Professor Longhair compilations

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MK
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Professor Longhair compilations

Postby MK » Fri Mar 31, 2006 1:13 pm

Finally checked his stuff out. Thankfully, his catalog is surprisingly tidy.

The "New Orleans Piano" CD is a cheap, mid-priced WEA CD, dating back to the 1980's. The original LP actually revived his career, not to mention his life - the original liner notes are included in the CD issue, and the last paragraph reveals that Longhair was then poor and virtually forgotten and expresses hope that the compilation would sell well enough to give him a lift. [There's even two small photos of Longhair, which aren't exactly glamorous.] The CD reissue includes three bonus tracks, and they seem to be alternate takes of three songs already included on the set. So you get 16 tracks total, mastered by Stephen Innocenzi at Atlantic. Innocenzi's mastering has been praised over at SH, his other Atlantic Jazz releases are often said to be "the sound of the tape," according to Hoffman. However, most, if not all of these tracks seem to be 78 transfers. They sound kind of 'wooly' or a bit 'fuzzy.' Not bad, but could be better.

Rhino's "'Fess: The Professor Longhair Anthology" is two discs, 130 minutes, covering his whole career, and from what I can tell, it's probably the definitive collection. Mastered by Bob Fisher, he has done bright masterings before, but this one sounds fine. Maybe a bit of a 'sparkle' on the later tracks, but it's worth noting that the few tracks opening the second disc were remixed and overdubbed with horns in the 1980's, so you get an 80's solid state sound, i.e. it's probably not Fisher's doing.

10 of the 13 Atlantic tracks from the original "New Orleans Piano" LP appear on the first disc, and of those missing three, one is presented on disc two in an excellent, live version recorded a bit later. The mastering for the 10 is excellent - cleaner with CRISP detail, and when I say crisp, I mean well-defined without the high-end boost. Probably better sources, just better transfers in general, with more declicking (the "New Orleans Piano" CD has plenty of audible pops).

Also, the Rhino collection comes with a nice booklet - as it turns out, Longhair's fortunes turned around completely, and the guy was making good money, recognized by his peers and the industry (there's a picture of him with Zep's Bonham), touring constantly, and cutting the occasional album.

The Rhino CD doesn't appear to have any compression or limiting, which wouldn't be surprising: it was released in 1993, and there were plenty of non-compressed releases back then. (Give Liz Phair's "Exile on Guyville" a spin and you'll see.) Maybe there is some, but if there is, it's minimal. The "New Orleans Piano" CD is almost half as soft as the Rhino anthology, but if you rip the tracks, you'll notice that "New Orleans Piano" often hits 50-60% of the maximum output, unlike the Rhino collection.
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Bennett Cerf
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Postby Bennett Cerf » Fri Mar 31, 2006 7:24 pm

Thanks. This review is very useful for me.