To borrow a song title, things can only get better for Howard Jones. Known for such indelible synth-driven ’80s hits like “What Is Love?,” “No One Is to Blame,” “New Song,” and “Everlasting Love,” Jones has focused his efforts in recent years on his inherent talents as a songwriter and arranger, not to mention his knack for creating multimedia-driven live experiences. All of his musical gifts are on fine display with Engage (dtox music and arts), a two-disc CD/DVD set that features a vibrant 5.1 mix on DVD by Robbie Bronnimann, Jones’ longtime sound designer. Jones, 60, and I connected across the Pond to discuss the Engage project, the possibility of future high-resolution remixes of his storied catalog, and his thoughts on vintage analog gear. Jones is one man who knows how to put his dream into action.
There are blues legends and there are blues masters, and then there’s John Mayall. Long acknowledged as the father of the British blues scene that emerged in the heyday of the ’60s and the man who helped school the guitarslinging likes of Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Coco Montoya, and Buddy Whittington, the 80-year-old Mayall shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. “You have no other choice, really,” he says matter-of-factly. “You set your feet on your path, and that’s what you stick with. It’s the only thing that you know to do.” His latest album, A Special Life (Forty Below), carries on the rich blues tradition, thanks in no small part to Mayall’s rapport with his band, led by a Texas-born guitar ace (Rocky Athas) and anchored by a Chicago-bred rhythm section (bassist Greg Rzab and drummer Jay Davenport). “Never plan to fade away,” Mayall sings in the title track. Dear John: We’re going to hold you to that.
Pressure: It can get to anyone. Just ask the four members of the Followill clan, a.k.a. Nashville’s first family of deep-roots rock, Kings of Leon. The three brothers (Caleb, Jared, and Nathan) and one cousin (Matthew) comprising KoL were anointed rock saviors when they burst onto the scene with the guitar-driven Southern-fried primal-blues mash of 2003’s Youth & Young Manhood. And their arena-rocking prowess was cemented with the one-two punch of the yearning “Sex on Fire” and the anthemic “Use Somebody” on 2008’s best-selling Only by the Night.
“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 is still the benchmark for experiencing Led Zeppelin music at a press conference following a listening event he hosted in New York City back in May. But now that Page has personally remastered all nine of Zep’s formidable studio albums in 96-kHz/24-bit, high-resolution digital audio appears to be the ideal format for hearing every detail and nuance put forth from the collective hammer of the gods.
And as we wind on down the road, we have now officially arrived at the home stretch of Led Zeppelin mastermind Jimmy Page’s master plan of reissuing all nine of the mighty Zep’s studio offerings in Super Deluxe Edition box set form. Not only has the studio wizard’s magic remastering wand gifted us with a plethora of bonus tracks—mainly consisting of fascinating works-in-progress outtakes and alternate mixes, as opposed to troves of unreleased songs—but Page has been adamant about going the full-on 96-kHz/24-bit route in order to “future-proof” the catalog for whatever audiophiliac upgrades are yet to come. (Knowing how audio formats tend to go, however, that song may not remain the same as time marches onward.)
“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.
The term supergroup gets a bad rap—but with good reason. Often, it’s applied to a collective of hot-shot all-star musicians who look pretty good together on paper, but the resulting music usually proves the individual parts are actually greater than the sum. Discerning listeners tend to cast a wary eye, er, ear toward such lineup mashups—unless the pedigree is an impeccably progressive one intent on exploring the cosmos of composition to achieve a common sonic goal.
"From the bottom of our hearts, thank you everyone. I can't wait to answer the 'Is rock and roll dead' question now..." So tweeted @foofighters at midday, and with good reason - the band's hard-charging, all-analog new album Wasting Lightdebuts at #1 this week with 235,000 copies sold here in the States.
“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.