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Chad Kassem & Acoustic Sounds, SF room 1119

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by Danny Kaey on June 04 '15

The invitation was emailed to everyone and anyone.  I always new that Chad Kassem (AcousticSounds) spinning his latest TPs (that’s a test pressing for a record prior to getting the green light for production - for those of you in Rio Linda) would command attention.  Cue crowd control.  If the SonicFlare music room had been the size of a gala event, I bet we would have packed the house.  Simply put, Chad is the master of reissues - yes, there are others of course who put concern and thought into each of their reissue projects, alas, I don’t know of anyone who does it to the extreme as Chad does.  From sourcing the best possible tapes (the term “Master” has been thrown around so loosely lately that you do have to wonder at times) to faithfully recreating the jackets and artwork to distributing his wares globally - in one word: amazing.

Promptly at 430pm Chad opened his bag of goodies and started playing some new stuff off freshly cut lacquers: next up, he will be reissuing 25 titles from the vaults of the famous Contemporary label.  Home to such artists as Shelly Manne, Jack Marshall, Ornette Coleman and André Previn, this lineup of titles ought to be another runaway hit.  Needless to say the sound coming off the Brinkmann / Transfiguration combo sounded crazy good: tight, dynamic, clean, with great extension and a freshness you’d think these titles came off the studio just yesterday (cough, cough, if only the stuff coming out of studios yesterday would sound half as good…).

Another runaway hit will undoubtedly be Nina Simone’s first album, Little Girl Blue, originally released on Bethlehem records.  Perhaps - heck, for sure - one of the top 50 jazz albums of all time, Chad’s reissue (from the original tapes, guaranteed), sounded stunning.  As in jaw dropping.  As in your socks and shoes just fell off.  Seriously.  Nina Simone is quite literally in your room - now, I have what is considered to be a very “good” original 1st pressing with a remarkably clean cover courtesy of my friend and local record dealer Bob Donnelly, which I paid top dollars for.  In fact, if you look for clean copies on eBay or Discogs, you will probably have to part with at least $100 for your aural pleasures.  But even as good - and important it is to have an original - Chad’s reissue is simply put leaps ahead.  Released in 1958, the sound is at once riveting, soulful and intimate to the core.  This record will move your soul - guaranteed.  

Beethoven’s 6th read by the immortal Bruno Walter on double 45 is also coming soon, as is the one record no one has ever! played at an audio show: Nils Lofgren, Acoustic Live.  Even though this is a digital recording, the sound via record seemed to carry much more body and weight; speed and dynamics.  This became clearly evident as we pitted Chad’s upcoming release with the standard fare CD rip I had on my LaCie Thunderbolt drive.  Audiophiles all over the world will rejoice with this one!

Lastly, and perhaps most personal to me, Chad cued up what surely was in fact the runaway hit at Newport this year: Dean Martin’s Dream with Dean on double 45.  The history of this reissue dates back to my early childhood memories: growing up in Vienna, Austria, Dean Martin (and Jerry Lewis) were my two big movie heroes growing up.  That Dean Martin, nay Dino Paul Crocetti, became the highest paid actor at the height of his career (receiving a cool $1 million for his role in Airport plus percentage points off the backend) and an accomplished singer, crooner was only a natural progression of his career.  In short: Dean was a stud.  It must have been five, maybe 6 years that I kept bugging - nudging - Chad to reissue this record.  Naturally, everyone has a title they want Chad to reissue, alas, once Chad heard the record, all engines were set to full steam ahead.  Upon the first needle drop, you realize why this record became such a success: Dean and his trio are in your room - period.  The sound coming off the SonicFlare system was simply to die for, at once dynamic, life-like and of highest purity.  Easily one of the finest test records you can use to judge a system’s sound, I heard some good, some not so good renders at the show.  A keeper if ever there was one!  Pressed at QRP and out now at AcousticSounds.

Let’s face it: all of us in this hobby owe a great deal of gratitude to Chad Kassem and his team at AcousticSounds - his fanatical insistence to cover the most minute details of a reissue are what make these so incredibly great to begin with.  Thanks for all you do!  (Let’s do this again in a bigger room next year…)

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