As promised, here’s more of my list of tracks I regularly use to evaluate electronics and speakers.
Wood by Brian Bromberg. This guy’s amazing. One of the best bass players I know of (no disrespect meant for Jaco Pastorius, Victor Wooten, or Dan Schwartz). This particular album is an older one available on CD and couples both solo as well as accompanied bass. Perfect for getting the low bass and mid bass seamless. Here’s a work that requires a subwoofer – or at least a system that reaches deep into the low depths. Plucks, mid bass, low-end energy. It’s all there and hard to get Brian sounding as if he’s in the room. A true challenge most systems fail. But, when you get it right…
My foolish heart by Bill Evans. This CD is stupidly hard to find, and I only have a copy scored from someone. I wish I could get an original. If you know piano jazz, you likely know Bill Evans. In 1958, Evans joined Miles Davis’ sextet where he recorded Kind of Blue, the best-selling jazz album of all time. He left Davis and went on to form his own trio, but this is one of my all time favorites and a great recording too.
Ain’t no sunshine by Eva Cassidy. I haven’t met an audiophile yet that doesn’t love female vocalists for evaluating systems or just the sheer pleasure of listening. This is one of my favorites. Eva Cassidy was known around the Washington DC area but not nationally until her untimely death of cancer at the age of 33. BBC radio picked up her work and she became an overnight success. Great music.
Isn’t she lovely by Livingston Taylor. If you didn’t know better, you might think this was James Taylor crooning Stevie Wonder’s great composition, but you’d be wrong. Livingston Taylor, the brother of James, sings beautifully, and this arrangement and the recording are excellent and well balanced. A little flat in dynamics, but for evaluating high-end systems it’s great because of that. It should sound a little over damped yet full of life and never hard.
Everybody Plays the fool by Aaron Neville. I first heard Aaron Neville through the Neville Brothers, but it wouldn’t be long before brother Aaron eclipsed the others, scoring four Platinum-certified albums and four Top 10 hits in the United States, including three that went to #1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. This particular CD seems hard to find new, apparently out of print. Vinyl versions go for a couple of hundred bucks. The recording is stellar, and it’s a definite system show off piece.
Peter Gabriel Scratch my back. The particular cut I enjoy off this CD is Listening Wind. Really good recording of this Talking Heads cover that helps me determine just how much detail’s been preserved by electronics. This is one of those cuts that sounds good on any system, but great on only a handful.
Song for the journey by Tish Hinojosa. I don’t know much about this artist. Many of the songs I have collected for the reference system over the years were from shows, or friends, and peaked my interest. This one’s no different. Great female vocal, simple, great upper harmonics, imaging is simple and should have extreme depth. Tish should appear perfectly sized as if she were in the room. Too big and you’ve got something amiss.
Cantate Domino by Oscar Motekkor. My favorite, Weihnachtslied, is Oh Holy Night. The warhorse is perhaps the single most played demo disc in the library, now available on SACD. If you own a DMP, snag this beauty while you can. The CD is great enough that it’s been a standard for years. Vinyl’s excellent as well.
Fly by Reed Fodel One CD PS. This is a must have. Few people come through Music Room One without being treated to this masterpiece.
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Try Christy Baron’s version of “Ain’t no sunshine”
Nice double bass.
And BTW, I have an audiophile friend who doesn’t like female voices at all.
(except for that he’s quite normal).
I agree that the Peter Gabriel Scratch My Back album sounds great, if you can get hold of the 24/48 or 24/96 version they are even better… I would say that the cover of Arcade Fire’s My Body is a Cage is the best track on the album. Also you might want to look out Geoffrey Oryema’s cover of Listening Wind – https://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Geoffrey-Oryema/dp/B00004RG0N/ref=tmm_acd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1501234650&sr=8-1
If you can’t find the Compact Jazz edition of Bill Evans’ “My Foolish Heart”, the track is on 3 other albums: Waltz for Debbie (the best transfer I’ve got), Original Jazz Classics – Bill Evans (same as previous but lower level transfer) and Gloria’s Step (poor transfer).
David – you are spot on – Waltz for Debby is a fantastic album….especially the hires transfer…
The album, “Waltz for Debby” is a 1961 live recording of a trio with Paul Motian on drums and Scott LaFaro on bass, and it contains an excellent version of “My Foolish Heart.”
The version of “My Foolish Heart” on the “Compact Jazz” CD is by a different trio (with Arnold Wise on drums and Chuck Israels on bass).
“Compact Jazz” is not hard to find. There are numerous used copies on Amazon starting at $0.99, and it can be had there new for $6.99.
Maybe Paul is referring to the 1975 live album entitled, “My Foolish Heart”?:
No.1 imo: Grey/Hoffman’s remastering from Analogue Productions on 45RPM vinyl
No.2: Doug Sax’s remastering from Analogue Productions on SACD or vinyl
concerning Eva Cassidy I’d like to recommend the latest release
Of course one should have “Songbird”, too.
Although Christine Perfect (McVie) sings this song beautifully, for me It is THE song of Eva!
Speaking of covers, for me the most emotional is Tori Amos with her version of Tom Waits’ “Time”.
A very moving song performed by a beautiful singer.
For me that’s what it’s all about. Soundquality comes second.
+1 on Scratch My Back. That is a wonderful album. I was made aware of it while watching an episode of House. They played My Body is a Cage, which if you was the show, is very relevant to his physical ailment. I have actually come across a lot of music by watching House & Bones. Whoever produces them must like music. I would always have Shazam ready when watching.
Amazing what 40 years does for music choices in evaluating speakers! Back in the day my music of choice to let me decide if I liked a pair of speakers was more along the lines of “Bad Motor Scooter” by Montrose, Mott the Hoople’s “Driving Sister”, anything by Slade, and as acoustic as I would get might be Cat Stevens or Terrance Boylan. It’s no wonder at the time I thought those Bose 301’s I had sounded good. Ha Ha.
Typing this this morning from the aft deck of a friend-of-a-friend’s boat in Connecticut where the only music is the breeze and the sound of the gulls cracking the crabs open on the dock for breakfast! Happy listening everyone.
Cantate domino is indeed an outstanding recording. It has all the elements to judge a systems worth. On a good system it can sound out of this world. Regards.
But I don’t see a version of O Holy Night on this CD. There is a version of Stille Nacht (Silent Night). Maybe that is what Paul was referring to?
Karl, It’s on my copy as Julsang (Christmas Song). Track 11. Check it out.
I love music hints, thanks!
I have my loud level Rock/Pop phase today. Everyone who’s looking for an incredibly rich and yet transparent great sounding one, try the new Santana hires album IV!
I just hear this after some CSN, Stevie Wonder (Audio Fidelity) and Donald Fagen 😉
Just to remeber good times, check out Stevie Wonder’s “You haven’t done nothin'”
Incredible what rhythm these guys have, how they de- and accelerate pace on micro level and how the DS shows it!
I was also confused by Paul’s comment that the Bill Evans Trio version of “My Foolish Heart” is, “stupidly hard to find.”
As mentioned above, what many consider the classic version with Motion and LaFaro is from the Village Vanguard sessions and has been reissued perhaps more frequently than any of Bill’s live performances. Bill continued performing the song up until his death. It was a prominent feature of his sets at the Keystone Korner at the very end of his life. (Captured on two beautiful boxed sets: “Consecration” and “The Last Waltz.”)
dan schwartz with jon hassell-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9_7KwvrMkY
neville brothers yellow moon-a GREAT album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1Y6W1FaSVQ
more for you-osamu-“osamu”==https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFQN1Cyebtg
the s/t album by osamu is a real joy. analog recording from 1977 with great music that i characterize as ‘asian fusion’. i had the record for a long time before i realized that Minnie Riperton vocalizes and ascends int the stratosphere with her 5 octave range. she died from leukemia and her daughter is Maya Rudolph frm SNL!
another of his great ones of more recent vintage is “Epitome”.
trilok gurtu is another gem. there is a video on yt that is also available as a dvd with him, terje rypdal, and miroslav vitous that is fantastic. trilok, who has gigged a lot with zawinul and weather report, plays traps while SITTING ON THE FLOOR!
end of exhortation.
The cival wars
Antonio forcioni quartet live
All of the above are just redbook
All albums above are great music and great sound
Paul, I remember the first time we met. It was at my house to hear my brand new (at the time) Genesis 1.1s. It was after you spent the day at the Stereophile Audio Show in Chicago in 1999 (where I believe you were introducing the new and revolutionary P300). Anyway, the very first track I played was “Isn’t she lovely” by Livingston Taylor. Of course, you were already familiar with the the album. But, when Livingston began to strum his guitar, sing, and then whistle it gave us all chills! Good memories, my friend!
That show was also the first time I remember meeting Paul . I will never forget the twinkle in his eyes and his excitement when he talked about his new baby.
Thanks Bob and I write about our first meeting in my upcoming book Confessions. Your system was simply breathtaking and there was this clandestine meeting to pay for some gear….
Which My Foolish Heart are you recommending? I found a compilation from the Village Vanguard recordings using that title plus a 1975 live album, truly hard to source.
I don’t believe mine’s off the Vanguard compilation but cannot be sure since the piece was “gifted” to me from a friend. It’s older, for sure. I’ve heard several versions but none seem to rival this one.
Thank you for this post.
I just “discovered” Eva Cassidy
and I love her voice and take on songs !
I’ve said this before, (this is all your fault Paul!), but I often save these emails so I can bimge read them. This particular post somehow escaped me & my words will fall upon no one.
I am shocked that no one mentioned Steely Dan’s Aja album! I’m sure most people who visit this great source of audio knowledge are familiar with how anal Steely Dan has been about the quality of their recordings. Their second album allegedly had no EQ processing at all. Becker and Fagan elected to budget their money to obtain the best studio possible. Aja is a special recording, I can’t begin to guess how many times I’ve heard parts of it used for sound checks. I’ve used it for decades to audition audio equipment along with some Pink Floyd albums, Ricky Lee Jones along with a couple horrible recordings that are surprisingly helpful evaluating speakers when I can’t choose between finalists. I found why the Aja & Ricky Lee Jones albums had so much appeal to my ears, the recording engineer Roger Nichols. I wish he was still with us, his work was simply the best IMHO.
Paul it’s your fault! I enjoy the daily posts, but your audience is a wealth of info on its own. They’ve turned me on to things I doubt I would find on my own! I deeply appreciate both!