March 31, 2015

Brij Narayan [PolJazz PSJ-89] an LP recorded in India and released in Poland in 1980 (new transfer)

Brij Narayan (born 25 April 1952 in UdaipurRajasthanIndia) is the oldest son of Ram Narayan and also the nephew of tabla maestro Chatur Lal, under whom he started studies. After the death of Lal he moved to the sarod and continues to perform to this day.

This LP, which was recorded in 1980 at India's National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Bombay, does not seem to have shown up anywhere other than in Poland. It seems to have been issued by the Polish Jazz Society. (I should note that Jazz is still very widely admired in Poland and several of my acquaintances who are jazz musicians have found quite a warm and welcoming reception there.)

I had not heard of the album before my friend Nels loaned it to me for digitalization -- thanks, Nels!

Side A: Raga Puriya Kalyan (19:35)
Side B: Raga Jogiva (13:25) and Raga Misra Pilu (6:30)

Tabla by Suresh Talwalker.

Here is a short video of Brij Narayan playing at a house concert

Equipment used in transfer: 
Turntable: Audio-technica AT-LP-1240
Cartridge: Shure M97x
Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780

Recorder: Edirol R-09HR at 24/48 resolution
For the new transfer, I kept the original 24bit, 48kHz files and used ClickRepair at a minimal setting to just eliminate some of the more obvious grunge-y sounds. I then used Audacity to down sample to 1644 and xAct to encode to mp3 and to FLAC.

(high resolution file ideal for listening on computer or certain portable players)

(standard resolution file ideal for burning a CDR)

(highest possible quality compressed file ideal for listening on a portable player)

March 25, 2015

Idd Mohd. Ajmeri - Tabla Solos [Oscar PIKA-28] LP pressed in U.S. (1978)

Not very much information to be found on the interwebs on this one. The tabla player's first name can also be spelled "Eid" apparently. Luckily his family name wasn't Mubarak.

There is a very small but noticeable amount of hiss and very subtle pre-echo on the tapes used for mastering (absent between tracks) and the anonymous cutting engineer had to use very quiet levels, especially on the almost-30-minute side 2. This results in a bit more surface noise than I would like, but overall this is an excellent LP of tabla solos recorded in Karachi, Pakistan and released in the US on Oscar Records. EMI Pakistan seems to have been involved; possibly by loaning or leasing copies of master tapes to Oscar Records. I can't find any mention of an LP issue by EMI Pakistan, however.

My copy suffered a bit of water damage in the corner of the sleeve sometime during its life with another collector, as can be seen in the photos, but the vinyl itself did not seem to have any fungus or other water damage. Just some scuffs from rough handling.

I imagine somewhere in NYC there is a small rented storage space filled to the ceiling with boxes of unsold Oscar Records stock. But for now this is a reasonably rare find.

Equipment used in transfer: 
Turntable: Audio-technica AT-LP-1240
Cartridge: Shure M97x
Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780.

Recorder: Edirol R-09HR at 24/48 resolution
Software: Audacity to normalize and carefully remove a few clicks as well as convert to 16/44.1. xAct was used to convert to FLAC and mp3

March 22, 2015

Amjad Ali Kahn - Live at Shanmukhanand Hall, Bombay [EMI ECSD 2978] (1984)

Sometimes a fine performance is captured brilliantly and presented with technical excellence. Other times a fine performance is not well served by its presentation. This LP is a good example of the latter situation.

Amjad Ali Khan was in his heyday in the 1980s, and the performance here recorded on May 21, 1983 with tabla player Shafaat Ahmed Khan is no exception. However, for side 1 of this LP we have a speech lasting a little over two minutes (trimmed off in my transfer) and then a jarring cut well into the midsection of Raga Shuddha Kalyan. At the end of the side, the performance is faded out and applause (which sounds suspiciously artificial) is overlaid. A similar fate awaits side 2, although I think less is edited out from the beginning of Raga Durga. It's hard to tell exactly how much is missing, however.

In addition, as intent listeners will no doubt notice, the tabla is very closely mic'ed with no echo and the sarod is recorded either from a microphone placed somewhere in the audience or with reverb added. With headphones this becomes quite noticeable.

Finally, this copy has seen a little bit of reckless use by a previous owner, with some small audible scuffs on both sides. This was minimized using EQ and click remover in Audacity.

What makes up for all these issues is the rarity of this recording. Several online LP sales sites I referred to did not list a single copy for sale, and I could only find one copy on eBay. My friend Nels was generous enough to loan me his LP -- thanks!

Equipment used in transfer: 
Turntable: Audio-technica AT-LP-1240
Cartridge: Shure M97x
Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780.

Recorder: Edirol R-09HR at 24/48 resolution

Software: Audacity to normalize and carefully remove a few clicks, minimal EQ, and convert to 16/44.1. 
xAct was used to convert to FLAC and mp3

March 21, 2015

Ravi Shankar: Raga Jogeshwari [DG 2531 280] (1980) 24-bit transfer (not my own)

This LP is one of at least 4 which Raviji recorded for Deutsche Grammophon in the late 1970s and early 1980s (one of which, East Greets East, may only have been released in Japan). This is a very high quality transfer by the same person who has also created the "Avant Garde Project" or "AGP" which has preserved almost 200 LPs of 20th Century avant garde music. These files are available on the web and on torrent sites -- just google the name of the project. As you can see from the notes below he truly does have a top-of-the-line analog setup. Much better and far more expensive than mine!

His original text file is as follows (with slight editing by me):

This is a 24-bit/44.1 kHz transcription using high-end analog equipment of a full-length performance by Ravi Shankar of Raga Jogeshwari, with alap, jor, jhala, and two gats in Tala Jhaptal (2+3+2+3 beats) and Tala Ektal (4+4+2+2), accompanied by Alla Rakha on tabla. It is one of at least three LPs featuring this pair of master musicians released by Deutsche Grammophon in 1979-1981, brilliantly recorded by Wolfgang Mitelhner and (in this case) produced by Dr. Rudolf Werner. I could only find one of those (Homage to Mahatma Gandhi) in print on CD.

This recording features a mature and seasoned Ravi Shankar, still at the height of his powers at age 59, but several years after becoming such a hit in the western world in the 1960s. He exhibits the finely nuanced rhythms and precise tonal control that have always been characteristic of his style, playing in these recordings with a calm assurance that reminds me of Sonny Rollins' recordings for RCA in the early 1960s.

The recording is ideal, with as much detail as one could want, nice balance, and no rough edges. Unlike many recordings of Indian classical music, the sitar and tabla are not squarely isolated in the two stereo channels, but emerge naturalistically out of the locations that they presumably occupied during the recording session. The LP transcribed for this torrent is in exemplary condition throughout.

Equipment used for A/D conversion: Lyra Helikon phono cartridge, Linn LP12/Lingo turntable, Linn Ittok tonearm, Audioquest LeoPard tonearm cable, PS Audio PS2 preamplifier, Kimber PBJ interconnect, M-Audio Audiophile USB A/D converter.

01 - Alap [13:37]
02 - Jor [12:42]
03 - Gat I in Tala Jhaptal [17:07]
04 - Gat II in Tala Ektal [6:42]

... I have not converted the files to 16-bit format, so you will not be able to burn a regular CD from these files unless you first do that conversion. Each track on the original LP has been left at 24/44.1 resolution. I did however perform a mp3 conversion using xAct.

March 18, 2015

CORRECTED files for the VG Jog LP!

The files originally posted for the VG Jog LP were faulty. There were actually two copies of side 1 and nothing from side 2 in the upload and this has been corrected. Please upload those new files as noted in the comments of the last post. I deleted the links for the faulty files so that any Zippyshare links you can now see in the comments are good.

My apologies again to anyone this has inconvenienced. My sincere thanks to Archie for noticing the problem originally. 

Most importantly, I hope everyone who downloaded the mislabeled files will delete them so that in the future there are not mystery files floating around the inter webs.

I have two goals for this blog which are interrelated: to share this wonderful, special music with the world and to provide the very best LP and cassette transfers I can possibly produce. 

Thank you very much for connecting with me!

March 13, 2015

VG Jog - Violin [EMI EASD 1352] (1970)

Vishnu Govind Jog (Maharashtra 22 February 1922 – 31 January 2004 Calcutta) was a very gifted Hindustani violinist whose reputation has unfortunately seemed to have dimmed in recent years. There is not a terribly large number of records that were released during his lifetime and he does't seem to end up on many of the seemingly endless CD collections being produced these days.

Which is a shame. His work is very much worth seeking out and paying attention to. 

The EMI LP was published in India in 1970 and features Affaq Hussain Khan on tabla. This particular copy is in near mint condition, as is the sleeve. 

Equipment used in transfer: 
Turntable: Audio-technica AT-LP-1240
Cartridge: Shure M97x
Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780.

Recorder: Edirol R-09HR at 24/48 resolution

Software: Audacity to normalize and carefully remove a few clicks as well as convert to 16/44.1. xAct was used to convert to FLAC and mp3

March 10, 2015

Ravi Shankar live in Saratoga, CA on Sept 18th, 2001

This is another audience recording of Ravi Shankar (again, not mine) which has been circulating in the audio trading community for about 13 years.

The main difference between the previous recording and this recording is the impressive Neumann microphones used here. These aren't just studio quality microphones, but rather highly esteemed ones at that. In the world of unofficial recordings, there are those who will bring a handheld digital recorder to the concert and try their best and then there are those who will happily spend $5,000 or more on their recording "rig." This is a good example of the latter type.

I was unable to find out much information on the internet about this concert or find pictures from it. I do know that it had been originally planned for September 13, 2001 and had to be rescheduled because of the events of 9/11. Raviji mentions this at the beginning. That was a very difficult week for almost all Americans and we were still at the point where we were struggling for ways to describe what happened that day in NYC, Washington, DC, and an obscure farming town in Pennsylvania.

Here are a few pictures of Raviji performing during 2001 (sourced from an excellent BBC TV film, Between Two Worlds):

I have a few dozen other live recordings of Raviji, Khansahib, Shivkumarji, and Zakirji, and others, with variable quality ranging from "just barely good" to "really extremely good," but these will wait awhile because I am eager to get back to transferring vinyl.

Here is the original text file which accompanied the torrent file:

Ravi Shankar
September 18, 2001
Villa Montalvo
Saratoga, California

source: Neumann KM140s > EAA PSP/2 > Sony SBM-1 > DAT
lineage:  DAT master > computer > r8brain PRO > CD Wav > FFE > flac16
total time: 72:17

Ravi Shankar live at the WOMAD Festival in Adelaide, Australia, March 8, 2010

This is an unofficial concert recording (not mine) uploaded to a torrent site dedicated to unofficial recordings of live music and consisting of part of a concert given by Ravi Shankar while on tour in Australia and New Zealand in the Spring of 2010 with his daughter Anoushka and tabla player Tanmoy Bose.

Although the technology for obtaining concert recordings has improved greatly over the past 20 years, there are still many obstacles to producing brilliant records of concerts from the audience. This is not the venue for discussing such matters, so I will leave it at that. The taper apparently had his microphones on a hat or on some article of clothing because while monitoring with headphones one can detect phase shifts indicating movement (turning head, etc). Otherwise it is a fine recording and certainly one that can be listened to with enjoyment.

By this time in his life, Raviji could not be expected to possess the same digital dexterity for which he was famous 45 years prior. However, he never lost the gracefulness of his fingering and the suppleness of expression which have always been present in his work.

Here are some pictures from the concert (the last one is from a sound check of a concert a week later).

The two pieces are Raga Jog and Raga Panocha Se Gara. I left off a 'fusion" piece (likely composed by Anoushka) which was pretty bland and disappointing. The recording was shared as a 16bit/44.1kHz (flac) file which in Audacity underwent a bit of trimmed silence before the introductions (about 15 seconds). I also reduced some mic noises which were in the 20Hz (actually subsonic) range.

March 8, 2015

Bismillah Khan - A Shehnai Recital [EMI EASD 1413] (1975)

Bismillah Khan (21 March 1913 – 21 August 2006) was born in Bihar. He learned to play the shehnai (somewhat of an oboe-like instrument) at an early age but was able to do something no other shehnai player had done before: elevate the level of playing past that of a folk instrument most closely associated with wedding parties into a full-fledged classical instrument worthy of shining on the concert stage.

He was awarded India's highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna, in 2001, becoming the third classical musician after M. S. Subbulakshmi and Ravi Shankar to be accorded this distinction.

This particular album was released sometime after 1967 (likely 1975) because the notes mention a concert tour of the USA in 1967. Indeed, sharp-eyed viewers of the film "The Graduate" (1967) can see in one scene filmed in Berkeley, CA a concert poster for "Bismillah Khan and his 7 musicians."

My copy of this album came from a highly recommended seller with access to EMI new old stock and sports immaculate, highly glossy vinyl and a basically brand new outer sleeve.  Two or three wayward clicks were surgically removed using Audacity but otherwise this is a fairly quiet pressing (extremely quiet when one considers typical product from the factory in Dum Dum). Feel free to purchase LPs from this seller, despite the fact that it will break my greedy heart (just kidding! Get them while they last!)

Who is the tabla player? This release originates during a time period when the identity of a given tabla player on an LP was a low priority for everyone except other professional tabla players. One acquaintance of mine, an internationally touring tabla player, has told me that when Zakir Hussein started to become more popular in the mid-1970s, two changes happened: 1) the tabla player was placed at the same level on stage as the "main performer" and 2) it started to be considered unacceptable to not credit the tabla player on LPs. He definitely credits the rise of Zakir-ji as star material for these (to me) basic considerations. That is his perspective, and I certainly believe him.

As a final note, I cannot believe that this LP has not been sampled mercilessly by turntablists such as DJ Shadow. I could see an incredibly psychedelic yet relaxing mix being created by relatively simple sampling, looping, and layering.

Equipment used in transfer: 
Turntable: Audio-technica AT-LP-1240
Cartridge: Shure M97x
Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780.

Recorder: Edirol R-09HR at 24/48 resolution

Software: Audacity to normalize and carefully remove a few clicks as well as convert to 16/44.1. xAct was used to convert to FLAC and mp3

(after decoding to wav, suitable for burning to CD)

(highest resolution possible for mp3 file)

March 4, 2015

Vilayat Khan and Kumar Bose Cassette Tape [HMV 850737] (1985)

This cassette was recorded in 1985 and my copy was issued in November 1998. Although now out-of-print, I purchased this new from Shrimati's, a record store in Berkeley, CA which is legendary for its selection of Indian music and willingness to ship worldwide.

Shrimati's cassette listings

It's a fine program featuring Kumar Bose on tabla.

My copy of the cassette has slightly anemic lower frequency information (often a byproduct of high speed duplication), so this was cautiously boosted in Audacity. Azimuth was aligned for each side (please see previous post).

The cassette deck used for this transfer is a Teac W890 -- preamplification, recording, and post processing are the same as for the other posts on this blog

Manually adjusting azimuth when playing and transferring cassette tapes

One difficulty encountered when transferring cassette tapes to a digital medium is the issue of proper azimuth alignment. Essentially, this boils done to differences in the direction the play head in the machine is aligned with when tape is passing over it. The goal is to have the same alignment as the original machine which made the recording. This will not be possible in 99% of cases, unless you are using the same deck. 

Here is one excellent article and a fine video on this subject. Anyone who is very serious about helping to preserve recorded musical culture will hopefully be motivated to take a few minutes to read a couple of other articles as well. 

YouTube video on how to manually adjust azimuth

Ashish Khan - Young Master of the Sarod [World Pacific WPS-21444] (1967)

Ashish (also spelled "Aashish") Khan is son of Ali Akbar Khan and grandson of the great Allauddin Khan. He was born 5 December 1939 in Maihar, India and currently lives and teaches in both Calcutta and California. In 2006 he was nominated for a Grammy Award, which is a big deal to professional Indian musicians and, as far as I can tell, no one else. Being a disciple of Ali Akbar Khan is a much greater honor than any ridiculous miniature statue the Grammy's can provide!

This World Pacific LP was released in 1967 and features liner notes signed by George Harrison. This particular copy is visually immaculate but featured some prominent clicks in quiet passages and a subtle "crunchy noise" in the louder passages of side 2. After a thorough and gentle cleaning of the vinyl, the clicks were individually and carefully dealt with in Audacity. Unfortunately noise that is within the spectrum of the music is very difficult to eradicate and I chose to leave it alone rather than mar the essential beauty of the performance.

Tabla is by the great Alla Rakha.

Equipment used in transfer: 
Turntable: Audio-technica AT-LP-1240
Cartridge: Shure M97x
Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780.

Recorder: Edirol R-09HR at 24/48 resolution

Software: Audacity to normalize and carefully remove a few clicks as well as convert to 16/44.1. xAct was used to convert to FLAC and mp3

(suitable for listening on computer and other devices capable of playing high resolution files)

(suitable for burning a CDR)

(highest possible quality compressed file for portable devices such as iPod and smartphones)

March 2, 2015

Ali Akbar Khan - 'Ragas of India' box set side 6 (Raga Bhairavi Bhatiyar)

Here, at last, is the final side from this amazing box set from master sarodist Ali Akbar Khan and tabla player Mahapurush Misra, recorded by the brilliant Connoisseur Society and reissued on an obscure Book of the Month Club 3LP set. The mastering is by Sterling and the pressing likely by a RCA pressing plant. The notes on this unusual combination raga from the box set (probably ghost written by sarodist, fiddler, and ethnomusicologist George Ruckert or another student of Khansahib's) speak for themselves.

Last week I was visiting the Ali Akbar Khan College of Music (AACM) in San Rafael, CA for the Grand Opening of their new library which features many hundreds of hours of audio and a staggering 8,000 hours of video of Ali Akbar Khan performing and teaching. All available to anyone who is interested and present in person. 

Think about this: if you were to spend 40 hours a week every week watching the video, it would take you 4 years to watch all of it.

For the opening of the Library, Ali Akbar Khan's youngest son Alam Khan played a wonderful concert along with Javad Butah on tabla. It was the third time seeing Alam perform in the past year or so. Despite some wacky sound issues with the PA in the beginning of the first alap, it was fantastic seeing the room packed with humans all as intent on listening to the music as I was. Plenty of teens and even younger kids in attendance. As it happened, I had to sit on the floor, but when I turned around to see who was sitting behind me on a chair, it was none other than legendary tabla maestro Swapan Choudhury. Needless to say, I had to move quite a bit before the concert for all the dignitaries and visiting musicians to touch his feet as a gesture of profound respect. The photo below taken minutes before the start of the concert shows about half the room. 

Did I record the concert? Now that is a silly question. Will it show up on this blog? No, as my rules forbid me to post anything but otherwise unavailable vinyl LPs and cassettes (although I may at some point post currently circulating privately recorded concerts from FM and etc). You can probably listen to the concert anyway when visiting the AACM Library!

The final photo is the current box set framed on the wall of the AACM library.

Equipment used in transfer: 
Turntable: Audio-technica AT-LP-1240
Cartridge: Shure M97x
Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780.

Recorder: Edirol R-09HR at 24/48 resolution

Software: Audacity to normalize and carefully remove a few clicks as well as convert to 16/44.1. xAct was used to convert to FLAC and mp3