PHIL MANZANERA / 801
Polydor Deluxe 2302 074
Yes, I am back with new energy and enthusiasm, and what a great record to start with. Phil Manzanera's brilliant collaboration with his ex-Roxy Music partner, Brian Eno with host of other top musicians including Lol Creme and Kevin Godley (of 10cc fame). has always been a favorite of mine. The music melds Manzanera's incredible guitar work like that found in his solo albums, particularly "K-Scope", with quirky lyrics and vocals by Eno, reminiscent of "Another Green World" and "Here Come the Warm Jets". The ultra-slick engineering is by Rhett Davies, the man who later fashioned the soundscape of Roxy Music's magnificent swansong "Avalon". There are touches here and there from Godley and Creme that add to the moody atmosphere.
Highlights are the moody title track with a nice segue into the upbeat "Flight 19". "Island" is a gentle instrumental which sets us up for my favorite track on Side One called "Law and Order" with Eno on lead vocal. All the main songs feature a chorus, and it's delightful how the many different voices harmonize and blend seamlessly, adding an streamlined elegance to the proceedings, unusual for a rock record of this (or any) era. In fact, its the most memorable sonic feature, the kind of thing that will hum in your head for days.
Side Two loses absolutely no luster as it opens with a short but magnificent track "Que?" in which Manzanera conjures up an illusion of supersonic speed, that leads into the the mechanical chug that underlies the "City of Light".All the tracks here are great, and the album is closed perfectly with "That Falling Feeling" The way the music supports the lyric here "You can feel it, you can feel it moving in" is nothing short of brilliant. As the chorus repeats that line several times, instruments die out one by one, as a fogbank of Eno's atmospherics rolls, enveloping the listener in it it;s strange ambience. If you look for this, do get the UK import - the pressing is perfect and the sound perfectly balanced.
Have you ever found a record that, even for a few moments, can fool you into an illusion that you are hearing a live, in the room performance? It a rare experience we continually chase, but seldom attain. The wide dynamic range, the myriad of subtle cues, dynamic shifts, and other details that make up live music are extremely difficult to reproduce with any degree of realism. Much of the reason has to do with poor recordings and the records made from them. As listeners with an audiophile background, our minds are constantly evaluating the sound, and drawn to the flaws in the playback.
There is a record I know of that sounds so very right, so realistic and easy to enjoy is Gino Vannelli's masterpiece "Powerful People". as reissued by Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, half speed mastered from the origimal master tapes, and pressed on JVC Supervinyl in Japan. This is an earlier effort by MFSL and in my opinion, it is one of their best, certainly among the top 5 titles ever issued by MFSL. It is not only one of the best sounding records ever made, but it is a major musical and artistic success as well. Gino has written words and music for all nine songs. If you thought that you might not care for Gino Vannelli, you might reverse your opinion after hearing this. There are several upbeat numbers, including the hit "People Gotta Move. This synth and percussion based rocker has it all, upbeat, yet somewhat haunting music, a passionate delivery from Gino, subterranean synth bass lines, intense percussion featuring both congas and bongos. There are several quick transients that are shocking in impact. Following this is "Lady", the first of two superb ballads. The vocal on this track is amazing - moving from achingly tender confession to s soaring, passionate plea. "Son of a New York Gun" is a great rocker with dynamic range to spare - at one of the climaxes, as the band is going full tilt, a police siren moves across the soundscape. At realistic listening levels, this will fool you every time into turning down the volume to hear what sounded like it was just outside your door! The cut then segues into "Jack Miraculous" and The side ends with another beautiful ballad "Jo Jo", with Gino providing another impassioned vocal. It leaves me breathless every time!
Earlier this week, I finally found what seemed to be an elusive disc. While browsing through Ebay's auction listings, I came across a seller who has acquired what must be one of the most substantial and extensive collections of rare, factory sealed and mint condition soundtrack and original film score LPs I've ever seen. He had the soundtrack to virtually any film I could think of, and even more that I hadn't know existed! Ever since I found the magnificent original soundtrack to the film "Glory", I've been anxious to hear more of the work of composer James Horner. One of his earliest works, "Brainstorm" has been on my want list for several years, first coming to my attention through The Absolute Sound Superdisc List. A quick check uncovered a new, sealed copy at a very reasonable But It Now price. It arrived today, and immediately went on the turntable. One thing I hadn't realized is that the Varese Sarabande disc I purchased is not the original soundtrack. Rather, it is a re-recording of the work with James Horner conducting The London Symphony Orchestra. Perhaps the original recording was compromised in some way ( I have never seen the film) but this disc is just incredible. It is one of the finest recordings that you are likely to hear. Even without the visual element of the film, the score serves remarkably well on it's own. Even more amazing is that Horner was just 30 years old when he composed this score!
The first element I noticed was the otherworldly effect of using a boys choir, which he also used in "Glory" to stunning effect. Here, it established a spiritual element to the opening cue (the title sequence I assume) But hold on...extremely low bass notes barely prepare one for the growing orchestral maelstrom that threatened to overwhelm my speakers during it's climax. I literally bolted to the preamp to lower the volume and head off disaster. The dynamic range on this cut is staggering, a sonic thrill you won't soon forget!. I was very impressed already, just one minute into the record. The next cut did not disappoint, another shocking display of extreme dynamic range entitled "Lillian's Heart Attack", which is everything you might imagine The effect is similar to that which Giorgio Moroder achieved in the autopsy cue from "Cat People". It employs a quiet, melodic introduction which is suddenly interrupted by a huge orchestral (or synthesized in the Moroder) crash of such ferocious intensity that it will give most any listener a heat-stopping shock. Unforgettable. The mood changes to a more pleasant one throughout the remainder of Side One, finishing with the hauntingly beautiful "A Gift from Brian".
I should note that this entire LP clocks in at about 30 minutes, and that it is a digital recording. Any of the three cuts I've mentioned alone are worth the price of admission. The creative scoring, superb sonics and blissfully silent surfaces make this an obvious "must have". Highly recommended!.
Is there an audiophile anywhere who hasn't heard this record? If you are one of the few to whom the pleasures of this disc are unknown, read on. This recording was a beauty, even in it's original release on ABC Records. But it reputation was cemented when Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs reissued it in their "Original Master Recording" series, half-speed mastered then plated and pressed on virgin vinyl at JVC in Japan, and TAS added it to the Superdisc List. The original ABC immediately lost it's luster. This is the ultimate late night listen, a group of contemporary smooth jazz instrumentals featuring the soft focus saxophone of Klemmer, against a gently shimmering backdrop of dreamy electric keyboards, guitars and subtle percussion. It is exquisitely engineered. Not one note is harsh or aggressive - everything is warm and slightly rounded. The record projects a good sense of depth and width. If fact, if I had to name one of the most significant moments as an audiophile, it would be the time I first heard the record, around 1978. I was at local "audio salon" buying my first "serious" system, which had the Linn LP-12 with Itok arm and Monster Alpha Genesis cartridge, an integrated Harmon Kardon solid state amplifier and Pro Ac Studio 1 monitors. While finishing a transaction, I heard what sounded like live music coming from one of the listening rooms. When I wandered in to the listening session, I heard music reproduced with stunning clarity, depth, and dynamics. For the first time, I got a sense of a soundstage. Most impressive was how the system conveyed the intent and emotion of the performers. The music was John Klemmer's "Touch", played through Audio Research tube amplification and Magnaplanar loudspeakers. I don't remember ever being as impressed with reproduced sound as that one key moment. Needless to say, I added a copy of the MFSL version of "Touch" to my order, and have found the magic in it on many a late night listen. Fortunately, this was a big seller for MFSL, and mint copies are easily found for $20.00 or so on Ebay. Not to be missed.
I had mentioned the Quintessence label in my last post (Power of the Orchestra), and wanted to give you an overview of this interesting reissue label. The Quintessence label was a product of Pickwick International, who produced budget reissues and special products from the existing catalogs of several major record companies, foremost among them Capitol records. Although they featured big name artists, the material offered them was B rate at best, usually from inferior production tapes. Original Master Recordings? I don't think so. Retailing these LPs for $1.99 at Woolworth and K-Mart, the label got a bad rap, and deserved it. Bad artwork and poor mastering on thin and noisy reground vinyl pretty much sealed their fate. But somewhere around 1978, someone had a brilliant idea. A new division to be named Quintessence, a classical label featuring "Critically acclaimed recordings of the basic repertoire which belong in every library of great music". "Oh, sounds real interesting". But that wasn't all. By some miracle, one of the major sources of material was the Reader's Digest catalog. "Ho hum", you say? Well, just in case you have been living under a rock, the Classical Division of Reader's Digest was overseen by Charles Gerhardt, who just happened to have on hand one of the greatest sound engineers ever. Kenneth E. Wilkinson, of Decca fame. The combined resources of both RCA and Decca at their disposal, their output featured the top conductors of the time (some might say of all time) with world renowned orchestras, recorded in the fabulous acoustics of Walthamstow Town Hall, and other select venues. Have I got your attention yet? Well, how about this: "Carefully remastered from the original master tapes, recut on the latest Neumann lathes and pressed on virgin vinyl." I knew you'd come around.
Shortly after the successful launch of the "Critics Choice" series, came "Classics for Joy" and finally "Stereo Sound Spectaculars". Based on their early success, they were able to licence top notch material from RCA Living Stereo, EMI, and other high end labels.
Here is a short list of the treasures that await you:
- Earl Wild performing Rachmaninoff Piano Concertos 1-4 with Horenstein and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This set was issued by Reader's Digest as "The Romantic Rachmaninoff", which currently resides on TAS' Superdisc List.
- Several of Morton Gould's Stereo Spectaculars for RCA Living Stereo such as his version of Ravel's "Bolero" and "Grofe's" Grand Canyon Suite or his Sibelius disc "Finlandia" and scintillating "Scheherazade".
- Freccia's sonically stunning reading of "Fountains of Rome" and "Roman Festivals", or his superb interpretation of Berloz' "Symphonie Fantastique".
- Boult's reading of Franck's "Symphony in D Minor" and Liszt's "Les Preludes" with the New Symphony Orchestra of London. Or his disc of Tchaikovsky's great ballet suites "The Nutcracker" and "Swan Lake".
- A frothy disc of Beecham's "Favorite Overtures"
- Arrau's Beethoven "Piano Concertos"
The icing on the cake? These were originally sold for $7.95. In today's second hand market, they can easily be found for a dollar or two in mint condition. Chesky Records tread on similar ground several years later in their initial vinyl reissue with mixed results. I urge you to search these out and give them a spin. They are one of the used record market's best kept secrets.
THE POWER OF THE ORCHESTRA
LEIBOWITZ / ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
RCA VICTOR VCS-2659
This legendary record was issued as part of a package with another LP entitled "The Power of the Organ. While that LP has faded into obscurity, the former has been a sensation since it was released in 1963 as part of RCA Victor's Living Stereo classical series. Although it bears the famous "Nipper" logo, this is actually a Decca production produced for RCA by Charles Gerhardt, and engineered by Kenneth Wilkinson, who is the man behind the sound of the top rated Decca recordings as well as the superb recordings from the superb Reader's Digest omnibus sets "Treasury of Great Music" and "Festival of Light Classical Music" Perhaps because it "Power of the Orchestra" was issued only as part of this special package, it didn't remain in print for very long. As far as I know, there are three stamper variations and all are shaded dogs pressed in Indianapolis, the 1S/1S, 1S/7S and 5S/5S. all are from the A1 mother. At any rate, according to an article published in The Absolute Sound, longtime collector and RCA expert Carol Kessler states that the 1S/7S is the pressing to own, and that is the one I've been listening to for years.
If you are a fan of Moussorgsky-Ravel's "Pictures at an Exhibition" or "Night on Bald Mountain" you simply shouldn't be without this record! It's virtues have placed it in HP's "Top 12 Best Sounding LPs of All Time", as well as earning a 10+ from J. Mitchell, author of "The RCA Bible". Does it live up to all the hype? Yes, and then some!
I've heard just about every recording of "Pictures" from the stereo era, and in my opinion, in both performance and sound, it is the best. And although I love Fritz Reiner's (RCA LSC-2446) interpretation as well as I do Leibowitz', sonically it doesn't quite reach the heights (or depths) of this recording. Just listen to the enormous crash that follows the introduction, and the awesome sense of space that the reverberation and decay reveal. I am quite sure that this was recorded in Kingsway Hall, London. Everything here is superb. Dynamic shifts are staggering, with a deep bass foundation that suggests the real thing, and the noise floor is low enough to reveal pages turning, chairs shifting, etc. The soundstage is vast and expansive in both width and depth and images within it quite distinct. "Night on Bald Mountain" is extremely evocative, if not downright chilling in it's ferocious intensity. Don't miss the unusual addition of a wind machine towards the end of the piece, an effect you will not hear anywhere else.Even if you've heard these pieces a hundred times, I guarantee you will be emotionally drained by the end of this record, and in awe of the artistry involved with every aspect of this production. Top recommendation.
THE POWER OF THE ORCHESTRA
LEIBOWITZ / ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
CHESKY RC30 (180GM)
About a decade ago, Chesky Records reissued "The Power of the Orchestra" on 180 gram vinyl. This, along with Munch's earlier reading of "Daphnis et Chloe", the earlier "Gaite Parisienne" with Fiedler, and Oscar Danon's "Petroushka" are considered the best of Chesky's vinyl imput. These particular titles, unlike the earlier LPs, were mastered by Tim de Paravicini through custom built tube equipment at his own facility, and pressed on 180gm vinyl.. Although "Daphnis" and "Gaite" have been reissued by Classic Records, "Power of the Orchestra" is not on the agenda. Perhaps one reason may be that the superb Chesky release is a hard act to beat. Unlike many of their earlier Living Stereo reissues, which were criticised for their sonic shortcomings, the "Power" reissue won instant acclaim, finding it's place on the top of many critic's lists. Many feel that it surpasses the original, and short of a mint 1S/7S from Indianapolis, I agree. As is the case with many reissues of RCA material, it seems there are losses in ambient air, the shaded dogs possessing a glow that is somewhat reduced in the reissue. The debate rages on as to why this might be so. Certainly the age of the tapes involved us a factor. Tape is a somewhat fragile medium for long term storage. Some of these tapes are 50 years old, and extreme high frequency information (where the "air" is) is the first to go. Different objectives also play into the results. Where the shaded dogs were tailored to sound good on the hi-fi equipment of the day, the goal of today's remastering engineers is to reveal what is on the master tape, not to emulate the sound of the shaded dog. Chesky's philosophy is in line with this approach, so compression and equalization are not employed. This leaves a lot of the responsibility to the quality of the master tape. Fortunately, in the case of "Power" the master was exceptionally good, and probably required little touching up when the original engineers made the production master.
The result? Chesky has produced a superb disc, that rivals the shaded dog in many respects. It surpasses it in it's extension of the frequency extremes. The deep bass whacks are startling in their realism and the orchestral crash at the end of the Promenade section of "Pictures" will shock you with it's intensity. The original is no slouch either, but on these counts, I prefer the Chesky. Soundstage and image placement are very good, but this is one area where the original shines. On the original, I can clearly hear deep into the soundstage, and hear the space between the instruments. The illusion is remarkable, if not downright spooky! The Chesky doesn't render this quite as clearly, and the open space is somewhat obscured. To me this is a major failing, and once heard in direct comparison, it is impossible to ignore. If you haven't heard the original, you'll be very impressed with the Chesky. Overall this is a fine reissue, and considering the rarity and price of a near-mint original, it is an absolute must have. Grab it now, as Chesky is out of the vinyl business and supplies are starting to dwindle (and prices rising).
I must mention that there is a budget alternative available. It involves searching out a copy of Quintessense PMC-7059, which was released in 1978, and includes both Moussorgsky pieces from "Power", plus an equally stunning version of Saint-Saens "Danse Macabre". Quintessence was a division of budget label Pickwick Records. They released three interesting series of records. "Critics Choice" featured critically acclaimed recordings of the basic repertoire that belong in every library of great music. "Classics for Joy" featured all the easy listening classics you know and love, which included a "Stereo Sound Spectaculars" series. The label drew heavily on RCA's Reader's Digest recordings, many engineered by Kenneth Wilkinson, as well as EMI's early stereo catalog. These reissues are also remastered from the original master tapes, re-cut on the lastest Neumann lathes and pressed on virgin vinyl. These were unfairly ignored by the audio press and deserve your attention. They are usually priced at $10.00 or less - often much less. Definitely worth exploring.
One last thing: The stunning artwork on the original "Power of the Orchestra" has yet to be reissued. Perhaps one day we will see it again if Classic decides to go for it!
HARMONIA MUNDI FRANCE HM 1050
This is one of the best sounding records ever produced. It's spectacular sonics have landed it atop many audiophiles lists, has been recognized by virtually every hi-end audio journal including The Absolute Sound and the online journal Audio Critique. The music is what could be called fantasy arrangements of both traditional and contemporary folias. The Tuscan term "folle" translates as "foolish, mad, crazy or someone who has lost his head. I don't want to spoil the fun, but suffice to say that the instruments employed are bizarre, particularly in the context of ancient music.
There is a reissue on ATR Mastercut that is said to be even better than the original. ATR released the title on both 150gm and 180gm vinyl. The heavy vinyl is preferred, but all are recommended. The original French pressing is presented in a beautiful laminated gatefold, with extensive liner notes that are absent on the ATR. In either version, this record is a must have, the finest sounding record from Harmonia Mundi, and that is saying something.
RESPIGHI: FESTE ROMANE
RACHMANINOFF: SYMPHONIC DANCES
GOOSENS / LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
EVEREST SDBR 3004
Since we were on the subject of Everest and Sir Eugene Goosens, I wanted to bring another early Everest recording to your attention. This was Everest's forth release from 1958, and like it's Corroborree by the same forces, it is a sonic spectacular. In fact the engineers were so pleased with the awesome dynamic range captured on the tape, that a highly unusual decision was made. Rather than limit the dynamics, as they would have to be compressed to fit on a single disc, it was decided to spread the work over three sides, allowing the earth shatteing dynamic range that was present on the master tape to be fully realized on disc. The Rachmaninoff "Symphonic Dances" was selected for Side Four, filling out this two record set.
Was the effort and expense worth it? It's a bit hard to say. Unfortunately I do not have a first pressing (turquoise and silver label) and for years I had only a later black label pressing, which was ok, but was pressed on noisy vinyl. I later was fortunate to find the second pressing which has a magenta and gold label design. These second pressings, like the first, were also made by Everest's parent corporation Belock Instruments, under the supervision of Harry Belock, who's passion for music inspired him to start Everest Records. All other label variationa were done out of house, and the quality varies from good to poor.
With the Belock pressings, I can hear what all the excitement was about. Feste Romane is a tremendous score, with overpowering climaxes and a heart-stopping dynamic range. Although it was later surpassed most notably by the incredible Decca recording by Maazel (also available in a spectacular half-speed mastering on Mobile Fidelity), I still have a fondness for this groundbreaking record and hope to see it reissued, now that Classic Records has started releasing more of the Everest catalog on 200gm vinyl. How about it, Classic? Recommended!
LANCHBERY / SYDNEY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
EMI OASD 7603
In my previous post, I mentioned this disc as holding the title of most I've ever paid for a record. It was released in 1977 to much acclaim, even earning a spot on The Absolute Sound's Superdisc List. However, it was released in Australia only, though it was available for a couple of years through some of the importers. Coupled with the fact that the composer John Antill, was not exactly a household name, was it any wonder that when I decided I had to have a copy in 1985, that it took over nine months of active searching stores, auctions and mail order before I found one. It was a local (New York) collector / dealer who had the prize, and it was just a short walk from Central Park West to his Upper West Side apartment. His name was Harvey Gilman and I found out about him through an ad he ran in the back of TAS. I made an appointment and found him to be most gracious, and a brief look around told me I was in the company of a serious collector. There behind the Jadis amps were piles of rare Living Stereo LPs leaned up against the wall, the first of which was the famous Bizet/Gounod: Faust/Carmen LP (the only time I have seen an original). Decca SXL, EMI ASD - they were all there. Casually asking about the price for the Bizet/Gounod, I tried not to appear ruffled at the mere $1,000.00 quoted. Remember too that this was during the height of the great record panic, when people were grabbing whatever they could for fear of not having another opportunity again. And in many instances, they were right. I was happy that we had previously negotiated the price of the Antill on the phone. It was $150.00 firm and I have never regretted it. Thank you, Harvey!
After incurring the wrath of my "domestic partner" for spending such an outlandish amount on a record, I tweaked the system and waited for late night, when I could listen without distractions. I had heard the piece before, as I did have the only other recording of it available, which was on Everest, with Goosens conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. Everest has made somewhat of a sonic spectacular with this record, with its exotic instrumentation and percussive effects. I was intrigued enough to take the plunge for the EMI.
The scoring of Corroboree calls for the following:
Piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, cor anglais, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, harp, timpani, celeste and strings.
PERCUSSION: xylophone, vibraphone, bass drum, thora sticks, 2 cymbals, 2 gongs, triangle, tambourine, snare drum, slap stick, ratchet, tom-tom, woodblock, sleighbells, castanets, sand blocks, Chinese temple blocks, thunder sheet and bull roarer!
The music is based on a dance ceremony of the Australian Aborigines. At nine year old, John Antill witnessed the spectacle of the Corroborree, and it started a lifelong passion to learn and listen to everything about the Aborigine culture. In 1936, he began to sketch out a suite of orchestral dances based on his childhood experience. The compostition was presented informally over the years, but it wasn't until 1946, when Goosens declared "John Antill's "Corroborree" is, in my opinion, the most significant work from the pen of a contemporary Australian composer that it has been my privlege to examine". He recorded the suite for Everest records in 1958.
Here on the EMI release, the composer conducts the first complete recording of his "Symphonic Ballet". The music is perfect for a candle-lit late night listen (for the adventurous) The opening bars reveal a vast soundstage, the music suggesting peering through the eerie darkness of the jungle, perhaps lit only by a torch. As we make our way through, we are startled by several loud slaps, rather like the sound of a whip of a trap snapping shut. The effect is chilling, but in no way prepares us for the all out orchestral assault that follows. The dynamic range here is astounding, particularly when you consider that the sides are close to 30 minutes each. These themes are carried through much of the score while the dance conjures up images of elaborate rituals, wild costumes, sacrificial dances under the moon and the star lit sky. It is a journey you will never forget.
The EMI has several advantages over the Everest, in my opinion. It is the complete score, and the suite omits some fascinating movements. Also Antill is conducting his own work, and who to know better, particularly in this case. The EMI also has the advantage of sound engineering that is more appropriate to the score. The huge soundstage adds the atmosphere that is so important to this work. You feel as if you are in the vast, dark jungle. The Everest has a more up front perspective that while thrilling in it's own right, is more of a sonic spectacular, and is lacking the atmospheric magic of the EMI. The only thing the EMI doesn't have going for it is the price. The record has never been reissued on LP or CD. The Everest has been reissued by Classic Records on 180gm vinyl at $30.00, and it is a must-have. Get is soon, 'cause it will soon be gone. I suggest starting with that, and if you really love the music, search for the EMI. It is worth the effort. Highly Recommended!
MUSIC TO BREAK ANY MOOD
DICK SCHORY'S NEW PERCUSSION ENSEMBLE
RCA VICTOR LSP-2125
It's companion disc, TAS listed "Music for Bang, Barroom and Harp" (RCA Victor LSP-1988) is among the best percussion records I've heard, and I've heard 'em all! Starting with the Audiophile label's groundbreaking "Echoes of the Storm", percussion records have been my "guilty pleasure". However, I feel no shame in recommending either Dick Schory disc. They are both superb. "Music to Break any Mood" was released shortly after "Music for Bang, Barroom and Harp", and retains much of the magic of that gem. What is different here is that this production was recorded in Chicago's Orchestra Hall by Lewis Layton, of the famous Mohr/Layton team, which was responsible for many of the great classical Living Stereo recordings. Layton, being familiar with the challenges of recording in Orchestra Hall was the obvious choice to engineer this project, just as Bob Simpson was in regards to Webster Hall in New York. My pressing of LSP-2125 is a beauty, a fabulous near-mint first pressing from Indianapolis with A1-1S / A1-1S stampers. It doesn't get any better than this, folks. I bought it over 20 years ago at a convention in New York. It was $75.00, which at that time was the most I had ever paid for a record.* But I had recently discovered the delights of LSC-1866, and I couldn't resist it. It turned out to be a wise decision, as I haven't seen another copy since. I did come across a mono copy with a different jacket design and eventually sold it. I can't imagine why RCA released these in mono, as both records are all about stereo. In fact, the hall and the captured acoustic take almost as much of the spotlight as the music, particularly in the earlier recording.
The jacket design on the stereo issue (shown above) is a hoot! I mean Dick Schory (?) in a leopard Tarzan getup, about to "break the mood" in what looks like an opium den/harem, by striking the world's largest gong, which will produce, as the jacket exclaims, the "world's biggest sound". The monster gong is struck in the first few seconds of "Caravan", which opens the album. The sound is spectacular and were off to a good start. There is a good sense of the sound stage width and depth, and individual instruments were well defined within the space. The gong is struck as a finale, however the decay seemed short for such a massive instrument in the cavernous Orchestra Hall. Checking the liner notes, it turns out the reverberation was deliberately shortened. Also noted is that every selection was a completely new production, with different microphones, orchestra positioning, etc.
This definitely wasn't a "set it and forget it" production. This might account for my disappointment with the record, as I listened from one tune to the next. And all though producer Bob Ballard states that every effort has been made to keep the space three dimensional and that placement of instruments clear, I found that that it wasn't consistent.
Part of the problem also lies with the arrangements, which are sometimes uninspired. Granted that producing a followup to equal or surpass the earlier record is near impossible. If my expectations hadn't been set so high, I might have been more positive in my reactions.
"Music to Break Any Mood" does have a lot going for it, but in my opinion, it doesn't quite reach the level of the justly praised "Music for Bang, Barroom and Harp". The number one reason is that despite Orchestra Hall's fabulous acoustics, we never really get a consistent sense of it's dimensions of volume. Other criticism? The program simply isn't as interesting or involving as the earlier record. I do recommend it if you feel you need another Dick Schory record (it probably is the best of the several later releases, or if the price is low, but I wouldn't pay a premium for it (again)!
*since surpassed - several times over