CD Number: Drive on Records CD 115115-01
Buy it, try it, listen and compare. That is my advice about this audiophile top quality CD recording of new compositions. The featured performer on this new CD is Lori Lieberman. She is the subject of my exclusive interview for Enjoy the Music.com™ done immediately after her featured performance at The Home Entertainment Show during this year's CES session at Las Vegas. This recording entitled Monterey is as close as you are going to get to hearing her live. Basically, almost all the compositional work on this CD was done by Lori with some assistance on a couple of selections by Stefanie Fife and Peter Bunetta. Monterey is the title of one of the songs on this CD in addition to the title of the CD featuring all new songs.
I was unable to find out exactly what type music Lori has been playing and composing as on this CD or previously. Therefore I did a mini-poll and it was decided that it is mainly folk with some touches of country and a bit of simply pop thrown in. In one of my listening sessions I listened to every minute of the recording at a distinctly lower than usual listening level volume. By the time I reached the end I was certain I had listened to a subtly beautiful album of mainly love songs and at least a couple of ballads. At least half were sad or sadder, like love remembered, love lost, loneliness and good-byes. The last composition, "Three Rivers" is actually Three Rivers of Sorrow with a space and emptiness so wide that three rivers of sorrow could flow inside....
Somehow, when played at the normal setting on my pre-amplifier's volume control that results with a bit louder volume than usual (just the opposite result than heard with Gliere's Symphony #3 also reviewed in this month's music section) the overall effect just did not seem the same. Some of the sadness and loneliness seems to disappear. At this louder level, sometimes some detail seems to get a bit lost or covered over and I do not understand why or how. If at times I seem to be a bit hard on this recording it is because it is so outstanding and probably the very best sound quality I have heard in the past few months. It could be even better, in my not so humble opinion, particularly in the resultant sound quality if not exactly technically so. Something happens in certain parts of the midrange and a bit of this covering effect results. Remember, I am referring to one of the best-recorded CDs that I have heard in a long time. Seldom do I go into this much detail. The recording engineers undoubtedly led by Joe Cali are slightly let down by something in the recording chain hardware. The first suspect would usually be the microphone though when Lori is heard alone there is no hint of any problem, but could something be happening when extra pressure, literally, is put on the microphones' diaphragms?
Once in awhile it sounds as if Lori and a couple of instruments playing in the upper bass to lower midrange are trying to occupy the same space in all dimensions. At the same time instruments playing in a higher frequency range usually appear much further back in the soundscape as if they were much further from the microphones than usual, if they were supposed to be getting somewhere near equal treatment. Do not let these comments deter you; they should intrigue you to see how superbly revealing this outstandingly good recording is. Add beautiful singing by Lori of very nice compositions and you are presented with an audiophile's delight and something new and interesting for music lovers. It is a chance to find out how good your sound system is. I should point out that Lori's piano playing is quite excellent as she makes it sound easy. The recorded quality of the piano is not to be surpassed by anything I have heard recently. It adds to the mystery of my slightly negative comments previously made. How I wish I had been at some of the recording sessions.
I hope that my previous and following comments might help make Lori's next production effort even better than this outstanding one. Audiophiles do not get to hear beautiful music on most audiophile quality recordings; that is a rule promulgated by J. Gordon Holt long ago - the better the recording the worse the music. I literally have pages of notes regarding this recording. There are a dozen different instruments played on some of the ten songs on this very musical album including mandolin, violin, viola, my old favorite, the cello, plus three kinds of guitar and many more - but to what purpose? Too often they are almost lost. Lori can have an outstanding CD with just herself singing and playing her acoustic guitar and piano so very well.
Next CD should be "Lori and Her Friends". Let that cello fill my listening room the way a live cello really does - let it be as big and clear as Lori's guitar in some featured sections. Let the viola really be heard (what a treat for that almost always overlooked instrument). Put the viola and violin to the left and to the right and let the mandolin player pluck away between them (all with the great clarity and presence that Joseph Cali is obviously capable of and let Lori harmonize with some of those seldom used instruments. Imagine if you will, Lori harmonizing with a beautifully recorded cello and simply adding a bit of guitar adornment to show off one of "Lori's Friends". Go for it Lori, you really don't need help but with those great friends let them shine.