Music tips (Version of 13.03.2003)

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I like to listen to the following CD's because it's 'good' music somewhere in between jazz, pop or soul.
As I've been singing for a long time in jazz choirs you'll also find some a cappella CD's in the list.

Besides the musical quality of the records most of the below mentioned CD's show a very good recording quality, too. They are therefore suited for the evaluation of the reproduction quality of high fidelity systems and loudspeakers (see also Limitations of music recordings).

JAZZ/BLUES:

POP/SOUL:

ACAPELLA:

PATRICIA BARBER / Café Blue
This CD is the discovery of the High-End Fair 2000 in Frankfurt, Germany. Superb (reservations see below) recorded with rich but crisp bass, very lively percussions and the slightly cool voice of Patricia Barber I like especially the broad musical spectrum of the CD: besides slow jazz ballads (The Thrill is Gone, Ode to Billy Joel) you can find more experimental tracks as well (Wood is a Pleasant Thing to Think About). Some tracks even sympathize with Modern Jazz (Yellow Car III) and finally we have romantic guitar and piano jazz tunes and body percussion. Highly recommended to all who like jazz music!
According to a reader's hint I listened to the CD again exactly and have to admitt, that artificial reverberation (shame!) was used extensively. This supports the very "lively" percussions (and Patricias "cool" voice) -> don't use this CD to evaluate the spatial reproduction. But the musical quality is still outständing.

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The Legendary Mambo King MARIO BAUZA And His Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra / Tanga
For me this CD is the ideal mixture of big band jazz and latin music. The late masterpiece of a Cuban music legend!

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KENNY BURRELL / Midnight Blue
This is most of all a CD with very good music: a cool jazz-guitar (Kenny Burrell), a soulful tenor saxophone (Stanley Turrentine) and finally Ray Baretto's congas are among the most relaxing and nevertheless exciting kind of music Verve offers us. The tonal balance of the instruments is worked out well. The recording just 'suffers' a bit from the typical left/right stereo panorama of the early years of stereo recordings (1963)!

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JOYCE COOLING / Third Wish
The music of the GRP-label is not everybodys taste: often the result sounds sticky sweep with no corner and edges and already after a few times you don't enjoy it. That's different with Joyce Cooling: rich, groovy bass and varied arrangements prevent you from getting bored. My tip: take 3 (Mm-Mh Good). And, did you recognize the "singer"? But don't consult the booklet!
P.S.: I often hear this CD pretty loud when I clean up my flat (which speeds up the process)!

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THE QUINCY JONES - SAMMY NESTICO ORCHESTRA / Basie & Beyond © 2000
The ultimate Big-Band-CD: Superb music, superbly recorded (especially the brass and the drums, reservations see below). Attention: absolutely addicitve!
Here again a reader pointed out that the CD is "over produced": all instruments seem to be recorded in the extreme nearfield, extensively passed through limiters (very high rms-value of 16.5% to 27.7% -> up to 10 dB louder than "normal" CDs) and pepped up with artificial reverberation (shame!). It seems as if your ears are at the opening of all wind instruments in parallel. Although this gives a very "direct" impression it has nothing to do with the spatial reproduction of a "real" big band.

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MANGER SAMPLER / Musik wie von einem anderen Stern © 2001
This sampler has it all: from classic music over jazz, pop up to a radio play you'll find 15 highlights. The recording quality is beyond all doubts and the selection encourages to try all tracks (even if you don't hear that kind of music in general). My highlight of this years High-End exhibition in Frankfurt (and that for only 25 DM special exhibition price)! If you didn't took the chance (or haven't been there) you can order it directly from Manger (for 33 DM + shipping costs).

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MIGHTY SAM McCLAIN / Give it up to love
Very fine rhythm & blues music recorded in a studio completely equipped with audiophile signal cables of the famous company Audioquest. The electric bass (often played together with the kick drum) is on the fat side, the high hatts are slightly too brilliant, but with Mighty Sam McClain's voice and the brilliant compositions you will definitely enjoy listening. Track no. 2 is my favorite: here a good old Hammond B3 organ joins the crew with some blue warm notes before the cutting guitar and the extremely dynamical drums will knock you out off your seat! If you adjust the volume level during the moderate parts to a normal level your system (and your neighbor) will have a hard time at the forte parts: this means really hard work for your amplifier and your loudspeakers! Unfortunately this CD is a bit expensive and you cannot find the CD shop around the corner!

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LEON PARKER / Belief © 1996
This CD was running somewhere in the background on this years High-End exhibition in Frankfurt but caught my ear after only a few beats. A peaceful music that creates a meditative mood using African percussion in a suggestive way. The good recording quality supports the intensity of the music. My tip: Calling Out (no. 4).

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OSCAR PETERSON / Reunion Blues
Fearful people should skip the first track of the CD! My favorite track is again no. 2 (Dream of You). The acoustic bass must be located approx. 1m more left than the left hand side (LHS) loudspeaker and clearly behind it and must sound rich and crisp. The vibes are represented (slightly unrealistic) from the RHS (lower tones) to the LHS loudspeaker (higher tones) and must ring metallically for a quite long time without sounding rough. The drums (mostly jazz brush only) may not disturb the intimate jazz club atmosphere by being too present. When after more than 2 minutes and a fine vibes solo Oscar Peterson start playing piano most loudspeakers quit: it just sounds bad. Although the piano is definitely not recorded very well really good loudspeaker still allow to enjoy even this part of the title. I found that this specific section is very good suited to detect the influence of different cables.

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SPIEGEL EDITION / City Jazz
A really well done jazz sampler with contemporary music of Till Brönner, De-Phazz, Al Jarreau, Diana Krall, Natalie Cole, Lee Ritenour etc. Well recorded (nearly throughout), diverse - what more do you want?

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BABYFACE / The Day
That's soul music for those hours with your baby! At 60 BPM and a round rich sound (often only rich bass drum, finger snaps and acoustic guitar or keyboard) and this voice you can only melt away! Besides these musical reasons this CD also offers an extraordinary wide acoustic representation with many tiny effects that make fun to listen even intensively with closed eyes. The voice of Babyface clearly varies from track to track (mood to mood), maybe the (harmful) result of 3 different mixing engineers. One highlight of the CD is certainly a duet with the one and only Stevie Wonder (track 9).

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HOLLY COLE / Temptation
I prefer to hear track 3. Besides the full and very low acoustic bass (recorded definitively too rich, either wanted or e.g. because the monitoring loudspeakers had only poor bass response, see also Limitations of music recordings) and the clear but nevertheless warm recorded piano Holly Cole's slightly sinful and very warm voice has an optimal effect.

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DONALD FAGEN / Kamakiriad
At first the music on this CD seems to be very simple. But if you come down to the refinement of the compositions (brilliant rhythms with nearly percussively used flashes of guitar, keyboard etc.) then it gets exciting.
For unknown reasons this music sounds good even on poor systems so it cannot be used for a check of the sound reproduction quality of an audio system.

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AL JARREAU / Tomorrow Today
I only heard the legendary concert in the "Onkel Pö" club (Hamburg, Germany) in the radio, but since 1976 I'm a fan of Al Jarreau! OK, between 1984 and 1991 the master has slipped off into the disco business, but the last CDs he found back to sound soul music. This CD (Tomorrow Today) is an absolutely mallow late work: I was a bit disappointed at the beginning but the more often I listened to it the more enthusiastic I became (try the first few seconds of "Just to be Loved" after a hard days work). The sound quality of the CD is like the music: full and rich!

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MARLA GLEN / This is Marla Glen
This CD is full of musical ideas and is instrumented very versatile - often with acoustic instruments that are recorded superbly. Together with the rich electric bass the often urging percussion and the unusual deep and throaty timbre of Marla Glen (sounding more like a male than a female voice) this music is pure fun to hear (especially a bit louder than usual!

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JOSH GROBAN / Josh Groban
Ally McBeal fans should know Josh as a singer of heart-and-pain music in 2 continuations. Although I generally look down on this kind of "little girls music", this CD fascinates even me. The music sounds like Andrea Boccellis "Time to say goodbye" (classic-pop), even much better!

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LUTHER VANDROSS / Songs
Super rich noble soul music at its best! The recording sound resembles the type of orchestration: perfect acoustic softener!
This music is not mainly suited for the evaluation of the sound reproduction quality of an audio system. But its perfect for acoustical treatment of your soul and/or for nestling.

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JOHNNY GUITAR WATSON / Ain't that a bitch
People who love popular guitar blues are right here. My favorite title: I want to ta-ta you baby.
Unfortunately the cymbals are recorded hissed and too pronounced (so again no music to test your system).

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YELLO / Flag
The music on this CD is extremely precise recorded. The 2 Swiss sound puzzlers have delivered their master piece with the title 'Tied up'. My tip: enjoy it really loud and it will blow your brains!

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THE KING'S SINGERS / The Beatles Connection
A cappella music on its best! Besides the brilliantly interpreted songs of The Beatles and the fantastic voices (perhaps partly too much classical education?) the perfect recording technique tops it all! Loudspeakers with realistic spatial reproduction put the voices on a circle between the speakers and perform an acoustical firework on titles like 'Back in the U.S.S.R'!

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VOCAL SAMPLING / Cambio De Tiempo © 2001
If you like Latin music and a capella music this one is for you! You won't believe what these 6 Cuban guys do with their voice and hands without support of a rhythm group: they really create holiday mood! I've seen/heard them live two times and now I finally found this CD.

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TAKE 6 / Doo be doo wop bop!
Definitely a milestone for a cappella music! What these guys do with their voices seemed to be unthinkable before: extremely versatile and jazzy harmonies on top of a souly/groovy rhythmic structure sounds addictive! The incredible vocal effects are only possible by massive use of sound modification techniques at the expense of reduced naturalness and spatial reproduction (so please don't use for the evaluation of your sound system)!

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TAKE 6 / So cool
10 years after their debut album and after a 2-CD-long "wrongdoing" away from the "exalted" path of pure a cappella music they are better than ever! Groovy soul at its best, and even the sound quality is much more natural now. They still need a lot of technical support to make some acoustical effects possible (e.g. sung E-/synthesizer-bass). Most of the tracks realize a spatial reproduction as if the singers are grouped in a quarter circle. Unfortunately this is realized by varying the sound intensity only which still sounds a bit artificial. But you have to move anyway if you listen to this music, so what? My favorite tunes are "So cool" and "Evermore".

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VOCALEROS / Vocaleros
Meanwhile this 5 people band is also known outside of Cologne. They don't do true a cappella music but their music is dominated by vocals and vocally realized rhythm structures.
All 5 group members have very characteristic well educated soul voices and - they've got the rhythm.
Contrary to the bad sound quality during their life concerts (sorry for this) the CD is recorded superb and makes fun to hear!

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