With a score of dates set to go now onsale tomorrow today (4/26) for Steely Dan's Mood Swings 2013: 8 Miles to Pancake Day summer/fall tour, I thought it only appropriate to revisit the time I've spent over the years with our favorite audiophile-
Al Kooper has been a mastermind behind the board of many a storied session over his half-century career, but his prowess as a multichannel mixmaster has been largely unheard — until now. Audiophile circles have long been well aware that Kooper had turned in “interesting” 5.1 mixes to Sony for a pair of albums he personally had stakes in — Blood, Sweat & Tears’ trippy big-band-influenced debut, Child Is Father to the Man (originally released in February 1968) and Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, and Steve Stills’ still influential jam amalgamation, Super Session (July 1968). Both mixes gathered multichannel dust on the corporate shelves until almost a full decade later, when Audio Fidelity released them from captivity by way of a pair of Hybrid Mulitchannel SACDs. Here, Kooper, 71, and I discuss his surround mixing philosophy for both of those classic releases, why he’s not a fan of mono or streaming, and his alternate, Bloomfield-centric mix of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” (on which Kooper played the infamous improvised organ riffs). There are no longer any 5.1 secrets to conceal.
Legacy. Some artists embrace it, some resist it. Early-period Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett decided to go the extra mile to dance on the volcano of his past, charging firth, er, forth to majestically recast the arrangements of a top-drawer selection of his ’70s output with the British prog giants.
“I personally like to be surrounded and ambushed by music. I want it to surprise me, and I want it to come from surprising places,” says Steve Hackett, echoing the sentiments of scores of audiophiles the world over. The progressive-minded guitarist has been enjoying accolades for the depth, compositional excellence, and overall live sound quality evident on his Genesis Revisited II 2013/2014 tour — so much so that a number of additional legs, dubbed Genesis Extended, have been added to his touring palette through next spring, at which time he’ll focus his energies on a new solo album release. Of that forthcoming new music, he says, “I like to think about it as a rock album with a difference. It’s very much like having scenes from a film for the ear rather than the eye.” Hackett, 64, and I got on the line a few days before he headed back out on the road for the next leg of the Genesis Extended tour to discuss how to create “inhabitable” music, his personal favorite Genesis surround mixes, and his view of the ongoing viability of the album format. Hadn’t you heard? He’s a supersonic scientist.
“Our music has stood the test of time,” observes Toto guitarist/vocalist Steve Lukather. “We’ve had this long ride, and now it’s starting all over again.” Luke, as he’s known to his friends, has an excellent point. Toto, whose members past and present honed their impressive chops as studio musicians, have long been the favorites of audiophiles the world over, best evidenced by the ongoing impact of Toto IV (1982) and tracks like the ebb-and-flow magical rush of “Rosanna” and the percussive continental vibes that fuel “Africa.” (And Toto IV is all the more aurally satisfying thanks to its fully encompassing 5.1 mix, done by Elliot Scheiner on SACD in 2002.)
The band’s international impact has never been greater, as evidenced by the success of Live in Poland (Eagle Vision). Poland, which was shot at the Atlas Arena in Lodz, Poland while the band was on the road overseas for its 35th Anniversary Tour in 2013, bulleted right to the top of the DVD charts this past Spring (though it is, of course, best experienced on Blu-ray). Poland showcases how Toto is as formidable a collective onstage as it is in the studio. Toto will be hitting the road to co-headline a U.S. tour with Michael McDonald starting August 2. Here, Lukather, 56, and I talk about Poland's success, his ongoing passion for sound quality, and the reasons for the band’s perpetual cultural impact. From where I sit, Toto won’t be passing the reins anytime soon.
Steve Wynn was right there at the forefront when the alternative music scene exploded in the '80s. As a member of The Dream Syndicate, Wynn helped usher in the movement known as The Paisley Underground.
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.