Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Reference 160M Amplifier (February 2019)
  • 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)

Provogue PRO 7463 5
Format: CD/DVD

Musical Performance

Sound Quality

Picture Quality

Overall Enjoyment

When I caught Robert Cray in concert about ten years ago, he played a very good, very professional show that somehow fell just short of being memorable. When I saw him last spring, he played a show that I’d rank among the best I’ve seen. At both events he was in good voice, his guitar playing was outstanding, and his band was on point. The difference was that indefinable quality that lifts a performance or a record from the level of routine into the category of special.

Cray’s newest release, 4 Nights of 40 Years Live, is a three-disc set (two CDs, one DVD) that expands his live discography to at least five albums. Of his previously released live sets, Live from Across the Pond (2006) and Cookin’ in Mobile (2010) are solid and enjoyable, while Authorized Bootleg: Austin, Texas 5/25/87 (2010) and Live at the BBC (2008) catch him earlier in his career, and on fire. The first CD of the new set, recorded last December, sounds closer to the younger Cray. He’s revitalized.

Cray’s current band was a primary reason his last studio album, In My Soul (2014), was so strong, and that group brings the same focus to these live performances. Drummer Les Falconer is firmly in the pocket, and bassist Richard Cousins locks in tight with him, while keyboardist Dover Weinberg adds color and pace. For these shows producer Steve Jordan brought in Trevor Lawrence on tenor sax and Steve Madaio on trumpet, and the horns underscore the influences of Southern soul in Cray’s music. Jordan himself plays percussion and, occasionally, a second drum kit that gives these tracks harder slam.

4 Nights of 40 years

Cray’s solo in “I Shiver” shows that, even after 40 years, his guitar still stings. Jordan’s production makes sure Cray’s rhythm guitar, which is at the center of his songwriting and arrangements, is clearly presented throughout, but also gives his solos a sharp, edgy ring. Each shiver of string and bend of note is clearly audible. Cray’s voice is also well centered and out in front, and his singing has lost none of its power or zest.

These discs include songs from throughout Cray’s career, and the consistency and quality of these compositions, many of them his own, are impressive. His covers include a stirring version of David Porter’s “Your Good Thing Is About to End,” also recorded for In My Soul. Kim Wilson joins Cray in Sam and Dave’s “Wrap It Up,” and Lee Oskar plays a mean harp in Howlin’ Wolf’s “Sittin’ On Top of the World.”

The second CD includes a performance from the 1982 San Francisco Blues Festival, as well as a show for Dutch television from 1987. It’s amazing how much confidence and swagger Cray had developed in the five intervening years. The DVD combines footage of those shows with video of some of the more recent performances comprising the first CD. Producer Jordan gave In My Soul much of its structure, and the DVD shows him making good suggestions that ensure the strong results in the live performances.

Cray has never made a bad album, but some of his discs of the last ten years, such as Twenty (2005) and This Time (2009), sounded like the work of a musician who’d settled into the comforts of a well-established career. With Steve Jordan’s help for In My Soul, and now for 4 Nights of 40 Years Live, Robert Cray is back in full force.

. . . Joseph Taylor