Producer T Bone Burnett has long promised the development of a new analog format that he promised would improve on both vinyl and CDs, as well as digital streaming and any other existing recorded music medium. Now, he appears closer to reaching that goal with the news that he has been in the studio with Bob Dylan, re-recording some of the legendary singer-songwriter’s classic songs with the purpose of introducing the new ultra-high-fidelity medium.
Details are scarce about when the Dylan recordings might come out — not to mention the new hardware that will be required to play them. But Tuesday’s announcement about the completion of Burnett’s heretofore secret recording sessions with Dylan is one intriguing way for the producer to tell the world that he means business with this new technological development.
Burnett’s newly formed company, NeoFidelity Inc., will release a series of “Ionic Originals,” starting with the Dylan release, or releases, according to the announcement. Although the discs coming out in the format will somewhat resemble vinyl albums, they are not traditional LPs, but a whole new medium. A photo released Tuesday shows Burnett holding up a sample of the aluminum platters that the company will be using for its exclusive releases — described in the announcement as “newly developed discs that advance the art of recorded sound and mark the first breakthrough in analog sound reproduction in more than 70 years.”
The announcement included no information about what material Dylan re-cut with Burnett for the project, other than to say the artist “revisited a personally chosen set of his iconic songs for the first time in decades.”
Said Burnett in a press release, “An Ionic Original is the pinnacle of recorded sound. It is archival quality. It is future-proof. It is one of one. Not only is an Ionic Original the equivalent of a painting, it is a painting. It is lacquer painted onto an aluminum disc, with a spiral etched into it by music. This painting, however, has the additional quality of containing that music, which can be heard by putting a stylus into the spiral and spinning it.”
Burnett has long expressed his dissatisfaction with what he sees as the aural limitations of current analog as well as digital formats, although he clearly has a preference for analog, and the Ionic Originals are a next step in that technology.
The announcement contends: “Drawing from the sonic history of recorded music, Burnett has developed an analog disc that possesses a depth, resonance and sonic fidelity that exceeds that of vinyl, CD, streaming or any other means of experiencing recorded music. … By forming a new company, NeoFidelity, Inc.. to record artists across a wide range of musical genres and provide a platform of distribution for Ionic Originals, Burnett is also determined to reset the valuation for recorded music.”
Said Burnett, “When describing the quality that raises analog sound above digital sound, the word ‘warmth’ is often used,” Burnett further notes. “Analog sound has more depth, more harmonic complexity, more resonance, better imaging. Analog has more feel, more character, more touch. Digital sound is frozen. Analog sound is alive.”
Reps for Burnett and Dylan said there would be no additional information immediately coming about the Dylan project beyond what was contained in today’s announcement.
Although Burnett has never officially produced an entire new album for Dylan before, the friendship and professional association between the two extends back decades, to Burnett’s time served as a member of the Rolling Thunder Revue in the mid-1970s. Besides also being a recording artist, Burnett has gone on to produce dozens of albums for others, including two that won the Grammy for album of the year, the “O Brother, Where Art Thou” soundtrack and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ “Raising Sand.”
Dylan is in the news with the unveiling of the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma being set for a gala grand opening weekend May 5-8. He is currently out on tour.