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When reviewing new components I tend to start with records I recently acquired or haven’t heard in ages. This allows me to meet new gear on its own terms. Otherwise deviations from what one is accustomed to can translate too easily as inferior. More or less by chance I ended up with 1985's Cairo Nights from B-Side. Even current this synth production with computerized drums and bass lines was hardly groundbreaking. As a Nicky Skopelitis production it clearly meant to cash in on the success of disco diva Grace Jones. Unfortunately the come-hither efforts of Miss B-Side lacked the original’s erotic vibes. And somewhere in all the obvious concern with production values the team overlooked that a good song really does need an interesting melody.

The Transrotor Crescendo applied equal distinction to the album’s sunny and shadowy sides. Bill Laswell’s bass showed good reach and definition, the routinely heavily reverb’d drums illuminated great artificial space and the synths squawked as gawd-awfully as was seemingly required for electropop/funk/disco of the era. The lead vocalist rides on plenty of her own reverb and EQ to float above it all yet struggling mightily to emote anything. If this description appears to explain why I hadn’t listened to this in ages... well, you’d be correct. But even this production has its fans.

Three things factored about playing it back. The production clearly spanned multiple studios. Vocal EQ, microphones or settings all caused the singer to sound slightly different from track to track. The Crescendo… um, tracked this brilliantly and resolved the varying hall perspectives just as cleanly. I had remembered the recorded treble balance as more disturbing and peaky. The Crescendo meanwhile enfolded the treble into the performance and in the final analysis seemed less concerned with ultimate HF resolution. Perhaps the more forgiving needle profile of the Merlo was to blame? Bass and bass drum really made the biggest impression here. They showed plenty of shove and blackness which were mated to a cleanly resolved rhythm that pleasantly got my legs to pump. The bass drum crashed and the interplay of percussion and bass was flawless. A good beginning for the Crescendo.

Next up was a personal fave, Serge Chaloff’s Blue Serge. Prematurely passed on, Chaloff was a baritone sax player who earned his spurs in the early 1950’s in the nexus of Big-Band jazz (he was a member of Woody Herman’s New Herd) and more chamber-music styled BeBop quartets and quintets. On Blue Serge he’s surrounded by giants like Sonny Clark, Leroy Vinnegar and Philly Joe Jones. Chaloff enjoyed an unbelievably big soft tone—I always associate it with Barry White's voice—and the man himself exuded generousness of spirit, ease and human warmth. All that came across with the German deck. Simultaneously I appreciated the tremendous amount of air rushing through his big baritone sax. On either side of middle C Sonny Clark’s highly physical piano evinced tremendous dynamic range on this album whilst Vinnegar’s bass plumbed the depths captured with brilliant precision and nearly visual tacitness. That was true HighEnd and massive fun!

Next I meant to investigate the upper mids and highs further with Bird Nest Roys' 1st album, an obscure Kiwi outfit which as far as I know never published anything else. This formation relied on three guitarists, two of them with a similar bright percussive timbre to add up to a pleasing and timeless melée somewhere on the crossroad of punk, folk and rock. These three guitarists release an overabundance of energy into those specific frequency bands which could probably get trying in concert. It definitely challenges a record player and in my experience particularly so any tone arm.