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Top 500 SuperSonic List - Part 39

01-18-2024 | By Claude Lemaire | Issue 133

This is an ongoing project by Claude Lemaire of Soundevaluations

231. André Hodeir, American Jazzmen Play André Hodeir's Essais. Savoy Records – MG 12104 (mono 1957), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: cool jazz, third stream.

French composer, arranger, violinist, and musicologist André Hodeir had two album releases signed under the Savoy label—this is the first, the other being The Paris Scene (Savoy MG 12113). The nine tracks, all originals by Hodeir, are real gems. Joining him are nine musicians including gifted players Donald Byrd on trumpet and Eddie Costa on vibes. Despite Byrd being known more as a Blue Note (hard) bopper, on this session, the vibe is more cool than hot with a few hints of third stream here and there. Rudy Van Gelder engineered, mastered, and cut it, and contrary to most original pressing Savoy releases and many Blue Notes, this present title has a pleasant bass foundation played here by George Duvivier. Costa's vibes resonate as some of the best reproduced on record I've heard, with a truly tactile presence. The brass is beautifully full, warm, and vibrant. One of the best sounding Savoy original pressings out there plus music material to match. 

232. Charlie Mingus, Pre Bird. Mercury – SR 60627 (1961), Mercury, Verve Records, UME, Acoustic Sounds Series, EmArcy Series – B0037368-01 (2023), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: avant garde jazz, experimental big band, bebop, third stream.

This is the third Mingus reissue in the Acoustic Sounds Series I'm aware of, and like the two previous ones—The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady and Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus—see Top 500 SuperSonic List 188 and 189 HERE this is another knock out musically by Mingus and sonically by Ryan K. Smith at Sterling Sound. Produced by Leonard Feather and conducted by Gunther Schuller, Pre Bird harks back to the musical period prior to Charlie Parker exploding on the scene having a lasting influence on the renowned bassist. It was recorded in May 1960 in New York City on Ampex tape recorders at 15 IPS, approximately three years ahead of the two previously cited releases. The album opens with Ellington's theme song composed by Bill Strayhorn, "Take the 'A' Train" (heard here in the left channel) interpolated with "Exactly Like You" (in the right channel). Mingus follows with four other tracks bearing his signature, two of which are sung by Lorraine Cousins that sound a bit eerie, and which appears to be her only known recording. Underscoring how much 'the Duke' had an impact on Mingus, side B opens with another interpolation of two other Ellington pieces. This time with "Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me" and "Let a Song Go Out of My Heart," followed by two Mingus compositions. Featuring two dozen musicians including such names as Eric Dolphy, Joe Farrell, Yusef Lateef on saxes, Clark Terry on trumpet, and Paul Bley on piano, this is a very rich palette of sounds and arrangements like only Mingus—with perhaps the exception of Duke—can deliver. I did not have an original pressing but as usual with RSK working his magic on the cutting lathe, the sound has a lot of realism, dynamics, and is wide open. Very slightly ascending tonal balance, I would have welcomed a touch more bass. QRP did the pressing.

233. David Axelrod, Heavy Axe. Fantasy – F-9456 (1974), Fantasy Jazz Dispensary Top Shelf Series, Craft Recordings – CR00521 (2023), 33 1/3 rpm. Genre: fusion, jazz-funk.

Strangely, prior to getting this record, the only David Axelrod that rang a bell was the political consultant and analyst. Now to the musician. I just discovered this long time composer, arranger, and producer in early 2023 when Craft reissued this funky fusion album which originally came out on Fantasy in March 1974, pretty much at the height of the jazz-funk fusion's popularity, right before disco took over the groove dominated scene. The latter is well served on what is Axelrod's sixth album release where he presents us with a mixture of eight tracks, half of which originals, with the remainder a combination of covers from the likes of Vince Guaraldi, Carly Simon, and Stevie Wonder. Julian "Cannonball" Adderley also composed the opening track and plays alto sax, as well having producing and mixing credits. Jim Stern engineered and remixed the album at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley California. I did not have an original pressing to compare with. Kevin Gray remastered and lacquer cut the album all analog at Cohearent Audio in North Hills, California. The sound is incredibly good, with a warm deep, bassy, groovy low end, yet still nicely-articulated from start to finish. Perfect tonal balance with just the right amount of treble detail. Fine pressing from RTI.


234. War, War Live. United Artists Records – UA-LA193-J2 (1973), (US or Can.), (2x 33 1/3 rpm). Genre: funk, ghetto funk, soul, reggae, latin rock, rock, free jazz flirtings.

This was War's seventh release and first live album, following Deliver the Word (United Artists Records UA-LA128-F) a few months prior. Live double LPs were just starting to take up more shelf space in record stores. This particular one is fantastic for its musical content and superb sound. Side A is the most impressive of the four, featuring world class bass, tight percussion, explosive dynamics, expansive soundstage, beautiful transparent vocals, sharply defined imaging, and perfect tonal balance—taken as a whole it equals and even surpasses certain coveted 'one step' pressings. Side B though still excellent, lacks some heft in the bottom, which is unfortunate given the nice drum solo that could have benefitted from more power in the lows. Sides C and D climb back to nearly equaling the first side in sonics. It remains one of the best sounding recorded and transferred concerts to vinyl. Seven songs pulled from their previous studio albums make up the set list of this concert recorded on November 25, 1972 at the High Chaparral in Chicago, Illinois—including such classic hits as "The Cisco Kid," "Slippin' into Darkness," and "All Day Music." What makes each of these live versions so interesting is that they are performed in a much longer form, making them essential for War and funk fans alike; I even prefer many of these over the original versions. Jerry Goldstein in association with War's own Lonnie Jordan and Howard Scott produced the album. Engineers Chris Huston, Andrew Berliner, and Ed Barton recorded and remixed the live project. Geof Sykes cut the lacquer. I did not have the original US pressing but my Canadian first press sports the same dead wax markings with 'GS' indicating Geof Sykes' cutting sets. So there can be some minor sound differences due to pressing plants to keep in mind.  

235- Magic City featuring Fire – "Let's Rock"/"Let's Rock" (instrumental) (both 'Special disco mix'). Sunshine Sound Disco – 209 (1979), 12", 45 rpm. Genre: funky disco, sunshine sound.

Both Magic City and the female trio singers Fire were unknown to me, and I don't recall hearing this track on the radio back in the day which is odd given it is a great funky disco song. Digging deeper, we see that some members on both teams participated in KC and the Sunshine Band. Not surprisingly it fits perfectly in that 'sunshine sound' style as well as Jimmy "Bo" Horne's 1980's hit "Is It In" featured on the same label. Harry Wayne Casey (as in KC) and Richard Finch wrote and produced the track. Milan Bogdan mastered and cut it at Masterfonics in Nashville Tennessee. Side B is a longer instrumental version which I find even better than the vocal version of side A. The sound is absolutely incredible and a reference for what a disco track should sound like. Huge soundstage, perfect wide tonal balance with very punchy kick drum, full-sounding horns, and detailed top end. Demo party record guaranteed!

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