THE S&V INTERVIEW

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Mike Mettler Posted: May 28, 2014 1 comments
“We were united for the best sound we could get, and that was it. That was what we were chasing.” Is Linda Ronstadt revealing her high-end hopes for Hasten Down the Wind? Actually, that’s her assessment of the main goal she had for the 15 songs on her new compilation, Duets (Rhino). The ace song interpreter simply soars on songs like the tender but tough “I Never Will Marry” with Dolly Parton, the special intuitive blend she gets with James Taylor on “I Think It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,” and the complementary vocal halo she sets for Frank Sinatra on “Moonlight in Vermont.” Ronstadt has since retired from singing (in 2013, she revealed she has Parkinson’s disease), but that hasn’t stopped her from appreciating the sound of a good mix or a stellar vocal — or gently trilling a few lines of her favorite songs while we talk. Here, Ronstadt, 67, and I discuss her hi-fi proclivities, when not to use echo, how the right vocal texture tells the right tale every time, and how she learned about spotting hollow fifths.
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Mike Mettler Posted: May 15, 2014 Published: May 14, 2014 2 comments
Photo by Ross Halfin

"The best way to listen to Led Zeppelin is off of the analog tapes, but unfortunately, I can’t invite you around to listen to them." That's Jimmy Page, answering my question about whether vinyl was still the best way to experience the mighty Zeppelin's music at the press conference that followed the Led Zeppelin Deluxe Editions Listening Event Page hosted at the Crosby Street Hotel Screening Room in New York on May 13. Page also confirmed that he's done "really, really high-resolution files for whatever system comes next" and that 96kHz/24-bit files will be accessible via download cards in each of the Deluxe Edition box sets of the first three Led Zeppelin studio albums being released by Atlantic/Swan Song on June 3. Event moderator Robin Hurley further confirmed that all of the Zeppelin studio tracks from those three album packages coming to HDtracks.com will be 96/24. (Live tracks will be at 48/24.)

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Mike Mettler Posted: Apr 30, 2014 0 comments
“Yes likes challenges.” So says Yes guitarist Steve Howe (far left in the above photo), and the proof is in the output. The band has been out on the boards in the U.S. and Canada playing a set comprised of three full albums: The Yes Album, Close to the Edge, and Going for the One. On their upcoming summer tour in July and August, they’ll be doing two full albums: the first-ever full run-through of Fragile and Close to the Edge, in addition to an encore centered on the band’s greatest hits. Plus, an album with new lead singer Jon Davison, Heaven and Earth, is slated for a July release. And, of course, there are the sonically brilliant 5.1 mixes of Close to the Edge and The Yes Album on Blu-ray as masterminded by Steven Wilson—and more are on the way, with the band’s blessing. Howe, 67, and I talked about those 5.1 mixes, what we’ll hear on the new album, and what constitutes a musical legacy.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Apr 17, 2014 Published: Apr 15, 2014 0 comments
The bottom end has never been quite the same since Jack Bruce picked up his first bass over 6 decades ago. The vaunted Cream bassist wrote the book on the art of the low-end hook, as his syncopated approach to playing bass helped shift pop music’s bottom-end emphasis away from just laying down root notes and fifths, in turn opening the door to a more adventurous yet melodically inclined style that laid the foundation for the rock explosion of the ’60s. Turns in both Manfred Mann and John Mayall’s bands set the table for Bruce to connect with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker and forge Cream, wherein the super Scotsman set the heavy-blues power-trio standard with epic runs and full-band interplay in songs like “I Feel Free,” “Spoonful,” “Politician,” and “Sunshine of Your Love.”
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Mike Mettler Posted: Apr 02, 2014 0 comments
Photo by David McClister

“I’m basically what is known as a talented illusionist.” So says piano wizard Leon Russell, but the Oklahoma native is being more than somewhat modest. His C.V. is as impressive as they come: First-call member of the legendary ’60s L.A. studio collective known as The Wrecking Crew, co-founder of Shelter Records in 1969 with Denny Cordell, spearhead of Joe Cocker’s infamous 1970 Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, and beneficiary of a revived recording career by teaming up with Elton John on 2010′s T Bone Burnett-produced The Union. On his just-released Life Journey (UMe), Russell comes full circle to show his mastery of the form on tasty covers like his piano-vamp stab at Robert Johnson’s “Come on in My Kitchen,” a slip-slidin’ romp through “Fever,” and a swing-sational full-orchestral take on Duke Ellington’s “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good.” Here, Russell, 72, and I discuss his ever-unique recording technique, what it’s like being “out on the edge,” and his time in the studio with Frank Sinatra. Face it, Brother Leon: You’re a one-man Wrecking Crew unto yourself.

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Mike Mettler Posted: Mar 26, 2014 Published: Mar 25, 2014 2 comments
“I don’t want to stop anyone from getting the CD, but vinyl is the truest way to hear this record,” says Benmont Tench about his new solo album, You Should Be So Lucky (Blue Note). “When you have Glyn Johns [The Rolling Stones, Eagles, The Who] recording something to tape, you really want to hear it on vinyl.”
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Mike Mettler Posted: Mar 12, 2014 0 comments
“I didn’t have the courage to go back to any of the masters and try to recreate those beautiful, real echoes,” says Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues about the surround-sound mixes he supervised for six of The Moodies’ “Classic Seven” albums: Days of Future Passed, On the Threshold of a Dream, To Our Children’s Children’s Children, A Question of Balance, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, and Seventh Sojourn. (In case you were wondering, there weren’t any multitrack masters available for In Search of the Lost Chord.) All six of those 5.1 mixes — done by Paschal Byrne and Mark Powell and built on the original quad mixes supervised by producer Tony Clarke and constructed by engineer Derek Varnals — appear in Timeless Flight (Threshold/UMC), the band’s mighty, 50-year-career-spanning 17-disc box set. Yes, there is a more economical 4-disc version available, but the mondo box is the only way to fly in 5.1 — if you can find one, that is. “I think Universal needs to press a few more copies,” chuckles Hayward.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Feb 26, 2014 4 comments
Over in Reference Tracks, Steven Wilson, the one true king of transformative surround-sound mixing (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, XTC), and I discuss the building blocks of how he transformed Yes’ groundbreaking 1972 LP, Close to the Edge, into a benchmark 192/24 5.1 mix. It’s as pure and true as you’ll ever hear it on Panegyric’s Definitive Edition Blu-ray/CD combo package. “It’s a bona-fide A-level masterpiece,” Wilson says of CTTE. (The Preacher, The Teacher hath spoken!) Further good news: The venerable surround master has also confirmed more 5.1 Yes album mixes are on the way. All I can say about them at this point is at least one of them was originally released before CTTE, and at least one was released after it.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Feb 12, 2014 0 comments
“We would have done surround sound at the time if it had been available.” Original Moody Blues keyboardist Mike Pinder is discussing the always-enveloping signature orchestral sound of the band he was a part of for its first 15 years. Much of the Moodies’ core "Classic Seven" catalog has since seen a series of 5.1 releases in the interim, and Pinder’s innovative usage of the mellotron helped take many of those mixes (“Higher and Higher,” “Watching and Waiting,” “Legend of a Mind”) to the threshold of aural perfection.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Jan 29, 2014 8 comments
“I want to hear what the band heard during playback in the studio. And I want to respect the sound that the engineers and producers tried so hard to capture.” It’s a mantra engineer Steve Hoffman follows whenever he remasters classic, iconic albums, and perhaps those words should be etched between the monitors perched above the mixing consoles in every mastering studio across the globe. One recent labor of reissued love is near and dear to Hoffman's audiophile heart – namely, The Audio Fidelity Collection limited-edition box set that houses four classic Deep Purple albums he remastered: In Rock (1970), Fireball (1971), Machine Head (1972), and Who Do We Think We Are (1973).
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Mike Mettler Posted: Jan 15, 2014 1 comments
“Music is astounding, isn’t it?” Graham Nash is genuinely enamored with the wonders of sound. There’s always a special twinkle in his eye whenever we get together to talk about the indelible music he’s made since the early 1960s, the new music he’s planning to make next, and how he plans to have it all, both new and old, sound even better. Nash, 71, and I met at the Broadway HQ of Random House publishing arm Crown Archetype in New York City to dive deep into his quite revelatory autobiography, Wild Tales. In addition to discussing all of the shadows, shades, and sweet sonic details to be found within Tales, we also delved into why he’s been working “under the headphones” on a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young project that may very well become the first official hi-res Pono release. Carry on...
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Mike Mettler Posted: Dec 18, 2013 0 comments
“That’s the cartridge you want — the one that’ll get you kicked out of the house!” And that’s Derek Trucks, empathizing over the price of high-end audiophile gear, both in terms of how it affects your wallet and your personal life. “I’ve had that conversation too,” he adds with a chuckle. The good-natured Trucks — seen at the center of the above photo, with his arms folded — drenched his sweet-toned slide-guitar stamp all over one of 2013’s best albums, the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Made Up Mind (Masterworks; you can read my 4 1/2-star review of it in the Discs & Downloads section.) Here, Trucks, 34, and I commune over his favorite gear and LPs, how good Mind sounds on vinyl, and its thematic album-closing parallel. (Hint: “Darling, won’t you ease my worried mind” is a line from said album's title track.)

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Mike Mettler Posted: Dec 04, 2013 0 comments
“Pretty much everything that goes into the music is as analog as I can make it,” says Tom Scholz, chief sonic architect of the longtime rock powerhouse known as Boston. It’s taken him 10 years to deliver the band’s sixth studio album, Life, Love & Hope (Frontiers) — “But who’s counting?” he chuckles — and discerning audiophiles know it’s well worth the wait. Signature stacked harmonies, lovingly layered guitars, emotionally uplifting vocals, sheaves of killer riffs — what’s not to like? (And, yes, Virginia, there will be vinyl.) “All I can say is the tone, the sound, and the way it’s all put together is the way I like it,” Scholz admits. “And I’m just lucky there are other people who like the same things I do.”
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Mike Mettler Posted: Nov 13, 2013 1 comments
“You always think your voice will never end, of course,” observes Jon Anderson, the unmistakable alto tenor fronting indelible Yes classics like “Roundabout,” “And You And I,” “Going for the One,” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” to name but a scant few of their progressive gems. About 5 years ago, Anderson’s golden voice was threatened with a health scare, but after a necessary recovery period, his singing voice is back, and stronger than ever.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Oct 23, 2013 0 comments
How low can you go? If you’re Tony Levin, vaunted bassist and Chapman Stick pluckmaster known for adventurous, innovative low-end work with heavy hitters like Peter Gabriel and King Crimson, it’s also a question of how far. Even with such a storied pedigree, Levin, 67, has always been one to constantly seek new challenges, and he’s met that creative hunger head on with his current collaboration, Levin Minnemann Rudess, a progressive trio that also consists of drummer Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson, UKZ) and keyboardist extraordinaire Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment).

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