Red Beans and Rice…and Vinyl

If you’re from New Orleans and “…you know what it means to miss…” then you’re not alone. I learned at a young age that nourishing one’s body requires some key ingredients. Never short on this list was love, dedication, and soul. Pouring yourself into the cuisine or music of New Orleans is a birth right, and I dove right in! Rather, I swam in the swamp water funk and filled my belly with meal after meal of soul satisfying cuisine. After leaving my hometown, these experiences found their way into this portable homesick remedy. The two key ingredients are: a record of  The Meters (yes, it should be the vinyl version), and Camellia Red Beans

These two homegrown items serve a joint purpose: they transport your senses back to the Big Easy. The correct vinyl mixture with an authentic bowl of red beans can cure all that ails you. This is about as close to a soul cleansing as you’ll get without an all night gorging and dancing in the Crescent City.

What do red beans and rice have in common with vinyl records you ask? More than you would think, my friend. Both The Meters records and red beans should be lovingly cared for and cleaned thoroughly. This ensures that all the soul and flavor is readily available and able to be extracted. Secondly, they both take time and patience. Whether it is soaking your red beans overnight to make them tender or selecting your Meters record rotation for cooking, these activities cannot and must not be rushed. Most importantly, red beans and rice require specific spices to achieve peak flavor. Seasoning your vinyl album and stylus tip with the appropriate amount of “spices” (Last Stylast) will allow all the analog tone to come through. I almost forgot, Don’t forget to save your bacon drippings and ham hocks, you’ll be needing those essentials to pull this off!

Both red beans and The Meters provide that quintessential staple of southern comfort. Once combined, you will know what I’m talking about. Unlike many audiophile recordings, these Meters albums aren’t sonic intricacies that are meant to be distilled through super critical listening sessions. Rather, the heart and soul of this music is felt – this is music without all the additives and preservatives. With your red beans simmering and The Meters laying it down, you will surely be in a happy place.

Click here for the receipe for Red Beans and Rice

The Meters on LP:

The Meters              Kickback

Rejuvenation         Cabbage Alley

Look-Ka Py Py      Fire on the Bayou

-C‘est le bon ton roule!

Another killer live recording of The Meters here!

Records in Heavy Rotation…Organized!

File folder organizer used as vinyl LP display/holder

This clear file organizer found a second home with my record collection. My file holder turned record organizer is a stylish and inexpensive way to show off your favorite albums. It has 6 divisions, and you can fit between 2 and 4 LPs in each compartment. A clear choice for displaying your current record rotation. you can find this product at places like this.

Is Your Album Transparent?

Your favorite music served up on various formats

Hi-resolution downloads have been on the audiophile scene for a while now with mixed user feedback. Companies like iTrax and HD Tracks have provided what they claim are high-resolution audio files for customers to purchase and download.  HD Tracks has been accused of selling upsampled digital audio masters instead of truly transferring the audio in real time from the master tapes. iTrax, on the other hand is adamant about their HD music downloads being authentic.  iTrax focuses on recent recordings made using new HD recording technology (i.e. 24 bit 96Khz Analog to digital converters used to convert the microphone preamp).

While HD Tracks has investigated the dubious upsampled audio, it is hard to keep track of how different mastering houses/record labels actually deal with the audio in their studios.  HD Tracks does not inform the customer about how or where the audio is from (save for one release so far). iTrax, for the moment, seems to be much more transparent about how their audio is dealt with. Older analog master tapes can be transferred to high-resolution digital audio files, it is up to us to demand that the process used is fully disclosed.

I notice a lot of discussion (web forums) about the HD Tracks releases and whether or not the files are real or merely upsampled. As an engineer, I can appreciate the scrutiny.  What I find curious is that these forum discussions seem to be concentrating on the science of the data. Sure, I care about that, but let’s actually use our ears and listen.  Did they do a good mastering job?  Was the music uncompressed but brittle?  Well, I personally am looking for a great rendering of a master recording.  Just because it is uncompressed does not mean it is better. While compression/EQ can be done too extremely (modern pop recordings), it can also be ignored to the point of being just as sonically tasteless.

Not only do we (the customer) not know who is engineering all these high definition reissues, we are also unaware if mastering took place or what exactly is going on. We the consumer must also realize that record label executives, distributors (like HD Tracks, Mobile Fidelity, Analogue Productions, iTrax), request different mastering techniques. Bottom line: different reissue labels will approach mastering differently. It is up to us to educate ourselves, and support those reissue labels who are sonically transparent about their mastering methods.

Audiophile Album Reissues

This brings me to another point about audiophile reissues. Often times I am disappointed to hear that audiophile labels don’t use EQ, compression, or anything.  Do they use a mastering engineer?  The only recordings I find that need little if no mastering are very well recorded orchestral music and small jazz ensembles.

It is unfortunate that the loudness wars of the 90’s have misinformed people about what mastering is all about. Through my investigation into audiophile music releases I came up with some thoughts:

  • The Vinyl record has certainly made a comeback – as it should.  Aside from having the ability to apply EQ for vinyl mastering, compression is dealt with quite differently. The physical limitations of the vinyl LP do not allow for too much compression, or the grooves will overlap when the cutting is taking place. Even more, vinyl demands care and attention when cutting is done.
  • This is not to say that vinyl records cannot be mastered poorly, those records certainly exist. It is just that in recent years, I have found a good number LP reissues that tastefully render the sonic qualities of a recording.

Know your record label

Great recordings in hi resolution exist, it is just important to request that these labels disclose the techniques and tools used.

Now go listen to an album! Repeat…

On the turntable:  Ella and Louis (mono45 RPM), Echospace Detroit