Classics

November 11, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

In 1976 Swedish recording engineer, Gert Palmcrantz recorded live to analog tape a Swedish jazz group featuring Arne Domnérus, alto sax, clarinet; Bengt Hallberg, piano; Lars Erstrand, vibes; Georg Riedel, bass; and Egil Johansen, drums.

That album, Jazz at The Pawnshop was released as a two-record set by Proprius Records on 180-gram vinyl in 1977 (Sony and Philip's introduction of the compact disc was still 5 years in the future).

Jazz at the Pawnshop is still to this day considered an Audiophile classic.

We remember Cowboy Junkies, live Hotel California, Court and Spark, Kind of Blue, and Autobahn as those classics that stand the test of time.

Can you think of a recent audiophile classic?

Maybe it's just me but there seems to be a growing chasm between what's new and the era where classics seemed to sprout like weeds.

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76 comments on “Classics”

  1. Not particularly recent but I’d suggest‘Acoustic Live’ by Nils Lofgren fits the bill.
    Thing is, with the latest equipment many older CDs are sounding better than I ever thought they would, certainly better than some of the more recent over compressed loudness wars releases.

    1. Yes,
      Nils Lövgen’s
      “Acoustic Live” is a great example in audio recording success, as well as wonderfully executed music.
      I have listened hundreds of times to it, at least.
      I possess a burnt CD copy which to my astonishment outperforms my SACD-version.

      Enjoyed, not with speakers, but with headphones, (I highly recommend the AKG K1000s), will transport you to audio, and music heaven.
      It’s an almost spiritual encounter.

  2. I'm still waiting for Porn at the Jazz Shop.

    There is of course Daft Punk - 'Random Access Memories'
    But I found a Gothic Electronic Synth-Pop/Rock album by 'Night Club' (a Goth duo)
    called 'Requiem For Romance' (2016) that is so clean & visceral, with stunning
    dynamics & little if no compression, it makes my home-audio rig sound like it's twice its size &
    worth another $20K on top of its original purchase price.

    Night Club - 'Requiem For Romance'...Highly Recommended ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

  3. I have no interest in audiophile recordings, I'm not sure what they are, other than a license to print money through limited editions that don't seem that limited.

    Certainly in classical music, there are occasional standounts, a combination of a fine performance well produced in a good venue.
    On first hearing a recording made in 2021 I posted it in the Classical thread on the forum as the likely Record of the Year, and that turned out to be the case. No great surprise. It was recorded at the Snape Maltings concert hall, built in 1967 by Benjamin Britten to house the Aldeburgh Festival.
    There is another extraordinarily famous recording, also made at in the same concert hall in 1985, an all-time classic.

    Mitsuko Uchiha: Beethoven Diabelli Variations
    Murray Perahia and Radu Lupu: Mozart: Sonata for 2 Pianos in D Major / Schubert: Fantasia for Piano, 4 Hands in F Major

      1. I do like opera. I went to one (Handel - Alcina) on Tuesday. In those days people were mostly transformed into wild animals or trees. By the 19th and 20th Century it was more a matter of how gruesome the death. Nessun Dorma is sung under the threat of mass murder, remarkably followed by only one fatal stabbing, during which there is a song “Princess of Death”. Last night’s ballet included Rite of Spring, a dance of death, and next week is Mayerling, a non-fiction ballet featuring an accidental shooting and a murder-suicide. There are fast deaths like La Tosca and slow ones like La Boheme. My favourite is Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, who chops her father-in-law up into little bits. Here is the big reveal:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDjwFeKFbLQ
        And who said opera is boring?

        Thanks for the recommendation- will get a copy.

        1. Glad it was useful.

          Michael was complaining that Bayreuth is not the same anymore. Many men don't wear dinner jackets when they attend. Eye roll here.

          But his fascination with music and the brain is fantastic. He is working with some hot shots nerds on finding ways that music can affect the brain by helping prevent seizures. All highly technical and systematic. He is such a deep thinker and out of the box too.

          1. Difficult to complain about dress code when last Tuesday Oronte, after shagging Morgana, sings an aria wearing only his boxer shorts and one sock.

            Dress sense in London is pretty respectable. We went to the opening night at La Scala in September and, being Milan, it was a fashion parade. Some seriously hot talent. Lots of posing. Giorgio Armani was sitting in front of us, looking immaculate.

              1. We went because Marianela Nunez and Roberto Bolle were dancing. It was Onegin, the same John Cranko choreography we have in London. They are fabulous together, they did Manon in London just before Covid, brought the house down. I think he said he's retiring this year, he's 47, looks and dances like he's 25.

      2. I think I will buy it!

        Regarding Bayreuth not liking new productions…specifically this year or does he generally or mostly not like them all since years?

        In my experience it depends..one year music is great in the one, stage setup in the other and vice versa the next year. Sometimes everything‘s great or a problem…but wasn’t it always like that?

        Where I’d be with him if he means that is, that for me a story playing on a boat shouldn’t play in a hospital or bank instead…for me the stage setting could be the one from the 50‘s all the time 😉

        1. I didn’t go into details but he said that it has become uneven.
          I hope you enjoy the book. As he is both a neurologist and psychiatrist he has interesting perspectives. He focus on behavioral aspects of neurological conditions.

          1. I’m most interested in his book „The soul in the brain“ and will order it now. It seems to be available in English language only, so I’ll see how I get through this probably demanding topic 😉

            1. Heads-up!

              He can be highly technical. A bit more than basic medical science knowledge is essential for this book.

              I think in this one he discusses god in the brain and why almost every culture believes in a god. He speculates where does this belief locate. Though it may be a different one. Can’t confirm now.

              I just checked. I have a personally autographed copy. Chapter 9 is about god.

  4. If you are not afraid of string quartets it's "World Dialogue" by Stephan Thelen that really send shivers down my spine when I first listened to this record and it still does.
    Four pieces of excellent modern classical music the first one being played by Kronos Quartet and the last three by Al Pari Quartet. You can close you eyes and then virtually see the musicians play this wonderful music.

    Cheers,
    Mathias

  5. Classics? What makes them?
    All art tells a story and great stories are worth experiencing many times.
    Just ask Da Vinci, Shakespeare, Beethoven, the Beatles, Pink Floyd.

  6. You know, funny enough I was told about the album ‘Jazz At the Pawn shop’ by a friend just yesterday!
    He said to me, “ if you really want to know what imaging and the true effects of a binaural recording you gotta hear that album. “
    I will certainly pick it up sometime on SACD.

    Modern recordings for me that have a really decent fidelity? Yeah. 2019.
    TOOL-FEAR INOCULUM.
    I know I’ve mentioned this album before, but this one definitely gets the nod for me, especially in Metal of all things. 😉
    The Fear Inoculum is a special combination of using old world techniques and modern techniques. The album was originally recorded on 2inch analog tape at 15IPS and then touched up using pro logic tools.

    Joe Barressi was the talented mixing engineer and Bob Ludwig mastered it.

    So 2019. That is the year I could really sink my ears into something. It sounds incredible.

    1. Hahaha! I just wrote a comment RE: "Fear Innoculum" below, glad to see that I am not the only one to point out the merits of this outstanding piece of work. We at Sonore used this album as demo material at the last RMAF for those listeners who could tolerate high quality prog/metal.

      1. You got it. Hey. We are all brothers here and I’m so glad to hear the enthusiasm.
        I really believe it deserves solid recognition for both grandness in fidelity and music.

        Danny Carey’s drums just pop and come alive. 🙂

      1. Copy that. It is impressive. Bob Ludwig mastered tho - no shock there. Is it not Danny Carey on drums?

        I am a prog head and some prog metal is great (Shadow Gallery, Riverside, Anubis Gate, Ayreon some Dream Theater...) but Tool is a bit on the heavy side for daily dose for me. But it certainly IS well recorded. And Chocolate Chip Trip is more like an experience than a song. It really is a trip in my car.

        1. If you’re not familiar with them, check out two great Prog bands from Norway. ( Airbag ) I know strange name, Their second album ( All Rights Removed) has some of the most beautiful mesmerizing guitar work. Also another great album is ( Magnified as giants ) by Caligonaut, also from Norway. I just told a friend the other day that it seems that every time I find a great new band, it’s always Prog rock. Just saw the Porcupine Tree tour last month in DC. Three hours of Steven Wilson magic !

  7. Classics. What makes something a classic in todays terms? Age and the passage of time, popularity, or something deeper? In the world of audio it’s quite often a recording to show off a system of an era. If you look at the list, to find something common they are all (but one) 70’s and early 80’s recordings before the cd. That puts many here ,including the moderator, in their 20’s and 30’s age wise. Those ages could be considered part of the glory days by many. One might argue the recordings mentioned were at the peak of home HiFi interest. Coincident?

    There are plenty of recordings from today and from the early days that could make a classic list.
    There are also plenty that wish they would be classics. 😉 Time has a way of weeding things out.

    Classic post Paul.

    Pretty soon all of us will be classics of an era….
    Classic Rock-n-Roll already exists and has for some time.

    1. Spot on comment again Mike. I’m listening to and buying some fabulous music every month, (Jazz, Blues, Classical) some of which are destined to be classic recordings.

      Last month there was a lot of buzz about one of Sonny Rollins 1950s recordings that no one paid much attention to and now many of the pundits are talking about “Work Time” and saying that may be one of his top three best recordings ever but very few people ever brought it to light until recently. A new young female singer, Samara Joy has a voice that sounds like the second coming of Sarah Vaughan and everyone is raving about her. Classic singers and musicians make some great classic recordings. Most classic recordings are in the ear of the beholder.

      IMHO, Jazz at the Pawnshop Is a good performance recorded for Audiophiles as a Demo that sits on so many folks shelves as a collectors item. Give me a recording of The Modern Jazz Quartet any day which are stunning recordings and definitely classic, this is the type of music I listen to over and over again just like Kind of Blue. Another classic that just thought about is “Friday Night in San Francisco” coined by many reviewers as the greatest live guitar performance ever recorded.

  8. About classic audiophile recordings also made in Sweden.
    Don’t forget the “Cantate Domino” (Proprius) from the Oscar’s cathedral in Stockholm, like “Jazz at the Pawnshop” also recorded in 1976.

    An-out-of-this-world brilliant recording.

    A-must-have for everyone.

    1. Thanks to Paul and your good self Olle for the recommendations.
      Paul the "Pawnshop" is great and is now in my streaming library.
      Olle your recommendation "Cantate Domino" is ethereally complete and a recording of a quality that is very beautiful and extraordinarily rare.
      Many thanks for the motivation to search out the best.
      Yet to try your suggestion Peter Allen if this meets the standard set it will become a favourite too.
      Where does the time go?
      David

  9. Jazz at the Pawnshop is not without controversy and to some is a shining example of the audiophile weakness of valuing sound over music. No one captured this idea better, or more hilariously, than the late, great Art Dudley in one of his first Listening columns for Stereophile: https://www.stereophile.com/artdudleylistening/801/index.html.

    Whether or not you agree with Art on this particular recording, this column is worth reading just to stay grounded when you're overwhelmed with audio technobabble, or just need a good laugh.

    1. That made my decade. Best article ever. So I was right about audiophile records after all.

      Jazz at the Pawnshop got a dishonourable mention.

      I also tend to agree that undiscovered artists should remain undiscovered. I’ve no problem going to hear a friend play the banjo badly in a pub, but there’s more than enough good recorded music to listen to, without having to listen to the dross. It would be a bit like using a rubbish sounding hifi just because it’s got beautiful soldering.

    2. Indeed John; thanks for posting.

      I used to use a CD of 'Jazz at the Pawnshop' for demoing
      in-store for years in the late '80s & most of the '90s & then,
      one day, it just disappeared...thankfully 😀

    3. A great comedic synopsis of an outsider looking in. 😉

      I'll admit, for the first time, and against by better judgement here, I've made several attempts at front to back'ing Jazz at the Pawnshop and Miles Davis Kind of Blue and have literally never made it thru the entire album. (I know, you may now remove your hand from your mouth and exhale.)

      Does this mean I will have to revoke my international audiophile status card?

      1. Outsider looking in? Given that Art Dudley worked at the Absolute Sound in the HP days, and published Listener magazine for several years before his run at Stereophile, I would have thought that he was as inside as it gets. The wonder is that he managed to recover from drinking the Kool-aid.

        1. I just meant he kind of writes it as an 'outside looking in' view stance - not him as an outsider looking in. More of a making light of us audiophile sheeple and our list of standard picks. It was not an assessment of the writer, that is just the way I perceived the style in which he wrote his almost satirical article. That's the way I perceived it.

          1. Two reviewers i truly miss: Dudley and Greenberg who once claimed he received a noise complaint from the Dallas Fort Worth Airport while testing a subwoofer (the Muse 18 i think?)

  10. Others can debate classics. For me a classic can be music you continually return to, just for enjoyment. These may not be classics or even close to audiophile or OR releases (some of which sound fabulous even on my system) but Santo Spirito blues - Chris Rea, Pianoscope by Alexandra Streliski and latterly Shining in the half light by Elles Bailey are my current favourites-even in the car or van. I know, I know, we don’t have dirty talk on this forum!!
    Of course there are still all the standard’s, who doesn’t like a bit a Bach, Mozart and particularly Elgar.

    1. +1 for James Taylor "Hourglass", track4 "Gaia". That big drum at 4 minutes plus in, is a great test of quality mid to low reproduction with definition.

  11. Here, IMHO, for your personal consideration are some more recent ( although not that recent ) classics:

    The Travel Wilburys "Volume 1" 1988
    R.E.M. "Automatic for the People" 1992
    This album by a guy named Bob Dylan ( you may have heard of him 😉 ) "Love and Theft" 2002

  12. This may be controversial for some audiophiles, as the music is highly produced electric progressive/metal, but the recording quality is outstanding (which is hard to do for this genre) AND the music is complex, dense and very, very interesting.
    Tool's most recent release "Fear Innoculum" should become an audiophile classic.
    To suppose that "audiophile" should mean only acoustic music is highly limiting and also makes "audiophiles" seem like dinosaurs lost in time. There is a ton of interesting music in the world, of many different genres, and not exploring different genres and styles makes one boring, somewhat slack, and closes one's mind.

  13. I wish every posting, naming a record, had this in it...please?
    "Photo description for blind and vision impaired who have software that reads text aloud to them.”

    Record: Title
    Artist: Artist Name
    Label: Record Company Name
    Catalog Number: XXXXXX

    …Or for someone who might want to buy that exact release!

  14. I think it's you--and the rest of us old farts. Popular music exits in a whole other realm from what I grew up with: FM Radio. Outside of Mitski, I don't know what my teenage daughters are listening to.

    Andbutso, [i]classic[/i] doesn't register.

    However, have you heard the latest My Morning Jacket release? In 96/24 it is wild--"I Never Could Get Enough" is exceptional.
    Or how about the new Wilco recording 96/24, [i]Cruel Country[/i]?
    Nick Cave's 96/24 [i]Ghoststeen[/i] sounds fantastic.

    Are any of these classics? Who knows...probably not. They're all from major living artists though and are all relatively new and they sound pretty freaking great.

    And an interesting recording from Cat Power, which might be compressed, but sounds really good (check out her version of "I'll Be Seeing You." Haunting piano phrases and background vocals. https://youtu.be/6IRxf4Ll5EE )
    ANd finally, an alt prog experimental non-audiophile audiophile recording [i]VMAK<KOMBZ<<<DUGLAS<<6NDR7<<<[/i] by Douglas Andrew McCombs just fills the room with sound. It is atmospheric AND contains some [i]classic[/i] Brokeback melodies--for the fans!

    But the world of pop music is upside down for me. It's on me: I don't even listen to the great KFJC (my local college radio station "The Wave of the West") anymore. But I think there are plenty of great recordings being produced and thankfully none of them are being overplayed like the Eagles were!

  15. Funny how “audiophile recording” tends to be a classification on its own seeing as 90% of my favourite albums range from piss to poor quality recordings. There’s stuff I listen to…. and then there’s audiophile stuff. Saved for special occasions. Like birthdays, or anniversaries… y’know, kinda like sex after marriage. 😉

    My early delightful delve into ‘audiophile recordings” was a big push into our common sickness here and those first few early eye (ear?) openers still do tickle my fancy.
    So I gotta give it to my audioporn award to Flim & the BBs and Mannheim Steamroller - Fresh Aire 1 - 4. (A true delight to us keyboard players - uh I mean dabblers) DMP samplers get a good runner up.

    That was one of the invaluable perks of working at an audio store in the 80s - 90s; the not-for-sale sampler cds the reps would bring in. It was a rare & great (pre-internet) exposure to stuff I’d normally never hear in a smallish town with one very limited record store.

    He’d also deliver stories of upcoming and new gear. The excitement. The re-kindling of the audio passion. Specs, pamphlets, full color glossy catalogs with the glass crystal ferrite head cassette deck centrefold, ah yes, the coveted traveling rept visit. Ok, that and the free schwanky meals. And the hootch. The schmoozing. The booze. The golf. The liquid libation. The nights on the town. The shots. Hell, it was one hooker/stripper shy of a Mob henchman with a gun and a side-mouthed cigar threatening “OK, ya shee bub, you’re gunnu BUY deeshe 50 resheivers, dem 45 ampsh over dere and da Bosh ya shee, he shays you’re gonna take ten dozen of doze shpeekersh too, alrighty?”

    Seriously, the news of an audio rep coming to town brought more anticipation and keenly awaiting adult palm & noses streaking across the front door glass than kids awaiting a visit from grandma and grandpa.
    Ooooh, boy, Mike Chu, the B&W rep is comin, (jumping & clapping) oh BOY, Mike is coming!!

    ** Full disclosure- Mike Chu did NOT really have a 1930s Brooklyn Mob henchman accent **
    (Is Mob capitalized? Or is it just mob? The mob…? MOB? Oh Great, now I’ve said it too many times. Stupid semantic satiation..)

  16. Pikpen,

    Hahahahaha! Excellent rendition!

    I had some of the wine and dine experiences also.
    Several reps, and multiple manufactururors…

    But my most memorable were Bang & Olufsen.
    The company I worked for in the mid-80s was owned and founded by a Dane, and he had a huge fondness for the brand.

    We had an annual sales event called “Beoseason” and several salespeople in that time got much recognition and some very nice prizes.

    I won it three years in a row, took home some great systems, as well as a trip to the owners Condo in Kapalua, Maui.

    Really fond memories.

    1. Beoseason.. awesome. Working alone in a 3000ft2 shop, nobody else does my kind of work for hundreds of km; no one to share shop talk with. I miss that kind of stuff.

      Back in 91, I was voted top installer in western Canada and won a free trip to the Alpine tradeshow at Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa (I live on Vancouver Island). Three hundred and some odd Canucks in Tampa for a week, oh... there are some stories... including a couple I can't repeat. I don't think excursions like those can occur in this social (disease) media post-everything documented world anymore. (I got news for you kiddies, the best times in life are the ones that DON'T get posted.) Not to mention that the trade show trips on the 80s & early 90s dissolved from flying everyone to exotic tropical destinations to small provincial gatherings. Shame.
      Good times they were.

      But what I CAN share, from a west coast of Canada boy who was always a take it or leave it on the subject, Florida orange juice?? Hoooleeee DANGIT!! Wow! B-l-o-w-n AWAY!

  17. A footnote: This classic is recorded in reverse polarity, although the differences from normal polarity are small. If you have a PS Audio DAC a push of a button ("DAC Phase") will let you hear the differences. Focus on the attack on the sax and vibraphone and on the position of the bass or string bass in the mix (it's deeper in correct polarity). Same reverse polarity on "Cantate" and most other recordings made by Swedish labels.

  18. One of my favorites is Todd Rundgren's "Back to the Bars" a live album with various guests hidden within it, Darrel Hall and John Oates, Stevie Nicks, and others. The medley "I'm So Proud, Ooh Baby, etc. makes me want to slow dance with my Lady friend. Black Mariah still rocks!

  19. All good choices(though I am tired of The Eagles), but I would like to add Tricycle-Flim & The BB's; Crime of the Century(HiRes)- Supertramp; and Modern Cool- Patricia Barber; almost anything she has recorded can do. As for classic rock record, it hahs to be Waiting for Columbus- Little Feat. In Rainbows-Radiohead

  20. If I may, one more recording came to mind. The special edition of Toy Matinee's self titled CD. This was recorded by the same person who did the killer job on Shelby Lynn's "Just a Little lovin"....and forgive me, one more came tot mind. David Chesky's recording of David Johannson and the Harry Smiths, self titled and "Shaker", both recorded in St John the Divine cathedral here in NYC.

    1. Here here! Last Plane Out is one of my absolute favorite tracks of all time. Their live version of Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding (Live At The Roxy) is an energetic joy. Matter fact - I'm reaching for the headphones right now...
      Make roon for the Mezes...
      (See what I did there..?) 😉
      Truly sad about Kevin Gilbert.

  21. Nearly forgot to mention Gretchen Peters Trio with Barry Walsh on Piano and Dave Francis on Bass from 2004. Great performance and recording.
    Purple Crayon Label.
    Jim DeMain mastering.
    Paul Alfred Hart and Vaughn Raynard Skow editing and mixing.

  22. Paul, respectfully, you need to pay better attention to your employees. Darren Myers and his partner in crime, Duncan Taylor, have been offering an album a week on their podcast (now, sadly, on hiatus). I'm guessing that most of your customers can find something in this list to please them and freshen their ears: https://www.thehifipodcast.net/albums

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