Thursday, February 28, 2019

Electric Recording Co. - Jazz (Re-releases) - No. 204

Electric Recording Co. - Jazz (Re-releases)

A while back, I read in a forum about this label with their super expensive records and I did check them out. I'm not a classical music fan (I can listen to some of it, but that's about the extent of it), and that was, as I remember, all they had on offer. I knew from other sources, that their product was supposed to be amazingly good, a lot of detail and care going into the production of these re-releases. All valve (and of course all analogue), sleeve redone (not a scan of an old issue), going as far as tracking down the original photograps and relettering the text as per the original specifications.

There's some informational video on their website. What you get is a top product, that comes at a price. No discussion or trying to downplay this fact. Haptically, this is simply an amazing product, record (no scuffs as with other "audiophile" labels), proper innersleeve, thick cardboard sleeve, OBI style wrap-around, ERC embossed protective sleeve and a certificate.

And then, they started with Jazz records. I listen to Jazz from Be-Bop upwards, but my main genre in Jazz is certainly Free Jazz, Avantgarde, Noise, Industrial and Experimental, but Be-Bop is never far away. Although I have to admit, I'm not listening to any Jazz pre-Be-Bop. Maybe Bop on a good day, the rest is not for me. I wasn't sure wether to buy one record, just for the heck of it, because they are asking serious money. In the end I put the cash down and bought their latest release at the time, Jackie McLean's "Lights Out!" and despite the cash that went out the window, I was (and still am) extremely satisfied with what I got.

What I had to do then, I bought myself another "audiophile" release by another label, to compare both LPs side by side. I'm not too good at it, but I wanted to give it a try and have done ever since. One of the reviews I read, warned the reader, not to expect a sunrise, but rather the best possible performance you can have on vinyl. I can confirm this, you have to realise, that there is no mastering done, no remixing, no nothing of the fancy stuff you get these days. It's a beautifully crafted item, that's it! Needless to say, so I say it anyway, no background noise to speak of (with vinyl you always have a certain low level), and absolutely no crackling or pops. I don't expect the record to hold up the quality forever, because the, frankly, medieval manufacturing process and the needle of a cartridge ploughing through the groove, don't really help to preserve an LP (unless you're forking out for one of these Japan turntables that work via laser, but it'll be digital in the end - and peace for your mind, because your record will survive it without detoriation - if you can afford to cough up this kind of money - we're talking about a very expensive record player).

My set-up is good, but there's nothing "audiophile" about it, nor is it "high end" per se. But for whatever it is, I can still enjoy those ERC records. Some time back, in fact because of the ERC releases, I bought myself a dedicated Mono MC and since I don't have two decks, I always need to change the cartridges. One other drawback, my amp doesn't do Mono, it's Stereo only. Apparently, there's a world of difference, listening to Mono on a Stereo System (amp and loudspeakers). But truth be told, I don't have that many Mono records to shell out for a complete second set-up gear-wise.

Up to now, my second choice, to compare these records with, had always been AP. The latest however, Bill Evans "Sunday At The Village Vanguard", is a bit of a problem. AP apparently had released this LP as well, but it seems hard to come by. My solution now, I have a MFSL One-Step copy that'll have to do.

There are, in the above example of Jackie McLeans "Lights Out!", some subtle differences between ERC and AP. There's at least one track on the latter release, that has a more pronounced noise level (must have been the tape) and I got the feeling, that Bass and Drums are somewhat clearer on the former. Actually, the problem here is, that one is trying to find a difference, there must be one, you paid of lot more for one LP than for the other. This is the same everywhere, human nature. And yet, we all know, more expensive doesn't always equal better.

At the time of writing this, I've bought all of ERC's Jazz releases, with the exception of Tommy Flanagan's Trio "Overseas". Somehow I was a bit late and some of their offers sell out quite fast. The main market must be in the Far East, because the brochure that came with one of the LPs is written in Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English. Says a lot in fact.Just a word of caution, don't buy these if you're planning on reselling on the secondary market. I might be wrong, but I don't see any chance for a price hike. If anything, you're likely to sell below your cost price. Buy these items and enjoy them.



P.S: Recently, ERC started to issue Mono and Stereo releases of their Jazz output, cutting it down to 150 copies of each. Standard (Mono or Stereo only) releases are numbered to 300. Talk about limited.

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Siegel-Schwall Band - Same - No. 203

The Siegel-Schwall Band - Same

I bought my copy of the Siegel-Schwall Band's "Same" around mid to end 70s. It was (and still is) one of these lightweight records that come in way below 100 grams. In fact, the thing is so paper thin, that it almost folds itself when you hold it on one edge and let gravity do the rest. But, the pressing is of excellent quality and still plays amazingly clean. If those nerds come hopping along and brag about their 180 grams records (and conveniently forget to mention that theirs crackle, have non-fills and represent fruitbowls), I know what I have and prove the world wrong, jumping on a marketing train that does nothing for sonic quality.

I didn't know this back then, but I realised, that the pressing was something special, not just because of the little weight, but also because of the clarity in sound. I became a huge fan ot the Siegel-Schwall band, although at the time, I couldn't tell you what blues was supposed to be and strangely enough, when I heard it, there was no way I could say what it was. Blues it was and from the start, this record stayed with me. Years later, this album ist still in my top ... whatever. One killer track after the other.

It's not only the music, there's a great cover painting as well. And the shots (portraits of the members of the band) on the back of the cover are something to appreciate. Each track is a classic and I don't vote one above the other ... except "Hush Hush" which gives me goose bumps every time I hear it. The track lives on harp and it's so intense, yet a slow exhibition piece of a master playing the instrument. It's not highspeed harmonica. The rhythm is kind of hypnotizing and at 10:45, you've got all the time in the world to get carried away. The band could easily have drawn this out to half an hour. Hey, but wait, this is not all you get, around minute seven, there's a halting, laid back bass solo, the like you've never heard in your life.

Easy, spaced and not a lot of notes played, but Jesus Christ, what a performance. I know every note and can master it by now on my airbass. The clapping of the audience between the notes does something else entirely before Rollow speeds it up again and the band comes in at full force. A dream! This is one of the tracks I could have on repeat playing all week long.

In fact, no, I'd play the whole album in a loop, don't forget there's "(Wish I Was On A) Country Road", "Leavin'" and "Corinna" as well plus other tracks. When I'm sitting at my desk, writing text, the CD has to do. In my living room, the glorious LP goes into action. The latter is the way I got to know this island album. I'm a bit short on breath now, just by listening to Corky. I'm sure you all know the album, just wanted to go public with what I think about one of the greatest albums ever released.



Sunday, February 24, 2019

Remu & Hurriganes - Last Call / Live In Helsinki - No. 202

Remu & Hurriganes -Last Call / Live In Helsinki

Remu & Hurriganes in 2019? Well, the gig is actually from 2018 and it's Remu (and Remu), plus a few of his friends and brothers in arms in the service of Rock/Rock'n'Roll/Rhythm'n'Blues and whatnot. The Hurriganes are legend in Finland and a few years ago, Finnish parliament passed legislation, requiring every household in the country to own at least five LPs/CDs of said band. Everyone already had ten copies, so that was a shot in the oven.

Seriously, in Finland you are expected to know their works and if not, better be prepared to be shipped off on the next available airplane leaving the country. Generations of Finns have lived with the sound of the Hurriganes, from birth to death and everything in between. Just don't you dare call them average, because they are not. Bloody great band in my book and their music triggers a lot of buttons. My personal favourite is surely "Hanger", not least because of the melodic diversity on this album.

I haven't counted all releases, but I can't be far off with an estimate of around twenty albums (studio and live, except "Best Of's" - of the latter, there is a seemingly endless supply of cheap cash-in stuff, go for the originals). I believe Remu (only member flying the Hurriganes flag throughout their entire career and beyond, and their drummer and sometime singer) wasn't the only one standing for the band, but there are tragic stories buried in the past.

The Hurriganes have ceased to exist a long time ago already and Remu has had a low profile career carved out of the band in later years. Still a big name in Finland, but I believe his stage appearances were few and far between. No wonder, the guy is now, what, 70 or thereabouts? So, that's supposed to be then end then!?

The LP does have this kind of innersleeve that actually damages your records (offgassing and leaving marks), I don't know how this can still happen when every average record collector these days knows better. My advice, remove the inners at once and replace it with decent sleeves (even though the damage is already done). Just wanted to throw this in, before I forget the point. About the sound quality: I heard better, mainly this has a bit of a dull sound (and I have Infinity RSM speakers which overemphasize highs) and more crackling than is good for a brandnew, factory sealed record. The album is also available as a CD with a bonus DVD (not included in the vinyl version).

BUT the album rocks and rolls and is a joy to listen to despite the shortcomings. What you get are tracks that are ingrained in Remu's DNA (what else?) and the band sounds tight, which is remarkable enough for a one-night stand. And one or two of my favourites are on the LP as well, "Honey I'm Leaving", "Tallahassee Lassie", "I Will Stay" (what is it now, "Should I Stay Or Should I Go", please make up your mind) and many more. I did watch some videos on YT and was surprised to see Michael Monroe playing sax. News to me. But then, Hanoi Rocks is not my go-to Rockband (but I might have something by them). Not knowing anything about the state of Remu's health, he looked quite frail in these videos, but he seems to have made a stand with whatever strength he has and the performance wasn't for sissies.

This "Last Call" is a goodbye in style from a legend (I know, I said it before) and I wish Remu all the best. My only gripe is, I didn't know the music of the Hurriganes during their heydays, but better late than never. Remu & Hurriganes rock.



P.S.: The innersleeves do look like overstock from the 60s/70s (yellowish and already used). I'm talking about a factory sealed LP!!!