I can’t help feeling that I’ve been harsh with Memorex tapes over the course of this blog. The generation with which I had the most affinity (early ‘80s) were not well designed for the long term, and the high bias variants I used did not produce the sparkling trebles of their rivals. But in a recent test, I found that the actual tape contained in an early ‘80s Memorex MRXI (a normal bias Type I) acquitted itself very well sonically once the design flaws in the cassette were resolved. That prompted me to evaluate a later Memorex Type I… Continue reading
In the UK, the big blues revival of the early ‘90s probably stemmed from two albums: The Healer by John Lee Hooker (released in September ’89), and Still Got The Blues by Gary Moore (released six months later). John Lee Hooker was joined by a host of high profile musicians for The Healer, and the collaboration had the effect of dramatically increasing the publicity for the release. Very few people with an interest in the earthier side of American music remained unaware of the album, which subsequently won a Grammy, and unquestionably raised the profile of traditional blues.
Albeit to a lesser extent, Gary Moore’s Still Got The Blues was also a collaborative effort, with Albert King, Albert Collins and George Harrison joining the Irish guitar maestro for what was a clear turning point in Moore’s career. Prior to Still Got the Blues, Gary Moore had been making heavy rock albums, and whilst he held onto his roaring, overdriven guitar sound, the backbeats changed totally to a strict blues feel. It was a massive departure, and the result was a very exciting product with wider appeal and commercial value than Moore’s previous rock and metal output. A very noticeable album, for numerous reasons. A serious blues craze was underway.
The Ultimate Blues Collection wasted no time in recognising the enthusiasm generated by The Healer and Still Got The Blues, and indeed it features a track from each of the two albums. John Lee Hooker and Bonnie Raitt’s collaboration I’m In The Mood, and Gary Moore’s title track Still Got The Blues. At the time the Ultimate Blues Collection was released, these inclusions were of primary importance, but of course, with the passage of time they’ve blended into the middle ground a little more.
Within the 24 tracks, there are plenty of real old-time originals from the 1950s. Names such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James and John Lee Hooker feature in the ‘50s collection, and it’s a great listen. But Sonny Boy Williamson’s Don’t Start Me Talkin’ really stands out for me as the pick of the real oldies. There’s a live epic from BB King in the shape of Outside Help, from 1972. It’s a dynamic smorgasbord with light and shade on the grandest of scales and it contains one of my favourite lyric lines… “I want you to tell that slick insurance man, that he better write some insurance on himself”. Ah, they don’t write ‘em like that anymore.
Pretty much the whole thing is one long highlight. Jimi Hendrix, Allman Brothers, Taj Mahal, Alexis Corner with Colin Hodgkinson, the Peter Green incarnation of Fleetwood Mac, Robert Cray, Rory Gallagher, The Blues Breakers, and of course Eric Clapton, etc.
The version of Mannish Boy is quite funny, with screamingly loud shouts of agreement and support from other band members as Muddy Waters reels off the lines. Most of the responses are just “YEEAHHH!!!!!!”, but there’s one which really makes me laugh. Something like:
Waters: “I can make love to woman, in five minutes time” (I think it’s that line)
Dude in background: “I KNOW!!!” Lol.
It’s a great version anyway, but the shouts make it extra listenable.
The cassettes don’t appear to be chrome formulated, and the sound quality of the Gary Moore track is very noticeably inferior to that on the original Still Got The Blues cassette. So it appears consumers weren’t getting optimium reproduction. However, the compilation is a brilliant education for anyone not greatly familiar with blues, and it’s certainly been an enjoyable playing it through this evening.
What an excellent tape this BASF Ferro Extra I was. As you’d expect, given the cassette’s name, it was a Type I, normal bias ferric, but it had a lovely refined sound. I bought a few of these in the autumn of 1990, shortly after getting myself a Tascam Porta 05 ministudio (26th September – still got the receipt). The Ferro Extra Is weren’t suitable for use in the Tascam (which only took Type II tapes), but I wanted to master some of the Tascam’s multitrack recordings onto normal bias cassettes which would play on the widest range of equipment. Continue reading
Given that the Sony UX was the most basic Type II audio tape in the manufacturer’s 1990 range, it was a really nice job. I found these very reliable for home multi-tracking, if rather uninspiring to look at and a little ‘wallflower’ in terms of tonal character. This Sony UX 60 feels reassuring when you pick it up, and is very uniform and smooth in its sound reproduction. The tape has an extra uniaxial formulation, but I’m not sure that this in itself was any cause for high expectations. The later Sony FXII 60 also boasted the extra uniaxial coating, but to me sounded thinner than the UX 60 and didn’t in my experience perform as reliably. Continue reading
This is the dark grey, ridged version of the BASF Chrome Extra II, from 1990. It falls in between this version, from 1989, and this much more attractive version, from 1992. I wasn’t keen at all on the aesthetics of the version in this post, and I’m not convinced it sounded as good as the others either. It certainly doesn’t sound as nice to me as the ’92 version, which I felt was more in keeping with the Chromdioxids of the early ’80s. I have to admit though, I never tested tapes scientifically. It was just practical use in working situations that formed my opinions.
I’ve put this one down as a ‘1990’, because I believe I bought it in the latter part of that year – possibly even early 1991. However, vintagecassettes.com shows this version of the RX as having been replaced by a different design by 1990, so I dare say some of this stock took a lot longer to sell than the UK retailers might have desired. Continue reading