The Wonderful Sounds of Female Vocals

Humungous conflict of interest alert! I wrote this compilation’s liner notes and created the 22 song track order. Chad Kassem selected the female artists and the individual tracks sourced from albums he’d previously licensed and released on vinyl, SACD and high resolution download (maybe even R2R tape).

The concept was simple enough: a collection of well-recorded female vocalists revered by audio enthusiasts as well as by music lovers in general.

Since Kassem’s licensing choices hit sonic and musical bullseyes, all were guaranteed to sound good. But since they weren’t selected mindful of any particular concept, ordering them into a coherent “story” was the difficult if not impossible task I faced.

The sources all were high-resolution files, some DSD, some PCM, depending upon what Kassem was originally given in the digital domain, or in most cases what Gus Skinas produced in DSD using the original analog tapes. Anyone thinking why wasn’t this cut from tape is either insane or ignorant.

Cutting from tape would have necessitated getting the originals, which would be both costly and time consuming (if at all still possible), and making a copy from the master of each song and then splicing them all together.

Speaking of “splicing them together” here’s what I did to order the tracks: the set begins with Julie London’s “Cry Me a River”, arguably the first female vocalist at the beginning of the “hi-fi” era to appear as if in the listener’s room and backed simply by bass and guitar. Why not segue into another intimately recorded, track, Ella Fitzgerald ‘s “Black Coffee”, on which she’s backed by solo piano.

After copping out in the notes by writing “there’s no way to thematically link….” the 22 tunes, the compilation moves to Phoebe Snow’s “Poetry Man”, the excuse being she’s backed by jazz musicians. Works for me!

Next up is Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” just because, but it’s an easy call to move from there to Shelby Lynne’s “Just a Little Lovin’”. The side ends with Rickie Lee Jones’s cover of Steely Dan’s “Show Biz Kids”, with backing by some jazz greats. Pretty good side if you axe me!

Side two opens with Patsy Cline’s enduring cover of Willie Nelson’s “Crazy” recorded at Bradley’s Barn followed for obvious reasons by Holly Cole’s cover of “Tennessee Waltz” and then by Nashville resident Janis Ian’s “Breaking Silence.”

I’m not going to continue the “play by play”. However, there are three “moon” songs on side three: RLJ’s “The Moon is Made of Gold”, Julie London’s “Blue Moon” and Nancy Bryan’s “Blame it on the Moon”.

Other artist faves include Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Jennifer Warnes, Patricia Barber, Nina Simone and Diana Krall.

If you’re unfamiliar with Myra Taylor, after you hear her take on “Hey There”, you might want to buy the album My Night to Dream.

This double LP set works well as entertainment and as a great sampler of the LPs mostly released by Analogue Productions and mostly AAA (where there’s tape to begin with). You can’t go wrong.

As for my liner notes: I used “great” a great many times when I shouldn’t have (sorry!) but worse: no one in the editing caught where I accidentally uses “rolls” instead of “roles”. I hate when that happens though it’s not as bad as the time in The Tracking Angle where I wrote about “Billy” Holiday (the “roll” era will be fixed on the second pressing now being being produced—at the recently Hong Kong Audio Show 1600 copies were sold just about evenly split between LPs and SACDs).

This is a great sampler! (there I go again). Easy to recommend for the music and the consistently fine sound. And yes, the album title sounds like either Reader’s Digest lives or something hatched by Time-Life in the 1970s!


Michael Fremer

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The Wonderful Sounds of Female Vocals: Various Artists

Analogue Productions APP 122, 2 180g LPs, 2 SACDs
Produced by: Various (Executive Producer, Chad Kassem)
Engineered by: Various
Mixed by: Various
Mastered by: Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio