August 2004

Aimee Mann - Bachelor No. 2 or The Last Remains Of The Dodo
Mobile Fidelity UDSACD 2025
Originally Released: 2000
Remaster Released: 2004

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

I’m not sure I’d still be in love with Aimee Mann if she didn’t look and sing like an angel -- though I’m sure we’d still be friends. But, with her voice and her uncanny ability to write catchy, relevant pop songs, Aimee Mann just continues to worm her way deeper and deeper into my affections. I’d already fallen hard for Mobile Fidelity’s version of Lost in Space, so when I was offered the opportunity to listen to and review MoFi's latest Aimee Mann SACD, I jumped at it.

Bachelor No. 2 was originally released three years before Lost in Space. Mann’s skillful songwriting has never been stronger than it is on this album. She wrote or co-wrote all of the 13 tracks on the disc. Her slightly off-kilter, somewhat-darkened vision of life is given free rein here. It’ll only take a brief perusal of the song titles to allow you to understand what I’m referring to -- "How Am I Different?," "Ghost World," Nothing Is Good Enough," "The Fall of the World’s Own Optimist," and "Calling It Quits." The music she writes in support of those titles helps the lyrics form a beautiful, sometimes heart-rending, whole. Each song has its own brand of catchiness -- whistlability, if you will -- while still remaining far above the mass of dross that passes for much of pop today.

Mann uses a number of the same musicians she would call upon three years later to record Lost in Space, such as John Sands on drums, Michael Lockwood on guitar, Patrick Warren on keyboards, and Buddy Judge on background vocals. Supplementing that core group, Mann adds Benmont Tench on piano and chamberlain, husband Michael Penn on violin, and Grant Lee Phillips on background vocals. Together, they create a wonderful kaleidoscope of sonic colors and sounds that, even in stereo (the disc does not have a surround mix), seem to swell and eddy all around you.

Mobile Fidelity’s Shawn Britton has done his usual superb job in transferring the original Super Ego master tapes to this hybrid SACD using MoFi’s now tried-and-true Gain 2 process. Both layers, CD and stereo SACD, are very well transferred. I doubt anyone, hi-rez advocate or not, will find much to complain about. There is even an interesting note on the back of the insert booklet which adds that "Mobile Fidelity gratefully acknowledges the following individuals and companies for their technical support and expertise: Tim de Paravicini, Edmund Meitner, Pass Labs, Egglestonworks, Sound Application, Clearaudio, Aestheix, Stax Electrostatic, Linn and Z-Systems." Now that is a pretty good cross-section of high-end talent. And it will take but a single listen to hear what all that talent has wrought on Bachelor No. 2.

The soundstage is somewhat full with instruments and sounds, but none of the sonics come across smeared. You can pick any line you’d like and follow it just as far as your attention span, or the song, runs. Each instrument is nicely rendered. That aspect of the recording goes a long way toward the overall enjoyment of Bachelor No. 2, and it really allows Mann’s voice, the prime factor on this album, to blossom fully. And it’s her voice that will draw you into the music, making you a part of each song. The fact that this is a studio effort is not hidden by the production. But, that does nothing to diminish the overall quality of Mobile Fidelity’s mastering; instead, it helps to enhance it.

Aimee Mann has a talent and ability to write songs that get under your skin and imbed themselves in your subconscious. You’ll find yourself humming these tunes long after you’ve taken the disc from your player and slipped it back onto your shelf. And if, after listening to Bachelor No. 2, you find your ardor for Ms. Mann’s work beginning to grow, remember, the line forms to the rear.