The Gypsy Life: AIX Collector's Edition
John Gorka

AIX Records - AIX 83053
Available from
AIX Records

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mois Benarroch (2007)


Wow! This is classy! The perfect present for a friend who loves the music of John Gorka.

So what is it?

This is a package with two discs, which play on both sides. 4 playing sides. On the first side we have a DVD-Audio. Most people have no idea what a DVD-audio (DVD-A) is, in spite of the fact that this format has existed since the year 2000. This was a format that tried to use the capacity of a DVD to create a better format for music playback. The first DVD-audio discs started to appear that same year and created a lot of confusion with consumers, who were told this format played on DVD players and not on CD players. To make matters worse, you could only hear the improved sound on some DVD players, those that played DVD-audio. To make matters even worse, Sony introduced another format called super audio CD (SACD) that same year, some, but not all, of which were special hybrid discs which played on regular CD players in standard resolution stereo. If that was not enough some DVD-audio players don't play DVD's that were manufactured after 2004. So no wonder that in spite of the fact that most audiophiles think that DVD-A is the best format for music, it has not taken off. A simple search in Amazon will list no more than 40 titles. That's what you'll get on Ebay too!

So now comes AIX and offers special recordings of featured artists which include both a DualDisc (DVD-audio format and CD audio on the same two sided disc), a double sided DVD with the studio concert on one side and an interactive DVD presentation on the other (So why not SACD?). The recordings are made live without an audience, to get the real feeling of music, without equalizations or editing. At first glance, this seems a contradiction, because audiophile are into sound perfection more than music, and you could argue that some songs in this set, like Mean Streak sound cold and out of this world. Maybe audiophiles will like this sound, but to me it sounded too bright and sterile. Luckily, this only happens on very few songs. The rest of the set is just like John Gorka has entered your room and you can only hear Gorka, his voice, guitar, and the people backing him. Mostly, this means background vocals by Amilia K. Spicer and Susan Werner (Werner also backs on guitar and piano.) , Russ Rentler on mandolin, as well as Michael Manring on fretless electric bass. Overall, I think the recording is too upfront, and that means that the more laidback songs like Stranger With Your Hair", or Italian Girls, fare much better than the more up-tempo songs.

About the video: The second disc includes a video recording of the same session and an interactive DVD. The live recording is a bit confusing, since Gorka plays live without an audience. Something is missing there. He is not interacting and is not convincing. Gorka is a great singer and a great songwriter, but he is not a theatrical performer. His success comes from his songs. In the interactive interview he says that his music is a cure for his shyness. And that's what never disappears from this live performance. Nice, but not essential.

The interactive DVD is full of surprises, it includes explanations of the recordings, tons of text, live TV recordings, song videos and a whole live performance at McCabe's. There is an interview, lyrics, and more than I could see or will be able to see in the next two months. This part probably is worth the high price of this set.

To make some sense of this, I just would go back to the reason of all this gathering: the music. The Gypsy Life includes 19 songs, with mostly their best versions. The sound is great and Gorka is at his best. This is Gorka's best CD since his masterpiece The Land of the Bottom Line from 1990. I wonder how many people will want the whole set and I think that a simple CD with just the songs should be released as soon as possible. This set is a proof that Gorka is one of the best singer songwriters alive today.


Song List
Branching Out
I Saw A Stranger With Your Hair
Let Them In
Mean Streak
Flying Red Horse
Snow Don't Fall
When She Kisses Me
Mercy Of The Wheels
I'm From New Jersey
Italian Girls
  Writing In The Margins
Love Is Our Cross To Bear
Houses In The Fields
Land Of The Bottom Line
Road Of Good Intentions
Blue Chalk
Lightning's Blues
The Gypsy Life


Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2007, Peterborough Folk Music Society.

This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.