on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2020 1 Dez

Zooming over decades

von: Michael Engelbrecht Filed under: Blog | TB | 1 Comment




My twelve records of the year will materialize soom. A bit of zooming the more distant past is laying the ground, now, on this first day of December. 

Everything gets a remaster these days, a way to bring back, even to embellish the past. The thrill of a good remaster may be better sound, even excellent sound. But it will not approach the excitement of discovering the meanwhile old or ancient music in the first place. There are exceptions.

I will tell you about one. That Joan Armatrading album from 1976. In my days as a student, in the second half of the 70s, music was delivering one milestone after the other. The golden age.  So, sometimes you got a great record, but it didn‘t stay too long for a deeper relationship. You were riding the wave too fast.

From the two or three albums I then bought  from her, this was one. I really liked it.  She could, in her own delicate style, dig as deep into personal affairs and other humans‘ stories like, say, Joni Mitchell. And now, by some special circumstances, I got this rather expensive vinyl remaster for free (from Intervention Records), and I put it on a really good record player – and I was smiling. Gosh.

This IS a stunner, with an unsurpassable, natural sound. The voice in the room, the instruments, their transparency! Not one of those albums craving for attention.




The remaster of Jon Hassell‘s „Vernal Equinox“ (1977) sounds  fantastic, too, and I did compare it to the original. Terje Rypdal’s album  had a fantastic sound from day one onwards, and it’s still a revelation today. Musicwise and soundwise. Don‘t get me wrong. One can get the deepest thrills of music without depending on a high end stereo system. Or the surround experience. The new Lennon mixes, stereo and 5/1, for example, exciting, and worth the words: PLAY IT LOUD!

But simple does it, too. Listen to Joni Mitchell’s first archival recordings, and the noise and limited hardware add to the magic of home recordings and folk clubs on the outskirts of little towns. A ghettoblaster, a transistor radio from Japan, an ancient grammophone with scotch and candlelight, the right ambience, the right mood.




But, then again, if someone would finally do the 5:1 (or the Atmos-mix) of Eno‘s „On Land“, I would go miles for that experience. By the way, didn‘t Eno, in the first edition of „On Land“, describe en detail how to create one‘s  own little surround system with a third speaker. We did it, taking an ugly, little, cheap car radio speaker – and testing the outcome, we were thrilled by strange sounds coming from behind us, in a dark room at the end of the world, in the Bavarian Wood.



So here my little list of twelve personal archival discoveries. And rediscoveries. From a year with a lot of home office. I did not include any of those very big boxes (with the exception of Joni), by the likes of Wilco (their Summerteeth Deluxe Edition)* , The Kinks, Grandaddy, Prince – and the one I ordered from „The Greedy Store“ in America, from Neil Young. That „Archive Vol. 2“ is – über alle Zweifel erhaben – the box of all my boxes 2020. I even know (but that doesn’t matter) all the standalone albums of that well-curated wilderness of maybe Young‘s most creative  years, between 1972 and 1976. Ah, yes, the 70s, didn’t I mention them? Ask Mr. Klinger, he once crossed ways with „the lost  septet“ of „electric Miles“. Here we go.


  1. Jon Hassell: Vernal Equinox
  2. Brian Eno: Film Music (1976-2020)
  3. Terje Rypdal: Whenever I Seem To Be Far Away
  4. John Lennon: Gimme some truth. The Ultimate Mixes.
  5. Ryuichi Sakamoto: Hidari Ude No Yume (special edition)
  6. Joan Armatrading: Joan Armatrading (vinyl remaster by Kevin Gray)
  7. Neil Young: Homegrown
  8. Various Artists: From Brussels with Love (1980)
  9. Beverly Glenn-Copeland: Transmissions
  10. Miles Davis: The Lost Septet
  11. Joni Mitchell: The Early Years (1963-67)
  12. Roberta Flack: First Take (50th, well, 51st Anniversary Deluxe Edition – Flack’s 1969 debut, The First Time Ever… and all, exhibited her ease on gospel, Broadway, souljazz – in studied arrangements. I never got this one. Richard Williams (him again) wrote a very fine review. Still dreaming of that reissue of a record I never owned – so if someone wants to make  me a  wonderful Christmas gift – go ahead, and thank you very much!)


* „SUMMERTEETH is another album I must have listened to almost every day for a decade. I finally put it aside last year, and this morning found myself in the mood to dig it out again. Beautiful and eerie; the sunny “Pet Sounds” production belies the dark lyrics. You could write an entire essay about the influence of “Pet Sounds” on“Pieholden Suite,” though my favorite song is the alternate version of the brilliant “A Shot in the Arm,” a hidden track (along with “Candyfloss”) which gives “Sergeant Pepper” era John Lennon a run for his money in under four minutes. Gorgeous, desperate, and so dark it’s exquisitely painful to listen to. “Maybe all I need is a shot in the arm/Something in my veins, bloodier than blood.” An entire hidden thread of my life had this as its soundtrack (note: nothing to do with drugs). “You’ve changed: What you once were isn’t what you want to be anymore.” (Liz Hand, writer, in an interview with me)

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