You are reading the older HTML site

Positive Feedback ISSUE 1
june/july 2002


Maltz on SACD (continued from Positive Feedback, Vol. 9, No. 2)
by Greg Maltz


ewf.jpg (9867 bytes)

Earth, Wind & Fire, All’N All

Audio: No system will truly enjoy the full benefits of SACD until the second Brazilian instrumental interlude on this SACD is cued up and the volume adjusted quite high. The interlude kicks off with simple finger snaps mixed to one speaker, then the other. More finger snaps and percussive sounds join in, making it sound like a ping pong game involving many players, balls, and surfaces. Then, beautifully arranged and harmonized vocals break in... doo doo da da doo da da... and by the time the drum and bass kick in, the listener is left hardly able to talk, riveted in the music, unable to believe that such incredibly vivid and lifelike sounds are coming from a five-inch aluminum disc. Horns on this album can sound thin, but that is the way they were recorded. Otherwise, a shockingly vivid, reference-class disc.

Content: With supreme slices of funk ("Jupiter") and graceful ballads ("I’ll Write a Song for You"), All’N All is a many-splendored offering from one of R&B’s most successful groups. Afraid of disco? Don’t be. This is more like jazz-infused funk with nice post-production touches, and it is recorded very well. The ballads are cheesy, but you have to enjoy Maurice White’s heartfelt falsetto soaring through the mix.


szell.jpg (6155 bytes)

Grieg, Peer Gynt Suite, Bizet, L’Arlesienne Suite, and Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition, George Szell, Cleveland Orchestra

Audio: Another stunning audio triumph recorded at the Severance Hall in Cleveland. Rarely have strings sounded so lush and lucid on this reviewer’s stereo. Whether the plucked work in "Solvejg’s Song" or the deep bass and mournful treble arco themes in "Ase’s Death," the strings are rendered with beautiful inner detail and wood-bodied overtones. The woodwinds are good, too, but the strings must be heard to be believed. The Grieg and Bizet were recorded in 1966, and the mic’ing is a touch less successful than on the Mussorgsky, which was recorded earlier. (Why is it that some of Columbia’s earliest stereo recordings were the most successful?) Still, the entire program gets highest ratings for sonics. Discs like this prove why SACD is an altogether different animal from CD.

Content: The interpretations are emotional by Szell’s standards, and how could they not be? These are among the most moving pieces of music, and the orchestra seems particularly inspired. Though the titles of many of the pieces may be unfamiliar to some listeners, even those least attentive to classical will immediately recognize the music.


hancock.jpg (10503 bytes)

Herbie Hancock, Head Hunters

Audio: Among the first SACDs released, Head Hunters demonstrates how much farther digital audio can take a tape transfer. Listen to the dramatic remake of Herbie’s own jazz standard, "Watermelon Man." With African percussion instruments, high-pitched vocal cries, and staccato chords on the keyboard meshing into a complex rhythm that gives way to the main theme, the sound puts even the 20-bit remastered CD to shame, and the original CD release is a crackling skeleton by comparison. Each instrument is rendered with air surrounding it, crisp, vibrant, and deeply dimensional. Listen to the rhythm team of Harvey Mason and Bill Summers working the groove of "Chameleon" to perfection. The urgency of the drums is communicated beautifully, with a roundness to the sticks hitting the hi-hat and skins, as opposed to the thin, glaring drum sounds we all know from so many of our CDs. And the bass has no digital glare or edge to it at all! Smooth and natural.

Content: The hugely influential "Chameleon" set the high bar for fusion after Hancock’s years with Miles Davis. Hancock had a more conventional sense of time and melody than Miles, and liked to please the masses, which Miles cared little about, so it comes as no surprise that the infectious beats on this album were inspired by R&B and funk acts like Sly. In fact, "Sly" is the name of the final song. Herbie knew to give credit where credit was due. This album is by no means a sellout in terms of jazz—exceptionally strong soloing by Bennie Maupin sees to that, and when Herbie switches from synth violin settings to a funky electric piano for his own highly instructive soloing, it is clear that he hadn’t lost a step since working in Miles’ lightning-fast rhythm team. Highest recommendation.


Chopin, Sonata, Rachmaninoff, Preludes, Liszt, Rhapsody, et al., Vladimir Horowitz

Audio: Little tape hiss has made its way onto this SACD, and the transfer from analog retains a great deal of the sonic complexity and grandeur of Horowitz’s style. Horowitz does not just press keys that produce notes, but is a master painter, mixing rich, essential sound colors by controlling the interplay of the resonating strings. Listen to the effects when he uses the pedals and holds down the keys. CD does not capture that rich tapestry of overtones. It simply and two-dimensionally reproduces the fundamental tones, and misses the overtones. This high-resolution release demonstrates clearly that piano music is much more than a collection of individual notes. With their wooden casings, felt mallets, foot pedals, and adjacent stings of all octaves, pianos breath, with complex harmonics bouncing against each other, producing a magical cushion of midrange. Pianos on CD sound compressed and lifeless. Aggressive playing sounds constricted, soft passages don’t sing.

Content: If you like Romantic solo piano played by a master of the instrument, you cannot go wrong with this SACD, which captures the grandeur and sweep of Horowitz in his prime. His interpretation has amazing depth and breadth, penetrating insight, and transcendent vision.


king.jpg (6650 bytes)

Carole King, Tapestry

Audio: SACD adopters are divided on the quality of this offering. Some say the SACD is not better than the CD because it reveals the limitations of the source tape with surgical precision. I am bullish on the Tapestry SACD. It communicates the ballads with a gentleness and honesty that defies CD conventions, and the up-tempo tracks rock with a pace and accuracy that leaves CD behind. There are plenty of warts to hear, especially on King’s vocals, but still there is more realism and better imaging of the piano, vocals, guitar, bass, and drums, without the glassiness of CD.

Carole King’s voice sounds distorted when it overloads the mics. Although this can be attributed to the original recording, it makes for an uneasy feeling. It is most evident in the first cut, "I Feel the Earth Move," and least evident in the bonus-track live version of "Smackwater Jack." This cut picks up Carole King’s voice fairly well, but the piano sounds very distant and the applause sounds like static. At times, the guitar playing comes through clearly, but at other times it is muddled and in the background. Throughout, the piano lacks the harmonics for which SACD is known, but an SACD can only be as good as the source material. After the first cut, the sound improves, and is superior to LP versions, with a slightly more open presentation. However, the ambience and the crystal clarity that bursts forth from many SACDs are missing. Don’t buy this if you expect to have your socks knocked off.

Content: According to the SACD’s back cover: "Tapestry, Carole King’s 1971 breakthrough masterpiece, was a ground-breaking record not only for music, but for women in music. Produced by pop luminary Lou Adler, Tapestry was #1 for 15 weeks, stayed on the charts for more than six years, and earned four Grammy Awards.... Tapestry remains one of the best-loved albums in pop and rock history." The SACD contains two tracks not included on the original LP, increasing the disc’s length to more than fifty minutes. King’s voice is vivid enough to provide real emotion. You can hear the pain in some of her lyrics, the elation in others. This album has many a beautiful ballad, and can be a tearjerker. [Tom Martin contributed the negative reactions in this review.]


Jennifer Lopez, On the Six

Audio: On the Six is one of the few SACDs that were recorded in DSD, and it sounds stunning and vibrant in every way. From seductive Latin percussion to whisper-crooning ballads to bass-is-in-your-heart dance tracks, there is a correctness of tone and inner detail throughout this album that blurs the difference between microphone feed and recording. The dance hits from On the Six are real system-stretchers, drilling deep down for pumping bass and testing the tweeters with fast electronic effects.

Content: This reviewer has been on the one, the nine, the A, the C, and the D, but never on the six. For those who would never have imagined themselves actually enjoying a pop act like Jennifer Lopez, this SACD may be a pleasant surprise. Acoustic guitar, well-constructed bass lines, and Latin percussion provide a nice aural environment on most tracks. The hits, such as "Let’s Get Loud," are eminently danceable, and will give your listening room a club atmosphere. Maybe add some lights and a dance floor?


Yo Yo Ma, Solo

Audio: Another DSD recording, this solo cello outing goes places that few solo artists can. The range of sounds conjured by Ma is staggering in scope and tonal variation, all rendered with extraordinary clarity and emotional force. Ma even knocks the body of the cello for percussive sounds that do justice to the resonance and overtones of the instrument.

Content: Several contemporary pieces for solo cello are performed impeccably on this SACD, which stretches the emotional boundaries of music. From slow, sweeping arco passages to percussive pizzicato attacks, recorded in a room with just the right amount of reverb, Solo is essential to show off the clarity, inner detail, and overtones now possible with SACD.


mahler.jpg (5719 bytes)

Mahler, Symphony #1 (Titan), Leonard Bernstein, New York Philharmonic

Audio: From the first moments, when high-pitched strings play softly in the background of a subtle theme, the high-resolution capabilities of SACD seemingly bring this performance to the quality of the master tape. The sweeping crescendos and diminuendos are rendered so dramatically, and at times so forcefully, on the SACD that it will stretch the limits of many systems, and knock many a listener off his chair. Air is at a premium here, and it envelops the instruments beautifully in a deep, dramatic soundstage.

Content: Bernstein’s Mahler is a wonderful choice for SACD, and this interpretation of the first symphony shows why. Some conductors seem to have a tough time getting an orchestra into the pulse of these post-Romantic symphonies, but Bernstein excels. The remarkable New York Philharmonic follows suit—truly an epic performance. Mahler was criticized harshly for this symphony in his day, but it now stands as a superlative achievement. From an intellectual standpoint, the development of musical ideas is especially intriguing, as is the sound quality. Highly recommended.


Mendelssohn, Symphony #4 (Italian), George Szell, Cleveland Orchestra

Audio: Another sonic stunner by Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra, this straight-laced reading of the familiar theme that is developed, redeveloped, and ultimately repossessed within the work bears enjoyable sonic fruit, if a touch less ripe than other Szell SACDs. Though a shade thin, it’s still highly recommended for the gorgeous soundstage and the voicing of strings, winds, and horns.

Content: The Italian was Mendelssohn’s greatest symphony. The nickname is a misnomer, despite the Neapolitan tune that erupts in the final movement. The musical inspiration for this piece is a far cry from Italian folk music, and may be more closely related to a Czech folk song. However, the ambience is spontaneous and expansive, and the melodies are rich and familiar, even to those new to Mendelssohn. Incidental Music from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hebrides Overture round the program out to well over an hour.


mingus.jpg (10051 bytes)

Charles Mingus, Ah Um

Audio: I found myself roused from my thoughts by the presence of an actual bass in my living room, only to remind myself that it was just the first time I had heard one reproduced so convincingly. This SACD enables the overtones of the bass and its big wooden body to ring out in a way unlike CD, which seemed to just portray the fundamental tone in a two-dimensional way. But it isn’t just the bass that makes this title extraordinary. The drums have a disarming snap and sparkle, and on the famous ballad "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," one can hear details such as spit rattling through reeds into the bodies of alto saxophones. Trills and other aspects of the playing of such masters as Booker Ervin is communicated with a speed and presence that jazz fans and audiophiles will applaud.

Content: Arguably Mingus’ greatest work, Ah Um is a mid-size ensemble jazz masterpiece. From the earthy, gospel-tinged opener, "Better Git It in Your Soul," to the free jazz leaning "Pedal Point Blues," there is enough here to delight the stodgiest jazz critic. Especially noteworthy is the ode to Lester Young, "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," played with incredible feeling. Also of interest is "Fables of Faubus," about the then-governor of Arkansas, a loping piece that Columbia would not allow Mingus to record with the lyrics originally written for it. Mingus’ criticisms of Faubus, and America in general, are thus inferred rather then overt, and Ah Um’s instrumental version is seminal. Four tracks are restored to their unedited form (they were originally issued in truncated form to fit on the LP), and three bonus tracks from the 1959 sessions are added.

(Ye Olde Editor agrees with Greg completely–Ah Um on SACD belongs in every music lover’s collection.)


monk.jpg (6001 bytes)

Thelonius Monk, Straight, No Chaser

Audio: This SACD provides stunning clarity, depth of soundstage, resonant and fertile piano reproduction, and obscenely realistic drum sound. The tonal portrayal of the alto sax is as strong as the imaging. The sound of the bass lacks some of the resonant overtones SACD portrays in other small-combo jazz recordings. Perhaps noise reduction is the culprit here, as there is very little hiss from the master tape, but if filtering was used, it certainly was not terribly detrimental to the drums. This is a very pure, crystal clear recording. Judging by the tonal purity, close mic’ing was used. Listen to the solo performance of "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," which resolves complex dynamics of the piano as though the instrument is right there in the room.

Content: In addition to his unmistakable piano style, Monk’s 1960s quartet featured drums, bass and, perhaps most importantly, alto saxophone by long-time collaborator Charlie Rouse, who complemented Monk like few others. Monk has never sounded so good, and with classic tunes such as the title track and the very angular "Green Chimneys," a bonus cut, there is no going wrong with this SACD.


Thelonius Monk, Solo

Audio: What if you could go back in time and listen in while a jazz master performed alone with his instrument? This SACD is the next best thing, with gorgeous resolution of the complex sounds of piano. Attack and decay is especially convincing. You can make out Monk humming quietly along with his playing at times. A solid recording, exceptional tape-to-digital transfer, and the incredible resolution provided by SACD bring this performance to life. Tape hiss is left in, so the treble resonances of the piano can be enjoyed in their entirety. A very dry recording with almost no reverb.

Content: With an enjoyable variety of standards and original compositions, Monk’s mastery of various time signatures and tempos is on display. Ragtime-like romps and ballads replete with flourishes are played with equal skill. The curious angularity of Monk’s playing on these 1964-65 performances plugs the listener into his brain. Highly recommended.


Mozart, Symphony #38 and Symphony #40, Bruno Walter, Columbia Symphony Orchestra

Audio: With silky strings and lush brass and woodwinds, this SACD communicates the pulse of Mozart stunningly. The muscular strings played in unison that define the opening moments of the 38th Symphony have a much more realistic effect than on CD. SACDs like this show that the difference between a master tape and an aluminum disc is becoming negligible. It follows that a great amount of tape hiss is in the mix, but this in no way gets in the way of the music in my opinion. I could give kudos for air, imaging, pace, palpability, but let’s simply leave it at this: highest possible marks for audio.

Content: The Prague (as the 38th Symphony is known) was a temporary return to the three-movement, Italian-style symphony, but it is imbued with some of the musical ideas of The Marriage of Figaro, which was about to be staged in Prague. It is considered one of Mozart’s greatest symphonies. Bruno Walter’s interpretation is completely devoid of pomposity, and pregnant with freedom as opposed to metronomic regularity. The 40th Symphony, thrilling as it is, can be interpreted as tragic. The tone is set at the outset—a brilliant concept that uses a simple theme for urgency and is most interesting from a rhythmic standpoint. Whether the listener interprets this as gloom or slow, serious optimism, there is little doubt that it is among the most spiritually involving, important works of art ever created.


mozart1.jpg (5647 bytes)

Mozart, Piano Concerto #21 and Piano Concerto #27, Murray Perahia

Audio: Thankfully, these recordings were made in 1977 and 1979, before the advent of Red Book digital. Enough advances had been made to minimize tape hiss, so what’s left is the gorgeous sound of Perahia’s piano and the wonderful instrumentation of the English Chamber Orchestra at EMI’s London Studios. The sound on SACDs like this never ceases to amaze me. The textures of the orchestra are rendered with such sweeping scope and inner detail that I find myself utterly soaked in the sound. Listen to the flute rise above the orchestra, deep in the center of the soundstage. Riveting sonics. The solo piano sections of the concertos are completely engrossing, as Perahia’s control and sheer mastery of the material leaps out of the speakers.

Content: Concerto #21 opens with a menacing rhythmic structure that is resolved in the next movement, which is utterly placid. The finale is Mozart at his most dramatic, and opens with an arpeggio-like structure known as a "Mannheim Rocket." Concerto #27 is among the most popular of Mozart’s concertos because of its warm mood. The incredibly beautiful Adagio movement in F minor uses a simple melody as its vehicle. Woodwinds play a large part in the dramatic closing theme. Highest recommendation.


nelson.jpg (5186 bytes)

Willie Nelson, Stardust

Audio: This recording is stunning. As with all things in audio, simpler is better, and these recordings are as spacious and uncluttered as possible. Guitar, bass, keyboard, harmonica, and Nelson’s own work on acoustic guitar are wrought with disarming detail. On some tracks, a string section is added in postproduction. Most impressive is the reproduction of Nelson’s voice, with its plain phrasing and tenuous melodic capabilities.

Content: It doesn’t take a country boy to appreciate this recording of mostly classic tunes. The material is very catchy, despite Nelson’s quiet, quirky voice, and his guitar solos have great impact. The presence of keyboardist Booker T lends a soulful element, and along with the compositions, the entire recording seems to be pulled firmly out of the country/western genre.


ravel.jpg (6014 bytes)

Ravel, Bolero, La Valse, Rapsodie Espagnole, Daphnis et Chloe, Pierre Boulez, New York Philharmonic, ClevelandOrchestra

Audio: These recordings from of the New York Philharmonic in the mid 70s and the Cleveland Orchestra in the late 60s are a bit denser than most of the classical reissues now appearing on SACD, such as the Szell, but they are equally successful. Listen to the meshwork of strings behind the voices of the Camerata Singers in Daphnis et Chloe, and the swirl of strings and woodwinds in Rapsodie Espagnole, presented in breathtaking, dynamic grandeur. Like no other medium, SACD seems particularly suited to reproduce Ravel’s impressionistic voicing of the strings. What a pleasure it is to hear this music rendered so vividly!

Content: Most of Ravel’s best-known work is on this SACD—more than 66 minutes worth of brilliant music. Boulez is the perfect conductor for the job, having dominated the avant garde in Western music since the 1950s. This is a good place to start for adventurous newcomers to classical music. The indoctrinated know the value of this music, and nothing further needs to be said.


santana.jpg (5642 bytes)

Santana, Caravanserai

Audio: From the crickets chirping in the opening of the first track to the spiral of flute and strings at the end of the album, the sound of this SACD is hyper-articulated, down to minute expressions within instrument harmonics. Case in point is the breaking of the saxophone between octaves in "Eternal Caravan of Reincarnation." On CD, this unique harmonic device was never rendered convincingly, but pop in the SACD, turn up the volume, and you are practically transported into the bell of the saxophone. When the electric keyboard, standup bass and drums make their entrance as the crickets fade out, the imaging and tonal nuances transform the soundstage into a thing of magic. Vocals, too, are rendered with excellent precision and palpability, as in "All the Love of the Universe."

Content: Santana’s best work is this 1972 album, which found him struggling between the blues-rock-over-Latin-rhythms that had launched his career and the jazz advances that were closer to his heart. Much too harmonically simplistic to be considered a serious jazz outing, Caravanserai succeeds in areas of Latin fusion, guitar soloing, even pseudo-psychedelia—"Future Primitive" features enough backward percussion sounds to put Pink Floyd to shame, and enough feedback and reverb effects to rival Hendrix, yet it also has plenty of straightforward Latin percussion, and sounds so good on SACD that it must be heard to be believed. In the epic "Song of the Wind," the tonal purity of Santana’s guitar soars above a B3 organ, with congas, bass, drums, and the second guitar of Neil Schon propelling him to new heights. A spectacular, classic album in full sonic grandeur.


satrini.jpg (9220 bytes)

Joe Satriani, Engines of Creation

Audio: A recent DSD recording, Engines of Creation is a fascinating adventure for the ears. It will tax your system with incredible punch across the dynamic range. The presence of the guitar and numerous effects used by Mr. Satriani create immense soundstage depth in the soundstage. For its myriad of tones, Engines of Creation involves none of the tinny, glassy, or edgy feel of the CD recordings, which attempt to reproduce electric guitar but fall far short. Sitar-like nods mix with open-voiced attacks, all in the same cut, with bass descending deep into 20-Hz territory. The word for this SACD is "ambience." Electronic percussion and drum effects like robotic handclaps dance across the soundstage. The percussion effects act as a multidimensional air mattress in which the guitar shifts around, molding the air in one shape or another. Listen to the incredible sustain and purity of Satriani’s tone in the ballad-like "Champagne?" and the distortion-tinged "Devil’s Slide." This is the only piece of music that has caused my neighbors to complain, about the bass... and the volume was set much lower than normal. Hint!

Content: An interesting concept, Engines of Creation straddles the fence between rock and techno. It never fully crosses over into one or the other, but is a world unto itself. Themes tend to be developed to a point just shy of overproduction, but never sound canned or forced. The material ranges in mood from the metal-tinged, anarchistic "Borg Sex" to the very tame yet delicious "Clouds Race Across the Sky"/"Slow and Easy." Fans of guitar rock, as well as trance, house, rap, dance, and techno will all have something to celebrate on this SACD.

[Your editor isn’t sure that this is a pure DSD recording; I don’t remember seeing its provenance in the liner notes. I too love this SACD, and have wondered whether it was DSD or just very fine analog.]


schubert.jpg (7476 bytes)

Schubert, Symphony #9, George Szell, Cleveland Orchestra

Audio: Never mind the music or Schubert’s incredible compositional skills, this is an awe-inspiring recording from a sonic standpoint. Columbia’s engineers in 1957 evidently knew exactly what they were doing with regard to microphone technique. To a lesser extent this is also true of the bonus material, the Incidental Music to Rosamunde, recorded about ten years later. Both tapes were transferred meticulously, with notably less tape noise on the 1967 recording, but the symphony has more depth and tonal nuance, and more convincingly reproduces orchestral passages. Of particular note is the brass section, which cuts through the strings, and even on the most violent moments never overloads the mics or sounds tonally incorrect.

Content: Listen to the slow movements of this symphony, especially the section leading toward the reiteration of the main theme, while a horn plays a series of delicate repeated notes. Schumann said that this instrument sounded like it was calling from "... another sphere. Everything else is hushed, as though listening to some heavenly visitant hovering around the orchestra." The extended up-tempo passages are fiery and characterized by great rhythmic energy. Appropriately called "The Great," this is Schubert’s longest and most impressive symphony in every respect. The Incidental Music to Rosamunde is incredible in its own right, and adds enough material to bring the SACD to nearly 72 minutes.


Tchaikovsky, Violin Concerto, and Mendelssohn, Violin Concerto, Isaac Stern, Eugene Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra

Audio: Although editing has left audible snips in the tape, the sound of Isaac Stern’s violin—and the entire Philadelphia Orchestra for that matter—is nothing short of stunning. Listen to the lightest touch of the horsehair bow elicit resonance that CD seems unable to achieve, likewise with more climactic moments. Recorded in the spring of 1958, this must have been the team of Columbia engineers who best understood microphone placement, for it creates an incredible dimensionality that seems to place the listener in the Broadwood Hotel some 43 years ago. Simply astonishing.

Content: Legend has it that Tchaikovsky wrote this concerto for a celebrated violinist who refused to play it. Was it too radical for its time, or did the violin part strike fear into the hearts of all but the most accomplished violinists? We can’t ask Leopold Auer, but Isaac Stern gives a performance worthy of immortalization. One can only shake one’s head at his mastery of the instrument during solo passages, and when the theme is picked up by the entire orchestra, the drama unfolds with a magic almost too fortuitous to have captured on record. Truly a classic, as is the Mendelssohn, though to a somewhat lesser extent—it is a very different piece, if equally ingenious. In all, more than an hour’s worth of essential music.


strauss.jpg (5752 bytes)

Richard Strauss, Death and Transfiguration, George Szell, Cleveland Orchestra

Audio: Recorded at Masonic Temple in the spring of 1957 (Columbia seemed particularly successful that year), this sparkles in the company of the best of the Cleveland recordings. If anything, there is a touch less hiss than on other recordings from that era, but the soundstage, tonal nuance, and string sound are where they need to be, approximating perfection. Listen to the harp in the title piece. The resonance is palpable, right down to the sound a finger makes as it releases the string. On passages in which the entire orchestra digs in, an essential "rightness" is heard, in which all the instruments are accessible and do not impose upon each other, as with large ensembles on CD.

Content: A disciplined yet inspired Szell conducts incredible tonal landscapes by Richard Strauss, and the results are stunning. The title piece in particular is a composition of incredible romance and elegance. Many will recognize it from the many movies and other elements of pop culture that have used it.


shorter.jpg (8888 bytes)

Wayne Shorter, Native Dancer

Audio: A touch on the bright side, this SACD has extraordinary clarity and great impact from the mid-bass on up. Vocals, percussion, bass, keyboards, and tenor and soprano saxophones are rendered convincingly and with a lucidity that far outclasses even the Japanese Mastersound import CD. The funky/balladic modulations of "Beauty and the Beast" are resolved with realism. Inner detail, while not brain-rattling, is supplied in healthy doses.

Content: Fans of Brazilian popular music and jazz fusion will enjoy this set of tunes. This is as much the work of Brazil>’s Milton Nascimento as it is of Wayne Shorter. Both burn past the point of blistering on several occasions, and I find the music immensely more satisfying than Wayne’s other group of the time, Weather Report.


vaughn.jpg (7600 bytes)

Stevie Ray Vaughan, Texas Flood and Couldn’t Stand the Weather

Audio: Sony was wise to reissue these titles on SACD, for some were complaining that SACD didn’t rock as hard as regular CD. How wrong they were! Vaughan’s guitar work is a stunning dynamic adventure by itself. The string bending effects are resolved beautifully.

Why does SACD seem to recreate slowly evolving variations in tone and volume so much more naturally than CD? Well, quick changes in dynamic landscapes are just as natural on these discs. The complexity of Vaughan’s strumming style and the phrasing of his single-note lines were never fully recreated on CD. Listen to "Tin Pan Alley" on Couldn’t Stand the Weather. Vaughan accents his vocals with staccato screams and percussive attacks on his Stratocaster, and the effect is phenomenal. I never appreciated the finer points of Vaughan’s vocals, which have deep body and resonance, or the sound of the drum kit, until obtaining the SACDs.

Content: Blues rock at its finest. Vaughan’s first two albums are his best, and they are augmented with plenty of live bonus performances that jack up the time of each disc to more than an hour, but it is the original material that remains most enjoyable. Listen to the presence and sheer dynamic drama created by "Lenny," a ballad for Vaughan’s girlfriend. And there’s the power of "Cold Shot." Vaughan was a master of tension and resolution, and his music has passages of incredible delicacy and brutal force that must be heard on SACD.