Mike Mettler

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Mike Mettler Posted: Jul 23, 2014 0 comments
“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.

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Mike Mettler Posted: Jul 09, 2014 0 comments
“We don’t want to shut the door, we want to open it.” John Hiatt has just described the up-close and personal vibe that’s spread all across his new album Terms of My Surrender, out July 15 on New West. Surrender was cut live with Hiatt and his bandmates ensconced around each other in Studio G in Nashville, and the intimacy is intrinsic to every note. Stomps, claps, and a taut kick drum set the tone at the outset of “Long Time Comin’,” as Hiatt murmurs, “Mmm-hmm, let me see” before he begins strumming his acoustic guitar to lock into the groove. And the über-deep, practically resigned breath he takes before diving into the starkly personal “Nothin’ I Love” just adds to Surrender‘s core honesty. Hiatt, 61, and I recently got down to jawing about knowing when a final master sounds right, how he consistently fails at properly sequencing his records, and trying to convince his dad that stereo was a cool thing. Says the masterful singer/songwriter about Surrender, “The goal was to make it feel like we were all together on the back porch.” Pull up a chair and join the unbroken circle.
Mike Mettler Posted: Jul 03, 2014 0 comments
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If you break down the elements of the word kaleidoscope, you find it’s derived from three Ancient Greek roots: kalos, which means beauty; eidos, the shape of what’s being seen; and skopeō, to look or examine. Put those branches together, and you get the 75 exultant minutes comprising Transatlantic’s fourth studio album, Kaleidoscope, a powerful collection of beautiful music that reflects the ever-evolving shape of the fused muse of its four creators. Transatlantic asserts a supreme progressive pedigree: keyboardist/vocalist Neal Morse, a solo artist formerly of Spock’s Beard who’s also now in Flying Colors; guitarist/vocalist Roine Stolt, leader of Swedish symphonic proggers The Flower Kings; bassist Peter Trewavas of British prog giants Marillion; and drummer/vocalist Mike Portnoy, formerly of Dream Theater and currently a member of a number of bands, including upstart classic rock trio The Winery Dogs and the aforementioned Flying Colors. No compositional slouches, they.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Jun 25, 2014 0 comments
“I’m just into the ethos of having great sound,” says Giles Martin, describing his surround sound mixing philosophy. “The intention of what we do is to make the journey as seamless as possible. I want people to enjoy what they’re listening to without thinking about it.” Martin’s “natural surround” philosophy is in full effect with the stellar 192-kHz/24-bit 5.1 mix he’s done for the 50th anniversary of A Hard Day’s Night, released on June 24 by The Criterion Collection in a Director-Approved Dual-Format Blu-ray and DVD Special Edition. (If you want to experience the film in a theater setting, it will be playing in almost 100 cities across the country on July 4, courtesy of Janus Films. Theaters and cities can be found by clicking here.)
Mike Mettler Posted: Jun 20, 2014 0 comments
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“What did you do in the Cold War, Daddy?” It was a question Billy Joel felt his daughter Alexa would ask someday, and at the height of the most decidedly chilly U.S.–Russian relations in the ’80s, Joel didn’t have an acceptable answer. So he packed up all of the gear, crew, and machinations behind his mammoth Bridge Tour and headed to Russia to spearhead the largest-scale tour a Western musician had ever done in the Soviet Union. A Matter of Trust is the four-disc box set that serves as an extended chronicle of the time in July and August 1987 when an animated American piano man opened the eyes and ears of an Eastern Bloc country just beginning to experience the rise of freedom.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Jun 11, 2014 0 comments
Photo by Maureen Clark

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.

Mike Mettler Posted: Jun 03, 2014 0 comments
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Never one to favor flash over substance, Andy Summers may very well be the most underrated guitarist of the rock era. Summers took a minimalist approach with his work for the juggernaut pop-alternative trio known as The Police, letting atmospherics and not pyrotechnics fuel such indelible hits as “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “Every Breath You Take.” His echoing, chorused, chordal-centric technique schooled a generation of players from U2’s The Edge to The Fixx’s Jamie West-Oram. Even a player as accomplished as Rush’s Alex Lifeson added a Summersesque “less is more” dimension to his repertoire during the ’80s.
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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.
Mike Mettler Posted: May 21, 2014 0 comments
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When it comes to delivering the low end, Jack Bruce has been the cream of the crop for six decades and counting. 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 band 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: 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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