Ready For The Storm is American singer-songwriter Lori Lieberman 17th studio album and the third to receive an immersive release, following 2014’s Bricks Against The Glass in 5.1 surround sound and 2022’s Truly in Dolby Atmos.
Lieberman is of course best known for “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” which has since been covered by a number of artists (most notably Roberta Flack in 1971). In recent years, Lieberman has retained a sizable fanbase in the Netherlands and continues to tour & record.
Originally released through Drive On Records USA in June 2016, Ready For The Storm is a double album featuring guest vocal and songwriting contributions from several well-known Dutch artists such as Henny Vrienten, The 3JS, and Niels Geusebroek. The album was mixed in stereo & 5.1 surround sound by legendary engineer Bob Clearmountain and mastered by multi-Grammy Award recipient Darcy Proper at Valhalla Studios New York.
As many immersive music fans are no doubt aware, Bob Clearmountain has created a 5.1 surround sound mix alongside every stereo project he’s undertaken over the last two decades. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these 5.1 mixes remain unreleased. Mary Fahl’s From The Dark Side Of The Moon was one such example (mixed alongside the stereo version in 2006 and finally released in mid-2020) and Ready For The Storm is another, having languished on a server at his Mix This! facility since 2015.
Though it may not seem an obvious candidate for the surround treatment–given its primarily acoustic and sparse nature–the album actually translates incredibly well into 5.1 surround sound. This is probably no surprise given Clearmountain and Proper’s involvement, but the clarity of the 192-khz/24-bit 5.1 FLAC files is simply astounding.
The opening track, “Alive In The World,” features just vocals, piano, and cello. Lieberman’s vocals are almost entirely isolated in the center speaker in the 5.1 mix, while the piano appears in the front speakers and cello in the rears. “A Piece Of Me” then immediately surrounds the listener, with the violin primarily in the right rear speaker and multiple acoustic guitar parts spread around the listening space.
As is typical of Clearmountain’s work with surround sound, the directionality of the 5.1 mix is quite extreme. Lead vocals are locked to the center speaker, while individual guitars, strings, or background vocals appear largely isolated to different quadrants of the room.
The album’s title track opens with acoustic guitar upfront, as strings and electric guitar gently fade in from behind. Lieberman’s vocal is again soloed dry in the center speaker, while the reflections hit off the back wall. As the track builds, percussion and harmony vocals appear in the center alongside the lead.
“Three Days” is another highlight of the immersive presentation, especially when the electric guitar and violin weave in and out of the rear speaker as the tempo picks up around 1:45. The album then closes with “Stand For You,” a heartfelt acoustic tune that again features gorgeous strings and Lieberman’s soaring vocal in the center speaker.
Overall, I highly recommend Ready For The Storm to anyone who's a fan of the singer-songwriter genre or 5.1 surround sound. It's a beautiful, thoughtful album that showcases Lori Lieberman's talent as both a vocalist and a songwriter. The production is stripped down and intimate, allowing her vocal and introspective lyrics to shine through. The end result is a collection of tracks that are both emotionally resonant and musically satisfying.
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