Mark Lehman and the TAS staff
As originally published in The Absolute Sound, this article addressed three genres of music: Rock, Pop, and Folk; Classical; and Jazz. As a convenience for our online readers, we have broken the article into three parts—each covering one genre grouping. –Chris Martens
The TAS Buyers’ Guide would be incomplete without suggestions about which music to listen to on the great gear we’ve recommended. So on the following pages our editorial staff offers a three-part list of great recordings, a goodly sampling of fifty discs in each of three categories—rock/pop/folk, jazz, and classical—encompassing some of the best-sounding and most musically worthwhile LPs, CDs, and SACDs issued by “audiophile” labels or by mainstream label special series dedicated to audiophile values. Anyone who loves great music well recorded is sure to find many of these recommendations worth exploring.
A large portion—indeed a majority—of our recommendations are re-masterings of “classic” LPs. This shouldn’t be surprising: The “golden age” of recording began half a century ago and left us a great wealth of irreplaceable treasures. But we’ve also included many recent releases, for the “golden age” is by no means over (even if it seemed as if it were when glassy, hard-edged digital sound first took over).
Three formats are represented: vinyl (whether 33 1/3 or 45 rpm), conventional compact disc, and high-resolution discs including hybrid SACD and hybrid multichannel SACD as well as a sprinkling of DVD-A and more recent high-res formats (Blu-ray, etc.). Many of the items on our list are currently available from distributors like Music Direct, Acoustic Sounds, and Elusive Disc, but since audiophile releases are typically produced by small, specialty outfits and often pressed in small quantities, they tend to sell out quickly. Out of print issues, however, can usually be found on eBay, Amazon, and other sources of collectable recordings.
Allman Brothers Band, At Fillmore East. Classic (two 180g LPs and two-disc hybrid SACD).
Duane, Greg, Dickey, et al. positively smoke on “Statesboro Blues,” “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” and “Whipping Post.” Recorded live at the Fillmore East in 1971.
Joan Baez, In Concert. Vanguard-Cisco (180g LP).
Now-iconic performances, recorded live at college concerts throughout 1961-62.
Joan Baez, Joan Baez. Vanguard-Pure Pleasure (mono 180g LP).
The album that carried the folk music craze of the late Fifties to a peerless peak. Joanie’s first and best, with gorgeous renditions of “Silver Dagger,” ”Fare Thee Well,” “All My Trials,” etc.
Jeff Buckley, Live at Siné. Columbia-Legacy (CD).
Enormously gifted, Buckley died too young, but his music and soaring talent were captured at their peak in this stunning live performance.
Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Comes Round. Lost Highway (two LPs).
The fourth of Cash’s elegiac, Rick Rubin-produced albums, with haunted and haunting versions of “Wichita Lineman,” “Tear-Stained Letter,” and the heartbreaking closer “We’ll Meet Again.”