Freedom Flight

shuggieOban

The Preample:

Caught the recent Shuggie Otis show a few weeks back, The Phoenix in Toronto.  And I’m glad I did, I knew I was going to watch an old cat, but the dude shows up with his brother and son and all his shit was produced back in the day by his dad.  So cool.  Cool is what I thought he sounded like the first time I heard him.  Probably never would have heard of Shuggie if it wasn’t for the internets and torrents.  There are some major pluses to digital music and stumbling on this guy was one of them for sure.  So the recent show obviously obligated me to give this one a spin, Freedom Flight.

This is one hep record for sure.  I usually throw it on whenever someone requests “you pick” and its funk/soul blues rock melodies will always get approving nods.  I’ve got two copies of this one; a second US pressing and the semi-recent Sony 180g reissue.  Gonna spin the vintage platter.  A bit of noise here and there, but this record’s as old as me so I won’t fuss.

The Record:

Artist: Shuggie Otis

Title: Freedom Flight

Label: Epic

Year: I’m going to guess 1973…original pressing was ’71.

Catalog: E 30752

Country: USA

Notes: The covers got a bit of ring wear and fuzzed up sides.  A slight seam split on the bottom, but the spine is the cleanest of the 3 and legible.  The record labels are orange Epic so definitely not original pressing but definitely a second.  Both sides have minor visible marks with the first side looking cleanest, a solid VG+ record.  The original sleeve with some kind of “Epic Times” newsletter is in great condition.

Matrix:

Side 1 – PAL 30752 1-C

Side 2 – PBL 30752 1-C

Mastering: ?

Pressing Plant: ?

Discogs: http://www.discogs.com/release/3929165

The Accompaniment: 

Sipped on something special tonight.  Polished off a bottle of some west highland single malt which my wife graciously gave me this past Christmas.  According to the label, Oban used vintages 14 years or older.  There’s an immediate nose when you uncork this mofo, even with only 3-4 inches left in the bottle!  The only thing better is its taste.   Honey on your tongue.  I try and hold the sip on my tongue for a whole minute in a miserly fashion, trying to extract every last second of pleasure before a smooth finish delivers the enjoyable burn.  I don’t think I can wait till Christmas for my next bottle of Oban.

The Listen:

Ice Cold opens up the first side in full funk mode.  So fucking pleasing to the ears…ear sex.  The record stays nice and quiet, letting the center vocals and right chimes come through nice and clear.  As expected the guitar is front and center, with the drums behind Shuggie.  I get lost in the song’s goodness and don’t notice until Strawberry Letter 23 begins.  Another great opening full of shit going on…Shuggie’s credited with all the instruments on this one, a One Man Fucking Band he is!  The bells (sleigh bells?), organ, bass…this song’s a real treat.  A little knob twisting at the end is making everything go psychedelic.  I’m tripping out!  The song ends and I get the first taste of surface noise (focused in the right speaker) between tracks.

Sweet Thang unveils a meandering guitar riff with the surface noise still evident.  The song flows into a blues jam and the noise dies off.  This jam is slow and twisty with the solos crystal clear and intoxicating.  Dunbar (Ansley not Sly) on the skins btw.  Me And My Woman starts with Shuggie harvesting a funk bass line, blues guitar and a jazz piano, all the while porn guitar music streaming out of the right speaker.  For the uninitiated, this is Muther Effing Fusion.  The right channel noise returns as the song dies and into the start of Someone’s Always SingingSAS has a nice balanced mix, Shuggie and the backup vocals centered with his guitar coming out of the left speaker.  The background solos sound great, as does Sly and Shuggie’s solos.  I close my eyes for Shuggie’s last solo as the song ends with some flute.

This side has a bit of surface noise, bearable but of course showed up during the quiet moments.  Side two only has two songs.  Purple is another pure blues number, with incredibly phat bass and a snare that draws you to the Shuggie solos.  Supe shows up with a harmonica solo and this shit’s just oozing cool.  So cool in fact that Shuggie drops a bass solo.  Wicked!  Not a short one either!  Next up is a Shuggie guitar solo that’s marked with a bit of surface noise.  This one’s over 60 seconds and finishes with a cool drum roll.

The last song is the title track, Freedom Flight.  The song starts with chimes battling surface noise on the right speaker.  Shuggie’s guitars comes in and the song has an almost “new world” feel to it.  It’s a quiet song at the moment and the right channel noise is starting to irritate.  There’s cool shit coming from every direction…sax, chimes (metal & wood I believe), bass, cymbals…sounds like a band warming up.  I’m wondering where this sonic wonderland is heading.  Dunbar finally starts something on his kit and the rest of the instruments fall into line.  There’s a crazy phat bass mixed into this tune and the sax solo sounds like spiritual jazz at times.  Next it’s Shuggie’s turn to solo his guitar over a floor of sound.  The solo is more doodling then playing, but it fits just right within the song’s atmosphere.  The song enters a quiet passage and the record holds up, which is good cuz there’s some crazy psychedelic shit going on when the oboe takes off.  The solo ends and the jam returns with a bass line leading.  I sit here motionless and slack jawed for a good 30+ seconds, mesmerized by the sound.

Wow.

The Postamble:

That was fun.  I’m usually playing this one for folks and rarely get to sit back and critically listen.  Five stars.  I really should play the 180g reissue right after for a shot out.  Not today, but let it be said that I’ve conducted some quasi-shootouts between the ’73 and recent pressing and the differences were minute.  Don’t hesitate to grab the reissue!  I’m good unless a Yellow Epic label falls into my lap.

Oban, how I love thee.  If you’re looking to impress me on my next visit (or just burying relatives), have some on hand.

The Fine Print:

This was not a review of the aforementioned vinyl LP or alcoholic drink, but a personal reflection on my experience of listening and imbibing.  Such factors such as vinyl condition, pressing, intoxication, room size, rig, stylus wear and mastering may result in a different listening experience.

Blue

blueAndWhisky

The Preample:

If things seem a little different today, that’s because they are.  I had my buddies Pete & Steve over recently and Pete, being the scribe that he is, will be a guest blogger this post.  He decided on Joni Mitchell’s Blue.  We both own the recent Hoffman/Gray pressing and Pete’s had a boner the last few months for this one.  I don’t blame him, it’s pretty awesome.  He decided to not only write about the listening experience, but also to compare and contrast it to the SH/KG pressing which he plays on his vintage cool system back home (a very enjoyable setup by the way…I’ll have a post about it soon enough!)

Well, here is in his own words…Pete.

pete

What was I thinking?

Literally, I highly recommend whisky and listening to records at Rob’s place.  Though what I don’t recommend is: whisky, dog walking, and listening to records.  Especially should you want to be able to remember, in any type of precise detail, the night events – not to mention if you are to turn said experience into some sort of coherent post days later – otherwise – it’s a great experience on a great system.

So, without further ado, my first (and based on wildly different listening situations last week, probably my last) guest blog post:  “A Comparison of Blue (Fortunately, I Took Notes at Rob’s Place)”.

I equipped myself for the listen beforehand, playing my SH/KG remastering at home on my vintage Sansui setup with Tannoy speakers.  I listened to it several times the week before sober.  I listened to Rob’s NM original US pressing…well, inebriated.  This is my system test album, my go to, the one record that has to sound good for me to like a setup.  It’s a fantastic listen, one of my favourites, and I really looked forward to a listening to this with Rob’s setup.  I gave this several listens in the days leading up to Thursday last week in preparation and anticipation of the original pressing on Rob’s system.

The Record:

A beautiful NM record housed in a VG+ jacket and includes the original blue inner sleeve.  This was purchased a few months ago from the Hoffman classifieds.  It’s gatefolded, and it’s barely ever been opened…I can barely open it 70% of the way without potentially cracking the inner spine.  It’s basically an archive copy…I don’t plan to rid myself of the SH/KG copy, so I guess I’ll keep both.  Except for the lyrics and a paragraph of credits in the gatefold, it’s a pretty spartan package.  It kinda radiates the same sad gloomy feeling that I find the record delivers.

Artist: Joni Mitchell

Title: Blue

Label: Reprise Records

Year: 1972

Catalog: MS 2038

Country: USA

Notes: Gatefold with original blue inner sleeve.

Matrix:

Side 1 – MS-2038 31218(RE-2)-2 BG

Side 2 – MS-2038 31219(RE-2)-2 BG

Mastering: Bernie Grundman

Pressing Plant: Terre Haute

Discogs: http://www.discogs.com/release/4203857

The Accompaniment:

Pete’s brother Steve also joined the music session tonight.  Popped open (and almost finished) a bottle of Alberta Premium Dark Horse.  45% dark goodness for under 28 bucks at the LCBO.  Tastes the part and more, like a darker whiskey I guess.  Flavorful enough to drink neat and I bet it tastes great mixed.  Will have to try that shit this summer.  Steve drank tall cans of beer.

steve

The Listen:

So after a few warm-up albums, several whiskies (combined with taking Daisy for a walk), my recollections of the payoff listen (inebriated notes in parenthesis):

All I Want: Noticeably improved dynamic range in her voice – wow – subtle notes – can hear her fingers making chord changes on the frets!  Subtleties of her vocal range especially in the high range more noticeable. Picking at the end is very detailed than I remember.

My Old Man: Piano parts noticeably clearer – her voice has depth and range not as evident as the reissue.  Awesome fidelity in general – adds to the haunting bluesy nature of the song.

Little Green: Opening guitar part has a very detailed feel; song builds to a crescendo gradually with an enjoyable sonic plateau in the chorus.  You can really hear the power in her voice (belies the emotional nature of this song as it’s a song about giving up her daughter).

Carey: Opening chords are very detailed and percussive playing on the guitar body adds a very nice texture I hadn’t notice before.  Catchy hook in the chorus sounds very fresh and warm with the bass line (a mean old daddy for sure).

Blue: Plaintive vocal, adds a very nice texture – melodic parts manage quiet, powerful, yet haunting feel – piano in the mix is very complimentary and has a beautiful character for a sad song.

California: Second guitar part more noticeable – high notes are very clear and crisp – slid guitar adds a distinct country feel that I hadn’t noticed before – especially in the quieter parts.

This Flight Tonight: Easily my favorite track and my system test go to track – easily notice low guitar notes in opening – powerful ‘star bright’ vocals sound fantastic – excellent listen.

River: Haunting opening piano – really enjoy the dynamics of her voice – beautiful sonics on this song – unfortunate noise in quietest parts – but fantastic sustain on her voice in the chorus both high and low.

A Case of You: Hearing her fingering on the opening guitar part!  Oh Canada! – I could replay this song over and over – wonderful sustain on high and low vocal parts – never a hint of a clip I look for here as a system test.

The Last Time I Saw Richard: Noticeable depth/sustain on the low notes on the piano – high melodic piano parts are beautifully clear (a really beautiful, pretty lie).

This record is predominantly a whisper quiet for a 40+ year old record – with very noticeable increased texture and depth – I really noticed a consistent theme of crescendo and diminuendo throughout that I hadn’t detected before – excellent listen in general.

The Postamble:

It’s fun listening to rekkids with Pete.  I go to shows and hit the vinyl shops with Pete often.  We talk music a lot, so it was fun having him to this and he’s a better speller than me and uses long words and he’s Uncle Pete when he comes over.  I think we’re both in agreement that this pressing beats the SH/KG mastering, although I highly recommend the later.  There’s just some magic sparkle in these older records!

listening

The Fine Print:

This was not a review of the aforementioned vinyl LP or alcoholic drink, but a personal reflection on my experience of listening and imbibing.  Such factors such as vinyl condition, pressing, intoxication, room size, rig, stylus wear and mastering may result in a different listening experience.

Weezer

LP and brandy

The Preample:

I loved this CD back in the day.  I was in school during frugal CD buying days.  What CDs I grabbed were usually used or stolen and a new purchase was very rare.  This was one of them.  That fall and winter it was common to listen to it sandwiched between Pavement and Lee Perry.  It was a fresh cool sound which you either liked or pretended not to like.  It was affably poppy sing along hooks that had a Much Music synergy thanks to some great videos.  Man, did the jocks ever love it too…

I probably haven’t given this album a listen in a decade, maybe a decade and a half.  I noticed that MoFi, a reissue label I own several LPs from and respect highly, was going to remaster  the Weezer catalog with the full half mastered ultra-analog mastering chain.  Well, unlike the three Pixie’s MoFi reissues which I bought all three, I always considered Weezer a one album band and figured I’d grab me a copy of the self-titled…I mean, all the record stores in town had hundreds of them.  “I’ll grab them one day”…went to “holy shit, they only have two copies left”… to “fack, they have every other Weezer mofi but…”.  That was it, six months later and it couldn’t be found at three local stores.  Shite.

Although I was keenly aware it was still in print…Amazon promised 4-6 weeks delivery…ordering from MoFi or the US sites throws a shit load of shipping your way so I was determined to find it in store.  I hit all the usual suspects downtown and finally found it at my fourth and last stop.  And there you have, another album I’ve bought more than once.

The Record:

It’s a MoFi, so as expected minty all round.  Thick stock cardboard and a slab of vinyl built like a RTI tank.  Individually numbered, I have no clue on volume.  The gatefold states “Any sonic artifacts present are a product of the original master tape.  Attempts to eliminate them would have negatively impacted the integrity of the presentation.”  Cool, original masters.

Interestingly, this MoFi LP came with a non-branded inner…hmmmmm

Artist: Weezer

Title: Weezer

Label: Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab

Year: 2012 (originally released 1994)

Catalog: MFSL 1-390

Country: USA

Notes: gatefold, numbered 003338

Matrix:

Side 1 – MFSL1-390 A3 KW @ MoFi 20551.1(3)        [with a few characters crossed out between “A3”]

Side 2 – MFSL1-390 B2 KW @ MoFi 20520.2(3)

Barcode – 821797139014

Mastering: Krieg Wunderlich @ Mobile Fidelity Sound lab using “the” GAIN 2 Ultra Analog mastering chain.

Pressing Plant: Record Technology Incorporated

Discogs: http://www.discogs.com/release/3923945

The Accompaniment:

No distilled grain spirits tonight.  I opted for a cup of my dwindling Courvoisier cognac.  This shit is liquid warmth.  I mean, that first sip was THE SHIT!  This VSOP is a fine drink, super smooth with a taste that lingers for minutes after.  It’s hard to believe that there can actually be a finer brandy…hopefully one day someone will find it in their good will to gift me a bottle of XO.

The Listen:

After I finish walking the dog, I decided to move the speakers in considerably tonight, about 2 ½ feet.  Without trying too hard to find the migrated “sweet spot”, I drop the needle and My Name Is Jonah opens with guitars and vocals, both presented very nicely.  The cymbals provide a nice shimmer and the guitars have crunch.  The multi-vocals transition nicely into power guitars with great build, electric with fat analog sustain.  The closing guitar pluck lasts forever.  No One Else is another great tune with lots more vocals and guitars, again mixed & mastered perfectly.  I turn it up a ball hair.  Great fucking tune!

I notice that the drums are way back in the mix…I guess this “is” a guitar album, but then The World Has Turned And Left Me Here opens and that changes.  The skins are moved up few row or two and categorically sound great, not just shimmering cymbals.  I’m loving what Herr Wunderlich has done so far and must remember to look up what other work he’s done.  And so far I don’t notice any “tape artifacts”.  Near the end of the tune the wife gives me shit for not changing the laundry.  Oh well.  Gawd this brandy tastes great.

Seven hells…she burned the opening 20 seconds of a 160 second song, Buddy Holly.  Thanks.  The chorus for BH is just killing it…everything going on sounds great and crystal clear.  I plan on blasting the shit out of this tune tomorrow when I’m alone.  Bet on it.

“Hey Bob!  How we doin man?”

“This place is so rad”

“I’m so stoned.  Take it easy bro!”

Amazing just about sums up Undone (The Sweater Song) and this side.  Amazing Side A which ends in warm, enveloping reverb.  Since the wife said nothing about the volume I turn it up 3 notches.

Surf Wax America opens Side B with nice bass presence segueing into guitars and a great sounding drum kick.  Very very nice, the bass sounds amazing when the track breaks into slowness near the end.  So far the album’s been an upbeat, guitar driven album.  Say It Aint’ So is the first song with a slower pace, with the drum and bass interlude mixed amazing, but I can’t wait for the guitars to interrupt the ditty.  There it is.  The phone immediately rings and I’m in shit…something about other people trying to sleep in this house.  I reluctantly turn it down.  I guess this song isn’t as quiet as I thought it was.  SIAS is a righteous tune.

In the Garage opens with the harmonica returning from the first tune, along with the D&D references.  If memory serves me correctly, a 12 sided die is damage for a long sword?  I’ll have to look it up.  There’s a nice low frequency growl mixed at the back and my least favorite tune still songs great.  Holiday’s another great tune and I can’t resist giving the speakers more electrons.  The sustain on the guitars on this one is simply great.  Only In Dreams opens with an agreeable bass riff frolicking with the cymbals again.  Once again all the instruments are given proper space and everything sounds great.  All 8 minutes of the song sound great, but none as great after I move around and finally find the sweet spot.  HOLY SHIT!  The bass just jumped out and everything snapped into focus.  I’ll definitely have to experiment with moving shit around more.

The Postamble:

Very simply, this was a great listen.  I loved this CD back in the day and I’m going to love spinning this LP past my expiration date.  There was great sound staging, mix and mastering…and pressing thanks to RTI!  A home run.  The music was equally decent with a dose of nostalgia.  I think it’s proper i close the night with a little Pavement and Lee Perry.

And the cognac is just about done.  Fack.

Oh yeah…besides the different speaker placement, I also dampened my Michell motor using a bit of paper between the motor and stand.  Works very nicely and removed some noise that I previously thought was a defective motor.  Thank you 3M!!!

dampening

The Fine Print:

This was not a review of the aforementioned vinyl LP or alcoholic drink, but a personal reflection on my experience of listening and imbibing.  Such factors such as vinyl condition, pressing, intoxication, room size, rig, stylus wear and mastering may result in a different listening experience.