Valentines Day has put me in a sentimental mood. This time last year Juliet and I were at ‘the’ Norah Jones concert. What a night. After the embarrassment of a local supporting artist, trying to sound like an American, we had the real thing. My previous live concert had been with Diana Krall. After Dianne’s polish and sophistication Norah seemed like the girl next door. Young shy, unassuming, attractive but she brought out a protective streak. With all of her naturalness she could have been a Kiwi. My obsessiveness only crept in a couple of times when I couldn’t help but compare the live version with the recording. The joy of Norah’s work is in its simplicity and I can only hope that newer releases don’t become more and more processed.
Another joy of this year has been the discovery of Cool Blue, an Auckland FM station available on 96.1 and also on the Internet. This music is presented with no DJ, no news and only an occasional advert. The transmission is done without any compression and with a reasonable tuner can produce close to CD [or at least mp3] quality sound. The important thing of course is the music and Real Groovy who produce the thing, have a fantastic stock of blues music to call on.
When listening to Cool Blue my other new toy this year has been a Tivoli radio, imported into NZ by Denco Audio. My Tivoli is the size of a house brick, with a lovely wood veneer and a charming blue fascia. The sound is warm, detailed and full. I find it satisfying enough [even though it is only mono] to use as a tuner in my main system. Juliet fell in love with the portable version of the Tivoli call significantly the Pal. It’s bright red and like it’s name suggests provides her with refreshing company when she is working at home or writing at the bach. The Pal has a drier more forward sound but can always be placed at the corner of a room for extra bass boost.
Equipment wise my favourite upgrade this year has been the new NAD phono amplifier. At the bach the old integrated amp had a fit in its phono input. It wasn’t worth repairing but the inexpensive NAD breathed a new level of life into a collection of thirty-year-old records. Well-done NAD. The reputation for cheap good quality gear is well deserved!
Just so that you don’t think that I have forgotten the music. It is nice at my age and stage to find that there new sounds that can delight. I am a Jack Johnson fan. I love the laid-back sound and insightful lyrics. A nit picking criticism is that the tops are a bit rolled off, but that may be one of the reasons for the mellow quality.
On the NZ music scene I join the lament for the loss last year of Hirini Melbourne. His recording of Te Kuraroa has had a lot of play at home. This recording has lovely evocative tracks that I find moving even without the help of a translation. We have lost a great musician and lyricist. My favourite collection album has to be Greg Brown’s ‘If I had known’ which is a good auditory record of how a down home country boy became a rich and successful country boy, without spoiling who he is or his music. Finally my all time most played cd is ‘A Meeting By the River’ featuring Ry Cooder and V.M. Bhatt. Recorded in 1993 in an abbey in the wee small hours of the morning using valve gear, this award winning combination of East meets West pointed the direction towards World Music before the term was even popular. With improvised tracks called ‘Ganges Delta Blues’ and ‘Longing’, we are carried away to a world of peaceful, deep reverie and at the end of the day that is what it is about. Isn’t it?
John is working in private practice on Auckland’s North Shore. He has been involved in hi-fi and psychology over the last three decades. Like most obsessive people he specializes in issues of life-style balance . His web –site is www.johngroom.co.nz.