Epilog - Blog - Notes and Updates to Ron's Audio-Files
Winds of Change - Another Treasure from Soundkeeper Recordings
I always look forward to hearing a new release from Soundkeeper Recordings, an independent label founded by Master Sound Engineer Barry Diament. Their latest production features the music of Art Halperin and his band “Work of Art”. It is entitled Winds of Change. The album is an eclectic mix of 13 original compositions with creative arrangements of stringed instruments including ukulele, mandolin, pedal steel, acoustic and electric guitars and bass. In addition there are drums, various percussion instruments and vocals. These live-in-one-take performances are superbly captured in 24bit 192kHz digital format as Barry Diament's Soundkeeper Recordings do so well. We get a rare "behind the scenes" view on Soundkeeper Recordings web site video. Barry explains some of the recording technology and techniques. We also get to watch how the artists "perform" for the microphones as they move about the space.
When writing an album review there is a tendency to comment how some selections have a feel, a vocal texture, or harmonic structure suggestive of other (maybe better known) musicians. Winds of Change for example has songs that could suggest a folksy Bob Dylan, the rocking sound of Dire Straits or others. The musicians on Winds of Change may share some these influences, and more importantly they play together with their own fresh sounding originality. Work of Art is a talented group of musicians with a creative voice and wide ranging artistry all their own.
There is an intangible feel about this recording; a strong sense the musicians were having a fun “playful” time making this album. The players are undoubtedly sharing a connectedness that rings throughout their performances. To these ears it epitomizes the Soundkeeper philosophy of capturing that special energy generated between musicians in a completely “Live In One Take” recording.
Winds of Change contains 13 original compositions. Here are a few favorites:
The title cut opens with crisply recorded wispy chimes and quickly builds with melodic harmonies and guitar riffs. In this emotive song those Winds of Change are the whirlwinds of fun and joy that special personal relationships can bring.
A back-beat, a swinging bass line and some unexpected chord changes deliver foot tapping propulsion throughout cut number 3 “My Love For You”. The song ends with the band fading out under some wonderfully played soulful guitar licks.
“Nobody Knows” powerfully stacks an array of electrified and acoustic strings. Each instrument remains audibly distinct as they build a wall of sound reinforced with vocal harmonies around Art's lyrics focused on the mystery of passion.
“I'm Not Sure” presents us with a bluesy ballad, again with some unexpected chord changes that are punctuated and supported by Art playing bottleneck ("slide") on electric guitar. I thought it a unique arrangement illustrating Halperin's artful blending of the instruments tonality.
“Going Vegan” is a light-hearted fun treatment of important life choices like saving our planet. The song swings with a delicate Latin flavor anchored in the percussion. Guitar harmonies build on that Caribbean base with distinctive south of the border rhythmic changes. No liner notes credit who sang the playful cat's "meow", but it sure made me smile. As I noted earlier this album has a very joyful energetic fun sense about it.
For an audiophile there is another dimension to consider when reviewing an album of songs, the recording and sound qualities. Few record companies rival the audio purity of Barry Diament's Soundkeeper Recordings. Capturing the performance live, in High Resolution digital format in real time; and in real stereo (only two microphones are used) ! There are never cuts or overdubs, additions or subtractions. Nor does Soundkeeper Recordings compress the dynamic range of a performance. Audio reproduction is clear, clean, neutral, and dynamic. The sound stage it creates is very dimensional and convincing.
The magic of playing back a Soundkeeper Recording is essentially a disappearing act. Your loudspeakers and electronics seem to dissolve away and a convincing illusion of the performers magically enters the listening space.
Obviously the finer your playback equipment the better you'll be re-creating the performance space. Unfortunately in this world of MP3 downloaded compressed music that experience is something most commercial record labels rarely reach for and too few accomplish.
If you haven't had the experience of aural teleportation, it's an occurrence that only superbly mastered and produced recordings can render; in essence the unveiling of a third dimension of an image. Barry Diament's skills, his experience and craftsmanship during the production, recording and mastering of Soundkeeper Recordings albums lets all the dynamic energy and emotion and instrumental textures come through. Winds of Change is another sonic treasure from Soundkeeper Recordings.
Art Halperin: lead vocal, guitar, ukelele
Al Maddy: harmony vocal, guitar, ukelele
Jon Rosenblatt: harmony vocal, guitar, mandolin, pedal steel
Sue Williams: harmony vocal, bass, percussion
Patrick Conlon: drums, percussion
Jared Weintraub: harmony vocal, guitar
Barry Diament: guitar