Friday, 26 December 2008

“Minute By Minute” by THE DOOBIE BROTHERS (February 2005 US-Only Audio Fidelity 24-Carat Gold CD Remaster by STEVE HOFFMAN) - A Review by Mark Barry...


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"...Oh Sweet Feeling..."

The vinyl LP "Minute By Minute" by THE DOOBIE BROTHERS was originally released on Warner Brothers BSK 3193 in December 1978 in the USA and Warner Brothers K 56486 in the UK. 

This 22 February 2005 US-only 24KT Gold Audiophile CD reissue is on Audio Fidelity AFZ 025 (Barcode 780014202521).

Long-standing Warners producer TED TEMPLEMAN recorded the original album (engineered by DONN LANDEE) while famed sound engineer STEVE HOFFMAN has mastered this reissue from the original first generation stereo tapes for CD. This Audio Fidelity audiophile version has a distinctive black and gold outer card wrap (Amazon artwork is often incorrect), the disc itself is a 24KT + Gold CD - a High Definition Compatible Disc issue (HDCD) - while the booklet faithfully reproduces the original album artwork, inner sleeve, lyrics, recording info, reissue details etc.

The DOOBIE BROTHERS line-up for the "Minute By Minute" LP was:
Lead Vocals, Keyboards and Synthesizers - MICHAEL McDONALD
Lead Vocals, Guitars - PATRICK SIMMONS
Guitars - JEFFREY ("Skunk") BAXTER
Bass, Vocals - TIRAN PORTER
Drums - JOHN HARTMAN
Drums and Vocals - KEITH KNUDSEN

Guests were:
Congas and Vocals - BOBBY LaKIND
Vocals - TOM JOHNSTON
Backing Vocals - NICOLETTE LARSON and ROSEMARY BUTLER
Harmonica - NORTON BUFFALO
Banjo - HERB PEDERSEN
Fiddle - BYRON BERLINE
Electric Piano - LESTER ABRAMS
Synthesizers - BILL PAYNE
Saxophone - ANDREW LOVE
Trumpet - BEN CAULEY

Here's a detailed breakdown (37:12 minutes)
1. Here To Love You [3:58]
[Writer Michael McDonald. Lead Vocals Michael McDonald, Backing Vocals Rosemary Butler.]
2. What A Fool Believes  [3:41]
[Writers Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. Lead Vocals Michael McDonald with Bill Payne of LITTLE FEAT on Synthesizer]
3. Minute By Minute [3:26]
[Writers Michael McDonald and Lester Abrams. Lead Vocals Michael McDonald with Bill Payne of LITTLE FEAT on Synthesizer]
4. Dependin' On You [3:44]
[Writers Patrick Simmons and Michael McDonald. Lead Vocals Patrick Simmons with Nicolette Larson and Rosemary Butler on Backing Vocals.]
5. Don't Stop To Watch The Wheels [3:26]
[Writer Patrick Simmons, Jeffrey "Skunk" Baxter and Michael Ebert. Lead Vocals Patrick Simmons and Tom Johnston with Norton Buffalo on Harmonica.]
6. Open Your Eyes [3:16]
[Writers Michael McDonald, Lester Abrams and Patrick Henderson. Lead Vocals Michael McDonald.]
7. Sweet Feelin' [2:41]
[Writers Patrick Simmons and Ted Templeman. Lead Vocals Patrick Simmons with Nicolette Larson and Michael McDonald on Harmony Vocals.]
8. Steamer Lane Breakdown [3:24]
[Instrumental written by Patrick Simmons.]
9. You Never Change [3:26]
[Writer Patrick Simmons. Lead Vocals Patrick Simmons with Harmony Vocals from Michael McDonald.]
10. How Do The Fools Survive? [5:12]
[Writers Michael McDonald and Carol Bayer Sager. Lead Vocals Michael McDonald with Lester Abrams on Electric Piano.]

To my knowledge there's 4 versions of this album on CD; the crappy 80's original, an improved 1990s remaster, this 2005 Audio Fidelity audiophile issue and a Japanese issue in 2006 in a card repro sleeve. Owning both the Japanese issue and this one, it's clear to me that the Japanese issue has used exactly the same remaster - to my ears they're identical. Which is good news, because I think this Steve Hoffman remaster is one of the most beautifully rendered transfers - so subtle and so damn good. Every song reveals itself now to you - and not in a showy way - all treble and blasting - it's just 'there' - muscular and in your living room. The synth work and rhythm guitar on "Here To Love You" is suddenly in the speakers when it was somehow hidden up until now and the lovely and overlooked "Sweet Feelin'" has the superb harmony vocals of Larson and McDonald so beautifully complimenting Simmons on lead.

Audio Fidelity put the original master mixes on special vintage playback decks and then run them through their own 'proprietary digital to analogue converter', which digs out those musical nuances. Whatever the techno speak says, your ears can hear it - especially on a good CD player. The album's double-whammy finishers "You'll Never Change" and "How Do The Fools Survive?" are now both Steely Dan good in terms of sound quality - drums, bass, brass, guitars - all of it - musically superb - and now sonically 'soooo' sweet.

One slight oddity is that both the FACES "Nod" CD (another AF release) and this have the printed info on their card wraps upside down on the rear - don't know why this is?

Audio Fidelity CDs have a mixed reputation among audiophiles (some are utterly slated) - but ordinary fans of the music may just wonder whether this issue is worth the extra cost - I'd say a resounding yes...

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