Ian Whitcomb And
Ian "who" you might ask as I did. With AIX record's help plus the music Hound's "Rock: The Essential Album Guide" I was able to dig up some interesting information on this performer who was a part of the British rock invasion of the U.S.A. many years ago, almost fifty years ago for Ian Whitcomb. He had toured a bit with the Rolling Stones and composed a cute song, "You Turn Me On" that was a Top 10 hit on the U.S. pop charts in 1965. That got him to Hollywood (where he has remained) and then on many of the pop shows of the sixties. He continued composing while playing with a number of non-rock bands particularly ragtime and jazz. You may have heard him while he was hosting a NPR program. A couple of books he wrote became well known including Rock Odyssey and After The Ball and are regarded as reference studies. More recently he has become an acknowledged expert on the music of the first half of the nineteen hundreds, particularly the twenties and thirties. That so-called "Tin Pan Alley" era is what he is playing, conducting and singing on this recording. In addition, while searching through my personal small music reference library, I found the following (very interesting to me) definition in the 1979 edition of The Rolling Stone Records Guide. "Tin Pan Alley: Old-time music publishers; by extension, the pre-rock music industry itself."
How far back can we go and possibly let me refer to this as a nostalgia type of recording? Most were written in the twenties -- five in the thirties -- and one in very fitting character by Whitcomb. "When We're Dancing" was written in 2002. Some of the other titles are "Hello/When You're Smiling", "Are You Lonesome Tonight?", "Right or Wrong", and "Heartaches", to name a few of the eighteen. The musicianship here is quite excellent and the ensemble playing/give and take is even better. To my mind it is all rather low-key, happily done in a forward, gently thrusting style. There is a subtle pervasive humor almost at all times here. It is to be savored but I must warn you that some may consider it a bit corny if only heard in small snippets.
Remember the nostalgic reference earlier in this paragraph. My wife, Pat, has heard hundreds of recordings while I search for ones to review and she seldom comments. This time she spoke up after a listening session and said, "that's a feel good, bouncy type of thing and I really like
it." Pat and I both thought that Whitcomb's singing sounded familiar to each of us as if he sounded a bit like someone else but were never able to pin it down. Quite a reach, but my best guess was that he reminded me of someone in a well-known motion picture role and not known primarily as a singer while carefully and clearly enunciating every word. Between them, the six musicians perform with a dozen instruments and must be almost masters of each as the quality of their playing is outstanding, while never being forced, a sign of true professional performing artists. In addition to his singing I saw Ian Whitcomb playing three different instruments on this recording. What? Yes, there is more to this story!
Instruments played and very clearly heard and seen here include guitars, banjo, mandolin, violin, dobro, double bass, vibes and percussion. I have listened to this recording over and over again and every time I wind up watching much of the time and enjoying seeing the performers almost as if they were in my room. How much effect was the visual having in my enjoyment and sensation of realism? I can not be certain and with the caveat that the instruments seen and heard are not the most difficult to reproduce, I am going a long way out on a short limb and state that played on my relatively modest home theater system, this superb (in all respects) recording resulted in the most natural sounding music ever In my home theater room. Some things seemed to be absent -- no sensation of hi-fi, no sign of digitis, no harshness, no exaggeration of sibilance, no instruments jumping out too prominently and no instruments lost in the depths of the soundscape. The "no" list is impressive indeed and the result is simply musical.
The ideal source component would be a very good (or better) DVD-Audio multi-channel player though I found a very good DVD-Video player to give almost as good results though then the surround and center channels are not derived directly and independently but extrapolated by Dolby's Pro Logic System. Played this way my comments still stand at least for this recording. My outstanding Cary 306/200, CD only player, refused to recognize or play this recording. Collective "hats off" to you Dr. Waldrep. With his assistance I will bring more of these AIX DVD Audio/Video recordings to your attention in the coming months hoping that they will also offer great musical enjoyment.