Amanda McBroom and Lincoln Mayorga
Growing up in Hollywood Town
Review by Dave Glackin
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CD Number: Lasting Impression Music LIM XR 001 (XRCD24)
My most memorable experience of hearing a female jazz or pop vocalist live was Amanda McBroom. She has an amazing purity of tone that is simply stunning when heard live and up close. I had the good fortune to hear Amanda under just those conditions, sans amplification, in a small club setting a few years ago. It was the type of seminal experience that you simply
do not forget. And in my opinion, no recording captures that live experience better than the classic Sheffield Lab album that has now been reissued as an XRCD24 by Winston Ma. The first time I played this first release from Winston's new Lasting Impression Music (LIM) label, the vocals sent chills down my spine.
For those of us who were active audiophiles in the late 70's and early 80's, the name Sheffield Lab conjures up something special. Doug Sax and Lincoln Mayorga were pioneers of the Direct-to-Disc LP process, introducing the first modern "D-2-D" LP in 1968. Yes, at prior times in the history of recording, all discs were recorded direct-to-disc (e.g., 78's), since there was no tape. But the process was not used in the LP era until Doug and Lincoln made their first experimental recording in 1959, and brought out their first commercial product in 1968. For more details, see the interview with Doug and Lincoln by Raymond Chowkwanyun and myself in
Positive Feedback Vol. 5 No. 4 (1995).
The Sheffield Lab recording Growing up in Hollywood Town with Amanda McBroom on vocals and Lincoln Mayorga on piano is billed as a "large scale pop" recording. It was recorded in the Sheffield Lab Studios at the MGM sound stage in Culver City, California, in 1980, with a small orchestra containing instruments usually associated with classical and jazz. I was in this same studio three years later for the Sheffield Lab recording of a jazz session entitled The Name is
Macowicz, and can attest to the very high acoustical quality of this studio.
My favorite cuts on Growing up in Hollywood Town are the three pieces that were both written and performed by Amanda McBroom. "Amanda" is beautiful and haunting. "The Portrait" is evocative and sad. And "The Rose," written for the film of the same name, garnered a Golden Globe Award for Amanda McBroom. She also does a great job with "Dusk." The other five cuts are primarily instrumental, and include two pieces penned by Lincoln
Mayorga. I love Amanda's cuts, while the rest are more a matter of taste (you may translate that as "Audiophile" with a capital "A"). My comments focus on Amanda's cuts. I should also note that the order of cuts is entirely different than on the LP, which I didn't find bothersome. In fact, I preferred it, since Winston chose to put my fave "Amanda" first.
So if the original Sheffield Lab release was done Direct-to-Disc, what was the source material for the LIM release? Backup analog master tapes were made by Sheffield during the recording sessions. Doug Sax has never before let them out the door of The Mastering Lab until he handed them to Winston in October, 2002, for this project.
JVC's XRCD24 technology is an extension of its XRCD and XRCD2 technology. It uses the same purist philosophy and the same signal chain, except that the K2 digital processor has been extended to 24 bits. As regular readers know, I have been very impressed with the sound of XRCD and XRCD2 discs. The XRCD24 process should be even better. (In fact, Winston told me that he prefers it to the SACD format.)
I compared the XRCD24 with my early-edition boxed and autographed version of the LP. I tried to level the playing field by listening to both on excellent front ends. The LP was played on a VPI
TNT/JMW/Benz combo, while the CD was played on a Shanling CD-T100 using Western Electric tubes. How could a digital disc sourced from analog tape sound as good as the D-2-D LP, you might ask? Well, it didn't. By comparison, the LP was more transparent and neutral, more live and dynamic, more spatially believable, and more "organic." But the XRCD24 was a reasonable second place. The vocals had a real purity on the LIM release that, as mentioned above, sent chills down my spine (although the instrumental dynamics didn't make the grade compared to the LP). Despite its limitations, Winston Ma's product is quite enjoyable in its own right. I listened to it before listening to the LP, and found Amanda's cuts to be thoroughly engrossing. It was only upon listening to the LP, which I had not heard in a long time, that I realized that there was much more coming through the microphones at the MGM Studios on that day.
If you do not own a turntable, I recommend buying the XRCD24 for the four cuts mentioned above. But if you do own a turntable, I recommend looking for a good, clean copy of the LP. The fact that I enjoyed the XRCD24 as much as I did, especially prior to comparison with the LP, speaks volumes for the work that Winston and the team at the JVC Mastering Center were able to do within the limitations of the master tape.
Sound Quality: 80
Performance: 100 (Amanda's vocal cuts only)
Music: 100 (Amanda's vocal cuts only; rest 50 to 70)