AAA 100% Analogue This LP was Remastered using Pure Analogue Components Only from the Master Tapes through to the Cutting Head
Speakers Corner / Columbia - JC34980 - 180 Gram Virgin Vinyl - AAA 100% Analogue
Limited Edition - Pure Analogue Audiophile Mastering - Pressed at Pallas Germany
Speakers Corner 25 Years Pure Analogue This LP is an Entirely Analogue Production
The Absolute Sound Super Disc List TAS Harry Pearson Super LP List
hi-fi+ September 2014 Review by Dennis Davis Shakti was a world fusion quartet led by John McLaughlin and Zakir Hussain. After McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra broke up in 1975, he formed Shakti to continue his (very) high-energy guitar work and interest in eastern spiritualty. Recorded in 1977, Natural Elements is more approachable than the first two releases. This final Shakti effort make an excellent counterpoint to Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew from the beginning of the decade –two of the best fusion albums ever made. However, Columbia couldn’t give Natural Elements away at the time. Eastern music has always been a hard sell in the west, and here it’s fused about as far as it can go without disappearing. In addition to McLaughlin’s sometimes virtuosic, sometimes poignant playing, Shankar’s violin playing is as good as anything found on contemporary rock or jazz. Recorded at Aquarius Studios, Geneva in July 1977, engineer Jean Ristori captured each instrument well integrated into a realistic stage with lots of depth and separation. Willem Makee’s first class mastering at Pallas’ heavy virgin vinyl for Speakers Corner serves the music better than the Columbia oil embargo vinyl original release. DD
In the western world, the word shakti is taken to mean creative intelligence, beauty and strength. Guitar marvel John McLaughlin, who collaborated with the unique Mahavishnu Orchestra to tell the world of his conversion to Hinduism, created music past comparison with Shakti. Despite the frenzy of mass oriental pilgrimages, it was still unusual that McLaughlin’s ensemble was made up totally of musicians from India.
As the title of the third and last album – "Natural Elements" – suggests, all the participants work with body and soul and make no use of electronic equipment that was so popular in the Seventies. The very real natural energy, which emanates from the flow of melodies and rhythms from both western and eastern musical sources, fires all the musicians. And it is completely intentional that a cheerful fiddle tune, which might well be heard in the Emerald Isle, is joined by plopping volleys of sound on the tabla, inviting one to dance, or that dampened mariachi jubilation appears to be enveloped in the meditative atmosphere of a temple.
The short, light and cheerful pieces on this LP provide easy listening and offer an ideal insight into the world of Shakti. These natural sounds, far from time and space, are still enjoyed today – as is proved by the presence of a large audience at the concert "Remember Shakti", in which John McLaughlin and Zakir Hussain celebrated their 40-year spiritual ties.
"The third and final Shakti recording from the '70s. The songs here are shorter than those on Shakti and Handful of Beauty, but no less impressive. The novelty of combining Eastern and Western musical styles had worn off and McLaughlin sounds comfortable. This allows for memorable compositions and interchanges, rather than the blistering virtuosity that characterized the first two releases. From the intense ("Daffodil and the Eagle") to the joyful ("Happiness Is Being Together"), Natural Elements stands as a milestone in McLaughlin's illustrious career." - allmusic.com
John McLaughlin, guitar, vocals,
Lakshminerayana. Shankar, violin, viola, vocals
Zakir Hussain, bongos, dholak, percussion, tabla, timbales, triangle, vocals
T.H. "Vikku" Vinayakram, percussion, ghatam, kanjeera, vocals
1. Mind Ecology
2. Face to Face
3. Come On Baby Dance With Me
4. The Daffodil and the Eagle
5. Happiness Is Being Together
6. Bridge of Sighs
7. Get Down and Scruti
8. Peace of Mind
Recording: July 1977 at Aquarius Studios, Geneva (Switzerland), by Jean Ristori
Production: John McLaughlin
Are your records completely analogue?
Yes! This we guarantee!
As a matter of principle, only analogue masters are used, and the necessary cutting delay is also analogue. All our cutting engineers use only Neumann cutting consoles, and these too are analogue. The only exception is where a recording has been made – either partly or entirely – using digital technology, but we do not have such items in our catalogue at the present time
Are your records cut from the original masters?
In our re-releases it is our aim to faithfully reproduce the original intentions of the musicians and recording engineers which, however, could not be realised at the time due to technical limitations. Faithfulness to the original is our top priority, not the interpretation of the original: there is no such thing as a “Speakers Corner Sound”. Naturally, the best results are obtained when the original master is used. Therefore we always try to locate these and use them for cutting. Should this not be possible, – because the original tape is defective or has disappeared, for example – we do accept a first-generation copy. But this remains an absolute exception for us.
Who cuts the records?
In order to obtain the most faithful reproduction of the original, we have the lacquers cut on the spot, by engineers who, on the whole, have been dealing with such tapes for many years. Some are even cut by the very same engineer who cut the original lacquers of the first release. Over the years the following engineers have been and still are working for us: Tony Hawkins, Willem Makkee, Kevin Gray, Maarten de Boer, Scott Hull, and Ray Staff, to name but a few.
At the beginning of the ‘90s, in the early days of audiophile vinyl re-releases, the reissue policy was fairly straightforward. Companies such as DCC Compact Classics, Mobile Fidelity, Classic Records and others, including of course Speakers Corner, all maintained a mutual, unwritten code of ethics: we would manufacture records sourced only from analogue tapes.
Vinyl’s newfound popularity has led many other companies to jump on the bandwagon in the hope of securing a corner of the market. Very often they are not so ethical and use every imaginable source from which to master: CDs, LPs, digital files and even MP3s.
Even some who do use an analogue tape source employ a digital delay line, a misguided ’80s and ‘90s digital technology that replaces the analogue preview head originally used to “tell” the cutter head in advance what was about to happen musically, so it could adjust the groove “pitch” (the distance between the grooves) to make room for wide dynamic swings and large low frequency excursions. Over time analogue preview heads became more rare and thus expensive.
So while the low bit rate (less resolution than a 16 bit CD) digital delay line is less expensive and easier to use than an analogue “preview head”, its use, ironically, results in lacquers cut from the low bit rate digital signal instead of from the analogue source!
Speakers Corner wishes to make clear that it produces lacquers using only original master tapes and an entirely analogue cutting system. New metal stampers used to press records are produced from that lacquer. The only exceptions are when existing metal parts are superior to new ones that might be cut, which includes our release of “Elvis is Back”, which was cut by Stan Ricker or several titles from our Philips Classics series, where were cut in the 1990s using original master tapes by Willem Makkee at the Emil Berliner Studios. In those cases we used only the original “mother” to produce new stampers.
In addition, we admit to having one digital recording in our catalogue: Alan Parsons’ “Eye in the Sky”, which was recorded digitally but mixed to analogue tape that we used to cut lacquers.
In closing, we want to insure our loyal customers that, with but a few exceptions as noted, our releases are “AAA”— analogue tape, an all analogue cutting system, and newly cut lacquers.
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