Dave Grusin: Discovered Again (XRCD24 review)

Dave Grusin, Ron Carter, Lee Ritenour, Harvey Mason, Larry Bunker. LIM XR 002.

What do you mean, it's not classical music? It's jazz, and jazz is always classic. Especially when it's done by American composer, arranger, and pianist Dave Grusin. Besides, Grusin has not only written and arranged songs and soundtracks for Oscar-winning films like The Graduate and Tootsie and won an Oscar for The Milagro Beanfield War, he's done crossover albums of classical music as well. With credits for over a hundred films and a multitude of record albums, the guy is a class act all the way around.

Dave Grusin: Discovered Again is a 1976 recording remastered to audiophile standards on compact disc by producer Winston Ma's label, LIM (Lasting Impression Music). The thing is, it was an audiophile LP to begin with, a direct-to-disc production made originally by Sheffield Lab. The idea back then was to record a music session directly to the master lacquer, from which the company would strike a limited number of vinyl LPs, with no tape master involved. The dynamic range and impact of those direct discs provided a striking realism when played back on a good stereo system, probably as close to the live performance as one could get in the home. But they were also expensive and obviously appealed only to a small number of hi-fi buffs around the country. Eventually, CD's overcame vinyl in the marketplace, and Sheffield found it hard to continue with a diminishing fan base.

I remember reviewing all of Sheffield's direct discs back in the Seventies and early Eighties and loving them dearly. I also remember being disappointed when Sheffield began releasing their tape backups on CD; they never sounded as dynamic as their vinyl counterparts. So when LIM decided to give the tapes another shot on compact disc, this time in the XRCD process, I thought it was about time to revisit this great old album.

Joining Grusin on a Steinway piano and Fender Rhodes electric piano are Ron Carter, bass; Lee Ritenour, guitar; Harvey Mason, drums; and Larry Bunker, percussion. They make a tidy, well-knit ensemble.

The program begins with "A Child Is Born," quiet, soft, with fine bass playing, a clear, taut piano sound, and just a hint of percussive support. "Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow" comes next, probably the most well-known work on the album because of its use in the old Baretta TV series. It's a faster, more up-tempo piece than the preceding track, with firm bass thumps, excellent, extended highs, and superclean transient response. "Sun Song" features superb piano and percussion sound, and it's one of Grusin's sweeter melodies, building as it goes along. Then, there's "Captain Bacardi," a sambo from Antonio Carlos Jobim, among the most-exciting music on the disc, performed joyfully by the players. It makes for the kind of demo material audiophiles are so fond of using to impress friends and neighbors.

Next come three cowboy songs: "Git Along Little Doggies," "The Colorado Trail," and "Cripple Creek Breakdown," making a terrific set of variations on the familiar tunes. The original album ended with "Adeus A Papai," a piece Grusin wrote as a farewell to his father. Here, in addition, because the CD allows more space than the LP did, we get four previously unreleased alternative takes: "Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow," which I actually like better than the one from the direct disc for its being cleaner and more spontaneous; "Sun Song," "Git Along Little Doggies," and "The Colorado Trail."

In the JVC XRCD24 process, "the analog signal is taken directly from the custom mastering console and digitized via JVC's K2 24-bit Analogue-to-Digital Converter. The 24-bit digital word then passes through JVC's Digital K2, which regenerates a pure 24-bit digital signal that is recorded to a Sony PCD-9000 magneto-optical disk. The XRCD process takes advantage of the stability of the magneto-optical disk, as well as its 24-bit capacity by using it as the audio storage medium for delivery to manufacturing." From there, the JVC manufacturing plant plays back the 24-bit signal through the Digital K2 to eliminate any jitter and distortion and then converts the 24-bit signal to 16 bits using K2 Super Coding, "which ensures true 16-bit dynamic range. The 16-bit signal is then EFM encoded, and sent to a high-precision DVD K2 Laser," with "Extended Pit Cutting technology." And so on, with the use of a K2 Rubidium Clock and a special Master Stamper. It's a demanding process that obviously yields the best possible results.

So, in the final analysis, does this 24-bit super-analog remastering sound better than Sheffield's old direct-to-disc vinyl LP? No. LIM made this CD, after all, from tape backups, not from the original lacquer master. It doesn't have quite the dynamic punch of the old LP. However, the good news is that this XRCD24 sounds better than anything Sheffield ever put on CD and as good as anything you can buy on compact disc from any manufacturer. While the recording is a touch dry, with only a moderate perception of depth among the five players, these were always minor concerns of the original Sheffield production. Nevertheless, the transient quickness is superb for a compact disc, the dynamic range is wide, the bass is taut, and the clarity is outstanding. Moreover, for the listener interested primarily in the music, with the XRCD24 you don't have to put up with the ticks and pops of a vinyl LP. Put this release in the compact-disc audiophile class and have fun with the sound, the music, and the performances.

For more information about LIM (Lasting Impression Music) and FIM (First Impression Music), you can visit their Web site at http://www.firstimpressionmusic.com/.


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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor ofThe $ensible Soundmagazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa