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Positive Feedback ISSUE 7
Amanda McBroom and Lincoln Mayorga, Growing Up in Hollywood Town (Lasting
Impression Music LIM XR 001)
Amanda McBroom has an amazing purity of tone that is simply stunning when heard live, as I had the good fortune to hear her a few years ago, sans amplification, in a small club. It was the type of experience that you simply don't forget. In my opinion, no recording captures that experience better than the classic Sheffield Lab album that has now been reissued as an XRCD by Winston Ma. The first time I played this first release from Winston's new Lasting Impression Music (LIM) label, it sent chills down my spine. Growing up in Hollywood Town, with Amanda McBroom on vocals and Lincoln Mayorga on piano, is billed as a "large scale pop" recording. It was recorded at the MGM sound stage in Culver City, California, in 1980, with a small orchestra containing instruments usually associated with classical music and jazz. I was there three years later for the Sheffield Lab recording of a jazz session entitled The Name is Macowicz, and can attest to the venue's very high sound quality.
For audiophiles active in the late 70s and early 80s, the name Sheffield Lab conjures up something special. Doug Sax and Lincoln Mayorga were pioneers of the direct-to-disc LP process, introducing the first modern "D-2-D" LP in 1968. It is true that all discs (e.g., 78s) were recorded direct-to-disc before the late 40s, since there was no tape, but the process was not used in the LP era until Sax and Mayorga made their first experimental recording in 1959 and brought out a commercial product in 1968. For more details, see the interview with Doug and Lincoln by Raymond Chowkwanyun and myself in Positive Feedback, Vol. 5, No. 4 (1995).
My favorite cuts on Growing up in Hollywood Town are the three pieces that are both written and performed by Amanda McBroom. "Amanda" is beautiful and haunting, "The Portrait" is evocative and sad, and "The Rose," written for the film of the same name, garnered a Golden Globe Award for McBroom. She also does a great job with "Dusk." The other five cuts are primarily instrumental, and include two pieces penned by Lincoln Mayorga. I love Amanda's cuts, while the rest are a matter of taste. (You may translate that as Audiophile with a capital "A.") My comments concern Amanda's cuts. I should also note that the track order on the LIM disc is entirely different than on the LP, which I didn't find bothersome. In fact, I preferred it, since Winston chose to put my fave, "Amanda," first.
If the Sheffield Lab release was direct-to-disc, what was the source material for the LIM release? Backup analog master tapes were made by Sheffield during the recording sessions. Doug Sax has never let them out the door of The Mastering Lab until he handed them to Winston Ma in October 2002, for this project. JVC's XRCD24 technology is an extension of its XRCD and XRCD2 technology. It uses the same purist philosophy and the same signal chain, except that the K2 digital processor has been extended to 24 bits. As regular readers know, I have been very impressed with the sound of XRCD and XRCD2 discs. The XRCD24 process should be even better. Winston Ma told me that he prefers it to the SACD format.
I compared the XRCD24 with my early-edition boxed and autographed version of the LP. I tried to level the playing field by listening to both on excellent front ends. The LP was played on a VPI TNT/JMW/Benz combo, while the CD was played on a Shanling CD-T100 using Western Electric tubes. How could a digital disc sourced from analog tape sound as good as the D-2-D LP, you might ask? It didn't. The LP was more transparent and neutral, more live and dynamic, more spatially believable, and more "organic." Although the instrumental dynamics on the LIM release didn't make the grade compared to the LP, the vocals had a purity that, as I say, sent chills down my spine. Despite its limitations, Winston Ma's product is quite enjoyable. I listened to it before listening to the LP, and found Amanda's cuts to be thoroughly engrossing. It was only upon listening to the LP, which I had not heard in a long time, that I realized that there was much more coming through the microphones at the MGM Studios on that day.
If you do not own a turntable, I recommend buying the XRCD24 for the four cuts mentioned above, but if you do own a turntable, I recommend looking for a clean copy of the LP. The fact that I enjoyed the XRCD24 as much as I did, especially prior to comparison with the LP, speaks volumes for the work that Winston and the team at the JVC Mastering Center were able to do, within the limitations of the master tape.
Performance 10 (Amanda's vocal cuts only)
Music 10 (Amanda's vocal cuts only; rest 5-7)
FIM Music www.fimpression.com