Sonically Charged CDs

Stereo Console 1965When I was a kid, we had this large stereo console that held my parents’ albums.  The turntable was kind of springy and the stylus tracked along with a tuft of hair as the record spun around; I guess the “brush” collected dust and provided a measure of protection for the stylus.  I was forbidden to touch the stereo, and was captive to my parents’ musical tastes.  We just had LPs – no 45s, until I was older and listening to top 40 on the radio in the 70’s.  I still remember some of those LPs – some of which I liked.  We had a lot of Broadway recordings:  Camelot, Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, the South Pacific and Oklahoma.  I also remember Amahl and the Night Visitors, which I despised because my mother and sister played it over and over especially during the weeks leading up to Christmas.  My dad’s music was a little more interesting.  He had a lot of Jazz records and used to come home from work, plop in a chair with a can of Shlitz and a Kool and listen to Stan Getz, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald and Dave Brubeck.  dave-brubeckI used to hang out with him more to watch him blow smoke rings than to listen to the music.  I didn’t care too much for Jazz then, but love it today owing in large part to my early exposure.  Those records sounded good to me, but were they particularly good recordings?

Which brings me to the topic of this post – CDs that sound great.  Back in the 90’s (seems like only yesterday) when we bought our first CD player, I bought the CD version of many of my favorite LPs.  And I also wanted to build a Classical music collection, but could not afford to waste money on a potentially bad recording of say the Well-Tempered Clavier.  I also was looking for bold sonics to challenge our stereo system and turn our living room into Carnegie Hall.  In addition to Classical, I was interested in experimenting with new musics and stuff I knew but had never purchased, provided it sounded good.  I found two excellent guides to help me with this sonic challenge.  Stereophile puts out an annual Records 2 Die 4.  I scoured through the archives and found a handful of recordings I would later purchase, a sampling of which I will list at the end of this post.  I also went to the public library and several bookstores from time to time to thumb through the Penguin Guide to Classical Music and jot down what I thought I might like.  And here’s the sampling:

For pure sonic high fidelity Classical fireworks, these recordings are indispensable:

Mahler – Symphony #1 (Blumine) – James Judd, Florida Philharmonic Orchestra: Harmonia Mundi (Buckle up!)

Moussorgsky – Pictures at an Exhibition – Byron Janis: Mercury Living Presence (Wow!)

Rachmaninoff – Symphony #3; Symphonic Dances – David Zinnman, Baltimore Symphony Orch: Telarc (You’ll jump out of your seat! )

Tchaikovsky – Overture Romeo and Juliet; Symph #6 – Andrew Litton, Bournemouth Symp: Virgin Classics

For Jazz and other genres:


Bill Evans – Waltz for Debby (live – sounds like you’re there – best recorded acoustic bass I’ve ever heard)

Kruder Dorfmeister – The K&D Sessions (extreme bass and ultra chill music for after the party)

Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon (but you knew already)

Steely Dan – Aja (ages like fine wine)

Jobim – Wave (an underrated classic)

Genesis – And Then There Were Three (check out Snowbound)