007). The journey begins with the Jeff Tweedy-produced You Are Not Alone—the 2011 Grammy Winner for Best Americana Album—and the end of the road is 2017’s If All I Was Was Black. Surrounded by songs written by Tweedy, Justin Vernon, and Ben Harper, Talking Head’s“Slippery People” acts as a reminder that Mavis Staples never resisted incorporating the latest rock or pop fashions into her gospel-inflected soul. If you are looking for live versions of “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself,” look elsewhere - Live: Hope at the Hideout (2007).
Small peeve - why only three sides on vinyl ? Musically & sonically, well worth checking out.


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Anne-Sophie Mutter, John Williams - Across The Stars, 2 LP
John Williams And Anne-Sophie Mutter, 2 Geniuses For The Price Of One
(Courtesy of NPR)

“Mutter met Williams at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a few years ago, and politely begged him to write a piece for her.
"She said, 'Write 10 bars — 10 measures of music. That's all you have to do. Just a little portrait,' " the composer remembers. "The summer ended, and Christmas came, and a box of Christmas cookies arrived from Germany from Anne-Sophie. I thought, Oh my God, I have to make 10 bars of something for this lady. She's many things, but one thing she is not is a woman you can say no to. And the 10 bars became 140 bars or so, in a piece that I call 'Markings' — read 'scribblings.' "
Sometime later, over dinner, Mutter suggested doing a whole album of new arrangements of Williams' famous movie themes for solo violin and orchestra. The result is Across the Stars, on Deutsche Grammophon, which features hits including "Hedwig's Theme" from Harry Potter and "Yoda's Theme" from The Empire Strikes Back, as well as deeper cuts such as themes from Cinderella Liberty (1973) and Dracula (1979).
The classical world has always kept film music and its composers at arm's length, or treated it with outright disdain. Williams has done more than anyone else to legitimize the art form in those hallowed halls, both through the sheer quality of his writing and his ability to adapt film music to fit the classical format.”

Sound is of demonstration quality. Music utterly enchanting. What are you waiting for ? Buy it.

Happy listening. Philip[
Great suggestions Philip, you know your music! @Ron Resnick the Williams/Mutter album is what i played for you this Thursday.
 
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Method & Madness
(a brief introduction)

Irish Distillers have many long-established brands, such as Jameson, Redbreast, Powers, Midleton Very Rare, and the Spot range, so while these are fabulous brands that can be carefully refined and allow to evolve organically, they do not allow much room for experimentation. Method and Madness is a new experimental range of Irish whiskeys (and a gin, which I am not discussing) from the masters & their apprentices at Irish Distillers distillery in Midleton, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Each of the three whiskeys has a unique twist – there's a sweet, toasty single-grain whiskey finished in virgin Spanish oak; a spicy single pot still dram finished in French chestnut; and a fruity, honeyed single malt whiskey enhanced with French Limousin oak (normally used to age Cognac). This is the new face of Irish whiskey…

The Method and Madness range of Irish whiskeys was introduced by Pernod Ricard’s Irish Distillers arm back in 2017 to Ireland. Since that time it has provided the distillery team at Midleton’s (the main Irish Distillers whiskey-making facility) new microdistillery in Ireland “the space to take chances and breakthrough traditional category norms by exploring new styles of Irish Whiskey – both in the distilling process and unique casks types.”

“Driven by inspiration from our legacy as well as our culture of innovation, our team of blenders, distillers and apprentices treat our micro distillery in Midleton as an experimental hub,” said Kevin Gorman, Master Distiller at Midleton Distillery, in a prepared statement. “This type of environment enabled us to trial and test various distillates without disrupting normal production which gave way for the creation of Method and Madness.”
The Method and Madness Single Grain Whiskey finished in Virgin Spanish Oak Casks, Single Pot Still Whiskey Finished in Chestnut Casks, and Single Malt Whiskey selectively finished in French Oak Casks are now available ( since the beginning of October) in select markets nationwide, including AZ, CA, FL, MA, MN, NV, PA, SC, TX, and WA at the respective prices of around $60, $75 and $90 per 750 ml bottle.

Method and Madness Single Grain Irish Whiskey Finished in Virgin Spanish Oak Casks
After maturing in ex-Bourbon barrels to achieve a light, perfumed flavour on the exceptional grain distillate, the whiskey has uniquely been finished for 12 months in toasted, virgin Spanish oak from Galicia, North West Spain. The process added complexity, cask character and a spicy note until the perfect balance between the subtlety of the grain spirit and the contribution of the Spanish oak was skillfully mastered. The expression is bottled without chill-filtration at 46% ABV.
Tasting notes by Master Blender, Billy Leighton:
* Nose: New pencil shavings, light rose petal and fresh rain on pine
* Taste: Warm toasted oak, fresh peeled grapefruit and zesty wood spices
* Finish: Sweet cereal, clove spiciness and fresh mint

Method and Madness
Single Malt Irish Whiskey Selectively Finished in French Oak Casks
The first Single Malt Irish Whiskey released from Midleton in recent memory, the whiskey has been initially matured in ex-Bourbon barrels, imparting flavours of malt and biscuit, and in a first for the category, has been part-finished in French Limousine oak for one year to add a lighter, floral and herbal note. The expression is bottled without chill-filtration at 46% ABV.
Tasting notes by Master Blender, Billy Leighton:
* Nose: Freshly shelled peanut and cereal malt aroma
* Taste: Cracked cinnamon stick and ice cream cone wafer
* Finish: Fragrant bonbons and a hint of toasted barley

Method and Madness Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Finished in Chestnut Casks
This Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey has been matured in a combination of ex-Oloroso sherry and ex-Bourbon barrels, before being transferred to chestnut casks sourced from the Isére region in France.
As one of the world’s firsts, the French chestnut casks impart a distinctive sweetness that lightens the mouth-feel, increases depth and adds a mahogany glow. The expression is bottled without chill-filtration at 46% ABV.
Tasting notes by Master Blender, Billy Leighton:
* Nose: Red Liquorice laces, Fresh Rosemary mint and grated root ginger
* Taste: Sweet fruit and spice, cinnamon toast and ripe banana
* Finish: Aromatic green tea, dissipating fruit and spice and rich wood farewell

I normally fly to Ireland at least once a year, so picking any whiskies not imported into the USA is normally not a problem. But with all the travel restrictions in place this year, it looked like I needed to be patient for quite a while longer.
You can imagine my delight when I read on-line that Method & Madness was being imported in small quantities into select states, including California.
I am so curious to check out how Method & Madness compare against the formidable Red Spot, Red Breast, Midleton, Power’s John Lane, etc. . I bought all three Method & Madness from Total Wine, though they were not on the shelves & no one seemed to be aware that they were in stock. Tasted the Single Grain over the weekend for the first time - it’s unlike the other Irish Distillers products, though with a delicious taste and interesting aroma. More anon.
My daughter is flying in this evening from London with a bottle of the limited edition Method & Madness Single Pot Still whiskey, finished in wild cherry wood casks.
Stay tuned.
 
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Hi Philip, many thanks for all the great album suggestions. What part of Ireland are you from? I am based near Galway.
Dia Dhuit,
I left Cork City in 1978 and have lived all around the world since then. Still have family & friends in Cork, so lots of reasons to return regularly.
I am supposed to visit Srajan Ebaen (6 Moons) near Westport, Co Mayo earlier this year for a speaker review, but have had to delay the trip due to COVID. Would also like to visit Eleanor McEvoy in Dublin.
Any good new Irish music that you recommend that I check out ?
Slan go foill,
Pilib
 
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Method & Madness
(a brief introduction)

Irish Distillers have many long-established brands, such as Jameson, Redbreast, Powers, Midleton Very Rare, and the Spot range, so while these are fabulous brands that can be carefully refined and allow to evolve organically, they do not allow much room for experimentation. Method and Madness is a new experimental range of Irish whiskeys (and a gin, which I am not discussing) from the masters & their apprentices at Irish Distillers distillery in Midleton, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Each of the three whiskeys has a unique twist – there's a sweet, toasty single-grain whiskey finished in virgin Spanish oak; a spicy single pot still dram finished in French chestnut; and a fruity, honeyed single malt whiskey enhanced with French Limousin oak (normally used to age Cognac). This is the new face of Irish whiskey…

The Method and Madness range of Irish whiskeys was introduced by Pernod Ricard’s Irish Distillers arm back in 2017 to Ireland. Since that time it has provided the distillery team at Midleton’s (the main Irish Distillers whiskey-making facility) new microdistillery in Ireland “the space to take chances and breakthrough traditional category norms by exploring new styles of Irish Whiskey – both in the distilling process and unique casks types.”

“Driven by inspiration from our legacy as well as our culture of innovation, our team of blenders, distillers and apprentices treat our micro distillery in Midleton as an experimental hub,” said Kevin Gorman, Master Distiller at Midleton Distillery, in a prepared statement. “This type of environment enabled us to trial and test various distillates without disrupting normal production which gave way for the creation of Method and Madness.”
The Method and Madness Single Grain Whiskey finished in Virgin Spanish Oak Casks, Single Pot Still Whiskey Finished in Chestnut Casks, and Single Malt Whiskey selectively finished in French Oak Casks are now available ( since the beginning of October) in select markets nationwide, including AZ, CA, FL, MA, MN, NV, PA, SC, TX, and WA at the respective prices of around $60, $75 and $90 per 750 ml bottle.

Method and Madness Single Grain Irish Whiskey Finished in Virgin Spanish Oak Casks
After maturing in ex-Bourbon barrels to achieve a light, perfumed flavour on the exceptional grain distillate, the whiskey has uniquely been finished for 12 months in toasted, virgin Spanish oak from Galicia, North West Spain. The process added complexity, cask character and a spicy note until the perfect balance between the subtlety of the grain spirit and the contribution of the Spanish oak was skillfully mastered. The expression is bottled without chill-filtration at 46% ABV.
Tasting notes by Master Blender, Billy Leighton:
* Nose: New pencil shavings, light rose petal and fresh rain on pine
* Taste: Warm toasted oak, fresh peeled grapefruit and zesty wood spices
* Finish: Sweet cereal, clove spiciness and fresh mint

Method and Madness Single Malt Irish Whiskey Selectively Finished in French Oak Casks
The first Single Malt Irish Whiskey released from Midleton in recent memory, the whiskey has been initially matured in ex-Bourbon barrels, imparting flavours of malt and biscuit, and in a first for the category, has been part-finished in French Limousine oak for one year to add a lighter, floral and herbal note. The expression is bottled without chill-filtration at 46% ABV.
Tasting notes by Master Blender, Billy Leighton:
* Nose: Freshly shelled peanut and cereal malt aroma
* Taste: Cracked cinnamon stick and ice cream cone wafer
* Finish: Fragrant bonbons and a hint of toasted barley

Method and Madness Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Finished in Chestnut Casks
This Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey has been matured in a combination of ex-Oloroso sherry and ex-Bourbon barrels, before being transferred to chestnut casks sourced from the Isére region in France.
As one of the world’s firsts, the French chestnut casks impart a distinctive sweetness that lightens the mouth-feel, increases depth and adds a mahogany glow. The expression is bottled without chill-filtration at 46% ABV.
Tasting notes by Master Blender, Billy Leighton:
* Nose: Red Liquorice laces, Fresh Rosemary mint and grated root ginger
* Taste: Sweet fruit and spice, cinnamon toast and ripe banana
* Finish: Aromatic green tea, dissipating fruit and spice and rich wood farewell

I normally fly to Ireland at least once a year, so picking any whiskies not imported into the USA is normally not a problem. But with all the travel restrictions in place this year, it looked like I needed to be patient for quite a while longer.
You can imagine my delight when I read on-line that Method & Madness was being imported in small quantities into select states, including California.
I am so curious to check out how Method & Madness compare against the formidable Red Spot, Red Breast, Midleton, Power’s John Lane, etc. . I bought all three Method & Madness from Total Wine, though they were not on the shelves & no one seemed to be aware that they were in stock. Tasted the Single Grain over the weekend for the first time - it’s unlike the other Irish Distillers products, though with a delicious taste and interesting aroma. More anon.
My daughter is flying in this evening from London with a bottle of the limited edition Method & Madness Single Pot Still whiskey, finished in wild cherry wood casks.
Stay tuned.
We opened the Method & MadnessSingle Malt” last night, prefer it to the Single Grain by a wide margin.
Borh taste different to each other but the Single Malt has a much longer finish.

The taste is more complex; initially on the pallet, its like an explosion in your mouth; different taste buds being massaged & caressed. Definitely a symphony of flavours. Very little caramel that you get with Red Breast.

Be interesting to compare them side by side.
 
Nov 3, 2020
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MOR = Magnum Opus ReDiscovered.

Noteworthy Re-Issues.


View attachment 70806

Jack Johnson - Brushfire Fairytales. Original release 2000.

Jack Johnson's debut album launched out of a garage 20 years ago. The album has stood the test of time selling over 2.5 million copies to date. Remastered by Bernie Grundman from the original analog tapes, this is a true AAA edition pressed at RTI on 180g vinyl delivering a sonic quality dramatically superior to the original 2000 release.

The style of Brushfire Fairytales is a direct result of Johnson's upbringing in Hawaii and his favorite pastime: enjoying the relaxed vibe & surfing. Mellow, smooth, and soulful, Johnson's vocals sway with a folksy blues and complement the loping bass.
Grundman brings new life to this album and the record delivers that "in the room" ambiance. There is a lot of spacious dynamics here due to the sparse instrumentation at play at any given moment. Flake and All Understood are rich and lush... I especially like Ben Harper’s slide guitar and Tommy Jordan’s steel drums on Flake and how they blend perfectly into the composition. On the other hand, The News and Sexy Plexi are intimate as Jack’s voice slices through the black silence. Front & center stage is Jack’s vocals, then his clean guitar, followed in the background by the drums, which are crisp. The snares are struck to perfection. The arrangements definitely subscribe to the less-is-more philosophy ... it feels like you're in the studio with Jack & friends. It's a stunning effort overall and Bernie Grundman brings you closer to those original tapes. For an album that I have loved for two decades, I never imagined that it could be sonically improved on so much.


View attachment 70811
David Gray - White Ladder. Original release 1998



David Gray: Irelands Greatest Hit

David Gray, an impoverished Welsh electro-folk singer, made a record in his spare room that became the biggest selling album of all time in Ireland selling over 350,000 copies by 2002 Bear in mind that the Republic of Ireland had a population less than 4 million at the time. ‘White Ladder’ was originally released in Ireland, on 27 November 1998, entering the Irish chart at number 25. 61 weeks later, and for the first time, the album went to number 1 on 24 January 2000, spending six weeks at number 1, and subsequently spent much of the next four years in and around the top 10. It eventually went 23x Platinum and remains the bestselling album in the Republic of Ireland; at one stage, it was said that one in every four Irish households had a copy of the album. In a nation that produced U2, the Corrs, and Clannad, White Ladder remains the best-selling album of all time.
"It's a study of one of the biggest David vs Goliath stories of all time. A man with nothing but the support of a tiny country that leveraged that into a global success. It's full of hope, as we celebrate the legacy of a DIY spirit that is Ireland to the core.” David Gray: Irelands Greatest Hit - documentary director Donal Scannell

View attachment 70822
White Ladder was recorded in his spare room (photo above), first released in November 1998 through Gray's own record label, IHT Records. This was David Gray’s fourth album after he was dumped by two different record labels due to the dismal sales of his first three albums. While he was with Virgin Records he was applauded for his talent, emotive voice, and songwriting skills, yet he never quite found a mainstream audience. Gray took out a second mortgage on his home, borrowed money from friends & family and self-released one thousand CDs of White Ladder. Having little money for promotion, sales in the United Kingdom when the albums were released were dismal. Gray sent some CDs over to Irish DJs in the off chance that they might play a song or two. The record became a massive word of mouth success, with Irish audiences the first to embrace the now-iconic set of songs that include This Year's Love, Please Forgive Me, Sail Away, and Babylon. Almost three years later, the album finally topped the charts in his native UK and went on to sell seven million copies worldwide.

The electronic percussion of White Ladder betrays its origins as a home-recorded folktronica album—the hollowed-out trip-hop drums of “Nightblindness” bear the requisite influence of Radiohead’s “Climbing Up the Walls,” But the electronic drum beat was fresh & innovative in 1998, especially in the context of folk music and as is always the case, twenty years later, the album has held up well. Many listeners connected with the lyrics and the rough strokes on the acoustic guitar are music to my ears and soul and the lyrics touch and at times even hurt my heart because they ring true. Lyrically, the best part is the take no crap song "say hello wave goodbye” (Soft Cell) and overall the open and honest feel of each song.

For the 20’th Anniversary since its original release in the United States, this iconic album was re-mastered and released on white vinyl and is simply wonderful.


The album has been stretched over four sides of vinyl, so the music has plenty of room to breathe. Each song is strong and superbly crafted, both in terms of arrangement and delivery. Standouts, "Babylon", "Please Forgive Me" and "This Year's Love," are touching and likely to bring a tear to the ear of the listener. But the whole album is strong and most enjoyable to listen to straight through. This album is definitely a much-needed addition to any high-quality music collection.
BTW, the original 2000 CD plays extremely well on the Gryphon Ethos (CD player, upsampled to DSD 2X) and is not inferior to the 2020 remastered LP. Enjoy.


View attachment 70810
Peggy Lee - Ultimate, 2LP

This 2-record set is a great tribute to Miss Peggy Lee for her 100th Year. Here is a wonderful collection of some of the Midwest singer's most memorable upbeat songs, delivered on pristine vinyl. From an audiophile’s POV, the album kicks off with “Fever” (1958) and closes with her own remarkable ballad - “Is That All There Is” (1969). Lee takes credit for the arrangement of “Fever” — just bass, a little percussion, and finger snaps. The song, a heavily rewritten version of an earlier hit by rhythm & blues stylist Little Willie John, embodied the coolness and sophistication, that distinguished Lee and helped bring a new standard of restraint to pop singing.
“Black Coffee” (1953) is a signature song for Lee and it fits like a glove. It’s not blues, but Pete Candoli’s muted trumpet and sparse Lou Levy piano give it a properly forlorn bluesy quality. “A woman’s born to weep and fret. To stay at home and tend her oven. And drown her past regrets in coffee and cigarettes.” Sensuality oozes off the grooves.
Like Billie Holiday and many of the vocalists she admired, Lee discovered how to channel her troubles into art that dissolved the boundary between public expression and private pain. Describing a live performance of “Is That All There Is?,” a half-spoken art-house ballad that gave Lee her last big hit in 1969, her biographer, James Gavin pinpoints a moment in which “anger crept into her voice”:
The sound quality is crystal clear and the charming songs are a joy to listen to. The recording dates range from 1947 to 1969, including Capitol and Decca releases. As an introduction to Miss Peggy Lee (as she liked to be called), this is, indeed, the “ultimate.”
Double LP set pressed on 150-gram vinyl at Quality Record Pressings, KS.
Thanks for all your contributions Mr. O'Hanlon enjoy reading your threads !
 

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LL21

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ashandger

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Dia Dhuit,
I left Cork City in 1978 and have lived all around the world since then. Still have family & friends in Cork, so lots of reasons to return regularly.
I am supposed to visit Srajan Ebaen (6 Moons) near Westport, Co Mayo earlier this year for a speaker review, but have had to delay the trip due to COVID. Would also like to visit Eleanor McEvoy in Dublin.
Any good new Irish music that you recommend that I check out ?
Slan go foill,
Pilib

Dia is Mhuire Duit a Chara,
Very nice to connect with a fellow Irishman in the audio world.
Cork is great and my wife and I visit there regularly as well as my brother and his family are based there.
Have had lots of great music nights there at the jazz festival and other wonderful concerts including Robert Plant last year at the Everyman.
Did not know Srajan was based near Westport....will have to try and connect with him.
Eleanor is hugely liked by the english audio press and her albums often used in reviews.

As for good new Irish music, I am afraid I haven't come across anything in the last few years but absolutely still enjoying old favs including Paul Brady (Hard Station/True For You etc), Van, Moving Hearts (hope you have Storm?), Luka Bloom (who played a great gig in our village just before lockdown), Freddie White, Davy Spillane and the one and only Rory. Tidal have lots of Rory albums in case you were missing some. His Cork and Belfast concerts are just amazing. The live in Cork and Irish tour 74 DVDs are also great. You may also enjoy Black Velvet Band's first album titled " When Justice Came" (with the amazing Maria Doyle).

As you are a Dire Straits fan, you may also enjoy Mark Knopfler's Live in London DVD (recorded at the BBC) from his first solo tour that features 4 Irish musicians including Donal Lunny and Liam O'Flynn. The VHS version includes an incredible version of Sultans....sadly not on the DVD.

Let me know if you are ever passing through Galway as would be nice to meet for coffee/lunch?

slan a fhagail anois,
Ash
 
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LL21

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Philip,

The Transatlantic Sessions are beautifully recorded collaborations on-stage with North American and Celtic musicians.

Transatlantic Sessions 5.jpg
 
Dia is Mhuire Duit a Chara,
Very nice to connect with a fellow Irishman in the audio world.
Cork is great and my wife and I visit there regularly as well as my brother and his family are based there.
Have had lots of great music nights there at the jazz festival and other wonderful concerts including Robert Plant last year at the Everyman.
Did not know Srajan was based near Westport....will have to try and connect with him.
Eleanor is hugely liked by the english audio press and her albums often used in reviews.

As for good new Irish music, I am afraid I haven't come across anything in the last few years but absolutely still enjoying old favs including Paul Brady (Hard Station/True For You etc), Van, Moving Hearts (hope you have Storm?), Luka Bloom (who played a great gig in our village just before lockdown), Freddie White, Davy Spillane and the one and only Rory. Tidal have lots of Rory albums in case you were missing some. His Cork and Belfast concerts are just amazing. The live in Cork and Irish tour 74 DVDs are also great. You may also enjoy Black Velvet Band's first album titled " When Justice Came" (with the amazing Maria Doyle).

As you are a Dire Straits fan, you may also enjoy Mark Knopfler's Live in London DVD (recorded at the BBC) from his first solo tour that features 4 Irish musicians including Donal Lunny and Liam O'Flynn. The VHS version includes an incredible version of Sultans....sadly not on the DVD.

Let me know if you are ever passing through Galway as would be nice to meet for coffee/lunch?

slan a fhagail anois,
Ash

Thanks for the music recommendations Ash,

I do need to swing by your side of the world; I need to set up a pair of Graham speakers for review with Srajan. Galway is a blast; for those forum members who appreciate beautiful rugged scenery, then Connemara is worth a visit. During the summer, might I recommend the open crab salad. Always game for some craic; hopefully we can meet in Galway sometime next year.

I used to meet Rory regularly 40 odd years ago at a sweetshop on Douglas Road, Cork, whenever he was visiting his mother; we chatted about music; no surprise. Saw him play many times - wonderful.

Missing Liberty Tapes.jpg
Paul Brady - The Missing Liberty Tapes - such a delight to hear a young Paul Brady accompanied by some of the finest irish folk musicians: Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny & Matt Molloy. This is a live recording made shortly after Paul Brady released his first solo album: "Welcome Home Kind Stranger" (1978).
If Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore doesn't melt your heart, you might need to visit a G.P. as there might be some doubt as to whether you are still amongst the land of the living. The mandolin playing is sublime, Paul Brady's voice is a little nasal but young & brimming with ernest sadness. The Lakes Of Ponchatrain is another stand-out song, one that overwhelms me with auch emotion.
Available on CD. Streaming on Qobuz or Tidal

Planxty - Live 2004.jpg
Planxty - Live 2004; a live album featuring many of Planxty's most popular songs. Planxty was the seminal early traditional music band that helped start the renaissance in traditional Irish music in the early seventies in Ireland. BTW, after Christy Moore left Planxty in 1974, he was replaced by Paul Brady. Planxty disbanded in 1975. Check out Christy Moore's version of The Lakes Of Ponchatrain, also superb. Available on CD.

Happy listening,
Philip

P.S. I ordered this morning Paul Brady's "The Vicar St Sessions Volume 1" on LP from the Paul Brady website.
 

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