I once made a mix CD for my wife which turned out to have some great tracks for auditioning speakers. Some of the better ones:
Sweet Dreams--Patsy Cline (amazing arrangement/production)
Here in the Dark--Taj Mahal
Save the Last Dance for Me--Aaron Neville
I Dream of Jeannie/Danny Boy--Joan Baez (great one for voice repro)
Usually, one's musical taste tends to be rather selective and/or esoteric when it comes to something impressive since it tends to serve YOUR tastes.
What I do to demonstrate is to try something dynamic that is also familiar which is usually the soundtrack to Breaking Bad. It grabs their attention immediately since it's so recognizable and allows them to wallow in it's majesty and intricacies. After that, it's pretty much up to you to show them how it handles different styles of music. Then you can break out that piece that makes their eyes glaze over.
If it is a real audiophile, I'll put on Sotho Blue for starters.
All the best,
As I've listened over the years to my CDs I've noted specific tracks along the way which sound spectacular on my system (some CDs, though have terrific music, have zero impressive tracks). Thus, my visitor can select any genre or performer and I am able to cherry pick specific tracks which are especially good sounding. For example:
Female jazz singer? Karrin Allyson, "Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane", any tracks 2,5,6,9.
Male jazz singer? Mark Murphy, "Once to Every Heart", track 5.
Jazz? Rahsaan Roland Kirk, "Inflated Tear", track 2.
Rock? Alice Cooper, "Love it to Death" (Audio Fidelity Gold), track 1.
Blues? Albert King, "Live Wire/Blues Power" (MFSL Gold), track 4.
Pop? Jenny Lewis, "Acid Tongue", tracks 3,4.
Shirley Horn: You Won’t Forget Me Track 11
SRV: Tin Pan Alley from "Couldn’t Stand the Weather" (vinyl or SACD)
Jack Johnson: Brushfire Fairytales Track 1
Cowboy Junkies: The Trinity Session Track 5, 10, and 12
Dire Straits: Fade to Black and You and Your Friends from "On Every Street" (vinyl or SHM CD)
Chet Baker: Silent Nights (Christmas)
Well, "What are you in the mood to listen to?"
I think these sound good on my system:
Antoine Dufour "Mother" from "Existence"
Allman Bros. "High Falls" from "Win, Lose, or Draw"
Lucky Dube "Guns and Roses" from "Taxman"
Rickie Lee Jones "Weasel and the White Boys Cool" from "Live at Red Rocks"
Charles Brown "Quicksand"
Dixie Dregs "I'm Freaking Out" from "Dregs of the Earth"
Roxy Music "If There is Something/Mother of Pearl" from Roxy Music Live
There are many more depending on the genre, acoustic or electric, etc. but these are some if my favorites. Guests tend to appreciate the nuances of a good system with the music they are most familiar with.
If you want a sonic spectacular, try one of the last three of the Moody Blues’ core seven on SACD. Huge soundstages, a constantly changing soundscape with lots of effects, great guitar riffs, wide dynamic range. The 1997 remasters may be as good, but I haven’t heard them.
I don’t want to start a fight, but these albums were all made at least a year before Pink Floyd’s DSOTM and IMHO, they leave that classic in the dust as far as sound quality and use of studio technology go. You may disagree, of course.
Also McCartney’s recent reissues in the Paul McCartney Archive Collection qualify as sonic spectaculars. They have great sound, a complex, always changing soundscape with lots of effects and musical accents. Just pick your favorite.
In a different genre, If you like music rooted in bluegrass but with many other influences, check out Laurie Lewis’ "Blossoms." It opens with a beautiful 3 part acapella tune that’s pretty impressive. If you like bluegrass at all you should check out Laurie’s "Earth and Sky" compilation. Beautiful music.
"If they answer: "Oh, just about anything," I just quietly turn the system off and say ... hey, why don’t we go to Baskin Robbins for an ice cream cone?"
Perfect, oregonpapa. Another tell is if, within 30 seconds or less after the music starts, they begin visually searching for something to look at (a CD case/LP cover, or the completely unforgivable, their phone) instead of listening.
I had a bunch of 20 - 25 years old over. They like modern country music so we played some top 25.
They liked it a lot so I said how about this - folk not country but close enough.
Alison Krauss - A Hundred Miles or More of a Collection from 2007.
Call me different
I go for stuff that has unusual musicality and is downtempo
BY BAND NAME - Album Name
AIR = 10,000 Hz album for near rockers
ALL INDIA RADIO - The Silent Surf - low key
BLISS - my favorite female voice
BALMORHEA - Self Titled, mellow
BANCO DE GAIA = Last Train to Lhasa - Trains to Music on this one track
BROKENKITES = Fugue State, deep and demanding
EMANCIPATOR - Safe in the Steep Cliffs, articulate composition
KATIE MELUA - yet another notable voice
LINDSEY STERLING - Shatter Me = killer modern violin
Let me know if anyone listens to these and I will rattle out the rest of the alphabet of my music.
Tracy Nelson-Live From C Block D, is one of my favorite demos, especially for newbies to my listening room. Kind of a mixture of folk, country rock, and one of the most powerful female vocalists around. Originally part of Mother Earth, her live stuff is mesmerizing. No one seems to know about her, but having seen Mother Earth live in the late 60's/early 70's got me hooked on her vocal talents.
CD: All Jamaican All Star Jazz Band, especially the covers of (this is not a joke.) "My Boy Lollopop" and "Walk On By"; alternately for real jazz buffs, Maynard Ferguson and Diane Shur "Live From Montreaux". LP: Rosie O'Grady's Good Time Jazz Band on Direct Disc. The tuba solo on "When You're Smiling" is to die for. The triangle, followed by a full dixieland band on "Japanese Sandman" places the instruments in you face, well actually , ears. Once they are awed, we get back to what they want to hear.
Patricia Barber- Companion XRCD ... a stunningly good recording and Shakti's first album -- with John McLaughlin... a spectacular album with Zakir Hussein on tablas... transcendental! I was privileged to see them live in 1977 and I'll never forget it!
DSOTM in SACD 5.1 is like hearing it for the first time!