Monday, 29 December 2014

Bruford - Japanese Papersleeve Box Set of SHM CD's

Bill Bruford, drummer extrordinaire of Yes and King Crimson fame recorded his first solo album back in 1977, just prior to his stint with UK. When that band split in two, he put together his own band Bruford, which comprised the same key musicians who appeared on his solo album. They recorded two studio albums plus a live recording, before that band too broke up. These albums are wonderful slices of British jazz-rock, with hints of the Canterbury Sound of National Health. No surprises there as Canterbury keyboard star Dave Stewart played keyboards on the Bruford albums.

Bruford himself re-issued the albums a few years back on his own label Winterfold, remastered by John Burns. But to be honest they didn't sound massively improved over the original EG CD's. Now they have just been re-issued again on the Japanese Belle Antique label as SHM CD's, individually or as a box set. As the bonus tracks are as per the Bruford issues, I assume these new CD's use the same digital transfers. However, the notes state digital remastering by Kazuo Ogino, so they are different to those discs and boy are they different! These have to be some of the best sounding SHM CD's I have heard. The mastering is really sympathetic to the material, which is unusual for Japanese discs. Their mastering engineers tend to crank the volume up a lot, but not here. I had to crank the volume up more than usual, so the dynamics are very good indeed. In fact the space, detail and warmth of these masters is quite something. I put them akin to some of the best SACD's I have heard. On the track Back to the Beginning for instance you can hear Annette Peacock's vocals reverberate around the studio. That I have not heard before. I was really impressed by these discs and they were definately worth the upgrade. Maybe Japanese engineers are at last getting the message about subtlety in mastering!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Albums of the year 2014


Well, everyone does it! So, here's my choice as of today. Like all things, it may be different tomorrow, but this is as good as I can make it. Again, it has been a very good year for prog rock. It gladdens my heart that the music I loved as a teenager back in the 70's is now not only accepted again but celebrated and even embraced by new groups and artists. Long may it continue. So here's my personal favourites of the year in no particular order. That would be asking too much!

Opeth - Pale Communion

Motorpsycho - Still Life with Eggplant

Spleen Arcana - The Light Beyond the Shades

Cosmograf - Capacitor

Zuffanti - La Quarta Vittima

Anathema - Distant Satellites

IQ - The Road to Bones

Flying Colors - Second Nature

Tim Bowness - Abandoned Dancehall Dreams

United Progressive Fraternity - Fall in Love with the World

Schnauser - Protein For Everyone

Tin Spirits - Scorch

Nick Magnus - N'monix

Engineers - Always Returning

Rhys Marsh - Sentiment

RPWL - Wanted

Syd Arthur - Sound Mirror

Stars in Battledress - In Droplet Form

Kaukasus - 'I'

The Samurai of Prog - The Imperial Hotel

The top spot still goes to Sentiment by Rhys Marsh. A quite magnificent album. Faultless in my opinion.

Label of the year without a doubt is Esoteric Antenna. They have released the most distinctive and stylistically broadest albums this year. The quality has been consistently outstanding. Well done to Mark and Vicky Powell.

The annual King Crimson Box Set of the Year Award goes to Starless of course. I do love those boxes but I hope we can get back to having the rest of the studio back catalogue released next year.

That's all for now!