Monday, 30 September 2013

Yes - High Vibration SACD Box Set Sound Quality

Of course the main reason for buying this massive box set of Yes recordings is the prospect of superior sound which SACD should offer. That is partially down to the mastering from the tapes. Here, these were done in Japan of course, by Isao Kikuchi who was responsible for the 2009 rematers for the SHM Yes titles and I believe the previous HDCD catalogue releases. Plenty on the Steve Hoffman forum don't rate his work at all. On the SHM masters I actually, for the most part found them to be really good. As far as this SACD box set goes I think he has done an excellent job.

The highlights for me are Tales from Topographic Oceans, Relayer and Drama. The sound is very clear, particularly on Relayer. The bass is very distinct, without overwhelming everything else. TFTO now has a bit of life about it which makes it a much more exciting listen. It has always been one of my favourite Yes albums, but I always thought of it having a very lacklustre sound. Relayer always sounded murky and over busy. Here the murkiness is gone, the detail and layers of instrumentation coming through very distinct. Drama is very punchy with Whites drumming never better recorded.

The poorest sounding discs are those for Fragile and Close to the Edge. On South Side of the Sky, Wakemans piano distorts and on CTTE, the organ solo also crackles a bit. However, what was side 2 of Fragile on the original LP sounds stunning. Long Distance Runaround/The Fish is sublime and actually gave me goosebumps. I have never heard this sound so good. My feeling is the distortion I am hearing may be more down to the tapes than the mastering as the other discs in the set sound so good. Hoffmans recent CTTE SACD master didn't suffer the same problem during the organ solo, maybe he used different tapes.

Overall this is a fine sounding set. What Kikuchi has done is enable the SACD masters to let the natural sound of these recordings shine through. For me he has not added too much EQ or overwhelmingly compressed them. Of course many will disagree with me. I am not an audiophile, I am just using my ears and I like what I hear which is good enough for me.


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Yes - High Vibration SACD Box Set Packaging


From the pic on the previous posting its obvious the albums in this set are not packaged as papersleeve mini LP replicas as has been reported elsewehere. They are all packaged in standard jewel cases. To some this will be dissapointing as the Japanese do papersleeves so well. For me I have a set of those as per the SHM releases of a few years back. So no problem for me. Each jewel case has a replica of the original vinyl artwork reporoduced on a single fold card. The card is actually quite robust and the printing is very good. The exceptions to this are Yessongs, which has a 4 page book replicating all of Roger Deans artwork. The actual layout of this disc is very similar to Joe Gastwirts Atlantic remaster from the 90's. Also, Going for the One has a double folded sheet replicating the original LP gatefold design. The 220 page booklet has text in Japanese of course. But, actually most of the booklet is made up of good colour reproductions of the vinyl LP labels, album inserts and lyrics, both in English and Japanese. Its interesting, there is a photo at the end of the booklet which is of the master for The Gates of Delerium. It does say stereo copy, with Porky (remember Porky's Prime Cuts) as the engineer, so these may be production copies, which were used for these transfers.





Monday, 23 September 2013

Yes - High Vibration SACD Box Set First View

Just arrived. So here are the first pics.




More on this to follow.


Anathema - Universal

Kscope come up with another sumptuous package. This time its the 4 disc live concert by Anthema. You get the full concert over 2 CD's and the visual document on DVD or blu- ray, the latter includes bonus live material recorded at the Union Chapel. This concert was filmed with an orchestra in Bulgaria by longtime Steven Wilson collaborator Lasse Hoile. Here he reigns in his usual dark and foreboding visual style to present a fairly straightforward concert experience. Very good it is too. Its quite an immersive experience, where you feel very much part of the concert.

To be honest I would not consider Anathema a progressive rock band. If anything some of their big, guitar breaks owe more to the shoegazing bands of the 90's. Their music is epic and highly emotional and actually very hard to pigeonhole completely. But songs such as Untouchable (parts 1 and 2), The Beginning and the End and A Natural Disaster really do pack a huge emotional punch where you are left feeling this band should be hugely popular. I really do hope they do get more exposure as their music deserves to be heard by a much wider audience. Maybe this live document will go some ways to enabling that.


Saturday, 21 September 2013

Aldo Tagliapietra - L'Aangelo Rinchiuso

For those in the know Aldo was bass player with renowned Italian prog band Le Orme. Along with Premiata Forneria Marconi and Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, defined progressive rock in Italy during the 70's. This new solo album is the second since Aldo left the reinvigorated Le Orme back in 2009. Sporting a gorgeous Paul Whitehead cover (of Genesis and VdGG fame) this seems to be a concept album with all the tracks interlinking. It is a gorgeous sounding album. Typically Italian symphonic, very melodic with great vocals by Aldo. Its not heavy prog or too demanding actually, but the Italians were masters of beautifully flowing, symphonic prog and this solo is a prime example.


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

KBB - Age of Pain

The Japanese do to progressive rock what they do to most things. They see a good idea and make it far better than the original. The musicianship of bands like Bi Kyo Ran, Kenso, Gerard and KBB is nothing short of breathtaking. Both Kenso and KBB share a love of fusion based prog. Purely instrumental, fast, complex and perfectly executed. The above is the latest by KBB. It appears to be only available from Japan on the Arcangelo label. Previous releases have been released on the French Musea label, so maybe they will issue this at some point.

This new studio album is as good as anything they have released before. Centred around Akihisa Tsuboy's strindent and searing violin playing, the material is extremely melodic and beautifully arranged. Special mention goes to the excellent bass playing of Dani, who can really turn the fuzz up when needed.

The CD sounds really good, with lots of detail and clarity. Very well recorded, mixed and mastered, all by Tsuboy himself. Nice glossy gatefold mini LP packaging too.

Its been a good week for Japanese based prog rock. With this and the Rovo/System7 collaboration, which is quite exceptional.


Saturday, 14 September 2013

Rovo and System 7 - Phoenix Rising

Just in. It's really good to see Hillage embracing prog rock again, here teaming up with Japanese band Rovo. Not heard it yet, but I note there is a cover of the Mahavishnu Orchestra's Meeting of the Spirits which should be wild! This release is timely, coming just after Steve wins the Visionary Award at this years Prog Awards ceremony a week or so back. Welcome back Steve!


Wednesday, 11 September 2013

SHM CD's are better!

Anyone who collects or has looked at Japanese papersleeve mini LP CD's will know that the companies who manufacture them like to offer distinctive mastering and disc types. Many see this as purely a gimmick to make the consumer buy the same album over and over, thinking they are going to get something which sounds better than what they bought before. We have seen different formats like SHM, HQCD and Blu-spec bandied about. I have read plenty of postings on many forums negating these formats, basically saying there is no difference in the sound compared to a standard manufactured CD.

However I recently came across a thread in the Computer Audiophile forum concerning this very subject and was amazed to read those posted by Barry Diament, who is a very highly regarded mastering engineer (he mastered the original CD issues of Yes and Led Zeppelin titles). He, quite emphatically stated that there is an audible difference between standard CD playback and the same mastering on an SHM disc. He says the SHM disc sounds more like the original master than the normal CD. What's more, when he ripped both discs to computer, the digital files sounded the same, both sounding similar to the master. So, by removing the digital files from the physical CD it sounded better! I take it the conclusion is that the manufacture of the CD somehow degrades the playback of the digital music, whereas the improvement of the SHM disc does not. According to Barry's experience, he has even noticed difference in CD's from different pressing plants. So it's not all just 1's and 0's. The physical medium does make a difference.

Below is a link to the Computer Audiophile thread and also to an article from the What Hi-fi web site which heard similar improvements from these discs.

Are SHM releases necessarily better than the original CD ?

JAPAN: Like CDs, only better… |


Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Box Set Bonanza

It's getting to that time of year. As we approach October the number of box sets being offered up to the discerning collector is overwhelming this year. Here's my pick on what is coming up.

Coming soon is the mega expensive box set of Yes albums in SACD. It has been delayed from early September to the 18th, which I am not surprised at, considering the number of discs to manufacture and the fact that there are not many pressing plants left which produce SACD discs. I think there are only two. It will be interesting to see how CTTE in this compares to the upcoming Steven Wilson remixes. You can bet the packaging will be smart!

People will buy this mostly for the Vapor Trails remix/remaster. But it will be nice to have the other titles in mini LP type sleeves. The price listed at Amazon is really cheap too!

The biggy! All the live King Crimson anyone really needs! This is going to be great. The amount of work that David Singleton has put in to make all these live recordings sound top notch has to be commended. This is going to be one of the best box sets ever produced. I love King Crimson so I am biased!

Well done Universal in producing this fantastic looking retrospective for one of our greatest singer/songwriters. A fitting tribute to John Martyn's singular gifts. He was special.


Magenta - The Twenty Seven Club

Possible contender for album of the year. Magenta have produced brilliant symphonic prog for many years, but this latest offering is at present to these ears their best yet. After Rob Reeds excellent project Kompendium from last year, he seems to be on a bit of a roll. This latest album is as strong as anything they have done in the past. The band is basically down to a trio of Rob Reed, Christina Booth and Chris Fry. You can say their music is very derivative of Yes, even down to Chris Fry's Steve Howe guitar style. But when the material is as strong as this and played with so much aplomb, then that doesn't matter. It is a beautiful album and the hi res version on the DVD sounds sumptuous.


Monday, 9 September 2013

Just In

Just received these in the post today. I was very lucky to get the Crises box set as that seems to have become hard to come by very quickly. I thought these Oldfield reissues were being released later in the month, so did not bother ordering it yet, just checked Amazon every so often. When I started to read there were problems with stock I couldn't get my hands on it. Amazon didn't have it! Luckily SpinCD managed to get some supplies so here it is.

I am also very pleased to get the second album by the brilliant Italian group Il Tempio Delle Clessidre. There appears to be a healthy prog scene in Italy again. Just look at the catalogues of the excellent Italian labels like Black Widow and Altrock to see the diversification of artists on offer. In particular, Altrock have some amazing acts and nearly every release is spot on.