For German readers: some thoughts and notes and quotes on the music I'm listening - to be found
on my new blog:

Also check out the great new, independent magazine get happy!?, reporting on music, movies and more:

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Death of Hi-Fi... and the RVG series

I know some may find it strange to find this on a music blog... but still, most of time at home, I listen to one of my three or four or five thousand CDs (I refuse to count them), or to one of my few of dozen LPs, or to CDRs burned from radio broadcasts or lossless downloads of live shows.
Hardly ever do I play MP3s, only having a notebook and no equipment to hook it up with my amplifier helps... I do play MP3s when commuting or when I'm out for a run, on my ubupod. However, in these situations I don't really care for sound quality, anyway, normally I still prefer having my daily listening dose in good sound quality.

So here's an interesting article on this issue, courtesy of Rolling Stone:

Bear in mind that I am no audiophile at all, still I enjoy music much more - even at relatively low volume - if it unfolds in the air, in some kind of space (my messy chaotic room full of CDs, books, CDRs, and other stuff, usually).

As a jazz-related side-note: the RVG Edition by Blue Note - which has its merits, or rather had its merits once it was a series of albums that had not been out on CD for years - nowadays, many RVGs are reissues of albums that had been on CD just three or four years earlier, which is a pity, even more so as the CD reissue market seems to dry out slowly, and as there'd been some Blue Note material that has never been on CD in a regular way... why not bring out the Art Hodes sessions that only were part of a Mosaic set years ago, when I wasn't there to buy it... also lots of 60s material hasn't been on CD yet - more Rare Grooves would be a great idea, in my opinion! Okay, I got off the track, let me begin anew: the RVG series seems to me to be an example of that trend, to make reissues louder and more compressed. I have more or less stopped upgrading older Blue Note CDs since more often than not I feel the difference is not in quality, but rather in loudness and volume. If you know of discs where the sound is really an upgrade, other than the early BN sessions (Monk, Powell, Miles), please let me know - I'd be glad to get some recommendations! I got plenty of RVG discs myself, yet most of them are from the first years of the series (before EMI started throwing their copycrap cactus sh*t on the European market).

Possibly I'm much too harsh to good ole RVG to put this second topic in the same post as the third - I'm sure his efforts still are fine, compared to much of the crap that the majors keep flooding the market with. Apologies for that!


yy said...

I have to agree about the recent RVG, I don't feel any real change in audio quality rather than volume.

As for the material for reissue, It's a known secret that BN reissue material that was included on the Mosaic sets (like the Blakey 60-61 sessions, the Lee Morgan 50's sessions and much more). Sometimes I give up the mosaic's and would rather wait for the seperate albums to be reissued. It's much more fun that way.

ramson said...

Mostly master tapes from Blue Note are two tracks master, not multitrack master (3 or more tracks).

From multitracks master it's possible REMIX sound to stereo and improve original sound without change natural 'timbre' of instruments recorded on studio, for example stick out an instrument whom before was less audible.

From two tracks master not it's possible remix sound (in order to improve preponderance of any instrument) without change natural 'timbre' of instruments; therefore Rudy Van Gelder ( or other person?) equalize sound (wherewith change timbre of instruments mostly times) or even use a 'compressor'(mostly times) or 'expander' in order to alterate 'dynamic'(differentiation between instruments sound volumes) of original sound, but if utilization of compression or expansion is harshly , sound obtained is rare. Rudy also mix the two channels in order to obtain less stereo separation like modern recordings.

The consequence is many albums sound good but with altered instruments 'timbre' (a director of classical orchestra became aware of this deficiency ) ; but other times sound not is so good , for example when Rudy equalize harshly cymbals : clifford jordan & John Gilmore - blowing in from Chicago ; johnny griffin - a blowin' session (mono recording!!) and so on .........and other times equalize some more than cymbals , for example piano on Andrew Hill : point of departure , even though on this occasion sound is agreeable.

By the way ,I don't know later releases of blue note ,but 'business is business' and it's
possible now Rudy only up recording volumen (also named 'gain') and almost nothing else.


ramson said...

By the way , excuse me by my 'very rare '!!!

ubu said...


I don't care for the stuff being reissued again and again - I do love Mosaic Records' releases, both the big sets and the Selects (Singles I only have one so far... you guessed it, the Lee Wiley of course - wonnerfull!)
There'd be many albums from a bit later in the game on Blue Note that have not been out on CD, and I'd rather see some of those reissued than having the Blakey and Morgan and Silver stuff again in yet another version (one example: Morgan's "The Sixth Sense" was released among the last "regular" BN CDs, and only a couple of years later, an RVG edition of it popped up - why the hell didn't they instead release something else?)


the older BN CDs all had that remark about the 2 track recording making additional mastering unnecessary... I don't understand all that technical stuff, but I've often wondered if in the 80s the BN folks simply didn't know or what the f*ck! Anyway, to my ears, often the old CDs sound just as acceptable as new RVG versions do. I stopped upgrading the older CDs - some I did upgrade include Dolphy's "Out to Lunch", several of the Bud Powell and all of the Monk (incl. Monk/Jackson) discs (I still keep the two 4CD boxes for the liners and the missing bits - the live set with Trane in case of the Monk, the Roost dates in case of the Bud). Also I did get the RVGs of Ornette's Golden Circle discs, but I decided for instance, not to "upgrade" any of the Horace Silver and Art Blakey material ("Trio", "Blowin' the Blues Away", "Free for All", "Moanin'", "Buhaina's Delight", "Mosaic", to name a few).

And as for Andrew Hill, I'll gladly stick to my Mosaic box - one of their greatest ever, in my opinion! They truly did a lot for Hill, digging up the later sessions for the Select, also putting out the solo Select, and those other single discs (Dance with Death, Passing Ships). Of course Cuscuna was involved with Hill a lot earlier, doing "Spiral" for the Freedom label in the 70s. Of the 80s BNs I only have one, alas, "Eternal Spirit". Not bad, but not nearly as involving as the 60s material.
The two albums done on Palmetto are fine ones, too!

BabyBreeze said...

Hi Ubu,

Just found your blog after years of "knowing" you on Dime/eztree. I've followed this thread with interest and I must agree that it gets very tiresome culling through all the RVG releases. Often I get the feeling BN is just taking advantage of the jazz fan's acquisitive tendencies and not offering any real merit beyond the promise of the shiny and new.

I also stopped jumping at each and every new RVG issue and barely pay attention these days. Like you, I don't listen to music at a high volume and don't like to bother my neighbors, but I have also found that apart from the very first generation of issues mastered digitally there have rarely been improvements in recent years. Blue Note did a decent job from the start, and even Bud's The Scene Changes from my very first batch of CDs purchased around 1986, sounds fine still today.

I once made an absurd A/B/C comparison with US Blue Note, Japanese Blue Note, and US RVG issues of the same album, Wayne Shorter's Juju, and alas, the Japanese issue sounded the best and the RVG the worst. It was absurd because I actually went out and purchased the same record three times!

Thanks for the blog and see you back on Dime.


ubu said...

Hey Milesian - good to see you here!

Interesting enough, the one Bud Blue Note I don't have the RVG of yet is "The Scene Changes"... as I'll keep the old 4CD box anyway, if only for the two Roost Sessions (the first of those is great!), I'll keep it at that and pick the respective discs from the box if I want to hear "The Scene Changes"...

Just today I saw the two JOS discs with Turrentine, Burrell, and Bailey, "Back at the Chicken Shack" being one of my first 20 or so jazz discs, I've always loved it - would anyone know if those are worth upgrading? It never occurred to me to consider the sound on the 80s CDs particularly bad, so I wonder...

Anonymous said...

I agree with your comments on the RVG series; I replaced only a few of my older BN CDs with the new reissues (Bobby Hutcherson's "Dialogue", Wayne Shorter's "Speak No Evil" sound better in their RVG reissues, I think).
But apart from the discussion about the RVG series it is one of the great mysteries to me why Rudy Van Gelder is always being lauded for his work. Only the earlier recordings from his studio in Hackensack, NJ sound acceptable but there is a considerable decrease in the audio quality in the recordings from his studio in Englewood Cliffs. Generally speaking, the horns and the drums come out best while the bass and the piano are lost in a maze. If you compare Van Gelder's recordings with those made for the Atlantic and Columbia labels you will notice that Van Gelder's recordings sound always poor.



ubu said...

Good to see you around here!

I guess in the end RVG just recorded loads of the greatest music we have... more so than those NY studios used by Riverside or the Atlantic studios... but then someone like Roy DuNann (who did most of the classic Contemporary albums) certainly deserves as much praise as RVG gets. It's all about the Blue Note mystique, I assume (and it's no coincidence of course, that exactly that label gets all hyped up... it's certainly one of the most fascinating jazz labels ever).

I have the RVGs of "Dialogue" and "Speak No Evil", too, by the way, but both were among the majority of RVGs in my possession which I never had in any other form before.
That brings me to another point (again): in the earlier years, the RVG series made accessible long-deleted items... nowadays it almost seems they have to delete titles on purpose a few month before the RVG edition appears (like with the two Jimmy Smith albums I mentioned in my last post - the old CDs were in print forever).