TAS Rated 5/5 Music, 4.5/5 Sonics in the May/June 2023 Issue of The Absolute Sound!
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Patricia Barber's 6th studio album is a fascinating collection of classic cover songs shaped by her inimitable downtempo intimacy into startlingly affective journeys through the human condition. Working with her band of the time (bassist Michael Arnopol and drummer Adam Cruz, augmented by star turns from guitarist Charlie Hunter, bassist Marc Johnson, and drummer Adam Nussbaum), Barber creates an atmosphere of austere trepidation that allows her long-time engineer Jim Anderson to hang her haunted vocals directly over top. Like all great jazz albums, Nightclub puts the highlighted artist front and center while carving out plenty of space for the supporting players to give emphatic support.
Impex's 1STEP process provides the perfect showcase for Anderson's peerless audio immersions. Nightclub was originally digitally recorded on a Sony 3348 multi-track and mixed through a Neve analog console to both digital and analog mix-down masters. Bernie Grundman used the analog mix-down tapes to assemble a new analog cutting master exclusively for our 1STEP. Coupled with the incredibly detailed VR-900 vinyl formula, there is instrument detailing to spare, a Mariana Trench noise floor, and incredibly-focused low end. There is simply no better way to enjoy Barber's cool renditions of timeless classics than this one (including the exclusive, never-before-released bonus track "Wild Is the Wind"). Limited to 7,500 pressings, so preorder now before this Club closes for good.
The 1STEP Process:
The Impex 1STEP process relies on short, tightly-controlled runs that require a new lacquer after each 500 pressings. This unforgiving format has the lacquer skipping the regular father-mother process, going right to a single convert and then pressing. Though this dramatically increases mastering and production costs, it also assures each run is more consistent from disc to disc, with less noise, clearer details and deeper bass.
Reducing production complexity to just a single "convert" disc between the lacquer and the press greatly improves groove integrity, diminishes non-fill anomalies and increases signal integrity from the master tape to your system.
This 1 Step version is spooky good, and significantly improves on all the versions that came before it. The voice and each instrument occupies its own space with pinpoint stability and accuracy. Barber's voice and piano are prominent, but not out of proportion. The background is dead quiet, perhaps a testament to the Neotech vinyl but also the benefits of the pressing process... the Chicago recording makes you feel like you can rise from your listening chair, walk among the players, and observe every movement, every inflection. Forget about whether this sounds like what you would hear in a club or other venue. While the energy and excitement of hearing music live can never be reproduced at home, the sound of the 1 Step records played on a good system may be better than what you can hear live. This is a demonstration-quality LP you can pull out for your audiophile and music-loving friends alike.
Nightclub is the second IMPEX Records 1Step release from the Patricia Barber catalog, and it is simply brilliant. If you missed Café Blue, I suggest that you strongly consider this one before it's too late. I can only hope that this series will continue as Patricia Barber and her music certainly deserve this level of attention and celebration. As always, IMPEX has provided a five-star product from beginning to end.
I've owned a lot of excellent, highly pedigreed vinyl pressings over the years. But I can say without reservation that the VR-9000 Supreme Vinyl that Impex and RTI used to press the 1STEP release of Nightclub has rendered the quietest, cleanest LP I've ever heard. Ever. The backgrounds are deeply silent, I mean, deathly silent—this is the lowest noise floor I've ever experienced on an LP. Groove modulation noise is virtually nonexistent; my Hana SL moving coil cartridge is fairly forgiving of groove anomalies, but with the 1STEP pressing, there's literally nothing to forgive! And that remarkable level of analog quiet allows you to hear much more deeply and clearly into the music; it's very much akin to being present in the studio at the time of the recording... Owning a copy of this Impex 1STEP is a sensory event of both sight and sound, and hearkens back to the analog glory days of yore—but it's actually here and now. I've listened to this excellent LP set on all-tube, all-analog equipment in my new room multiple times over the last few weeks, and you don't want to hesitate—grab one while there's still time!
This album dates from 2000; now, over 20 years later, its state-of-the-art sonics come out sounding newly minted in Impex's vividly transparent 1-step vinyl remastering... Barber's take on every song here often rivals the best I've heard from anyone, while her performance of the Cole Porter classic 'So in Love,' to which she gives a deliciously dark, ironic twist in the last verse, is quite simply THE best in my experience. This is a really GREAT album.
This LP release is absolutely marvelous... The sound is superb; rich, and deep, with fantastic clarity and presence. Saying that it sounds like you're in the room with the performers has become the most tiresome of audiophile cliches, and the percentage of recordings for which this is actually true isn't all that high, but this is one of them. Patricia Barber's vocals have a warmth and immediacy, and the piano has a physical palpability.
- Strictly Limited to 7,500 Numbered Pressings
- 1STEP Process
- 180g Vinyl
- Double LP
- Mastered by Bernie Grundman from the Original Mix-Down Analog Master Tapes
- Pressed on VR-900 Vinyl for Incredible Detailing, an Epic Soundstage & Near-Silent Surfaces
- Exclusive Ultra-Luxe Impex 1STEP Packaging
- Deluxe 12-Page Booklet within a Three-Sleeve Monster Pack Jacket
- Color-Matched Slip Case
- Never-Before-Released Studio Session Track "Wild Is the Wind"
|Patricia Barber||vocals, piano|
|Charlie Hunter||8-string guitar|
- Bye, Bye Blackbird
- Just For a Thrill
- You Don't Know Me
- Autumn Leaves
- Summer Samba
- All Or Nothing At All
- So In Love
- A Man and a Woman
- I Fall In Love Too Easily
- Wild Is the Wind