SoundStage! Music Online Editor's Pick Archives
July/August 2003

Can't You Hear the Wind Howl? The Life and Music of Robert Johnson
Shout! Factory DVD 30181, 2003

Musical Performance
***
Recording Quality

***

Image Quality
***1/2*

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2*

Music label Shout! Factory is going all out with blues releases this year, which was designated by an act of Congress as the Year of the Blues. In addition to releasing six Heroes of the Blues recordings by the likes of Ma Rainey, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and Son House, there will be the release of PBS's upcoming The Story of the Blues on DVD along with a two-CD set of the music from the documentary. And then there is this entertaining DVD on Robert Johnson and his musical legacy. Told through the accounts of people who knew him as well as dramatic snippets (Keb' Mo' plays Johnson in these), Johnson's story comes to life and we come to understand why Johnson was the blues' most important early figure: not only for his guitar playing, which still wows those who hear him, but also his songwriting and singing -- a triple threat to be sure. This documentary is narrated by Danny Glover and includes moments of tribute from Eric Clapton and Keith Richards, who spent their time trying to convey how magnificent Johnson's guitar work was and making believers in the process. Can't You Hear the Wind Howl? chooses to downplay the mythology of Johnson selling his soul to the devil in favor of a realistic portrait of an important musical figure whose life was cut short but whose star shines on....Marc Mickelson


Aimee Mann - Lost in Space
Mobile Fidelity UDSACD 2021, 2003

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

****1/2*

Overall Enjoyment
*****

Aimee Mann's keen pop sensibilities and delicate voice hooked me with the movie Magnolia, in which her musical contributions to the finished product are indispensable. Lost in Space received rave reviews when it was released in late 2002, and this Hybrid stereo SACD from Mobile Fidelity improves upon the CD's sound in several ways. Detail is more apparent, the SACD making the CD sound a bit opaque. Mann's voice benefits most from this, her ability to sound as though she's in control and vulnerable at the same time shining through. The low end has more power and the midrange greater transparency, imparting the sense that you are one step closer to the master tape, or perhaps a gnat's eyelash away from it. The CD layer improves on the regular-issue CD as well. It may be audiophile heresy to say so, but the great sound is not the reason to buy this high-rez remaster. Buy it because it's Aimee Mann, and you need hear her....Marc Mickelson


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