Before becoming an audiophile proper in the late noughties I’d never heard of Diana Krall or Patricia Barber. Or Jazz At The Pawnshop. From visiting various audiophile society meets and hi-fi shows over the past few years I realised that a very different world of music (to that which I was previously accustomed) had been sectioned off by middle-aged gentlemen congregating in front of multi-thousand dollar systems. It was – and still isn’t – my cup of joe.
That said, every year the audiophile scene takes a more mainstream release into its bosom. In 2013 it was Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. The year before that? Ummmm. I’ve drawn a blank
Robbie Robertson’s eponymous 1986 solo debut is one of the great sounding MOR rock albums of that decade. Each song unfurls with an epic majesty that Robertson failed to best with later releases; these aren’t just songs, they’re dirt roads that cut across huge landscapes. Sounds dart left and right. A voice swells up from below. It’s so good I don’t even mind the rather overrought cameos from U2’s Bono and The Edge. Peter Gabriel lends husky backing vox to the opening track “Fallen Angel” whilst “Somewhere Down The Crazy River” (that single) must’ve been a staple of hifi meets and store demos that year. Surely? (I don’t know – back then I was 14 years old).
It got me thinking: what were the mainstream records of yesteryear that enjoyed a good thrashing in hi-fi land?
I know for certain is that Paul Simon’s Graceland was an audiophile pick of the 1980s. Ditto Peter Gabriel’s So. Ditto Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly. Audio shows running in the late 70s would probably have been overrun by Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours? Right? Right. Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat must’ve owned every show in ’87 and ’88. (I’d really love it if the Blue Nile’s sophomore release Hats had borne witness to some of those nerdy listening sessions. After all, it was released on Linn Records.
What about the 90s? There I draw a blank. Nirvana’s Unplugged In New York? R.E.M. Automatic For The People? Johnny Cash’s American series? Oh wait – Massive Attack’s Mezzanine would’ve been a biggie; I recall my local Richer Sounds having that one to hand *always* (as well as Björk’s Post).
The noughties: Jeff Buckley? Bon Iver?
I’m not looking for what might be great audiophile-quality records, nor greater recordings or masters from twenty or thirty years ago. Instead, I’m trying to uncover what was thrashed to death by audiophiles – at shows and at in-stores – way back when.
EDIT – I’m rolling in some of the comment and social media responses here:
Dave Matthews Band – Under the Table and Dreaming (1994)
Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)
Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms (1985)
Sade – Diamond Life (1985)
Stevie Ray Vaughan – Texas Flood (1983)
Jim Keltner / Ron Tutt – The Sheffield Drum Record (1981)
Steely Dan – Aja (1977)
Jean Michel Jarre – Oxygene (1976)
Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon (1973)
The Eagles – Hotel California (1972)