Review: Bricasti Design M15 Solid-State Stereo Amplifier

I just had a rather arresting (in the sense of, one has to stop doing anything else, and just listen) listening experience. I want to share it with you. The music I was listening to is from an underappreciated (really, almost unknown) classic-era jazz recording; but I have heard it many times.

However, I had never heard it like this—it was a real “Holy Poop!” moment. (The truth is, I did exclaim rather loudly, 19 seconds into my favorite track.)

The recording is Guitar Forms, guitarist Kenny Burrell’s 1965 orchestral collaboration with arranger and conductor Gil Evans, the same Gil Evans of Miles Davis Sketches of Spain fame. (Guitar Forms remastering, Verve 314 521 403-2; imported CD from Amazon; also available streaming from Tidal.)

Creed Taylor (later of CTI, the crossover label that so many loved to hate) produced, while Rudy van Gelder was the engineer. Session players included Lee Konitz, Bill Barber (both of whom played on the Birth of the Cool recorded live performances, as well as the recording sessions), Ron Carter, and Elvin Jones. How can you beat that? Guitar Forms is a wonderful recording, so even if you are not in the market for a new power amp, you owe it to yourself to read on. A generous sound sample and more audio commentary are to be found after the jump. Continue Reading →

2016 Cadillac ATS Coupe – Cadillac Style For The 2010s

Today, we discuss something seldom seen in modern traffic: the Cadillac ATS coupe. Yes, it’s still available! But what with ATS sedans outnumbering the svelte coupe by probably 15 to 1, they are kind of rare. Oh, Cadillac. What highs and lows have been wrought over the last thirty years! Certain know-it-alls on the coasts think Cadillac should just give up. I disagree. Things have changed a lot, even since the ’90s, for GM’s finest marque, but there’s still a lot of style and elegance in evidence. Let’s take a closer look.

I have a friend over at our local Cadillac dealer. And even though he sold me a Lincoln instead, I still like modern Cadillacs. I also love the classic, Broughamtastic Cadillacs. For some, it seems as if you can only like one or the other. Go onto Facebook or certain self-indulgent GM-hatin’ blogs and you may think the current Cadillac lineup doesn’t have a chance. Plenty of, well, let’s be blunt, angry old farts, carp about the looks, the price, and basically everything else about modern Caddys.

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Cats, Cradles, Sopranos, And Boomer-Era Narcissism

If you’re a professional storyteller, as I am, you have to stand in awe of Harry Chapin. He raised the song-as-story to high art — or perhaps he returned it to high art, since the medieval bard would often sing the story he was telling. Any Chapin song is a study in compressed and refined emotion. I’m most partial to “Taxi”, but most younger listeners know Chapin, if they know him at all, from “Cat’s In The Cradle”.

My father traveled for much of my childhood and my mother would often make a sarcastic reference to the song while he was away. In retrospect, however, his traveling was the only thing that preserved their marriage. Once he bought into a Columbus-area business and stayed home, they divorced almost immediately. I didn’t think much about “Cat’s In The Cradle” until my own son was born and I found myself away from him more often than I was home with him. That situation did not persist and nowadays I think John sees about as much of his father as he can stand. Maybe more than he can stand, judging by how he complained when I beat his ass at “RBI Baseball” this weekend.

I heard “Cradle” on Sirius Channel 7 during my morning commute today. The song hasn’t changed, and I haven’t changed, but something started nagging at me while I listened. It wasn’t until I was settled in at my desk that I realized what that little something was.

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Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie: “When the Levee Breaks” (1929)

(This piece originally appeared on The Tannhauser Gate — JB)

The infosphere is fairly crackling with the news that the current incarnation of the musical ensemble Fairport Convention Fleetwood Mac has notified one of its elderly members that his services will not be required for their upcoming world tour. More than 40 years later, Fleetwood Mac Drama still grabs headlines.

My favorite story about Fleetwood Mac is that during the Narcissistically tumultuous (my words, not theirs) recording of their 1977 mega-album Rumours, the two remaining founding members of the band (Mick Fleetwood and John McVie) repaired to the recording studio’s parking lot to get a breath of fresh air. One of these two gentlemen, not at all at peace with the way things were then developing (at the time, the tattered remnants of the original band were being either re-energized or supplanted by a pair of newcomers), said (or perhaps it is more accurate to write, “whined”) to the other,

“You know, we used to be a blues band.”

To which the other replied, “Yeah. But now, we’re rich.”

(That riposte refers to the fact that while the group was recording Rumours, their most-recently-released recording Fleetwood Mac, which was the first album with newcomers Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, was topping the charts and already throwing off so much cash that the previously hardscrabble members of the band were buying houses in Los Angeles. But: A blues record, Fleetwood Mac was not.)

That exchange says a lot about the endgame of British popular music’s fascination with American blues music.

Intriguing history, and sound bytes, after the jump link. Continue Reading →

1977-79 Oldsmobile 98 Regency – The Thinking Man’s Cadillac

From 1971 to 1976, General Motors had the market covered when it came to the finest in upper-crust land yachts: Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight, Buick Electra, and the Cadillac Sedan de Ville and Fleetwood.  It was the last stand for true full-size luxury. No diets, no exercising, full steam ahead with room, space and wheelbase! And velour. Lots of velour. But times were changing. Fuel economy was slowly but surely becoming more important to buyers, especially after the 1973-74 gas crisis. Could one still get all the Broughamage they wanted, yet with better economy? Have plenty of stretch-out room despite dimensions being trimmed? Indeed, they could!

GM proved it with the downsized 1977 B- and C-body full-sizers. Easier to drive, easier to park, yet with power everything, room, space and the ever so important gadgets, gizmos and nameplate prestige! And if you didn’t want to spring for the high-priced Cadillac version, you could still get nine-tenths of its luxury in an Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency. Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: Understeer At The Limit Edition

When is a $117,000 Lotus three seconds a lap slower around Mid-Ohio than a Honda Accord? When the Accord is a caged race car on Toyo Proxes RR slicks and the Lotus is in street trim on Michelin Pilot Sports, naturally.

The above video is from the twilight session that ended my cross-country, two-track Evora torture test. It was a “torture test” for me, not the Lotus, which had no trouble whatsoever. I’m getting a little old to run two trackdays in a row with eleven hours of freeway driving and four hours of sleep in-between.

As you can see, the Evora UNDERSTEERS AT THE LIMIT a tiny bit. But a more attentive and rested driver would have done a better job of mitigating that. For a comparison video, you can check Ralph Gilles in a Viper ACR on Pirelli World Challenge slicks; he runs 7.8 seconds faster around the same track layout, reaching about 20mph more on the back straight and 10-15mph more between each of the turns. I’m sure Ralph had a good time in his video — I know I had a good time in mine.

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We Aren’t Caught Up In Your Love Affair

You can hear the soyboys at Gizmodo LITERALLY SHAKING as you read it: Nineteen percent of Chinese help-wanted listings specify men only. Some of the listings boast that there will be “attractive women” available for socialization or even dating, and there’s truth behind those boasts as female “motivators” are also being hired by those same companies. The “motivators” are mostly there to look good and keep an eye out for the needs of “their” men.

The organization “Human Rights Watch”, which is a self-appointed overseer of everything from serious issues like female genital mutilation to I CAN’T EVEN silliness like the above, is busy attempting to shame Chinese companies like Tencent and Alibaba into ceasing the above practices so they can adopt the current West Coast model of sexless bugpeople using gender-neutral pronouns and chugging Soylent as they sublimate all of their normal sexual impulses into eighty hours a week’s worth of collaborative work body language to improve shareholder value before the Logan’s Run dynamic of Silicon Valley painlessly reallocates them into unemployment lines at the advanced age of thirty-four.

Needless to say, the Chinese are making a superficial gesture or two to address “the problematic issue” then they will go right back to unashamedly sexist policies in every aspect of their political, corporate, and personal lives. There’s a reason for this: the Chinese have already seen the future, and it doesn’t work.

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1997 Lincoln Town Car – Last Call For Opera Windows!

I often ask myself whatever happened to the Lincoln Town Car. It was doing so well before Dearborn got caught up in the SUV craze, followed by the combover, er I mean crossover, craze. It seemed the venerable TC became largely ignored by product planners in the Glass House, before finally disappearing after a small number of 2012 Town Cars were built in mid-2011. Perhaps Panther fans’ love of the 1990-97 model and subsequent watering-down of said top-dog Lincoln had something to do with it. Making essentially identical cars from 2003-2011 certainly didn’t help, but those final boxy 1995-1997 just seemed a little more distinguished. A little more special. 

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: Blowing By The Bimmers Edition

Sorry for the lack of updates around here. I spent two days last week on a backroads trip with a former R&T colleague and then headed immediately to Mid-Ohio where I had two wins in Honda Challenge and set a new track record. Honestly compels me to admit that I had no proper Honda-powered competition in class; the five cars that challenged me last month at NCM were apparently discouraged by my 27-second margin of victory. Which led to the situation you see here, where I was placed at the back of several different BMW race groups and had to work my way up to some clear air. It was really fun. I have no complaints.

Last week was pretty light in terms of contributions. Here they are…

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