The Studio One Project: Atlanta Rhythm Section

The Third Album From Studio One

Welcome to my review of the third album produced at Studio One, The Atlanta Rhythm Section's self-titled debut release. This is the third review in my ongoing series that I call “Studio One Project: Great Music From Doraville” where I acquire and review a copy of every album that was recorded at Studio One in Doraville Georgia. Why would I do that you may be asking? Good question…..to find out the reason please check out the original post in the series (which has the table of albums recorded at Studio One along with links to my review of each album).

Before we dive into the review I must first issue a disclaimer:

“Warning, I am not a trained music reviewer! I’m just a guy who likes music. Anything that is said in any of my reviews is purely my own interpretation/opinion and should not be relied upon as an endorsement of the quality of any particular piece of music or compilation thereof.” How's that for Lawyerspeak? :-)

OK, now that we got that out of the way…onto the review!

Review #3 Atlanta Rhythm Section

The third album produced or recorded at Studio One was The Atlanta Rhythm Section's self-titled debut release. The Atlanta Rhythm Section "ARS" was formed from a group of session musicians for newly opened Studio One in Doraville Georgia. The band was made up of Dean Daughtry (keyboards), Rodney Justo (vocals), Barry Bailey (lead guitar), J.R. Cobb (rhythm guitar), Robert Nix (drums/percussion), and Paul Goddard (bass). There were some changes to the band over the years (which I'll highlight as I review their other albums) but they remained true to their Doraville/Atlanta roots.

ARS at Doraville Sign

Here are a few sites with additional info on the band:

The ARS Wikipedia Page

The ARS official site

Members of ARS over the years

ARS Discography

Buddy Buie (producer and songwriter) Wikipedia Page

 

 

 

Here’s a summary of the LP version of the album (courtesy of Discogs) This album doesn't have a lot of detail, maybe because it was the first album from the band:

Atlanta Rhythm Section ‎– Atlanta Rhythm Section

Label:
Decca ‎– DL 75265
Format:
Vinyl, LP, Album
Country:
Released:
Genre:

Tracklist

A1 Love Me Just A Little (Sometime)
A2 Baby No Lie
A3 All In Your Mind
A4 Earnestine
A5 Forty Days And Forty Nights
B1 Another Man's Woman (It's So Hard)
B2 Days Of Our Lives
B3 Yours And Mine
B4 Can't Stand It No More
B5 One More Problem

The Purchase

Acquiring this album was a bit of an adventure. There aren't a lot of copies of this album for sale at any one time but after a little searching/waiting I thought I found the perfect candidate on Discogs, a NM copy from a highly rated seller for an OK to slightly high price ($15.00). I plunked down my cash and waited for the vinyl to show up. When it did, I noticed that the box had a fairly significant puncture in it. When I opened the box and took out the album I immediately saw that the vinyl had what could only be described as a "crease" in it, about an inch long. It matched almost perfectly with the puncture in the shipping box. Needless to say I was not happy, so I let the seller know about the damaged album and got back a "sorry but it's not my fault" reply. I guess, technically, he was right but I was hoping for a little help/discount, which didn't happen :-(  I'm not into publicly trashing online sellers but I did let him know I wasn't completely satisified and that he could expect zero business from me in the future. Undaunted, I went back on Discogs, found another copy for $10 that was advertised as NM (near mint). I crossed my fingers as I ordered it. Luckily, when it arrived a week later it was in great shape. All it needed was a good cleaning and it was ready to go. So, I guess this album was a sort of "two for one" deal if I look at it in a positive way :-)

The Vinyl

The second time was the charm with this album. The vinyl is in very good shape but it did need a good cleaning, actually two good cleanings. I gave it my usual cleaning using my custom solution of distilled water, a drop of palmolive pure dish soap and a lab-grade surfactant (Triton X-114) and tossed it on the turntable and immediately noticed the right channel cutting in and out on the first track. Not good. I put the vinyl back on my cleaning machine (self made for <$50) and gave a good, vigorous 2nd cleaning. That did the job. The sound quality was much improved and the channel cutout was completely gone. It shows that even a good looking/glossy piece of vinyl can still need a good cleaning. The album is nearly 45 years old at this point and who knows what the "provenance" of this album was. All I know was that 2nd cleaning brought up a lot of dirt...

The Packaging

The album is a basic single vinyl LP in a standard cardboard sleeve. Here’s the front cover:

The Front Cover Of ARS

And here’s the back cover:

ARS Album Back

The First Listen

I turned on my Lounge LCRMKIII preamp (highly recommended and a review to come at some point) and Pro-ject Debut turntable, put the newly cleaned vinyl on the cork pad, lowered the arm and sat down for a listen....

Side 1

The first side started with “Love Me Just A Little - Sometime”. It's a good song to start off the album. After a few verses of some nice lyrics the song goes on for a couple more minutes sans lyrics.  And that's when it hit me -"so this is what a solid group of session musicians do when they get to make their own album - Jam!".  ARS was, after all, a session band, and a very talented one at that.

The second track, "Baby No Lie" is more of a ballad. Rodney Justo has a good voice and it is backed up by the rest of the band.

The third track is "All In Your Mind" and it has a sort of soft rock/jazz feel but with a slight edge. The lyrics are inspiring and speak to the power we have within us when we "put our mind to it".

"Earnestine" is track #4 and is another straight up juke joint jam session, no vocals needed. The lead and rhythm guitars of Barry Baily and J.R. Cobb get highlighted in this song.

The fifth track on side one is "Forty Days and Forty Nights"  and it is a slow groove, slightly spiritual song full of well played honky-tonk keyboards by Dean Daughtry and some nice vocals by Justo.

Side 2

Side two starts off with "Another Man's Woman(It's So Hard)". This song hit me as "southern rock" right off the vinyl. The bass line laid down by Paul Goddard is strong and solid, letting the guitars of Bailey and Cobb carry on a bit, all backed up by the drums/percussion of Robert Nix.

"Days of Our Lives" is the second track and no, it's not the theme song for the long-running soap opera, far from it. Rather, it is a song about the constant progression of time and how our life just keeps going so we better make the most of it.

"Yours and Mine" is track three and it's an uptempo song about taking responsibility for what we do. Everybody gets in the act on this song and it is a good listen.

"Can't Stand it No More" is a song about a broken relationship. There are a few good licks in this song that I enjoyed.

"One More Problem" is full of overdriven guitars, has a slightly urgent pace and a very "Dirty Electric Blues" feel to it. It is a good end to the album.

Second Listen and Thoughts

As I am getting in the habit of doing, I waited a few days to take a nother listen to the album. This time to try and get a deeper view of what the whole thing is about. So I re-cued the LP on my Pro Ject Debut Carbon Turntable and sat down for another listen. When I just sat there and listened without worrying about each individual song I came away with the impression that this first ARS album was a bit like letting a genie out of a bottle. There is a lot of talent on display here but it is a little rough around the edges. The musicianship is great, no question, but there is a lot of room for the band to grow. I was very happy to listen to this album because it sets the stage for what is to come as well as establishes a baseline. I've heard a lot of their songs over the years but never really in a complete album format. That will obviously change since the Atlanta Rhythm Section recorded all of their music up to 1989 at Studio One, so as part of my project I will listen to all of the albums over the course of this project....And I'm Looking Forward To It!!!!

Help Support This Project

OK, here’s where I shamelessly ask for money :-) Seriously, buying vintage vinyl (heck this one album cost me almost $30 when all is said and done) and hosting this site doesn’t come without a cost so any help you can provide toward that effort is greatly appreciated! If you like what you read and want to help out just click on one of the links below. You can get some ARS music for yourself, or anything else that Amazon sells, by Clicking on one of the links.

The ARS Music Page on Amazon

Buy Yourself a Turntable!

Buy Anything-Please!!!

The Studio One Project: Joe South Album Review

The Second Album From Studio One

Welcome to my review of the second album produced at Studio One, Joe South's self-titled release. This is the second review in my ongoing series that I call "Studio One Project: Great Music From Doraville" where I acquire and review every album that was recorded at Studio One in Doraville Georgia. Why would I do that you may be asking? Good question…..to find out the reason please check out the original post in the series (which has the table of albums recorded at Studio One along with links to my review of each album). The first review was of Hampton Grease Band's only album "Music to Eat", which was definitely a bit of an experience for me.

Before we dive into the review I must first issue a disclaimer:

“Warning, I am not a trained music reviewer! I’m just a guy who likes music. Anything that is said in any of my reviews is purely my own interpretation/opinion and should not be relied upon as an endorsement of the quality of any particular piece of music or compilation thereof.”

OK, now that we got that out of the way...onto the review!

Review #2 Joe South

Joe South on The Turntable

The second album produced or recorded at Studio One was Joe South's self-titled 1971 release. Joe South (born Joseph Souter) was born February 28th, 1940 in Atlanta. He died on September 5th, 2012 in Buford Georgia. Here is his page on Wikipedia. "Joe South" was his 4th studio album and was issued about two years after his biggest album "Games People Play", which gave Joe his biggest hit, the single of the same name that reached #12 on the Billboard charts. The song earned him two Grammy awards in 1970 for "best contemporary song" as well as "song of the year". Joe South was also a successful sideman, having played guitar on Bob Dylan's "Blonde on Blonde" album among others.

Here's a summary of the LP version of the album (courtesy of Discogs):

Joe South ‎– Joe South

Label:
Capitol Records ‎– ST-845
Format:
Vinyl, LP, Album
Country:
Released:
Genre:
Style:

Tracklist

A1 High On A Hilltop 3:48
A2 Birds Of A Feather 2:45
A3 For The Love Of A Woman 3:00
A4 Rose Garden 2:48
A5 Yo Yo 3:45
B1 Fool Me 2:59
B2 How Can Unlove You 2:20
B3 You Need Me 3:03
B4 She's Almost You 2:22
B5 Devil May Care 3:05

Companies, etc.

Credits

Notes

Capitol, Jacksonville pressing. FIrst issue, red label with purple "C" logo.

Barcode and Other Identifiers

  • Matrix / Runout (Matrix side A, on label): ST 1-845
  • Matrix / Runout (Matrix side B, on label): ST 2-845
  • Matrix / Runout (Runout side A, etched): ST1 845 H1 #2
  • Matrix / Runout (Runout side B, etched): ST2 845 H1 #1
  • Matrix / Runout (Runout both sides, stamped): 0
  • Rights Society: BMI

 

*SPECIAL REVIEWER NOTE: The biggest thing I noticed in the album details is the "Music by" section. If you notice, it says "Atlanta Rhythm Section". This is the first time they are mentioned on an album as far as I know. They obviously went on to a great career of their own and recorded their albums at Studio One.

The Purchase

When I started my search for the album on Discogs I was greeted with about 15 possible choices ranging in price form $5.99 to$25 depending on condition. While the selection wasn't exactly large it was definitely better than the available options for my last review, Music to Eat. I settled on a listing marked "VG+" for both the vinyl and the sleeve and sent off my $8.99 to the seller.

The Vinyl

The record showed up about 7 days after I purchased it and when I took a look at it I was happy to find that I had a "first pressing"!!. The logo on the record label was red with a purple "C" on it, indicating a first pressing. These are always nice to get, especially for this project :-) Once I got over my excitement with that I took a llok at the vinyl and it was in very good shape. Playing it revealed just a few minor "pops and clicks", which took absolutely nothing away from the sound. The vinyl was unwarped and glossy. I was happy.......

The Packaging

The album is a basic single vinyl LP in a standard cardboard sleeve. Here's the front cover:

The front of the Joe South cover

And here's the back cover:

The back of the Joe South album

The First Listen

Side 1

When the needle dropped on side 1 I was greeted with a very nice song, "High On A Hilltop". It immediately set the tone for the rest of the album. This was my first listen to any album by Joe South and I wasn't familiar with his music at all. Within 10 seconds it became apparent that Joe South's music was more "Country" than rock and I was fine with that. The second track, Birds of a Feather, is a nice relaxing tune. The next track, For The Love of A Woman, does a great job of explaining why us males do what we do. The second to last track, Rose Garden, was probably the biggest hit on the album and for anyone over the age of 40 the tune/lyrics are immediately familiar. The song has been covered numerous times. The final track on side one is "Yo Yo" which has a bit of a Motown feel to it. Joe South has a pretty good voice and the recording  transmits a feeling of "fun" that is nice to hear.

Side 2

Side two starts with "Fool Me", which seems like a song about how we tend to ignore our faults in exchange for recognition. Once again, the lyrics and music are well played. The second track is "How Can I Unlove You" a song about regret that can't be undone. The next track is "You Need Me" which is a song that addresses the almost opposite feelings as "How Can I Unlove You". It's a nice back-to-back song combo. "She's Almost You" is the next and I think it's a song about reminders, specifically a women that looks and acts like the one you love. "Devil May Care" finishes up the album and is one more song about relationships and how people stay in them despite faults.

Second Listen and Thoughts

A few days after my initial listen I re-cued the LP on my Pro Ject Debut Carbon Turntable and sat down for another listen. What I took away was that Joe South was an excellent songsmith. His lyrics are well thought out and make an emotional impact on the listener. Combine that with the excellent musicianship of the band behind him, namely The Atlanta Rhythm Section (you'll hear alot more from these guys!), and you have a powerful combination. I really enjoy this album and it was a great use of my $8.99.

Bottom line is if you appreciate good songwriting and like "Countryish" music, Joe South is a worthwhile artist to listen to. He had a great career in the music business, wrote a lot of songs that just about everyone has heard and performed with some of the greats. Check out his music on Amazon (see below) and give it a try!

Help Support This Project

OK, here's where I shamelessly ask for money :-) Seriously, buying vintage vinyl and hosting this site doesn't come without a cost so any help you can provide toward that effort is greatly appreciated! If you like what you read and want to help out just click on one of the links below. You can get some Joe South music for yourself, or anything else that Amazon sells, by Clicking on one of the links.

Joe South Music on Amazon

Buy Any Kind of Music on Amazon

The Next Review

Review #3 in this series will be of the Atlanta Rhythm Section's first album. It may be a little delayed though as my first copy of the album arrived with a "crease" in the vinyl! I've never seen that before. My guess is that it was damaged in shipping. Either way, it was unplayable so I'm actively seeking a suitable replacement. Hopefully I can find one fairly soon and get it reviewed. Stay tuned...

The Studio One Project: Hampton Grease Band-Music to Eat

The First of Many

This is the first album review in my "Studio One Project: Great Music From Doraville" series where I acquire and review every album that was recorded at Studio One in Doraville Georgia. Why would I do that you may be asking? Good question.....to find out the reason please check out the original post in the series (which has the table of albums recorded at Studio One along with links to my review of each album).

Before we dive into the review I must first issue a disclaimer:

"Warning, I am not a trained music reviewer! I'm just a guy who likes music. Anything that is said in any of my reviews is purely my own interpretation/opinion and should not be relied upon as an endorsement of the quality of any particular piece of music or compilation thereof."

OK, on to the (quite long) review!

Review #1-Hampton Grease Band-Music to Eat

Hampton Grease Band Music to Eat on the turntable

The Hampton Grease band was formed around 1967 in Atlanta and as far as I can discern through my research they were the first group to record songs at Studio One that ended up on a commercial album. It was the only album made by Hampton Grease and since it's release in 1971 it has apparently attained a bit of cult status. To be honest, I had absolutely zero idea who Hampton Grease was until I started my research for the Studio One Project. Here's one of the first things I came across as I started poking around the interwebs:

From the Wikipedia page for the album:

Music to Eat is the only album ever produced by avant garderock band Hampton Grease Band. It was released in 1971. The album is a double album, which is apocryphally said to have been the second-lowest selling album in Columbia's history, second only to aMaharishi Mahesh Yogi yoga instructional record. This record compares with the likes of Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention, and Pere Ubu.

I figured with a description of the band/album like that I just had to have it. I mean who wouldn't want to own a copy of the second-lowest selling album in Columbia record's history :-) Here's a listing of the tracks on the 2 LP's along with other information (courtesy of Wikipedia):

Track listing

No. Title Writer(s) Length
A1 "Halifax" Glenn Phillips, Bruce Hampton 19:42
B1 "Maria" Phillips 5:33
B2 "Six" Harold Kelling, Hampton 19:32
C1 "Evans: a) Egyptian Beaver b) Evans" Jerry Fields, Hampton, Mike Holbrook, Kelling, Phillips 12:28
C2 "Lawton" Phillips, Fields 7:48
D1 "Hey Old Lady and Bert's Song" Kelling, Hampton 3:22
D2 "Hendon: a) Spray Paint b) Major Bones c) Sewell Park d) Improvisation" Fields, Hampton, Holbrook, Kelling, Phillips 20:10
Total length:
1:28:38

Notes

Tracks A1, C1 & D2 recorded at LeFerve Sound Studio, Atlanta, and Apostolic Studios, New York Tracks B1, B2, C2 & D1 recorded at Studio One, Atlanta, and Columbia Record Studios, New York

The Purchase

I started my search for the album on Discogs and quickly discovered that there aren't that many copies available, and the one's that were and seemed to be in decent shape were slightly expensive. One of the "rules" of this project is to try to acquire as nice a copy as I can of the original version of the album within my budgetary constraints. What are those constraints? Basically whatever I feel I can get a good copy of the album for within the universe of available copies at the time I'm looking to purchase.

When I started looking to buy a copy over the Thanksgiving weekend I found a range of offerings from $2.00 to >$120 for copies that were anywhere from "Good" to "Mint". After looking at the available options I made the decision to go with a copy that was supposed to have "VG+" media quality with a "Good" sleeve quality. I figured I wanted the best sounding (within reason) vinyl I could get and a decent cover. I ended up paying $25.99 for the album and received it in Mid-December, 2015 (along with a copy of the 2nd album from Studio One, Joe South's self-titled 1971 release).

The Packaging

Music to Eat is a 2LP package with a gatefold sleeve. My copy is in OK shape sleeve wise but does show a fair amount of ringwear as well as having a cut corner and a former owners name "Wolff" on the front and back cover. Here's the front cover:

The Front Cover

As you can see there is a lot of shelf wear on the cover. The top left corner is also cut off. The image on the cover is definitely colorful and abstract. Here's the inside of the album:

The gatefold of music to eat

The inside of the album is in pretty good shape. It is creatively done with a fair amount of pictures of the band and some interesting writing/descriptions

Music to eat back cover

The back cover has a listing of the tracks on top and a drawing of a tank. My copy also has the same "Wolff" written in ink just like on the front cover.

Overall I'm happy with the condition of the cover when I compare it to the cost of other copies of the album. It is, after all, a nearly 45 year old piece of cardboard that has been through who knows how many owners hands. Whats important was that the quality of the vinyl was acceptable.

The Vinyl

My main concern when buying an old album is that the vinyl is in good shape. The better the shape the happier I am. Fortunately the 2 discs in my copy of Music to Eat were solidly in the VG to VG+ range meaning there are a few bits of surface noise but no scratches/skips. I gave the discs a solid cleaning on my record cleaning machine and put the disks in new sleeves. Now it was time to give this thing a listen!........ But first another "rule" of this project:

I have decided that since many of these albums in the Studio One Project will be 1st time listens for me I will not do any specific research into the album until I have listened to it at least once. I want to try and learn as much as I can by listening to the music before verifying (or not) my initial impressions.

So, how did that "rule" play out on Music to Eat?  Read on.........

The First Listen

I was busy with work so I didn't get a chance to sit down and listen to the album until Christmas day (and what a gift it was!) For those of you that are on Google+, Here's my quick post about my first listen. Since then I've listened to the album 2 more times and think I can relate a decent opinion/feel for what the album is like.

Side 1

When I dropped the needle on side 1 my initial impression was basically, "What the Hell is This!??" The opening track, Halifax, takes up all of side one, is nearly 20 minutes long and seemed to be full of absolutely random sounds and lyrics. Bruce Hampton, the vocalist,had a slightly maniacal/completely disconnected tone to his voice. I literally sat there with my mouth half open listening to the sounds emanating from my speakers. The lyrics seemed like a mix of random thoughts combined with a chamber of commerce commercial for Halifax, which I assumed was the Nova Scotia Halifax. The whole experience was definitely free-form/avant garde/jazz improvization/psychedelic in nature. Stunned, I flipped the first disc over to side 2, composed myself, and sat back down.

Side 2

Side 2 was much more obvious to me, at least at the beginning.... The first track is "Maria" which is a song about a 13 year old boy losing his virginity to Maria. The music is "Mexicanesque" and the lyrics are smart, slightly vulgar and hilarious. A very enjoyable song. The send track on side 2 is "Six" (at 19+ minutes long) and once again I was blown away. With lyrics like "Realized cabbage", "reaming our nasal passages", "fourteen Russian shoe salesmen", and "carrots exploding around us" I was at a loss for words. And that brings me to something I realized about halfway through "Six" and that is if you can block out the ramblings that sometimes pass for lyrics there are some good sections of music to be heard. It is obvious that these guys know how to play. There are lots of quick transitions, crisp guitar and drum parts and inspired improvisation throughout the entire album.

Side 3

The third side starts off with "Evans" a 17+ minute track that is very interesting musically, with lots of stuff going on. The lyrics poke fun Jim Evans (who was a friend of the band) but the music is where this one is at. The side finishes up with "Lawton" a nearly 8 minute song that was very free-form and nearly devoid of lyrics except for some chanting at the end

Side 4

The track "Hey Old Lady And Bert's Song" starts off the final side and is about a crazy old lady. It's just over 3 minutes and might be the most "radio friendly" of the whole album. The album finishes up with "Hendon", a 20 minute track in four parts: Spray Paint, Major Bones, Sewell Park, and Improvisation. Once again there are some crazy lyrics but the music is solid. The "Improvisation" part of Hendon was very enjoyable in a trippy kind of way.

Second Listen and Thoughts

After my initial listen to the album I spent some time researching the band and the album before listening to it again. I discovered that some of my initial impressions/assumptions were correct but a few were wrong (check out the links below).

Armed with my new frame of reference about the band and the music I listened to "Music to Eat" with a new found sense of purpose. What I discovered was that their music is pretty solid and that the lyrics, while often just flat-out bizzare, were built out of inside jokes between the members of the band as well as their own personal experiences. These guys are true musicians but with a "who gives a shit?" attitude. The result is some very creative music that doesn't neatly fit in a box.

The Hampton Grease Band has a pretty rich history despite only ever producing 1 album. Because of that this album shouldn't be discounted, even if the music isn't in your wheelhouse. I am very glad I purchased this album and I will enjoy listening to it for years to come. Check out the links below (especially the first one) for more information on Hampton Grease. If you are interested in the music of Hampton Grease Band and want to support this blog a teeny tiny bit, click on the link below. Thanks in advance for any support!

Music to Eat on Amazon

https://plus.google.com/+MarkSinderson/posts/NXzuZ9Kuvrt

Additional Links

Here's a list of links I found in my "research" for this review. I've quoted excerpts from some of these in the review. Lots of interesting reading.....

http://www.angelfire.com/ga2/glennphillips/band/hampton-grease-band.html- A must read! that gives a fairly complete history of the band written by Glenn Phillips, one of the members of the band.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hampton_Grease_Band

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_to_Eat

http://www.discogs.com/Hampton-Grease-Band-Music-To-Eat/release/1828349

http://www.markprindle.com/hampton.htm

https://www.headheritage.co.uk/unsung/review/772

http://www.allmusic.com/album/music-to-eat-mw0000647203

http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2013/06/hampton-grease-band-music-to-eat-1971.html

Coming Up Next....Joe South

If you made it this far all I can say is "Thanks for your patience!" as I learn/build/refine my music review format. I hope you enjoyed it and maybe learned a little more about the Hampton Grease Band and how it's unique spot in musical history was partially forged in a warehouse in Doraville, GA.

The next album I'll review is the 1971 self-titled release from Joe South. Stay tuned........

Now Spinning: Rush 2112 Remastered

Time for another vinyl record review. This is the second review in what I hope will be an ongoing series of music reviews targeted at spinning plastic discs, better known as "vinyl". My first review was of KISS Alive and it was quite a while ago, and very early in my analog music revival. I am a music lover, but by no means a music expert so my reviews will be more about the general listening experience of the album, not the small details of each and every song. I am having a lot of fun "rediscovering music" by listening to it on my Project Debut Carbon turntable and I want to share that with anyone who is interested. On to the review.................!

 A Classic Rush Album Remastered

2112 was released on April 1st, 1976 and was the fourth album by the Canadian progressive rock trio. The album reached 5th on the Canadian charts and 61st on the US charts. The album is a double-platinum in Canada and a triple-platinum in the US. Over the years there have been a number of reissues/remasterings but the 40th anniversary of the Band happened in 2014 and that prompted a "12 Months of Rush" promotion that included a remastering for vinyl by  Sean Magee at Abbey Road Studios. In addition to vinyl, high resolution digital files (24-bit/96kHz and 24-bit/192kHz) were made available for sale. The new Rush 2112 Remastered "audiophile" vinyl LP was released in March of 2015. I purchased my copy for $26.40 on Amazon a couple of weeks ago.

My "Rush" to Rush

I have to admit that I am not a Rush fanatic. My initial exposure to the band was in high school when their two best selling albums were released (Permanent Waves in 1980 and Signals in 1981). I enjoyed those albums back then but kind of got away from them as I went through college. A couple years after college (1989 or so) I picked up Signals on CD and listened to it quite a bit. But since 1994 or so I have been mostly out of the loop as far as Rush music was concerned.

That all changed when I got my turntable last year and began my search to get all of the music I enjoyed as a kid on vinyl. That's when I rediscovered Rush and the remasters that were in progress. I kept up with the release dates of the remastered albums and purchased Hemispheres and Moving Pictures in hi-rez digital a couple months ago through ProStudioMasters to reacquaint myself with the band. I decided to get at least a couple of the vinyl editions after hearing generally good reviews on several music forums. 2112 was the one I decided to start off with even though I really hadn't listened to the album in its entirety, as people seem think that it is "the one Rush album to get if you just want to listen to one Rush album. It also seemed to the be one that had the highest overall quality in the newly remastered vinyl release.

Where The Future Meets The Past

2112 is a "concept" album with side one consisting of a 20 minute suite in 7 parts. Side two's songs are unrelated to side one's. The side one suite is apparently influenced by the writings of Ayn Rand and is based in the future, telling the story of the fate of the galaxy's planets in 2112 under the rule of the "Red Star of the Solar Federation". It was a futuristic theme that was originally executed on a decidedly "un-futuristic" format of pressed plastic. Now, nearly 40 years after the original release the album has been remastered using "state of the art Digital Metal Mastering" methods that promise a superior vinyl listening experience.

I ordered the album from Amazon on Monday and received it on Wednesday in typical speedy Amazon Prime style. But, because of a busy week at work I didn't have a chance to open the box until Friday. When I did finally open it here's what I found:

The front of Rush 2112 remaster on vinyl

The album was shrink-wrapped featuring a sticker proclaiming "200g Hologram Edition, Audiophile Vinyl". The front cover features the famous "starman" emblem that has become synonymous with the band. When I flipped the album over I was greeted with "high fashion", circa 1976:

Rush was definitely on the cutting edge of fashion back in the day!

For those of us old enough to remember, the 1970's was quite a time when it came to fashion. For those of you who weren't alive then, boy did you miss out! Rush was definitely strutting their stuff! I then opened up the album, revealing the gatefold:

Inside the Gatefold Sleeve of the 2112 Vinyl Remaster

The "starman" emblem makes another appearance inside along with lyrics to the songs. The album came with a free digital download coupon as well:

The 2112 Vinyl Comes With A Digital Download Coupon

I downloaded the 320kbps AAC files and the quality seems pretty good though I may go ahead and get the true hi rez version at some point. When I took the album out of the sleeve and put it on the turntable I was greeted with a cool hologram of the starman symbol in the deadwax of side 2.:

The Nifty Hologram on Side 2 of the Vinyl

The addition of the hologram is definitely a feature of the new remaster and I think it's pretty cool :-) Overall, I was impressed with the packaging of the album. Everything seems to be a faithful reproduction of the original based on everything I could find. The vinyl seemed to be well pressed with no obvious artifacts from the pressing and no visible warping. I gave it a quick cleaning, tossed it on the turntable and sat down for a listen.......

How Does The Future Sound?

Having never listened to the album in it's entirety before, I spent some time with the digital version while at work through my Fiio X1 music player (a great deal for $99!). After a couple of times through the complete album I put the vinyl on the turntable and sat down for a "critical" listening session.

Here's a listing of the tracks on the album (courtesy of Wikipedia):

All lyrics by Neil Peart and music by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, except where noted.

1. "2112

  • I. "Overture" (0:00 - 4:33)
  • II. "The Temples of Syrinx" (4:33 - 6:45)
  • III. "Discovery" (Music: Lifeson) (6:45 - 10:14)
  • IV. "Presentation" (Music: Lifeson) (10:14 - 13:56)
  • V. "Oracle: The Dream" (13:56 - 15:56)
  • VI. "Soliloquy" (15:56 - 18:17)
  • VII. "Grand Finale" (18:17 - 20:34)"
20:34

  • 4:33
  • 2:12
  • 3:29
  • 3:43
  • 2:00
  • 2:21
  • 2:17

 

2. "A Passage to Bangkok" 3:32
3. "The Twilight Zone" 3:16
4. "Lessons" (Lyrics: Lifeson) 3:51
5. "Tears" (Lyrics: Lee) 3:30
6. "Something for Nothing" (Music: Lee) 3:59

The more I listen to 2112, the more I enjoy it. So far I've listened to the album 3 times (twice digital and once on the vinyl) so I'm still getting the full feel for the music. I've found that it really takes me about 4-5 listens to really become familiar with a complete album but so far I'm really enjoying it. Their music is a good mix of "hardish" rock, blues, and progressive rock. Side one's 7-part suite is well written and performed. I'm becoming a fan of Geddy Lee's vocal style the more I listen to him. Side 2 has 5 separate tracks, with my favorite at this point being "A Passage to Bangkok".

As for the quality of the vinyl I can find no complaints. The vinyl is solid (200 grams) dead flat and also super-quiet where it needs to be. I got a few static pops but those were very minor. The album has a slightly more open feel to it that the digital files and the reverb/echo on "Ovature" (part 1 of 7 on side 1) is great, both on my Hawthorne Open Baffle speakers as well as my Mad Dog headphones. I haven't detected any dropouts or  missing channel either which is usually a sign of a quality mastering/pressing. Overall. I'm very happy with the listening experience and with the quality of the vinyl and packaging.

Conclusion And Thoughts

I am really enjoying 2112.

The recent remastering of Rush albums has definitely caught my attention and I have a new appreciation for the band and their music. I only wish I had paid more attention to them earlier in my life. The good news is that with the newly remastered music I think I will get a better overall listening experience than before. The remasterings seem to have kept true to the original intent of the band and the sound is very good. I plan on getting a few more Rush albums on vinyl because of it. The price for the albums is in line with most new vinyl these days ($20-$30). I might even seek out some of the earlier releases on "original" vinyl just for comparison. Currently on Discogs, a 1976 original 2112 in Near-Mint condition will run $20-$30. If you have been a fan of Rush and haven't tried any of these newly remastered albums, I encourage you to give one or two a go in either digital or vinyl. If you have never really listened to Rush this is a perfect time to give them a try. Just make sure you get one of the recent (2015) remasters as the quality is much better than many of the previous attempts.

What Are Your Thoughts

I'm interested in hearing any of your feedback on the Rush remasters. If you have purchased any of the 2014/2015 remastered albums (digital or vinyl) and want to share your opinion please leave a comment with your thoughts.

 

That's it for now. Stay tuned for another vinyl music review fairly soon as I have picked up some vinyl (both vintage and new) over the last few weeks that I'm looking forward to sharing my thoughts on.

Cheers!

Now Spinning- KISS Alive

This will be the first of what I plan on being a fairly regular series of posts featuring/discussing/reviewing the various music that I'm currently listening to, especially on vinyl. I'm going to try and post these 1st thing Monday mornings so if I review something that you would like to get you can take a break from work, order the music, and hopefully have it to listen to for the coming weekend.

 Since I purchased my Project Debut Carbon DC turntable I have really enjoyed the whole vinyl "experience" It has given my long-lived love of music a nice little kick in the ass. There is something about the whole process of listening to music on vinyl that I find very relaxing and intense all at the same time. So, to start things off I figured I might as well begin with one of the first albums I bought as a kid, KISS Alive!

You wanted the best, you got it...the hottest band in the land, Kiss

Those are the first words that come out of the speaker when the vinyl starts spinning on side 1 of this double album, which was originally released in October of 1975. At the time it was KISS' 4th album and is widely considered their breakthrough album. The album contains songs from their first 3 records and was compiled from live recordings at 4 different concerts. There's pretty much no doubt that KISS Alive made KISS one of the most popular bands of it's time and sealed their legacy.

KISS Alive On The Turntable

I originally purchased my copy of the album from the local head/record shop in the Spring of 1977 with money from my paper route. I seem to remember the cost being something like $9 or so but that was 38 years ago so my memory might be a bit off :-)

One thing my memory is very clear on is the fact that I enjoyed the album and definitely got my money's worth out of it, playing it on my Panasonic stereo system and probably irritating my parents in the process. All I know is that I heard "Mark, turn down that music!" more than a few times while playing this.

what's old is what's new again

When I made the decision to get back into listening to music from a spinning plastic disc I immediately thought of this album, more from a sense of nostalgia than anything else. So, I did some research and decided to purchase the 2014 re-issue from Amazon. I could have bought a used copy of the original album for $10-$20, and I may still do that, but I decided to first get the "new" version of it just like I did way back in 1977. "But Mark, where's your original album?" you might be asking. Well, the original KISS Alive (and all my other vinyl from back then) has been lost somewhere for a long,long time. I think my little Brother took them as his after I went to College and after that who knows? (don't worry little Brother, I don't hold it against you....too much) :-)  I really wish I still had the 15 or 20 albums that I managed to acquire as a kid but with the advent of the cassette tape and then the CD in the early 1980's I pretty much abandoned vinyl and switched to CD or cassette for my listening. OK, back to the present....

The 2014 version of the album is supposedly remastered from "ultra-high definition" Direct Stream Digital transfers from the original analog tapes. The record is pressed on 180 gram vinyl and is in a gatefold cover, just like the original. It looks exactly like I remember my 1977 copy being, including the cheesy "personal notes" on the inside from Gene, Peter, Paul and Ace. There's also a nice booklet with pictures of the band-mates. All and all it is a high quality production that should last a long time with care.

The Inside of the album

what about the sound?

Since I purchased KISS Alive I've listened to it three times (the first full listens since approx 1981) so I think I have a decent feel for the album at this point. In my purely unprofessional music reviewer opinion I think it's an OK recording at best, nothing special, but listenable. Some of the tracks seem a little "compressed" and others seem fairly open with a decent sound-stage. The brand new vinyl is pretty much devoid of any noise except for the music (I still clean brand new vinyl though). Considering this album was originally recorded live at multiple locations in likely "less than optimal" conditions I think it's pretty good. As live albums go, KISS Alive is a solid, fun to listen to, example. Now, I don't claim to be a KISS fanatic at all, just an old guy who liked KISS back in the day and likes to listen to it every once in a while now. As I researched reviews on this album I think I'm in the majority in my opinion. Many people seemed to think that this 2014 re-master/re-issue is pretty good for the fact that it's a KISS album. I don't think any of their records will fool anybody as sonic masterpieces but this version of ALIVE is OK sound quality wise.  As for the songs, it's a pretty good mix. Here's a listing by side (with my favorites in Bold and Italics:

Side 1

  • Deuce
  • Strutter
  • Got to Choose
  • Hotter Than Hell
  • Firehouse

Side 2

  • Nothin' to Lose
  • C'Mon and Love Me
  • Parasite
  • She

Side 3

  • Watchin' You
  • 100,000 Years
  • Black Diamond

Side 4

  • Rock Bottom
  • Cold Gin
  • Rock and Roll All Nite
  • Let Me Go Rock and Roll

Bottom line

I guess the bottom line on the KISS Alive 2014 remaster is that if you like KISS (and all the glam and excess, including in price, that goes with it) and don't mind spending $28-$40 (depending on when/where you buy it) for a new copy it's a justifiable purchase. I think the price is a little steep overall for what you get but that's the way it is these days with vinyl, especially new vinyl. As of this date (March 2015) the album is selling for $30 on Amazon. While it isn't audiophile quality it is an entertaining album and comes in a quality package. You can probably find a good quality 1975-ish copy of this album for $10-$20 on Discogs if you want to purchase used. That's something I will probably do myself to get an original copy in my collection.

I hope you liked this review. Please let me know if there is anything else you would like me to add to these reviews in the future and I will do my best to accommodate the request.

Cheers!

 

Sirui Tripod And Ball Head Reviews-A Solid Base For Your Camera

The following post originally appeared on my photography-centered blog a while ago (April 2012) but the information is still valid. Both Pam and I are still using the Sirui tripods we purchased back in 2012 and they are still performing great. If you are looking for a quality tripod at a good price, Sirui is definitely worth your consideration:

After I got back into photography in 2011 I began to consider what kind of quality tripod I would get to mount my cameras on. When it comes to tripods there are a lot of options out there across the price spectrum. I wanted a good, solid tripod but didn't have the budget for a Really Right Stuff setup (though they are fantastic products!). I did a lot of research on the various products that would fit my budget and came across a company called Sirui and after quite a bit of back and forth as well as reading user reviews I decided to go “all-in” with Sirui, a relatively new brand here in the US but popular in Asia and Europe for a while, and get tripods and ball heads for both Pam and I. For me, I ordered theirN-2204 carbon fiber tripod along with the K-20x Ball Head. I also purchased an aluminum legged tripod, theN-1004 4 section Aluminum Tripod with a K-10x ball head for Pam, who will be using a tripod much less than I will. If she really enjoys photography we can always upgrade to a carbon fiber tripod at a later date.

I received the tripods in late January and have had a chance to use them in a few different situations. I think I'm now familiar enough with them to give a fairly solid review. So, without further ado, here is my text review. Be sure to watch my video review at the bottom of this post for more specific information on how the tripods and ballheads work in real life.

What Is Included:

Both tripods, the N-1004 aluminum and N-2204 carbon fiber tripod come with:

  • A short center column
  • Custom carrying case
  • Padded shoulder strap
  • Wrist strap (for use with the mono-pod feature)
  • Tools

The ballheads come with a carrying case.

Features:

  • Tripod converts to monopod; center column can be attached for even more height
  • Legs fold up 180° for extra compactness
  • The center column can be inverted for unusual low angle shots
  • For speed and convenience, each leg has an automatic leg angle lock mechanism
  • Short center column is supplied for low angle or macro shooting.
  • 3 position leg angle for uneven terrain
  • N2 (Carbon Fiber) Series has retractable spiked feet for outdoor photography

The ballheads come with separate control knobs for panning and locking. There is a friction knob that allows you to pre-set the tension of the ballhead, allowing you to easily adjust the camera.

For more specifications, dimensions and other information on the tripods, check out these PDF's: (Tripods) & (Ballheads)

In Use:

This is ultimately the most important part. If the tripod and ballhead are difficult to operate or poorly designed, it doesn't matter at all what features it has. Fortunately, the Sirui tripods and ballheads have lived up to my expectations.

In the several situations that I have used the tripod and ball head they have performed as asked. The quick release legs on both the carbon and aluminum tripods are easy to operate and sure in their locking and unlocking. The diameter of the legs is reassuring (and larger in diameter than many budget brands) and the stability of the tripod is more than adequate. When the legs are adjusted and the ball head is locked in position, I don't fear that the camera is going to fall over at the lightest gust.

The construction of both the tripod and ball heads is very good. Tolerances are tight and everything moves with a purpose. The ball heads are smooth in their operation and are easy to adjust. The quality of construction is apparent and in the approximately 10 hours or so of actual use that both of us have put into these tripods & ball heads, we have found no defects or anything that needs adjusting.

In short, if you are looking for your first quality tripod and/or ball head, you should consider Sirui. They offer a well-made product with a high level of fit, finish and functionality at a competitive price. Both of us are looking forward to using these for a long time to come.

If you're interested in purchasing either of these tripods (or any other equipment) check out these links. You don't pay anymore to buy this way but you will help me offset the cost of maintaining this blog.

Sirui N2204 Carbon Fiber Tripod at Amazon

Sirui Products at Amazon

Craft Beer Review: Stone Enjoy By 10-31-14 IPA

I love IPA's. I especially love really fresh IPA's. Stone Brewing is known for their IPA's and a couple years ago they started a series of fresh IPA's, the "Enjoy By" series of beers. All of these IPA's are meant to be consumed quickly, typically within 30 days after bottling. I picked up a bottle of their "Drink By 4-1-13" last year and was very impressed. Today, while in the beer store, I saw their latest rendition, the Drink By 10-31-14 and figured it might be time to re-visit the beer. This particular bottle has a "bottled on" date of 9/26/2014 and I bought it on 10/11/2014. Considering that the beer comes from the San Diego area, I'd consider that a pretty fast turnaround: Stone Drink By 10-31-14

Appearance

I poured the beer in my New Mexico IPA Challenge glass that I got while visiting my good friend +Joe D in Albuquerque a couple years ago. As expected the beer had the classic golden/orange color that we've all come to expect from Craft IPA's. This beer is fairly clear and produced a nice, long lasting head that stuck around. A good looking beer!

Aroma

All of the "Enjoy By..." beers have a bit different aroma/flavor profole. This one has a great, super-fresh aroma that's a nice blend of citrus, floral and pine. There's also some nice malt aromas. The beer is 9.5% ABV and Stone does a great job of hiding that. Bottom line is that this beer smells like it just came out of the brew kettle, which is exactly how I'd expect it to smell.

Taste

The flavor of the Enjoy By 10-31-14 IPA is much like the aroma with a very fresh flavor that is well-balanced between malt and hops. The beer is definitely an IPA but the hop bitterness isn't over the top by any means. It's there (especially in the middle) but not completely dominant. The flavor starts off with some fresh pine, then citrus (think orange and sweet grapefruit), followed by some nice bitterness that appropriately dries out your tounge and back of the throat. The malt is there in just the proper amount to keep things in balance.  If you look on the neck of the bottle in my photo you'll see the phrase "Devastatingly Fresh" emblazoned on the bottle. That pretty much describes it :-)

Drinkability

Some IPA's are "built" to be hop lover's wet dreams, overflowing with juicy hop bitterness. If you love hops that's fine but sometimes drinkability can be impacted. That is definitely NOT the case with the Stone Enjoy By series of IPA's. While they are Imperial IPA's (typically defined by ABV over 8%) they are very east drinking. The 9.4% is very well hidden and the beer goes down very easily. If you are enjoying this away from home I would exercise extra restraint and make sure you have a designated driver because this beer goes down "Smoooooooth..."

The Final Score

Appearance: 8 out of 10

Aroma: 9 out of 10

Flavor: 18 out of 20

Drinkability: 9 out of 10

 

Total Score: 44 out of 50 points- A "4 Mug" Beer

Stone Enjoy By 10-31-14 IPA is a great example of the American IPA style of beer. It has a great fresh aroma and flavor with some nice bitterness. It is eminently drinkable and reasonably priced (I paid $8.99 for the 22oz Bomber bottle). If you have the ability to get these beers in your area and like IPA's I highly suggest you pick up a bottle to try! :-)

 

Beer Review: Pilsner Urquell

Time for another beer review. This time I review Pisner Urquell, which is a classic Pilsner from the home of the style, the Czech Republic. Sometimes only a lighter, easier-drinking beer will do. For me, that time is often accompanied by hot weather. Pilsner Urquell is one of those beers and I picked up a 4-pack of 16oz cans to have after I finish some of the many outdoor chores I do in the heat and humidity of the Georgia Summer air. This particular pack had four different "vintage" can designs representing how the labeling has changed over the years. It was a good-looking 4-pack:

Pilsner-Urquell

Now, let's see how the beer tastes.

Appearance

Pilsner Urquell is a good looking beer, especially when poured into a Pilsner glass. There was a nice stream of bubbles coming from the bottom of the glass. The beer gave up a nice fluffy white foam head that actually stuck around a bit. The beer has a nice golden straw color, which is in line for the style.

Aroma

Pilsner Urquell has a pretty good aroma. There's some honey and citrus along with some nice herbal/grassy notes. There is a slight bitterness as well, perhaps from the classic Saaz hops that are used.

Taste

To me, a Pilsner should be clean and crisp while still having a good amount of flavor. Pilsner Urquell meets that requirement though not spectacularly. The beer is definitely clean and crisp and there is some nice flavor but there is something missing. I got some initial bitterness followed by some malt, biscuit/bread flavors, finishing up with some earthy bitterness. Everything was there but not at the level that I expected.

Drinkability

Pilsner Urquell is a very drinkable beer. The crisp carbonation and lighter body make the beer a near perfect warm weather thirst quencher. The low 4.4% ABV means you can enjoy a couple of these without feeling overwhelmed.

 

The Final Score

Appearance: 7 out of 10

Aroma: 6 out of 10

Taste: 15 out of 20

Drinkability: 8 out of 10

Total Score: 36 out of 50- A Solid "3 Mug" Beer

Pilsner Urquell is a solid, well-made beer that has some good flavor and is very refreshing. It looks pretty good in the glass and has a decent, though slightly bitter aroma. The flavor is solid if a bit lacking. Drinkability is very good on this beer. I can recommend Pilsner Urquell as a good choice but I think there are some better pils beers out there. Victory Prima Pils is an example and there are others as well.

Finding Vivian Maier-Episode 16

Would you believe that a Nanny from Chicago might  be one of the most influential street photographers of the 20th century? Finding Vivian Maier is the movie that explores this prolific and mysterious photographer. Pam and I went to see this movie at  local theater with some other Atlanta area photographers and came away impressed and saddened by Vivian Maier's intriguing story. Vivian Maier (wikipedia) was born in 1926 and died in 2009. During her life she worked primarily as a Nanny to families in mostly the Chicago area. During that time she was a prolific street photographer whose body of work was virtually unknown until John Maloof purchased boxes of negatives from a storage auction in 2007. From that point to now the story of Vivian Maier has been revealed, but much is still unknown.

The movie is an attempt to figure out who Vivian Maier was and why she took nearly 100,000 images and never had any of them printed.

Here is the film's trailer:

Pam and I went to see the film, Finding Vivian Maier, at a local theatre. We went with a few other photographer friends and took in the afternoon matinee.

I won't giver away the movie but suffice it to say that we were very impressed, inspired and saddened all at the same time. Vivian Maier was a very unique person with an immense talent for photography. That she never published any of her work while alive is an amazing mystery. The movie explores that and does a pretty good job of it.

Bottom line is that if you are a photographer, historian, lover of mysteries or interested in documentaries, you should see this movie. It has something for everyone and is a compelling story.

Books on Amazon

There are a few books of Vivian Maier's work available on Amazon. You can also purchase limited-edition signed prints through the website

Vivian Maier Books

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Initial Impressions And First Images From The Olympus OM-1

I got out with my "new to me" Olympus OM-1 this past Saturday and shot nearly a full roll of film (Kentmere 100) as a test of the camera. I was dying to try out the camera so I took a short walk over to a cemetery (bad joke, I know) near the house that has a lot of old grave-sites in it. This cemetery was where I took one of the earliest shots with my vintage Rolleicord, of a confederate soldier's grave. It wasn't the best light for making photographs but I wasn't really concerned about that as I was more interested in learning how to use the camera and making sure it worked. Here's an image of the developed negatives:

As I said above, the light was terrible and this was my 1st time using the Kentmere film, so I didn't quite know what to expect as far as developing went. I scanned in a few of the images to see what I got. Here's some images.

As we were walking to the cemetery I came across this sign:

Follow Instructions
Follow Instructions

I got this shot pretty much dialed in. The focus seems to be good, and you can see our reflection in the button!

A little while later we made it to the cemetery, where I shot the majority of the roll.

P.V. Singleton
P.V. Singleton

This is the grave of P.V. Singleton. I made a photograph of this same headstone last October when I got my Rolleicord: I think this image came out pretty well, especially considering the light. I need to get used to the focusing on the OM-1 but the result was pretty good.

_20131201
_20131201

Here's another headstone in the cemetery, appropriately named the "Singleton" cemetery. Nearly all the graves are of Singletons or what appears to be their extended family. I did a little better with the composition and sharpness in this one.

Some Quick Impressions

Now that I've used the Olympus OM-1 I feel very good about my decision to purchase the camera. The camera seems to operate exactly as it should. It is a well-built piece of equipment with a nice, solid feel to it. When you press the shutter there is a satisfying "click". All the switches and dials are tight and move with a purpose. The whole camera has a great "mechanical" feel to it that I don't think any DSLR can ever hope to replicate. That's one of the reasons I enjoy using these vintage cameras, because of their solid build and purposeful operation.

The lenses I got with the camera appear to be in very good shape as well. One thing that is a little different on this camera is that the shutter speed "dial" is on the lens itself, rather than on the camera body. It will take me some more time to get used to that but I don't see it as a negative, just different.

All in all, after shooting about 30 images with the camera, I'm a happy camper :-) The Olympus OM-1 is a fine example of analog camera equipment and I am looking forward to using it. I may do a more in-depth review of the camera after I've had some more time with it. Until then, if you are looking to try your hand at analog photography and want a single lens reflex camera, the Olympus OM-1 should be on your list!