Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh History and Autoformer Technology (June 2016)

The Left BankeSundazed LP 5375
Format: LP

Musical Performance *****
Sound Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2


When, in 1967, The Left Banke completed its first LP, Walk Away Renée/Pretty Ballerina,the New York quintet had already made a couple of personnel changes. By the time Smash Records released Left Banke Too in 1968, only three of the group’s five original members remained. That instability, along with ego problems and legal complications, shortened what could have been a long and distinguished career in rock’n’roll. Left Banke compilations have drifted in and out of print over the years; Sundazed Records’ reissues of Walk Away Renée/Pretty Ballerina on CD and LP are the first versions available in almost two decades.

Keyboard player Michael Brown was 16 when he wrote "Walk Away Renée," a tune that displays the Left Banke’s versatility. Although the group’s use of harpsichord, strings, and complex vocal harmonies caused their music to be tagged as "Baroque Rock," "Walk Away Renée" was soulful enough to be covered by the Four Tops. The strings and woodwinds on "Pretty Ballerina" were closer to the baroque style, and the song’s sure craftsmanship and beautiful melody helped make it the group’s second hit. "What Do You Know" is a convincing stab at country rock, and "Evening Gown" is as gritty as any garage-rock tune that features a harpsichord can be.

Shifting personnel led to the band being augmented by session musicians on many tracks, but the album has a consistent identity. Walk Away Renée/Pretty Ballerina still sounds fresh because it’s so well played, and filled with small details that repay repeated listening. While using the harpsichord on so many songs could have been a mere novelty that soon wore thin, it gave the tunes a ringing, buoyant tone similar to the effect the 12-string guitar gave the Byrds’ music. Brown’s talent as a writer and arranger probably helped the songs maintain a consistent sound and feel, but it’s Steve Martin-Caro’s singing that brings focus to them, and to the album as a whole. On "Let Go of You Girl" he sounds uncannily like John Lennon; in fact, Walk Away Renée/Pretty Ballerina is as close as any other band got to creating an album as perfect as the Beatles’ Rubber Soul.

I compared my original LP with the Sundazed reissue and found that the earlier master was a bit forward. The Sundazed pressing flows more easily, and the string arrangements are warmer and more naturally integrated with the other instruments. The Sundazed edition also sounds better than the tracks on There’s Gonna Be a Storm: The Complete Recordings, 1966-69, a reasonably well-mastered compilation that Mercury released on CD in 1992.Harmony vocals are placed more accurately behind the lead vocal on the LP, and the drums are placed more convincingly in the soundstage, not forward as they are on Storm.

Sundazed’s CD edition includes liner notes with recent interviews that are not included with the LP, but you can find them at

Sundazed has also released Left Banke Too on CD and LP, and it’s every bit as essential an album as this one. I believe that vinyl is the best way to hear these two great recordings.

. . . Joseph Taylor