sat 13/08/2022

Reissue CDs Weekly: Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz

Reissue CDs Weekly: Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz

The timeless ‘Fairytales’ unites understatement and forcefulness

Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz in 1982Odin Records

Fairytales is lovely. It opens with a subtle version of Jimmy Webb’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” which merges Radka Toneff’s emotive and intimate vocal with Steve Dobrogosz’s sparse piano lines. The ingredients are minimal, there is no embellishment yet the performance is powerful.

Over the following nine songs, the mood endures. Versions of Elton John’s “Come Down in Time”, Kurt Weill’s “Lost in the Stars”, “My Funny Valentine” and “Nature Boy” sit naturally alongside musical interpretations of Emily Dickinson’s “I Read my Sentence” and the Fran Landesman poems “Before Love Went Out of Style”, “Mystery Man” and “Wasted”. Fairytales is a rarity in successfully uniting understatement and forcefulness.

Steve Dobrogosz Radka Toneff FairytalesRadka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz’s 1982 album Fairytales is celebrated in Norway. Though generally classified as a jazz album, in 2011 it was voted Norway’s best album of all time in a poll of musicians conducted by the newspaper Morgenbladet. Numbers two and three were a-ha’s Scoundrel Days and Hunting High and Low.

Now, a new edition issued late last year in Norway is being made available internationally. The selling point is that the original digital master tapes have been revisited for the first time since 1982. Lots-and-lots of brow furrowing and technical to-ing a fro-ing took place to create a releasable remaster. The whole saga is detailed in the booklet accompanying the reissue and the resultant CD comes as a Hybrid SACD (for playback on multi-channel technology) and also in MQA-CD audio.

The three operative letters stand for Master Quality Authenticated, a technology seeking to transpose high-resolution digital sound over into a download or for streaming: what’s heard via the download or stream will be as per what’s heard on CD, rather than as compressed audio. Though why a CD reissue would be released in a stream-ready form is a question only a record label could answer.

For this column, the nitty gritty of the audio restoration is a side issue. Hi-fi magazines and the writer of the liner notes can go into it, and have. If an album has been remastered diligently from the master tapes and sounds superb – that is enough. With Fairytales, it is Toneff and Dobrogosz’s outstanding music which matters.

Radka Toneff did not live to see how much Fairytales mattered. She took her own life in October 1982. As a result, it is impossible to avoid looking for meaning in the songs selected. The album ends with the potentially portent-laden “I Read my Sentence”. Such analysis is unavoidable but, really, it is the music which matters.

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