September 2008

Ben Webster - Atmosphere For Lovers And Thieves
Black Lion/Pure Pleasure BLPP 30105
Format: LP
Originally released: 1975
Reissue released: 2008

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Anyone who thinks that a home audio system can truly re-create the sound of the live event is seriously deluded. The best we can hope for is that our systems -- and especially the software we play on them -- will allow us to pretend that what we’re hearing is an actual event and not a reproduction. "Especially" applies to the software because it is at the very top of the reproduction chain. When you’re blessed with top-flight recordings, such as this new Ben Webster LP from Pure Pleasure, it becomes possible to suspend the disbelief inherent in listening to reproduced music and simply lose yourself in the experience.

By the time of this recording, Webster was a permanent European resident and at the pinnacle of his powers. It’s unfortunate that despite the superb music he recorded in Europe, little of it was pressed on decent vinyl, making most of the original copies of albums like this one (first issued on the Black Lion label) suffer from excessive noise. Not so with this reissue. Flat, dead silent, and most excellently remastered, it allows Webster and his cohorts to sound as real as your system will allow. He sticks mostly to the ballads best suited to his big-toned sax sound, though he does cut loose just enough to keep things interesting.

Detail of all kinds is presented in a manner that sounds totally natural. About the only nit I can pick is a bit of that old hard-left/hard-right early stereo sound -- well, that and the price, which is approaching $40 here in the US. You can pick up an original for significantly less, but this is a case where a reissue easily outperforms an original, allowing you to hear this music as it should have been presented all along.