Azar Lawrence – Bridge Into The New Age (1974)

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Azar Lawrence
Bridge Into The New Age
Prestige P-10086 1974
 
 
Bridge Into The New Age     6:45
Fatisha     4:05
Warriors Of Peace     7:59
Forces Of Nature     8:41
The Beautiful And Omnipresent Love     10:07

01 – Bridge Into The New Age  6:45

    Arranged By – Ernie Straughter
Bass – Clint Houston
Drums – Billy Hart
Lyrics By – Ray Straughter
Percussion – Guillerme Franco
Trumpet – Woody Shaw
Vibraphone – Woody Murray
Voice – Jean Carn
Written-By – Azar Lawrence

    02 – Fatisha     4:05

   Percussion – Kenneth Nash
Piano – Joe Bonner
Written-By – Azar Lawrence

03 – Warriors Of Peace  7:59

 Alto Saxophone – Black Arthur
Bass – John Heard
Congas, Percussion – Mtume
Drums – Ndugu
Piano – Joe Bonner
Written-By – Azar Lawrence

04     Forces Of Nature     8:41

    Alto Saxophone – Black Arthur
Arranged By, Written-By – Ernie Straughter
Bass – John Heard
Congas, Percussion – Mtume
Drums – Ndugu
Flute – Hadley Caliman
Piano – Joe Bonner
Trombone – Julian Priester

05 – The Beautiful And Omnipresent Love   10:07

    Arranged By – Ernie Straughter
Bass – Clint Houston
Drums – Billy Hart
Flute [Wood Flute], Lyrics By – Ray Straughter
Percussion – Guillerme Franco
Percussion [Intro Only] – Kenneth Nash
Trumpet – Woody Shaw
Vibraphone – Woody Murray
Voice – Jean Carn
Written-By – Azar Lawrence

Credits

Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Azar Lawrence
Art Direction – Phil Carroll
Engineer – Eddie Harris
Illustration  – Vincent Hollier

    Producer – Jim Stern, Orrin Keepnews

Notes
Recorded at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, Ca.
Tracks 1 and 5 recorded September 1974
Tracks 2-4 recorded May 1974

Oh crap, it’s almost Carnival!  But I don’t have a Carnival blog post for you this year.  In fact I doing away with all topical posts – seasonal, obituary, holiday or otherwise.  I have decided to live in the Eternal Now from here on out, with my bongos and soul patch.  I did however consider posting this album at the beginning of the year when the daily news was just a shitstorm of horrors and negativity.  But the moment got away from me.

I confess, I’ve been holding out on you.  I’ve had this vinyl rip sitting on my computer hard drive for at least a year and a half.  There were some things about the transfer that bugged me a little and I
wanted to start it all over, with some minor adjustments to the equipment, but alas I never got around to it.  Now I have a new cartridge and was thinking about re-doing it again and finally just
realized this is getting way too obsessive-compulsive.  This is a great record, and having only been briefly available once in Japan on CD, not terribly easy to find in the digital realm.

 Now I love lots of Prestige stuff from the 70’s, but this first record by Azar Lawrence, a sax player in the modal mold of Coltrane, could have sat comfortably side by side with anything being released by the Strata-East
label, flush as it is with spiritual-jazz and Afrocentric accents.  The Black Jazz label comes to mind too, if only because it is book-ended with a pair of tracks featuring the not-yet-famous Jean Carn on vocals.  Presumably it Lawrence’s affiliation with (ex-Coltrane quarter member) McCoy Tyner, in whose band he played for a while in the early 70s, that brought him to the attention of Orrin Keepnews and the Milestone/Prestige/Fantasy family.

There are a bunch of heavyweights from the outer limits on this album. Julian Priester and Arthur Blythe have credits on one track each, while Woody Shaw shines on two, as does the ubiquitous Billy Hart on drums.  The singularly named soul searcher Mtume runs the drum and percussion throne on other tracks.   There are also some arrangement credits given to Ernie Straughter, who went on to contribute to a ton of more mainstream but funky modern soul records in addition to a Bobbi Humphrey album.  In all it’s an eclectic collection of a musicians for a very focused record.  Very upbeat and driven, even on the laid-back Fatisha. It occurred to me yesterday that the track “Warriors of Peace” would be perfect for an imaginary Blaxploitation film  It features a scene involving a few dozen Afro-hippies dressed in Egyptian headdresses, descending on the Pentagon, serving macrobiotic food to everyone, and handing out artisinal Shea butter to spread their message of universal harmony.  However, this could have been a side effect,  a combination of what sounds like a harmonic minor scale while walking around in the scorching heat where I am currently hiding out.  The heat will pass but this music shall remain.  Dig it.

Enjoy the Beautiful Omnipresent Love!

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Michael White – Spirit Dance / Pneuma (1972)

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Michael White

SPIRIT DANCE
Impulse! – AS-9215  1972

A1 Spirit Dance
A2 The Tenth Pyramid
A3 John Coltrane Was Here
A4 Ballad For Mother Frankie White
B1 Samba  
B2 Unlocking The Twelfth House
B3 Praise Innocence

   Bass – Ray Drummond
   Percussion, Flute [Bamboo], Vocals – Baba Omson
   Piano – Ed Kelly
   Producer, Photography – Ed Michel
   Violin, Vocals – Michael White
   Vocals – Makeda , Wanika King

   Engineers – Ken Hopkins, Rick Stanley
   Mixed By – Baker Bigsby  
   Artwork and Photography – Philip Melnick

 

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PNEUMA
Impulse! AS-9221

Pneuma (Part 1) 5:16
Pneuma (Part 2) 4:57
Pneuma (Part 3) 4:11
Pneuma (Part 4) 4:13
Pneuma (Part 5) 1:52
Ebony Plaza 9:18
Journey Of The Black Star 2:53
The Blessing Song 6:25

   Bass – Ray Drummond
Engineer – Baker Bigsby
Percussion – Kenneth Nash
Piano – Edwin Kelly
Producer – Ed Michel
Violin – Michael White (2)
Vocals – D. Jean Skinner, Faye Kelly, Joyce Walker, Leola Sharp

If you are a person for whom jazz violin is an acquired taste, then the notion of “free jazz violin” will probably send you running or at least reaching for the earplugs.  I confess that I am personally still grappling with the finer nuances of Leroy Jenkins and occasionally undergo a self-imposed “music appreciation course” at my house featuring his recordings.  So you could say I appreciate the fact that Michael White’s music is not nearly as abrasive as Jenkins and in fact often crosses over into the downright accessible and melodic.  White has a lengthy resume that includes sideman gigs with people as diverse as John Handy and Sun Ra, but it was his electric proto-jazz-rock band The Fourth Way that led me to seek out these two albums.   Well neither “Spirit Dance” or “Pneuma” sound anything like The Fourth Way but if I felt any disappointment at that discovery, it didn’t last long.  These are both excellent records.

Initially the listener is likely to be struck by what the records lack as opposed to what they offer – the absence of any horns whatsoever, as well as a traditional trap drum kit.  The versatile percussionists  (Baba Omsun for “Spirit Dance,” Ken Nash for “Pneuma”) manage to let you hardly miss the drums, and as for lack of reed or brass instruments.. well you’ll just have to deal with it, because the tonal palette is a bit thin in the upper register at times.  The upside is that when he lost the horn charts, White gained not only a unique sound but also the flexibility that makes his avant-garde and free jazz flourishes more focused.  Considering the technical designation of the piano as a percussion instrument, Michael White is often the only voice here that isn’t in the rhythm section, which liberates him to switch between riffing on melodies and freaking out at will.  The stuff stays grounded, though – there are quite a few shortish compositions with audible roots in blues and gospel, and the group often leans more towards modal jazz than free jazz.  Note the very brief use of an overdubbed violin at the end of the first track “Spirit Dance” here, too.  The turgid tabla of The Tenth Pyramid reminds me of the few months that I took tabla lessons – is this in tintal? – but it only lasts for four minutes so if sloppy faux-Indian jazz annoys you then at least your suffering will be brief.  “John Coltrane Was Here,” besides having a great smile-inducing title for a tribute to the late deity, is a lovely modal piece with the almost requisite quotations from ‘A Love Supreme.’ It satisfies your nagging curiosity about what a violin-jazz invocation of Coltrane’s spiritual vision would sound like.  Now that you know, you can finally sleep at night.  Again there is judicious use of overdubbing – is this cheating?  I’m not keeping score so I’ll let it slide.  Another interesting piece here is the unimaginatively titled “Samba,” which may leave you scratching your head until you hear the congas and the electric bass guitar whose notes accent the downbeat where the surdo drum would be.  The abstract  sandbox of “Unlocking The Twelth House” is a great closer for the album.  Unfortunately it doesn’t actually end the record, but since I usually just skip over the last track, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it – this is a great way to end the record.   However if atonal wordless vocals sung by children are your thing, by all means crank up “Praise Innocence.”  After all you may have been hoping to annoy your neighbors with this album, and up until now you may have not succeeded.  This ought to do it.

I usually don’t listen to the two records included on this disc back to back, in order to “maximize their efficacy” or something like that.  While “Spirit Dance” manages to keep things fun, “Pneuma” actually ranks a bit higher for me.  It may be a bit more sombre but it also seems more fully-realized, like he went into the studio with a more single-minded approach to make a statement, as opposed to recording a collection of pieces.  The original first side of the LP is comprised entirely of the “Pneuma” suite.  For a spiritual jazz homage to the breath of life, it actually boasts a pretty traditional jazz arrangement, with each instrument getting equal time to lead the group after the primordial swells and slow, sustained crescendos of the opening. First White’s violin, then the bass (acoustic this time, which is a welcome choice), then piano, and finally percussion before wrapping the whole thing up.  It’s pretty brilliant and if you are only going to listen to one “side” of this two-on-one release, I would pick this one.  The second half of “Pneuma” is just as impressive, with the additional textures of vocal arrangements on “Journey of the Black Star” and “The Blessing Song.”  The latter is just downright catchy and merits a place on a compilation of that ill-defined ‘genre’ referred to as “spiritual jazz.”  It’s a beautiful and sweet resolution to the little musical journey Mr. White takes us on, which is one where his intensity is balanced by warmth that is often missing from these styles of jazz.  Solid stuff.  And check out The Fourth Way if you don’t know them.

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Hermeto Pascoal – Zabumbê-bum-á (1979)

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Hermeto Pascoal
Zabumbê-bum-á
Original release 1979 Warner Brothers
Reissue 2011 – Coleção Cultura / Warner Brasil

A1         Sâo Jorge     2:36
A2         Rede     6:27
A3         Pimenteira     6:27
A4         Suite Paulistana     5:27
B1         Santo Antonio     4:07
B2         Alexandre, Marcelo E Pablo    5:16
B3         Suite Norte, Sul, Leste, Oeste     3:55
B4         Susto     3:03
B5         Mestre Mará     4:28

    Composed By, Arranged By, Producer – Hermeto Pascoal (tracks: A1 to B1, B3 to B5)
Engineer, Mixed By – Vitor Farias
Producer, Arranged By, Mixed By – Hermeto Pascoal

– Hermeto Pascoal / arrangements, piano, clavinet, acoustic guitar, flutes, keyboards, saxophones, vocals and percussion
– Cacau / flute and saxophones
– Jovino Santos Neto / keyboards, clavinet and percussion
– Antônio Celso / guitars and mandolim
– Itiberê Zwarg / bass
– Nenê / drums, percussion and keyboards (6)
– Pernambuco / percussion
– Zabelê – vocals, percussion and acoustic guitar (6)
– Mauro Senise / flute and saxophone
– Hermeto Parents (Seu Pascoal & Dona Divina) / vocals (1 and 5)

Release information

LP: Warner Bros. Records WB 91 018 (Germany), WEA International Inc .BR 36104 (Argentina)
CD Reissue: 2011 “Coleção Cultural” / Livraria Cultura / Warner

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It is often said that Hermeto Pascoal’s music is uncharacterizable.  This is essentially true.  Although you will find his records in the “jazz” section of most record stores lucky enough to stock his albums, he doesn’t always fit comfortably there.  A musical polymath, he can seemingly play any instrument, including many of his own invention.  He may have sat in with Miles Davis (during his most polemical period), inspired Cannonball Adderley and fellow-traveler Airto Morreira, but his music is alternately tightly composed and “free”, drifting easily from fusion-esque readings of regional musical traditions from his native Northeast Brasil, to cacophonous bursts of electronics, found sounds, unorthodox instrumentation or heterodox uses of traditional instruments.  This album, Zubumbê-bum-a, followed his very important and better-known Slaves Mass album from 1977.  It’s possible that this record is more “out” than its predecessor, pushing on his avante-gard tendencies while delving deeper into cannibalistic experiments with Nordestino music and including a fair amount of spoken word and poetry.  The opening track is an idiosyncratic homage to São Jorge, whose place in Brazilian cosmology cannot be overstated – syncretized with Ogun in the myriad Afrobrazilian religion traditions, patron saint of the city of Rio, he is the protector of warriors, he who vanquishes our adversaries whether ethereal or corporal, the slayer of dragons, but the track is uplifting and breeze-worthy.     “Não tem preço não..”  there are vocals from Hermeto and Dona Divina, some of them wordless, some of them Hermeto rambling in his unique way in what might be a private oração to São Jorge –  “a carreira da nossa é isso… cavalho ligeira” … his voice is mixed under the music for the most part, giving his actual words kind of a subliminal, secondary importance.  And I’ll admit this – I have an interview with him that he gave to the famous MPB Especial program, and I can’t follow what the hell he’s talking about half the time in his free-associative jive talking.  Adjectives I’ve often heard in relation to Hermeto, both in Brazil and abroad – “crazy”, “mad genius.”  I’ve seen him perform live, only once, and it tended to confirm this reputation.  The man is a transnational treasure to humanity. But probably a bonafide nut.
With this pleasant trot on Saint George’s steed behind us, the album really takes off with the beguiling “Rede”.  Beginning slowly with spoken word evoking a lazy afternoon swinging (or rather being swung) on a hammock,  and an angular chord progression dominated by Fender Rhodes and flute, developing hypnotically into a crescendo of drums and saxophones dancing circles around the same plodding, angular chord structure.   The song moves almost seamlessly into the next, “Pimenteira.”  This is pretty much full-on jazz fusion in the good sense of that phrase/idea, until breaking down about five minutes into the track into a flute and zabumba jam worthy of the Banda de Pifanos de Caruarú, which lasts for less than a minute before leading back into the main theme.  This is as good a place as any to stop and mention an analogy or comparison I’ve seen about Hermeto: I’ve read comparisons of him to Frank Zappa, which initially made me wince.  This is not necessarily a dis to Frank but simply because I don’t like easy comparisons made out of convenience.  But it sort of stuck in my craw ever since, and tracks like this make me lend it some credence.  This piece wouldn’t sound out of place on one of Zappa’s instrumental albums from his “Studio Tan” era, and in general Hermeto’s sense of fun and levity,  albeit with different cultural reference points, in collusion with an infatuation with musique concrete and avant-guardism make this a more productive comparison than I would have anticipated.  “Suite Paulistana” is performed entirely by Hermeto via layered overdubs in the studio, a fact I would not have guessed had I not looked at the album jacket.  It’s a frenetic, free-music approximation of the chaos and incessant movement of Brazil’s industrial nerve-center, Sâo Paulo, that sounds for all the world like a group of musicians improvising collectively.  How on earth Hermeto managed to record this with overdubs is nothing short of breathtaking, leading to the suspicion that the chaos is actually closely controlled and composed.  More Anglophone comparisons here that wouldn’t be totally off base might be Henry Cow, a group who similarly straddled lines of jazz improvisation, progressive rock, and the avant-garde, but famously lacked any sense of humor. “Santo Antônio” begins with what is essentially an interview fragment with a “Divína Eulalia de Oliveira”, credited with “story and improvising” on the jacket, describing a traditional religious procession probably in the interior of Ceará where Hermeto is from, where a group of people go door to door asking for donations or begging alms on behalf of the saint, asking for kitchen staples, farinha, feijão, arroz, ovos, macaxeira — “Oi dona da casa! Esmola pra Santo Antônio … qualquer coisa pra ajudar..”.  The feast of Saint Anthony is commemorated on June 13, making it part of the month-long series of Festas Juninas that exists with a singularity in Northeast Brazil in ways that it simply does not in the rest of the country.    This track has so much of what is magical about Hermeto.  Its demonstrably ethnographic, musically cinematic, and cut from an entirely different cloth from the pedantic and ultimately xenophobic traditionalism of the Movimento Armorial, for example, who by the mid 70s were the self-appointed guardians of all things “cultura popular” in the northeast.  Hermeto’s eclecticism, his mixture of affection and irreverence, must have been anathema to those people.
This little write-up is quickly becoming ungainly and unwieldy so in the interest of wrapping it up, I’ll gloss over the next three tracks by saying they are bit more tame, by which I mean *almost* accessible in a conventional sense of jazz fusion but still always coming back to the album’s regionalism with fragments of baião mixed in to the stew.  Some nice clavinet on Susto, which ends up with bombastic blasts of atonality at the end which are wonderful.  Another of Hermeto’s skills – diving into atonal waters without alienating the “casual” listener is a pretty unique quality.  Not that Hermeto has that many casual listeners.  In a somewhat circular way the album closes with a experimental “Mestre Mará”, which gives a nod to the music form of maracatu nação (or maracatu baque virado, as distinct from the unrelated form of maracatu ‘rural’ or baque solto), using one of its common syncopated rhythms along with agogô. But this is quiet and pensive, whereas maracatu nação is performed with large groups of drummers whose pulse you can feel in your gut from three city blocks away.  Instead, this quiet and mysterious tone poem seems to deliver us up to a mesa branca in the curtained-off room of a mestre, with the voices of the possessed joining in, suddenly wracked by fits of coughing from the defumação of incense and herbs.  It’s not frivolous that Hermeto is sometimes called “o bruxo.”

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paragraph from the back album cover:

“A música pelo músico, sem experiências nem vanguardas, apenas música sentida nota por nota, formando arranjos nos quais os instrumento, num só tempo, convivem e são individualmente explorados, escute.”

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Sam Rivers – Dimensions & Extensions (1967)

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SAM RIVERS
Dimension & Extensions

Recorded on March 17, 1967 at the Van Gelder Recording Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
First issued in 1976 on Blue Note BNLA 453 as part of the double album “Involution” (the second half of which is an Andrew Hill session).
Issued as an individual album with the original cover for the first time in 1986 (BST 84261)
CD Reissue is 1998 Blue Note RVG Remaster

1 Precis 5:18
2 Paean 5:23
3 Effusive Melange 5:49
4 Involution 7:12
5 Afflatus 6:25
6 Helix 5:31

Alto Saxophone, Flute – James Spaulding
Bass – Cecil McBee
Drums – Steve Ellington
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Sam Rivers
Trombone – Julian Priester
Trumpet – Donald Byrd

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Producer – Alfred Lion
Recorded By, Remastered By – Rudy Van Gelder
Reissue Producer – Michael Cuscuna

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The Earth lost another musical giant when Sam Rivers passed away this week (Dec 26) at the age of 88 years. The man had a long career in which he put out a ton of music of a very high caliber. I lament that I never saw him perform live, particularly as I had the chance once and somehow missed it — I can’t remember what my reason was, but it better have been a good one. Fortunately I’ve been a fan of his records for a long time, and he sure left us a lot of those.

The first music I heard from him were the albums he recorded for Impulse (in particular, ‘Hues’) which were done right at the time when he was a key figure in the loft music scene happening in New York. But he put out so much and on so many labels (Black Saint, ECM, Mosaic, and quite a few smaller labels) it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start. He had the unlucky fortune of getting on the Blue Note roster right before the label was sold to Liberty, and as the release history listed above should make clear (and the liner notes from Robert Palmer and Bob Blumenthal make much clearer), this particular album had a very odd legacy indeed. It was recorded in 67, assigned a catalog number, and had classic Blue Note album cover artwork done for it — only to sit on the shelves for a decade before ever seeing the light of day. When it finally did, it was issued as part of a double album that also featured Rivers playing with Andrew Hill’s group. It was finally issued under the original title “Dimensiosn & Extensions” in the 1980s.

This is exhilarating stuff and it’s hard to see how it stayed under the radar for so long. Driving bass work from Cecil McBee (a frequent sideman for Rivers) under-girds what is at times a wall of brass and reeds (courtesy of Julian Priester, Donald Byrd, and James Spaulding). Rivers is unique for a lot of reasons, one of them being that for someone associated with ‘free jazz’ he probably owes as much or more to Charlie Parker than to Coltrane. There is both intimacy and a certain swing in most everything he touched, and one line Palmer wrote about this album pretty much nails it: “Never has atonality in jazz writing sounded this warm.” He was equally at ease in small trio settings as he was playing in or leading big ensembles. He recent four albums recorded as Sam Rivers and the Rivbea Orchestra are all excellent and leave it very clear that the man was still in full possession of his creative powers and abilities in writing, arranging and performing top-notch stuff well into his 80s.

Rest easy, Mr. Rivers. You will be missed.

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in 320 kbs em pee tree

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Juju – Chapter Two: Nia (1974) Strata- East – Black Fire 24/96khz vinyl

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JuJu – Chapter Two: Nia

Originally released on
Strata-East – SES-7420 in 1974
This repressing, Black Fire Records (date unknown)

To find peace, you must BE it.
– Ngoma Ya Uhuru, “Complete the Circle”

1 Introduction 2:40
2 Contradiction (For Thulani) 5:10
3 Black Experience 3:44
4 Nia (Poem: Complete The Circle) 8:36
5 The End Of The Butterfly King (Poem: Things Comin’ Along) 6:10
6 Black Unity 15:58

Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Percussion – Plunky Nkabinde
Bells, Vocals,Poetry – Ngoma Ya Uhuru
Congas – Simbo
Drums, Congas, Whistle – Babatunde
Electric Bass – Phil Branch
Piano, Shekere, Percussion – Al-Hammel Rasul
Vibraphone, Percussion – Lon Moshe

Engineer – Tom Williams
Liner Notes – Thulani Nkabinde

Arranged by Plunky Nkabinde
Art Direction, Photography, Layout – Collis Davis

Recorded June, 1974 at Eastern Recording Studios, Richmond, Virginia

Video Playback Equipment: Center For Puerto Rican Studies, New York City
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Video playback equipment?? I wish I know what that was all about. Presumably it involved some heady stuff at the The East, the collectively-run tiny jazz club / pedagogical outreach / Afrocentricity home base for so much great music that ended up released on the associated Strata-East record label. (The Center for PR Studies was and still is part of Hunter College and linked to the CUNY system).

“JUJU” was the name of the ensemble that would become the funk-jazz-fusion outfit known as ‘Oneness of Juju’. Their first two albums were made for the famed Strata-East label. The first one dipping from the well of free jazz outfits like the Art Ensemble of Chicago, while this album goes further into Afro-centric themes with layers and layers of percussion, a few unrelentingly-groove-based compositions, and poetry over a couple tunes, very much in the spirit of early 70s spiritual-jazz sociopolitical-revolutionary-love and political fire music. Their take on Pharaoh Sanders ‘Black Unity’ is frenzied — two electric bass guitars giving it a heavy fusion sound (although they are the only electric instruments featured). Drummer ‘Babatunde’ definitely has jazz chops but sometimes he sounds like Billy Cobham on on a tight budget, something about the way he tunes his kit and his heavy hands. The couple of drum solos he takes are a little weird to my ears but when all the rest of the percussionists kick in it starts to gel very nicely. You can actually hear the band transitioning from the more free-jazz, heavily AEoC-inspired first album to their leaner jazz-funk identify as Oneness of Juju, with this album acting as a spiritual bridge between them. The radical spaces created around The East saturate this album, and if anyone needed convincing that those messages are still relevant they need only open a newspaper or look out in the streets.

“A new day is coming. A new day is here. Seize the time … everything comes in time… I don’t believe in time. Only change. Change the time. It’s ours now brothers, sisters. It’s ours now if we use it. There is no time. Only rhythm and change. There is no time, only rhythm and change. Only change. Only change. Change.”

These Black Fire vinyl repressings are, like so many vinyl repressings, a bit inconsistent. You will definitely notice the surface noise in some of the quiet passages , which there is no way of removing without leaving digital artifacts much more offensive to the ear. But the majority of the album has the band playing fairly loud, and so the surface noise really doesn’t bother me much. If it bothers you, I’ll be happy to refund your money.

in 320 kbs

in FLAC LOSSLESS AUDIO
16-bit / 44.1 khz or 24-bit / 96 khz

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