The longest journey starts with the first step. I’m been on this journey for over 14 years now and am encouraged that the chances for high-resolution audio seem to be on the rise…at least to those of us paying attention to what Neil Young and Pono have done and the proliferation of high-resolution hardware, both portable and stationary, capable of playing back higher fidelity audio. But I always head back to the source and whether we’ll ever be able to get access to the actual “master tapes”. I don’t think anyone would disagree that this is one of the most important things that has to happen in order for audiophiles and music lovers in general to get excited by higher fidelity music.
So where do we start? What titles would you like to see revisited, remastered and re-transferred into high-resolution PCM files? I’m not going to do anything with DSD…I might do some transcodes to DSD if there are potential customers that have to have that sound, but it really makes no sense to me. Why not start with the perfect capture format and then move down to others as necessary. Ideally, I would like to be able to offer new mixes or transfers of surround music albums as well, so don’t leave those out of your requests.
I’m going to submit requests to each of the three major labels for 10 albums. I only want albums where the original “flat master” is available as a 2-channel analog tape. I’ll travel with my equipment to their studios or vaults if that’s what it takes. If the original “master” exists following a mastering session, then I would accept those as well. I don’t want the “high-resolution” digital transfers that have already been done and are available for sale through HDtracks and other sites. I’ve found too many problems and inconsistencies in that material. This will obviously limit the actual number of Dr. AIX certified iTrax or High Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray releases, but I hope people will come to trust the quality as I deliver them.
Here’s my own top five list to get us started:
1. Joni Mitchell – “Blue” This album is definitely one of my “desert island” must have recordings. The tunes are introspective, Joni’s singing is spot on and the instrumentation is sparse and entirely acoustic.
2. James Taylor – “Sweet Baby James” I realize I’m dating myself but this album inspired me to learn to play the guitar. I saw Robert Byrne (look him up…he went on to have a major career as a songwriter and producer in Nashville before an untimely death at the age of 51.) play “Fire and Rain” at a high school assembly in 1971 and was impressed. JT has always been a favorite of mine.
3. Crosby, Stills & Nash – “Crosby, Stills & Nash” Another acoustic and vocal masterpiece. Would love to hear this in surround and high-resolution.
4. Bruce Hornsby and the Range – “The Way It Is” This debut album from Bruce Hornsby put acoustic piano on the map of commercial music. His voice, songs and arrangements were perfect…and I knew the bass player Joe Puerta (from working with Ambrosia) back when I first started engineering.
5. Van Morrison – “Moondance” – This was Van Morrison’s third release and brought the Northern Irish singer-songwriter to a large American audience and established him as a major artist. The jazz influence on the title track was brilliant step.
So I’ve kicked it off…I know this shows my age, but perhaps there are others out there that would love to hear these albums at their absolute best. I know I would.