ONLINE - ISSUE 16
Karrin Allyson - Pure Audiophile PA-007 (2)
Boy, that blue vinyl sure looks good sitting on the turntable! Karrin Allyson's album In Blue has been issued for the first time on LP by Pure Audiophile, pressed on blue vinyl, using lacquers that were mastered at half-speed by the one, the only, the incomparable Stan Ricker. Blue vinyl, as loyal readers of my record reviews know, is stiffer than black vinyl, and thus retains the high frequencies better, lending a real feeling of life to the recording. And a sense of life this recording has in spades.
Karrin Allyson has recorded an album of blues tunes done mostly as jazz, and her distinctive voice is backed up by a hot combo. Karrin can sound sweet and contemplative, sensual and soulful, or streetwise and sassy, depending on the mood. Karrin's expressive voice is perfectly suited to this material, and her voice works well with a blues twist. She convincingly sings straight blues in one cut on the album, "Love Me Like a Man," which is intended to sound like it was recorded in a raunchy blues bar. And her brilliant scat work is something to write home about.
Karrin is backed up by an outstanding jazz combo consisting of sax, guitar, piano, Fender Rhodes, bass and drums. Mulgrew Miller does an outstanding job on piano and Fender Rhodes, contributing a lot to the atmosphere of many of the songs. Danny Embrey is nimble and oh so tasteful on the guitar, offering some amazing solos. Lewis Nash's drum work propels the combo, and his cymbals float above the music.
This album really swings. And soundwise, the soundstage is wide open, instrumental timbres are right on, and transparency, subtlety and nuance are there in spades. Karrin's voice is beautifully recorded. On "Hum Drum Blues," Karrin's technique really shines, and her jazzy version of this blues classic really clicks, with lots of great scat thrown in. If this cut doesn't get your body moving, something's wrong, and it's not with the recording. The other up-tempo numbers include "West Coast Blues," about loneliness on the road, and "Evil Gal Blues," which tells a story of a woman you don't want as a girlfriend, unless you're looking for trouble.
Dennis Cassidy of Pure Audiophile has chosen to issue this as a two-disc 33 rpm set, with two bonus tracks to round out the four sides. Stan Ricker mastered the lacquers from 24/96 digital masters. At the time the pressing was done at RTI, the vinyl vendor Keysor-Century had gone out of business. Blue vinyl was impossible to find, and a crisis in the availability of vinyl in general was being rumored. Don MacInnis of RTI had the foresight to buy up a large quantity of blue vinyl from Keysor-Century for this release just before they closed their doors in December, 2003. The other major vinyl supplier in the US, Rimtec, has now begun producing colored vinyl, and according to Don, they are producing very high-quality black vinyl, so any looming crisis has been averted. It looks like there will be a good supply of high-quality vinyl for a long time to come. (And FYI. this vinyl was auditioned on my VPI TNT with a Benz Ruby cartridge in a JMW Memorial arm, with a fantastic prototype Black Diamond Racing record clamp and a Hovland tonearm cable. This rig rests on a prototype mechanically floating isolation platform from Minus K Technology, of a type normally used for atomic force microscopes.)
It is easy to see why it has garnered Karrin Allyson so many accolades. She is at the top rank of female vocalists in this country today, and her talents are showcased beautifully in the album. Please support Pure Audiophile and buy this album. From the choice of material, to the beautiful gatefold jacket, to the choice of Stan Ricker to master the LPs, Dennis Cassidy is a class act.
The only flaw in an otherwise near-perfect album is the high level of "groove rush," a background hiss that is noticeable but not objectionable, rather akin to tape hiss. When held up to a light, the blue vinyl appears frosty, lacking the transparency and visual "snap" of Pure Audiophile's other blue vinyl releases. In the opinion of this reviewer, something bad must have happened to this particular batch of blue vinyl somewhere along the line. But if you can ignore tape hiss, you can ignore the groove rush. This album is so good even with the vinyl problem that it is very highly recommended.
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