What makes a hit record?
Thursday, 09 February 2012 17:45

I have spent the better part of five decades meddling with various aspects of high-end audio while keeping abreast of the industry’s evolutionary and revolutionary developments. For more than half of those years I have religiously auditioned promotional copies of new releases from audiophile labels distributed by Sanch to determine their suitability for offering to my fussy eclectic clientele.

Over time, I have therefore been able to accumulate a formidable personal collection. This has afforded me the unique opportunity to determine and often predict how different customers would react to myriad diverse genres. Moreover, everyone knows by now that I am very partial to live recordings for a multiplicity of reasons hitherto documented in several published articles.

As a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), I cast my ballot annually in various Grammy categories. The CD An Evening with Dave Grusin instinctively prompted my speculation that it would wend its way to the top of the pyramid for the upcoming 2012 Grammy Awards. Legendary producer Quincy Jones is the only person I know to demand a hit record (We Are the World) from Lionel Richie and the late Michael Jackson. Everyone else just waits patiently until John Public decides. The logical question is what major factors should guide one to conclude that a particular production would become a hit? Here are my personal views...

A hit record should be of concert length duration, sequenced such that its unfolding rivets the listener. Live presentations should permit one to close one’s eyes for teleportation back to the original event. Applause should be spontaneous and natural as this often irritates, sounding like cold bacon sizzling in a hot frying pan. The soundstage should be three-dimensional, balanced, palpable, spacious, and transparent. The aural illusion should be analogous to riding in a vehicle in which the tyres are inflated with nitrogen instead of air. These criteria are ultimately reflected in product sales and shelf-life. So what does all of this have to do with Dave Grusin’s memorable recital?

From the opening bars of Fratelli Chase through the unforgettable Moon River to Memphis Stomp, one feels commandeered by the exquisite fare. The engineering is phenomenal; the repertoire is fabulous with a dream segue of exquisite selections by Henry Mancini, Leonard Bernstein, the Gershwin brothers and Grusin himself. The airy sound of the piano, guest soloists and vocalists deftly accompanied by The Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra, is absolutely stunning. These attributes make An Evening with Dave Grusin (HUI-31995-02, also available on Blu-ray HUI-32928-09), my unreserved choice for a 2012 Grammy in the fiercely competitive category Best Surround Sound.

Simeon L Sandiford
Managing Director