The HiFi Starters Club January 23 playlist……find it on Spotify here.
The focus this month is on picking out interesting music that’s well produced overall. As opposed to tracks with strong bass, epic dynamics, laser-focused soundstaging or any of the other audiophile attributes we love to fuss over. Basically just relax and enjoy the ‘toon’. In all cases the rest of the album is equally good (except #2 as it’s a single).
1. “1974” by the Espen Erikson Trio from In The Mountains
A live recording that sounds remarkably close to the studio versions – if you want one Espen Erikson Trio album this is probably the one to go for. There are five more worth exploring though. Me? I can’t get enough of their (mostly) gentle European take on jazz. Not least as the music accompanied me on a recent long sponsored walk; listening to it, completely fatigued, as we walked through the night somewhat imprinted it on me.
2. “Talk To Me Of Mendocino” by John Smith & Katherine Priddy (a single)
Another artist with a personal connection (listen to “Dartmouth Ferry” from The Fray Variations, you’ll probably guess why), John Smith teamed up with newcomer Katherine Priddy for a short UK tour in Autumn 2022. Check out our Instagram feed of the Dartington leg. The music was the aural equivalent of curling up in front of a glowing log fire; warm and totally relaxing. And the gig was topped out with Mendocino, also released as a single. The harmonies just work so well…..
3. “Mother” by Roger Waters from The Lockdown Sessions
When it comes to the Roger Waters / David Gilmour divide I’m usually to be found on the latter’s side (less ego, more music – discuss!) Credit to Waters though, The Lockdown Sessions is an absolute cracker. Laid back arrangements, fabulous backing vocals, Waters leading the charge. The only disappointment is that it ends too soon. Leave them wanting more as they say…
4. “The Rock” by Etta James from Love’s Been Rough On Me
Much of Etta’s output isn’t very well recorded. Dare I say she can get a bit shouty at times too. Love’s Been Rough On Me bucks both trends, with a beautifully polished set of songs taken from the latter part of her career. I only found it recently, it’s had a lot of plays already.
5. “The Poet Game” by Seth Avett from Seth Avett Sings Greg Brown
A case study in underselling – the dullest of titles, album art that redefines plain and a canon of music from someone you’ve never heard of. Boy does it over-deliver though. Jack Johnson-ish in style – hardly surprising, he and Avett play together – there’s depth to the music that shows itself the more you play it. It’s a nice clean recording too. Possibly my sleeper hit of 2022.
6. “Primary Colours” by Peter Gregson from Quartets: One – Four
Ambient string music. Sort of – it veers back and forth from classical string quartet to almost ambient. Done wrong that would be a crossover disaster, the worst of both worlds. In Gregson’s assured hands it really works. One of those you put on to see what it’s like, then end up listening to the whole album. Often.