Salvador Dali RETURNS to Innerspace!

I’ve wonderful news, dear friends! Some of my long-time readers may recall that in August of 2012, due to financial struggles I had to part with a magnificent piece of music history – a rare copy of Salvador Dalí’s opéra-poème, Être Dieu. After discussing the piece with a fellow music lover, I revisited the market and as luck would have it, found what is likely the very copy I sold in 2012 available for purchase and at a very reasonable price. I wasted not a moment and placed my order, and today it arrived home safely!

For those not familiar with this ill-fated opera, the title translates to “Being God.” The six-part work features Dalí as God, Brigitte Bardot as an artichoke and Catherine the Great and Marilyn Monroe doing a striptease. (Because dadaism.)

Être Dieu suffered an astonishingly tragic history. It was originally published in an extremely rare 3LP box set by DCD, a small Spanish label with only 28 other releases to its name. It was re-released in a 3CD box published by German label Eurostar who subsequently went out of business, and there are few-to-no known performances of the work. Worse still, Dalí painted “Self-Portrait” (1972) to mark the composition of the opera, but the painting was auctioned by the United States Customs Service after being seized after Colombian drug lords tried to use the painting to launder money. (Salvador seriously couldn’t get a break!)

But a few copies of Eurostar’s deluxe edition survived. This edition is packaged in a blue velvet box set with a metallic gold engraving of Dalí’s signature, as well as a 326-page book containing scans of the original handwritten script, notes, and libretto in English, French, German & Spanish.

While Dalí, himself experienced great misfortune with this work, I am happy to report that good luck has come at last with its return to the Innerspace library.

Special thanks to the fellow listener out there who planted the seed of desire for me to reclaim this lost objet d’art!

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Published in: on February 28, 2017 at 5:06 pm  Comments (1)  
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Something Special for Close Personal Friends of Al

I’m really upset with Pledgemusic because they know so very well that every few months, they shoot me an email saying, “Hey! Remember that thing you love? From way back in the day? Well check this sh*t out!” 

Pledgemusic is a direct-to-fan music platform, and their sole focus is raising funds for musicians. They don’t get their grubby hands into ownership or rights over the content, they encourage artists to contribute to charities as part of their projects, work with artists to offer all sorts of exclusive content to pledgers, and is accessible internationally to unite fans worldwide toward the creation of wonderful and unique musical items for the most rabid of a band’s fanatical followers.

Presently en route to my home is the Orb’s Further Adventures Live 2016 25th Anniversary DVD+3LP box set, which was my first encounter with Pledgemusic. But today, they popped up in my email saying… “Psssssst! Look at the thing!”

Now available for pre-order is something special for Close Personal Friends of Al Yankovic. Having grown up with every Al album from his self-titled debut to the present, my nerdcore childhood would never have been the same without him. And to celebrate his discography and 34 years of mandatory fun, Pledge has pulled out all the stops and created the ultimate Al treasure.

SQUEEZE BOX, as it is titled, contains all 14 studio albums plus a bonus Medium Rarities album of demos and rare tracks. All albums have been remastered and pressed on 150-gram vinyl. The set also includes a 100-page collector’s book of rare photos and memorabilia.

It is available in multiple levels of insanity, the highest of which includes a signed test pressing of your choice of any one of the original 14 studio albums, a Zoetrope-animated  turntable mat, retro-style “WEIRD Al” pennant, a magnetic build-your-own-Al, Commemorative t-shirt, and a CUSTOM PAIR OF WEIRD AL SOCKS!

And for $1500 they’ll ship you a signed test press of every one of the albums in the collection… though all 27 copies quickly sold out.

And, oh yeah, the entire set is packaged in a custom-created replica of Al’s signature accordion!

Shut up and take my money.

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The sound of a kick drum… miles away… buried deep within the earth.

Wolfgang Voigt’s Gas Box 10LP +4CD set has just arrived. Of Voigt’s countless one-off side project monikers, it is his work as Gas which has gained the most critical acclaim. And for good reason – this is some of the finest dark ambient minimal techno you could ever hope to find. And after sixteen years of various abridged and modified reissues, Voigt has presented the albums Zauberberg, Königsforst, and Pop in their entirety, along with a bonus disc featuring “Tal 90”, (previously released in Various – Pop Ambient 2002) and “Oktember B” from the Oktember EP from 1999.

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The set is housed in a sturdy slipcase with embossed jackets for each release. The discs are contained in glossy black paper sleeves with GAS logo printed on both sides. The accompanying hardcover 12″ x 12″ art book with digital images of the Königsforst also contains four CDs of the music from the set.

Inspired by Voigt’s youthful LSD experiences in the Königsforst (a German forest situated near his hometown of Köln), served as the inspiration behind these releases. Voigt claimed that he wanted to “bring the forest to the disco, or vice-versa”.

Wikipedia offers an excellent description of the Gas sound:

Each album consisting of several long tracks of dense, hypnotic, atmospheric sound. All Gas material shares a characteristic sound, consisting of an ambient wash of drones and loops, usually accompanied by a repetitive four-on-the-floor kick drum underneath the multiple layers of music. Occasionally a song will just drift on its own ambience.

Indeed, most of the time there is no clear musical progression in a Gas track, as Voigt seems to be more interested in exploring depth of the stereo field, utilizing subtle shifts in sound. Because music under the Gas alias lacks any trace of orthodox melody or chord change many would not describe it as musical. However, the sources of Voigt’s samples are often of musical origin, encapsulating “old pop record stuff” as well as classical music such as Richard Wagner and Arnold Schoenberg.

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It also notes that critics have described Gas music as, “similar to hearing a band playing very far away, underwater, or from behind walls.” By any measure, this is a milestone ambient box set and an essential piece of any ambient record collection.

Just in From the Netherlands – An Awesome 1950’s Electronic Music Box Set!

I’ve been on a crazy musique concrete kick lately, buying up classics like Cage’s Cartridge Music and the Panorama of Musique Concrete from ’56.

And just arrived from the Netherlands – Popular Electronics: The Singles Collection

#664/1000, this velvet box set was issued in 2008 by Basta Records – the label which produced the magnificent three-volume Manhattan Research set. This compilation contains faithful reissues of 1950s musique concrete 7″ classics from Dutch electronic music composers Kid Baltan, Tom Dissevelt, and H Badings.

The set contains:

  • Electronic Ballet Music: Cain and Abel (Philips 400 036 AE) (1956)
  • Electronic Popular Music (Philips 315 538 NF) (1957)
  • Electronic Movements (Philips430 736 PE) (1958)
  • and Electronic Music (Philips 430 791 PE) (1961)

Each disc includes the original sleeve and liner notes.

I first got into Baltan/Dissevelt under their Electrosoniks moniker when I found the Philips “Electronic Music” LP from 1962 at my local antique mall. Wonderful stuff!

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A Day Full of Wonderful Music!

This morning I took a trip to my old hometown of Rochester and made my routine pilgrimage to my favorite record store – The Bop Shop. The owner, Tom put a record in my hands and told me that I had to own it.

Tom has always been a wonderful source for musique concrete, minimalist works, early experimental electronic recordings and other lovely treasures of the avant-garde. Many of my favorite LPs are original pressings from his personal collection.

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The LP he held was John Cage • Christian Wolff, a 1963 album featuring Cage’s side-long “Cartridge Music” – one of Cage’s earliest attempts to produce live electronic music by manipulating turntable cartridges. I’ve known Tom for years and he has never steered me wrong and this latest LP is no exception. Wonderful stuff!

I also spotted a box set in his shop which I snatched up without hesitation. Readers may recall my copy of Cyril Ritchard reading Alice in Wonderland which included a facsimile clothbound hardcover copy of the 1865 first edition with all of the original illustrations. Today in store, I discovered that Ritchard had produced a reading of Through the Looking Glass as well! And it too included a copy of the 1872 hardcover. How could I pass it up?

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Upon returning home I was struck by a recollection that a Kickstarter project had been initiated for a first-ever “Earthling Edition” of the historic Voyager Golden Record, (our message to the stars). As the Kickstarter page describes:

The Voyager Golden Record contains the story of Earth expressed in sounds, images, and science: Earth’s greatest music from myriad cultures and eras, from Bach and Beethoven to Blind Willie Johnson and Chuck Berry, Senegalese percussion to Solomon Island panpipes. Dozens of natural sounds of our planet — birds, a train, a baby’s cry — are collaged into a lovely audio poem called Sounds of Earth. There are spoken greetings in 55 human languages, and one whale language, and more than one hundred images encoded in analog that depict who, and what, we are.

The closest I’d come to the Voyager disc was the limited edition “A Glorious Dawn” single from Third Man Records. The single was composed and performed by Symphony of Science and credited to an auto-tuned Carl Sagan singing about the magnificence of the universe. And etched upon the second side of the disc is the image of the Golden Record.

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As a tremendous fan of Carl Sagan’s work and his legacy, and as a “cultural curator” of historically significant recordings, this anniversary Voyager project was something I knew I had to support, and to claim a copy for my library if at all possible.

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The beautiful box set is being remastered by Timothy Ferris – the original producer of the Golden Record, and will include:

  • A cloth-covered box with gold foil inlay
  • Three translucent gold, heavyweight vinyl LPs in poly-lined paper sleeves
  • Three old-style tip-on jackets, black ink and gold foil
  • A hardback book showcasing the photographs and art featured on the original disc
  • A lithograph of Voyager Golden Record cover diagram, gold metallic ink on archival paper
  • A full-color plastic digital download card for all audio of the record in MP3 or FLAC

What a wonderful way to celebrate our message to space!

And it turned out that my hunch was aptly timed, as I found there were only five days remaining in the Kickstarter campaign, and pledging to the project is the only way to claim a copy of this special release! I pledged immediately and look forward to the album’s launch in 2017.

Check out the short official video for the project and pledge while you still can!

Underworld: A Guided Tour

Underworld has been producing music, art, and film for nearly 40 years.With over 500 albums, EPs, and singles, newcomers to their work might find their catalog daunting. If you are just such a listener, this is for you.  So you know “Born Slippy (Nuxx)” from Trainspotting, but are wondering where to venture next.

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Many listeners might be inclined to snatch up one of their compilations or anthologies. In 1999 they released a 3CD Singles Box Set, but it is not an ideal entry point as it focuses too heavily on Darren Emerson’s contributions and is heavily saturated with alternate mixes which do not showcase the band’s true talents.

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The next compilation issued was in 2012. A Collection’s opening track is a strange choice – a song by High Contrast featuring Tiesto and Underworld, which few fans associate with Underworld. And track 03, “Bebop Hurry” is a collaboration between Karl Hyde and Brian Eno taken from the Underworld vs the Misterons’ Athens LP.

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 Unfortunately neither function well as introductory material, nor are they representative of their artistic style. Still, the other tracks on this compilation are the meat and potatoes of the band. The majority of their biggest hits are here, but for the sake of constricting it to a single disc, all of the tracks have been edited down to radio-friendly durations, sacrificing the ethereal and progressive characteristics which occupy the minutes which have been trimmed away. New listeners would benefit far more if they were to take in the tracks in their original form.

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That same year, a 3-disc collection was issued called, The Anthology: 1992 – 2012.  Interestingly, this set does not serve as an off-the-shelf hits collection but instead is comprised of b-sides and odd tracks which act as snapshots of the band’s development. This made it a rewarding purchase for fans who already owned all of their major LPs.  It also presents the content in a chronological setting. Disc 1 is material from their Mk 2 phase around the recording of their massive breakthrough hit album, Dubnobasswithmyheadman. Disc 2 showcases recordings from around the Second Toughest in the Infants and Beaucoup Fish era, including their non-album mega-hit, “Born Slippy (Nuxx)”.  The fan-favorite concert closer, “Moaner” is here as well.  Disc 3 offers more rarities like “The Hump”, “Minneapolis”, and “Why Why Why”, and includes a few uptempo selections from the series of non-radio, meditative EPs released exclusively via Underworldlive.com during the early 2000s.  

So without an easily-digestible compilation, how is a new listener to approach the band’s staggeringly large discography? Underworld is best experienced in album form. They are not a singles artist. Each record adds a contextual value to the tracks which each stand well as a packaged project of their own. My advice is to begin with Dubnobasswithmyheadman. The record marked the second incarnation of the band after its synthpop beginnings in the 80s (and a one-off garage punk single in ‘79). Dubnobass was incredibly progressive given the sound of techno and house in 1994. It contains eternal hits like “Cowgirl” and “Dark and Long”.

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If you like what you hear on this album,  explore their evolution into their next two records which complete the Darren Emerson trilogy before he parted from the group. These albums are Second Toughest in the Infants and Beaucoup Fish, best known for singles like “Pearls Girl”, “Cups”, “King of Snake”, and the aforementioned epic, “Moaner”. But it’s their more explorative tracks which reveal the most about the band. The opener to Second Toughest is “Juanita: Kiteless : To Dream of Love” – a monumental piece which engages the listener for over 16 minutes. And the mellow, downtempo rhythm and effect-laden vocals of “Winjer from Beaucoup Fish will never see radio airplay, but is a fantastic and atmospheric tune.

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This era concluded with Everything Everything Live: The Definitive Underworld Experience.  Pick up the DVD – it captures the incredible energy of the band performing live at the peak of their popularity in 2000.

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If you’re interested in going deeper to explore their more intimate and cerebral work, it began in 2002 with A Hundred Days Off.  Every track contributes something unique to the set. “Two Months Off” was the radio A-side but the deeper cuts are far more rewarding.

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At this point in their career, the duo embarked on a side project of web-only albums dubbed, “The Riverrun series”.  These include:

(2005) Lovely Broken Thing
(2005) Pizza for Eggs
(2006) I’m a Big Sister, and I’m a Girl, and I’m a Princess, and This is my Horse

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Filed under ambient techno and progressive trance, these artful projects reveal a more intimate and contemplative side of the band.  And a series of singles from this series offer even more experimental b-sides worthy of listening.

2007 marked their return to the commercial market with Oblivion With Bells. This album features the hit, “Beautiful Burnout” and the startlingly ambient “To Heal” which was redubbed “Capa Meets the Sun” for the film, Sunshine.

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The 2010 album, Barking is their least popular record. “Always Loved a Film” and “Bird 1” saw some airplay and there was an art film of video vignettes for each track. Not their most essential work, but even Underworld’s worst ain’t bad.

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For years thereafter there was silence. Rick released his first solo album, Bungalow with Stairs in 2010. Karl soon followed with his own solo debut, Edgeland in 2013. It was wonderful stuff. Then he surprised and delighted fans by releasing not just one but two collaborative albums with fellow genre-defining artist and producer Brian Eno in 2014. The artists had worked together a few years earlier as members of the improvisational concert project, This is Pure Scenius!  “DBF” from their first collaboration titled, Someday World was energetic and complex and instantly fascinating.  Their follow-up, High Life further refined the duo’s sound with an album full of brilliant tracks. As a dedicated fan of both gentlemen’s work, these records were a dream come true.

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In 2014, the band released a special anniversary edition box set of Dubnobasswithmyheadman, newly remastered and featuring all of the odds and ends from the era, some of which were issued on The Anthology. Another remastered box set appeared the following year, this time of Second Toughest in the Infants.  And further anniversary remasters are expected in the years ahead.

Then in 2016, Underworld released their first new album as a band in six years. It was an absolute triumph of a record, proving to the world that these aging ravers still had what it takes to produce rich and exciting new sounds nearly 40 years into their career. With each new listen to the album, Barbara Barbara We Face a Shining Future, it becomes more and more rewarding an experience.

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So there you have it – a brief tour through the catalog of Underworld. Of course, not everything worth sampling is mentioned above.  With 510 releases, as well as a library of short films, art installations, and publications for both print and web from their art collective, Tomato, it would be impossible to highlight them all. But hopefully, this guide will serve sufficiently as an introduction to their work.

Happy listening.

 

Die Welt ist Klang: A Tribute to Pete Namlook (Revisited)

Recently I revisited a lossless archive I’d picked up of the 8CD box set, Die Welt ist Klang: A Tribute to Pete Namlook. (Readers may recall my introducing the set when I discovered it in January of 2015). The re-visitation was an effort to remedy my terrible neglect of the many large collections I’d acquired but never given the proper, dedicated listen that they each deserved.  

As I surveyed the list of artists who’d contributed to the project, It quickly became evident that I had done a particular disservice both to the collection and to my own ears for having passed over something so significant.

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Die Welt ist Klang is a tribute to Peter Kuhlmann, aka Pete Namlook. Namlook was a prominent ambient and electronic-music producer and composer, and the founder of the German record label FAX +49-69/450464. During the span of his career, Namlook and his label release 135 wonderful albums. Namlook also famously collaborated with Klaus Schulze for the monumental 11-volume series, The Dark Side of the Moog.

After Namlook’s passing in 2012, artists from his label and his fans banded together to produce a tribute album in his memory. This included artists like Bill Laswell, Dr. Atmo (of Silence), and F.U.S.E. (an alias of Richie Hawtin), as well as ambient veterans like Spacetime Continuum, Higher Intelligence Agency, Biosphere, and Oliver Lieb.

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Die Welt ist Klang is the result of their efforts.  The set comprises four discs of 47 tracks contributed by FAX +49-69/450464 alumni, and four additional CDs of 44 tracks from their fans.  About half of the tracks were never before released and several were composed specifically for the set.  Die Welt ist Klang is handsomely packaged in a custom wooden box and includes a 24-page booklet.  

The set was released by Carpe Sonum Records and distributed by EAR/Rational Music. EAR/Rational was the official North American distributor for the FAX label and Carpe Sonum was created to keep the ambient spirit alive, beginning with this wonderful tribute collection.

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From their official website:

Carpe Sonum’s goal in the coming years is to make the CD (and hopefully vinyl) a cherished and valuable commodity for you in this digital age and have the way we handle music dubbed “the Carpe Sonum treatment”. In everything we do, in every detail, we think about Pete and if he would be proud of what we do as well.

There have been three runs of the tribute set produced to date.  There was an initial run of 500 copies sold via bandcamp.com followed by two smaller runs of 100 copies each. Proceeds from the sale of the release go to Namlook’s family.

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I wasted not another moment’s hesitation and secured one of the remaining copies from the label for my own. Some might call it an irrational purchase, as I don’t even own a device with which to play these CDs.  But sometimes music is more than the physical object. This collection is an objet d’art – a symbol of the celebration of a lifetime of music – and a collaborative triumph between artists and their fans.  It’s precisely the sort of album I want in my library.

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As of the writing of this article, EAR/Rational Music is offering the unsold copies from the third run for auction on eBay.  It is a wonderful piece of ambient history and a fitting tribute to a man who did so much for the genre.  I’m proud to have added it to my collection.

RIP, Peter Kuhlmann 25.11.1960 – 08.11.2012

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NOTE: All of the images above are official photos from the Pete Namlook Tribute Bandcamp page.  Support great music and order your own copy of this box set while they’re still available!

Die Welt ist Klang: A Tribute to Pete Namlook (Carpe Sonum)

Just when I’ve sworn off my compulsion for collecting albums, something beautiful turns up that and makes me reconsider.  I’d promised myself that I’d exercise greater selectivity in my album purchasing – opting only for the crème de la crème for my library.  Today’s featured box set is exactly the kind of album I’m talking about.

After the untimely passing of Pete Namlook in 2012, Carpe Sonum Records was formed by EAR/Rational Music, (the North American distributor of FAX and related labels) and issued a handsome limited edition 8-disc box set celebrating his music.  The first four discs explore the 20-year history of Namlook’s legendary FAX +49-69/450464 record label.  The label featured ambient electronic artists, many of whom collaborated with Namlook on their FAX releases.

The remaining four discs feature exclusive recordings submitted by fans of the label.  Released in two limited runs in 2013, the box set has since sold out.  However I am pleased to announce that Carpe Sonum is now accepting donations and pre-orders for a reissue of the set AND are considering a 10LP edition!  All sales proceeds will go to Namlook’s family.

You can subscribe to their mailing list for updates, contribute your own tracks to the project, or simply offer a financial contribution to help make the release happen.  Visit Carpe Sonum for more information!

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The 100 Greatest Recordings of All Time

Last week I saw a post from redditor bsparks who found The Franklin Mint’s 100 Greatest Recordings of All Time at his local Half Price Books at a great price.  He evidently lugged home all 100 discs (nearly 150 pounds of wax) and spent the next year taking them in, one disc at a time.

Franklin Mint - 100 Greatest Recordings of All Time (Cover)

If there’s one thing at which The Mint excels, it is deluxe packaging.  bsparks kindly offers a gallery exploring the collection in great detail.

From the official text:

The 100 Greatest Recordings of all time from the Franklin Mint has been called the ultimate private library of fine recorded music. Every recording was selected by a distinguished panel of music authorities (Martin Bookspan, Schuyler G. Chapin, Franco Ferrara, Irving Kolodin, William Mann, R. Gallois Montbrun, Marcel Prawy, Andre Previn, William Schuman and H. H. Stuckenschmidt).

The library was first announced on the 100th anniversary of Thomas Edison’s invention of the phonograph. Each recorded treasure was pressed with a special vinyl formulation that enabled a clear, quiet playing surface on a more rigid LP disk. Every record was pressed in an atmosphere controlled “clean room.” There are 50 library cases. Each library case houses two proof-quality long playing records, with each record resting, fully protected, within its own dust free compartment. The record is firmly supported within the closed compartment in such a way that the grooved playing surface never touches any part of the case. Each library case includes a specially written and illustrated commentary, by a respected music expert. The composers and their works are discussed in detail, and background information is provided on the orchestras, conductors, ensembles, and featured soloists. This is a truly unsurpassed private library of recorded music.”

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As an archivist, I was instantly intrigued by this mammoth set, though the sheer volume of the beast gave me pause.

Thankfully, I found the next best thing on the Web.  Some wonderful, dedicated man or woman took the time to rip all 100 discs to FLAC.  Each of the discs were pre-cleaned with wood glue, played on an Empire 598 Turntable with an ADC XLM MKIII cartridge, powered by Bottlehead Seduction and Bottlehead Foreplay Tube Phono Preamps, and expertly ripped to 24 bit / 96 kHzFLAC using GoldWave.  The tracks were then ClickRepaired and separated, log files were generated, and the final cuts were meticulously organized and tagged into their respective volume folders.

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But perhaps the above-and-beyond effort of the collection was the 672 professional photographs of every center label, every page of each book accompanying each of the 50 volumes, the cross-reference index, the pamphlet and the letter signed by Stanley Walker, Director of the Franklin Mint’s Music Dept.

A standing ovation – this is archival FLAC as it should be!

If you’re not quite up to downloading this 80GB library, there is also a 320VBR available, transcoded from the same source audio at the more manageable size of 17.1GB.

I am going to keep an eye out in the event that an affordable copy of the actual set surfaces within a reasonable distance from my home… because there is no way in hell I’m going pay shipping for this baby.