Martin first wrote this article in Chinese for 1388.com some 12 years ago. To me, this article is as relevant to Martin as it is now and we thought it would be interesting to repost it here. So, if you would pardon my limited translation ability and occasional offbeat choice of words – here it goes…
After reading Kim’s “Audiophile Must-Have CD” and Joseph’s CD Review (Editor: both writers), I would like to learn from their examples and talk about the 10 LPs that I owned and cherished. Kim and Joseph both wrote about Esther, Jazz at the Pawnshop etc. must-have which I also owned and hence, they will not be repeating here. I picked these 10 LPs based on my personal preference and each piece was superbly recorded and equally top in music content – something which one can listen to tirelessly.
John Neptune Kaizane – Bamboo When this LP was released, it was promoted with the tag “1981 All Japan Recording Champion”. I still recalled the first time I listened to this – the recording and melody gave me a fright! A dialogue from one of the movies came to my mind – “there is indeed such beautiful woman on earth” (should rightly be beautiful recording). This was utterly crazy. How a Caucasian could master the Japanese flute with such depth is amazing. After this album, John Neptune released several follow up for e.g. the recent “Bamboo Bamboo” but my all-time favourite is still this piece of bamboo.
Like Waves Against The Sand – V.A. (Saydisc) This UK Saydisc production of Chinese Classics instrumentals was first rate and so were the performers. Lately, Mr. Ma from FIM bought most of these tunes and distributed it under XRCD and it sold really well. Remembered years ago, I used a pair of Spica speakers and played a section of ”Night” (Percussion Ensemble), the strong drumming and skin impact was reproduced with such realism. If I could play this tune agian using a bigger amplifier like Passlab X1000 driving JM Lab Utopia, who knows what are the possibilities? Other great tracks in this LP include “Variation on Yang City Tune”(Kuqin Solo), the title cut (Pipa solo with ensemble) which you can listen to it over and over again.
Mozart Concerto No. 5 – David Oistrakh / Igor Oistrakh (EMI) I bought this LP on my honeymoon in France. Back then, I saw this LP cover pictured with a pair of violin with David Oistrakh / Igor Oistrakh playing on it and knowing Mozart Concerto No. 5 isn’t too common. I bought it without thinking too much although it was with wife’s strong endorsement. Although French pressing isn’t the most sort after but they are no slough either. All is worth after experiencing this father and son team’s (David and Igor Oistrakh) technical and emotional portrayal. Also this LP will always bring back memories of my sweet honeymoon. I will never part with this.
James Newton Howard & Friends (Sheffield Lab) Sheffield Lab made a big hit when this was released. Audiophiles adore it for its outstanding recording. Nickname “Many Hands” (in HK), James Newton Howard & Friends is considered the cream of audiophile must-have disc. Besides the recording, the music content is just as lasting. Should I be allowed only one desert island LP from Sheffield Lab, this will be my choice.
Rimsky Korsako / Scheherazade – Kirill Kondrashin (Philips) I couldn’t keep count of the “1001 Arabian Nights” symphony because there were just too many versions. In my personal opinion, this version by Kirill Kondrashin is the best (among those I’ve heard). Besides the outstanding recording, the demanding (explosives) passages were earth-shaking and the quiet solo violin is as elegantly captured. In my opinion, I would even rate this symphony a Top 10 in Classical music.
Georges Bizet / Carmen – Leonard Berstein (DGG) I have both the single LP version and the box set of the same. Due to my hectic workload and limited spare time, I would listen more to the single LP version. Actually, the recording of the single LP version is very commendable and I enjoyed each and every sections. Case in point is Side A track 2 choir singing section where audiophiles like to use this as a test track for pinpoint placement – “counting the heads”. The female opera vocal is especially beautifully captured, a true audiophile vocal test LP.
Swallow Returns (Cantonese Opera) This is a top quality Cantonese opera recording with masterful singing uniquely portrayed in every character. Recording wise, like Joe Lee always say it’s just too good. If the “Leung Sing Poh” opera LP has been going at HK$2,000 per pop then this one should fetch at least HK$3,000. Reason being the sound quality is of the same grade but with the added pair – Mak and Fung singing together.
Pink Floyd – The Wall (CBS) I bought this 2LP set after I watched the movie of the same name. Soon after, I felt in love with this group (Pink Floyd) and began collecting their back catalogue like Dark Side of the Moon; Wish You Were Here; Animals and so on. Judging by musical theme and recording alone, I like The Wall the most. Besides the classics Another Brick in the Wall Part I, II, III, this LP also contained other very good tunes like Mother; Hey You; Comfortably Numb and the “approaching helicopter” which was an audiophile’s favourite ritual test track. To pop/rock audiophiles, Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Dire Straits Love over Gold are must-have treasures.
Dire Straits – Love Over Gold (Vertigo). The current crop of pop artists should listen and learn from this record. The opening two tracks – Telegraph Road and Private Investigation are worth the price of entry. The sweet strings of Mark Knofler and his masterful technique is as soothing it is deep. I have classified this record as this century’s best pop/rock work.
Kenny G – Live (Arista). When I saw this LP in America (US pressing) I bought it without thinking. When I returned home and turned it on, the sound quality was far better than the CD version. I heard comments that the CD version was not up to mark and I would advise these people to listen to the LP version. You will immediately find out what recording ambient is.