Burmester CD III Demo Disc Review on Daily Audiophile

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Burmester, a German maker of super high-end gear, sent us a review copy of their most recent various artists demo disc, Burmester Vorfuhrungs CD III ($30). This CD includes 10 tracks taken from a variety of original CDs. None of the tracks were remastered, so the value to a listener is in the combination of chosen tracks, as well as the convenience of having them all on one disc.

I’ve enjoyed the earlier CD in this series, Burmester CD II, for several years. It has a wide range of musical styles including jazz, blues, pop, classical, and rock. Artists include Quincy Jones, Ben Webster, Ricki Lee Jones, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Pink Floyd. It has truly exceptional sound. I’ve played it on dozens of high-end systems in a variety of settings. It is one of the best Redbook CDs I own.

The CD III is also quite good–both in terms of the breadth of selections and quality of sound. The Melissa Walker and Rimsky-Korsakov tracks, for instance, are great examples of their respective genres (female jazz and orchestral classical), and sound incredible. Also, in terms of sheer audio impact, the first minute or so of the Chinese drum track is hard to beat (!).

Unfortunately, when considered as a whole, the CD III disc doesn’t quite measure up to the level of the CD II. The CD III disc sounds nearly as good as the CD II (and nearly as good as the CD format can sound), but the track selection is hit-and-miss. Some of the songs are so highly produced they sound robbed of their realism. This is especially true of the John Lee Hooker tune, which is surprisingly sterile and cliche. Some songs are dull, while others simply go on too long. The last two cuts–Hugh Masekela and Yim Hok-Man–clock in at over 10 minutes each. Unfortunately, there is only two minutes of interesting music between them.

For a demo disc, I prefer a more representative mix. This disc includes jazz, classical, and blues, but it omits pop and rock in favor of world music. This approach would be acceptable if the world music was worth it. Sadly, it’s not. As I mentioned, the Hugh Masekela and Yim Hok-Man tracks, while sonically good, are directionless and boring. If these tracks would have been replaced by solid pop and rock songs, I’d give this disc a higher endorsement. As it stands, I say hold off spending $30 on this one and either seek out a used copy of CD II or wait for CD IV.

If you are more excited than I am at the track listing below, by all means, purchase this disc. The sonics are impressive and there is a lot of music here. Get it from MusicDirect, any Burmester dealer, or directly through ASL Group.

Track listing:

1. “A Time For Love”
Artist: Melissa Walker
Album: Ballads In Blue
Genre: Jazz
Description: Female vocals with piano

2. “Sonata Concertata”
Composer: Paganini
Performer: Gil Shaham, Göran Söllscher
Album: Paganini for Two
Genre: Classical
Description: Violin and guitar

3. “Early One Morning”
Artist: John Lee Hooker
Album: Jealous
Genre: Blues
Description: Male vocals with electric guitar, Hammond organ, electric bass, drums

4. “It’s The Talk Of The Town”
Artist: Bennie Wallace
Album: Ballads In Blue
Genre: Jazz
Description: Tenor saxophone with jazz guitar, double bass, drums

5. “Sonata I G-Dur”
Composer: Rossini
Performer: New Berlin Chamber Orchestra
Conductor: Michael Erxleben
Album: Rossini: Sonatas for Strings
Genre: Classical
Description: Violin, cello, bass

6. “The Planet”
Artist: Hans Theessink
Album: Call Me
Genre: Blues
Description: Male vocals with slide guitar, tin whistle, foot stomping

7. “Allegro Molto”
Composer: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Performer: Bastille Opera Orchestra with Frederic Laroque
Conductor: Myung-Whun Chung
Album: Scheherazade
Genre: Classical
Description: Full orchestra

8. “Orgelwerke 1”
Composer: Bach
Performer: Hans-Jurgen Schnoor
Album: Bach Orgelwerke 1
Genre: Classical
Description: Pipe organ

9. “Stimela”
Artist: Hugh Masekela
Album: Hope
Genre: World
Description: Flugelhorn, eight-piece band

10. “Poem of Chinese Drums”
Artist: Yim Hok-Man
Album: Master of Chinese Percussion
Genre: World
Description: Drums, percussion