Welcome to the HiFi Starters February ’23 playlist, available on Spotify here.
This month the reigns are handed to Rob Hay of Audioquest for a list of 6 tracks that light his fire. The choices are personal, none more so than the Paganini that was a favourite of his dad. Who happened to be Richard Hay, founder of Nytech; audio runs deep in the family line. With which, over to Rob.
“I’ve decided to choose from a list of pieces I always play when listening to a new piece of kit…just like I am now…a Marantz SACD30N…using the SACD/CD side, streaming and the digital inputs…
These are by no means audiophile recordings or anything like that, they are from artists that I could listen to on an old cassette tape Walkman…that I just can’t think about not listening to anymore. Of course there are hundreds of others I could add to the list…”
1. “Atlantis” by Noah Gunderson (featuring Phoebe Bridgers) from Pillar of Salt
I just love his voice and song writing, and off this album it’s a cracker, great lyrics if a little dark. Another of his tracks that is amazing is Robin Williams (acoustic) on A Raven and a Dove. You can also see some really cool videos of him on YouTube; the Paste Studio Session is fantastic, especially the acoustic version of The Sound.
2. “Angry Words (Live)” by Willie Porter from High Wire Live
Another slightly acoustic folksy track from a guy I first encountered when he was supporting Tori Amos. His performance that night was jaw dropping, playing a 9 string acoustic if I remember! Been lucky enough to meet him at some low key gigs over here in the UK. One hell of a player, and live he always changes up the tracks. A wicked sense of humour too.
3. “Pneuma” by Tool from Fear Inoclum
OK, I could have chosen loads of Tool / Perfect Circle / Puscifer tracks as I love Maynard’s voice and lyrics, but Tool as an ensemble really have it for me. Thematically always interesting, and musically something else. I guess you’d call them Progressive Metal if you had to use a genre.
4. “Paganini’s Allegro Maestro” played by Perlman / Foster / RPO from Violin Concerto No 1 in E flat major
This will forever be a reminder of my father, who was an electronics engineer (predominantly an amplifier designer). He was such a classical fan. I could reel off hundreds of pieces, but he just loved Perlman’s playing (Brahms’ Violin Concerto with the Chicago Symphony and Carlo Maria Giulini is another stand out). I remember when he first brought home a Roksan Xerxes to use alongside the Linn and Rega turntables he had as ‘reference’ decks. This was one of the pieces that was first on, and I can still picture him being utterly lost in the piece…
5. “Present Tense” by Pearl Jam from No Code
I was 21 and at university when I first heard Pearl Jam. Everyone else was lost in Nirvana, which was fun, but it felt like there was more to PJ. I can’t go anywhere now without my PJ playlist on my phone. This track is close to being worn out for me as it’s a go to when setting up a system. When set-up correctly Eddie Vedder should resolve at standing height, in-between the speakers, and Mike McCreedy should be just on the inside edge of the left speaker, a little behind Eddie in the soundstage. Simply recorded, there is a tone and edge to the guitar that is intoxicating, the track swells and builds…fantastic. (Ed – this track has opened my eyes to Pearl Jam and I’m currently exploring their catalogue. Better late than never.)
6. “Made Again” by Marillion from Brave
I first heard Marillion at secondary school just before my O-Levels. The world was emerging from Punk, and New Romantics were reaching for hairspray and eye liner, which I hated. I’d found the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWoBHM) via school mates and was very content there, but a mate Justin Coombes lent me Real to Reel…blimey that was different!
At that point no-one had played any early Genesis or Yes to me so I wasn’t lost in the comparisons to other prog-rock bands…Marillion were a first for me. I think it was Steve Rothery’s playing – lyrical, harmonic – that had me. I could choose 20+ tracks from them, but I absolutely love the album Brave. The creative spark for the record was based on real events of a girl found walking on the Severn Bridge (there was only one back then). She was in a distressed state, and blocked/closed the M4. The album starts there and then is a work of fiction after that, as the band tried to imagine what journey took the girl to that point. I’m doubting myself as I write this, but I think the band were caught in the traffic jam when the motorway was closed. They were heading to Bristol after playing in Cardiff. I was at Uni and was at that gig in Cardiff!