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Notes from My Listening Room #11
By Josh Bizar

The Sun is Shining, and That's Enough for Me
I'm beginning to settle into a groove working from home. While I still wish I had a nice desk, I'm getting used to talking to our partners and manufacturers, having video conferences, and keeping in touch with the members of our Music Direct team. I also like being at home all day with my wife. We've only been married for five years and have been taking nice walks in the middle of the day with our dog to get some fresh air and to move our legs.

Today, the sun is shining, it's in the upper 50s, and I'm feeling pretty good. I've been pulling out some fun LPs – some rockers, some funky soul records, and some old classics from my youth. It's times like these I'm very grateful for my wall of vinyl, collected over a lifetime. While many LPs remain on my wish list, I'm fortunate to have a great library. Today, let's start with a good, old-fashioned rocker.

First Up: Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin II
I cannot think of a better sunny-day album – a genuine classic that starts with an exhale of breath and ends with a harmonica bleep. For those of you who do not enjoy getting the led out, skip to the next pick, written by my esteemed friend, Harry Weisfeld, below.

Led Zeppelin II defines 70s-era rock for me. The band delivers a powerful sound, and its second LP overflows with great cuts. I can't state much about the group's legacy that hasn't already been said, but I will mention the tremendous sound of John Bonham's drums, recorded here with stunning realism – so much so, they can take a toll on your system. And the inventive, melodic, thunderous, creative bass playing of John Paul Jones. And the fact that I believe Robert Plant to be the world's greatest frontman, an opinion that has gotten me into many spirited debates. And, finally, Jimmy Page, whose playing on this record in particular has left an indelible mark on my own psyche, my guitar playing, and much of the music I consider classic rock. (On a personal note, I am indebted to my wife's former boyfriend, who got her into Led Zeppelin decades ago. Her favorite is Houses of the Holy. I am lucky indeed!)

I'm not going to go into the merits of the individual songs on Led Zeppelin II, as everything has already been written. But I will tell you that with some fresh air coming in through the cracked window of my listening room, tubes glowing, and the volume cranked high, I'm having a hard time concentrating on spread sheets. In fact, as I flipped side one over, Jones' incredible bass line in "Heartbreaker" put a gargantuan smile on my face.

The pressing I am playing is the one and only promo I was ever given by Michael Hobson, of Classic Records lore. He was demoing it at a CES, where he must have been in a good mood and handed me a copy. Mr. Hobson has a certain reputation in the record business, but let's just say he released many great-sounding LP reissues. Classic Records' Led Zeppelin reissues sell for big bucks in the aftermarket. I believe Mr. Hobson is also still selling off some of the label's Led Zeppelin single-sided 45RPM 48LP "Road Case" box sets. (They aren't cheap!)

So, why am I listening to the Classic Records copy rather than one of my Bob Ludwig cuts from 1971? I wanted the experience of hearing deeper into the recording. The surfaces on the RTI pressing are flawless. The noise floor is so low, it brings out micro-details previously buried in the mix. The Tolkien-influenced "Ramble On" is playing now, and the percussion coming from left side of my room seems absolutely lifelike. It's hard to focus with the majestic drumming of "Moby Dick" in my room, not to mention the Page licks ripping through my brain.

Go grab your copy, crank it up, forget about anything worrying your mind, and let the rock n' roll wash over you. As the LP comes to an end, I'm heading outside for a walk in the sunshine. Maybe you should do the same.

Today's Special Guest Contribution: Henry Mancini Our Man in Hollywood
By Harry Weisfeld, VPI Founder/Turntable Guru/Music Fanatic/American Audiophile Icon

Henri Mancini's Our Man in Hollywood is one of my very favorite records, and one I have had in my collection since the early 1960s. I have bought multiple copies over the years – sometimes on eBay, and anytime I see one at a used record store.

The 1963 album is an absolutely state-of-the-art recording, graced with the trademark RCA space, soundstage, and incredible high-frequency range. It features a percussion instrument recorded so vividly that you can actually count its ridges! And it showcases Mancini's typical flair for soundtracks that helps make music out of fluff.

I have often used the LP at shows as an entertaining demo disc and continue to enjoy it while just relaxing in my house. Cue up "Bachelor in Paradise" with the chorus singing, "Lights down low, Frankie's records, and cocktails on the floor." Just writing about the track made me go put it on again! "Walk on the Wild Side" and "Days of Wine and Roses" will give you goosebumps, and the love theme from the film "Phaedra" will challenge your system's capabilities. All around, it's one of my five desert island records. I'd really like to see a great analog reissue done at 45RPM!

April 3, 2020

Comments (3)

Led Zeppelin & Henry Mancini
Hey Josh, Really liked your review of Led Zeppelin II & Henry Mancini's "Our Man In Hollywood." I don't have Our Man on vinyl yet, but it will be one of my new treasures to seek out, and I need to get Led Zeppelin II remastered vinyl also! I have the CD, but there's nothing like the vinyl. I love rock music and the 60's music like Mancini. My parents and grandma had lots of those records, and those songs bring back wonderful memories. Baby Elephant Walk was a great song. I'm a guitar player too, and Jimmy Page is an amazing player, well, all those guys in the band were all amazing. Led Zep II was such an amazing sound to me in that time period. Page was quite the wizard in the studio, and I think he's a perfectionist, so the finished albums were always so good. Thanks for your writing and hope you and your family are staying safe and healthy. I know that listening to vinyl has been a great comfort to me through this uncertain time in America.
4/30/2020 11:05 PM
Marc Ball
Get out The Led...
Your wife has very good taste! "Houses of the Holy" is also my favorite by far. On a revealing system I feel there is no better hard rock to listen to than Zeppelin. The squeak of Bonham's bass drum pedal is neat! Lol! Stay safe, God bless.
4/4/2020 3:05 AM
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