It has been years since I last heard from Madeline Bell, an artist known for singing in Blue Mink and later a member of The (New) London Chorale. This record from the Dutch label STS Digital is not really new either. It was recorded some 15 years ago and used as a promotional CD at audio shows. But STS Digital got the rights and turned a good recording into an outstanding vinyl pressing. The A-side contains classics like ‘The Look Of Love’, ‘Sail On Sailor’ and a ‘Beach Boys Medley’, while the B-side has Madeline’s own compositions made with the Dutch vibraphone player Frits Landesbergen, a musician who played with Joe Pass, Monty Alexander, Scott Hamilton and a lot of others.
STS Digital is an audiophile label producing CDs and LPs and for a few months now, master tapes as well. The mastering engineer Fritz de With likes a slightly warm sound with soft high notes and deep bass, to form a background for the singer(s). He did an outstanding job transferring the CD master to vinyl, revealing a far better soundstage and changing the dry studio sound into a performance that could have been live. The vinyl material and cutting are among the best I have in my collection. The songs on the A-side may not be new, but they still have plenty of appeal. Especially the ‘Beach Boys Medley’ with the band is shining behind the singer.
The second side starts with ‘Good Morning Freedom’, the Blue Mink hit from back in 1969. It’s a strong, jazzy composition with a powerful bass line to drive the rhythm. It blows the dust of your woofers before a more relaxed song starts, where the vibraphone plays a leading role. The following tracks are a soul/funk/easy listening mix with a swinging character and Madeline Bell having fun. This makes the record far more listenable than so many audiophile records that were only made to make your system sound outstanding. With ‘Blessed With Our Love’ you can both enjoy music and hear just how good your record player is. Madeline Bell is very much alive on this album which is a must have unless you only prefer hard core metal.
René van Es