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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ravi Shankar/Andre Previn's Concert for Sitar & Orchestra - EMI vinyl vs. open-reel master-dub tape



I love this very recording: it's, better it would have possibly be in lesser hands, a sort-of "pastiche", à la "East meets West", but Pandit Shankar's skill and musicality with the baton of maesto Previn allowed the mighty London Symphony Orchestra to play blissfully with melismas more akin of an Indian ensemble... a miracle of balance and beauty... very enjoyable music, both light and ancient and deep like a Raga can be.

... but the reason I'm hinting to this recording isn't only related to its beauty...

I purchased many years ago at Irvington Music from Portland, OR, some great second generation, open-reel, master-dubs...

Not cheap, BUT, thinking about the quality of these tapes and their, often, mythical histories and paths, fragile items changing hands several times in the years, the price-tag sounded (someway) appropriate...

I purchased "Sketches of Spain" and "Kind of Blue" by Miles, the best ever, a couple of radio gigs by Monk, some obscure brass music... and Shankar/Previn's EMI on old Scotch 202 tape with 1K Hz Zero-VU-meter pilot-tone at the beginning of tape...

So, back to the topic: also if spinning at 7-1/2 i.p.s. I had to re-listen carefully to both formats, vinyl disc and tape, to fully "understand" what was going on!

Amazingly and always MUCH worth underlining and pointing it out, the RIAA treatment seems to have more flaws than merits to the ear... this is more apparent than in other recordings I'm aware of - i.e. the EMI's technicians and recordists made a very lively, beautiful recording, and the tape is - absolutely - a winner over vinyl... seems to listen to a completely different recording... the sitar is well centered and "low" in its soundstage positioning - i.e Pandit Shankar was floor/carpet seated, left of Previn's podium - and Alla Rakha's tablas interwoving with orchestra tympanis are simply breathtaking!

Also large parts for... solo triangle;-))) - are so enjoyable, true, TRUE-to-life... it's really something to be heard, folks.

Micro and macro dynamics are very "here", untiring, natural. Music isn't bleached, BUT owns a very high specific weight and room-filling capabilities...

... and it's a mid-speed master-dub, not a first generation 15 i.p.s. master-tape!!!

The vinyl disc which I owned and appreciated for decades is - plainly, yet fondly said - more "normal", with large portions of recording venue halo missing and never sounding so... sooo... "surprising" as the tape is during all the 40 minutes of its length.

The Tim de Parravicini-zed old, well kept and trusty Revox G-36 is truly a superb machine, also if its strongest merits are as a recording, NOT a playback, tape-machine.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed yesterday evening listening a lot... with some sadness when turning OFF my music system...

Everytime a format, tape, disc, disk reaches its Zenith, the VERY peak... KAPOOOW!

Industry goes for always lesser stuffs and media-formats, cheapest to produce and - often - more expensive to purchase for we all, poor users... gimmicks vs. quality!

In photography like in audio, it's the naked, sad truth... felt like a Druid, yesterday evening, at a shrine while loading the tape from a spool to another... the mass involved listening to the glorious TAS - i.e. Truest Analog Sound;-)

I like to think I'm not alone and several "music priests";-) are still well alive and kickin' with their tape-dinosaurs...






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