Sunday, February 11, 2018

Jeff Beck- Truth and Beck-Ola

At last count, there were 86 versions of Jeff Beck's "Truth" and 77 versions of Jeff Beck's "Beck-Ola" to choose from. But here is what it says on the hype sticker that is stuck to the 2009 Sundazed reissue:

"Sundazed's new vinyl edition, mastered from the original analog tapes, features the album's unique and ultra-rare U.K. mono mix, and is pressed on pristine high-definition vinyl with complete original cover art."

Something to boast about, no? Well, you know what? This record sounds damn good. I cannot compare it to the original U.K. mono because I don't have one. But compared to the various U.S. pressings I have owned, this beats all. But is it definitive?

On Friday Music's "deluxe audiophile" edition of "Beck-Ola" released in 2015 it simply states "mastered by Joe Reagoso" on the back cover, whereas the Discogs listing states "mastered by Ron McMaster." So which is it? I would think all involved in this release would want to boast about all the hard work put into the release. It seems lazy to have no credits other than "mastered by" without any specifics. Further more, this "deluxe" edition is on green vinyl, with the same 4 bonus tracks that were added to the 2004 CD release. Again, I am suspect of Friday Music. The record sounds really nice, almost too nice, like it was possibly pressed from the same digital master as the CD.

Personally, I am not impressed with colored vinyl, or reissuing a record that was never in a gatefold cover in a gatefold cover. I'd prefer a simple replica of the original with a few extra credits telling me why the hell this new version is worth owning. And again, the lack of information offered up on a Friday Music reissue, leaves me thinking most of the work went into the packaging.

Any thoughts on definitive versions of these two classics? Am I the only one bothered by the lack of information on Friday's reissues?

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Beach Boys- Pet Sounds

Stereo or mono? Stereo or mono? Stereo or mono?

I just looked to see what an original copy of "Pet Sounds" in mono was going for in decent condition. It's up $100. The stereo runs about $60. But here's the thing. I don't think the originals sound very good. I don't think the original U.S. issues of The Beatles catalog on Capitol sound very good either. I find the records to be very muddy. There are hundreds of pressings of "Pet Sounds" that been released since 1966 and at least a dozen have appeared on my turntable.

I had an original U.K. stereo that was my go to copy for years, Crisp, clean and full of life, but there was a small scratch in "Caroline, No" that clicked repeatedly and I couldn't handle it. A replacement would cost about $150.

But in 2006, a two record set was released for the 40th anniversary. It was a remastered, limited run on colored vinyl, numbered, with both stereo and mono mixes. The gatefold had alternate photos, as well as a sessionography of who played what on every song.

I love this copy! Both versions have gorgeous fidelity that blows away the original Capitol issues. This runs about $75. But the credits list the stereo version being digitally mastered. It doesn't say the same for the mono version, though it does boast "lacquer cut by Ron McMaster at Capitol Mastering."

Am I listening to the digital remaster that was used for the CD simply pressed onto vinyl? Is that cheating? I mean, what would be the point then, right? Just buy the CD for $8 and play that, right?

This has been an ongoing conversation regarding the resurgence of vinyl. Are we hearing now what we heard then, if most reissued records are not using original analog masters?

I'd love to see a discussion here. It won't change my mind about how bad the early versions of "Pet Sounds" sound versus this 2006 version that I cherish. Any thoughts on early Capitol pressings? Is it just my ears? I would love to hear what you think.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Todd Rundgren-A Wizard/A True Star

Todd has been a favorite artist of mine for years, but I can't say I have been thrilled with how his records have sounded. I have no complaints with his first three---"Runt," "The Ballad" and "Something/Anything?" It all starts to hurt with 1973's "A Wizard/A True Star," where 30 minutes of music is crammed onto each side. Still, it's not as bad as it could be.

In 2014, Friday Music released a 2 LP, 180g version, with remastering by Joe Reagoso. I have to say, I love the way this baby sounds. But a part of me is thinking, it is all psychological. And here's why-

Friday Music also released new "remastered" versions of "Runt," and "Todd," and "The Hermit Of Mink Hollow" and "TEPTAE." I hear absolutely no difference in sound. I've A/B-d these records over and over and I am not hearing any improvements or changes. At all. The listening experience was identical. So, is it that I am just hearing things because in love with the fact that "A Wizard/A True Star" is now spaced over 4 sides? Or is it that very fact that makes the record sound brighter and not the "remastering?"

I am not trying to pick a fight with Joe Reagoso or his beautiful product. All ears are different. But it's rare when a recording boasts remastering and there is absolutely no difference at all. And this is over a half dozen remastered records by an artist who I have collected and upgraded and repurchased time and again. Are my ears not compatible with Friday's reissues?

Any experience with Friday Music, their remastering and these Todd releases?

Let's hear about it.

Monday, January 29, 2018

King Crimson- Red

After Elvis Presley and The Who, I think Robert Fripp may run a close third when it comes to the relentless repackaging of product.  Since 2000 alone, "Red " has seen a number of re-releases from HDCDs to expanded boxed sets to paper sleeve CD replicas.

I bit, because I am a fan, and I bought the 2013 200g reissue of "Red," which has a sticker that reads, "The original stereo mix of the 1974 classic, newly cut from masters approved by Robert Fripp."

Wow! I mean, you can't get any better than that, right?

What a letdown, or at least it was, to my ears. Your mileage may vary.

I compared this version with the version that has been in my collection for years, a 1974 Monarch pressing. (You can find out which pressing you have by the numbers in deadwax.) What I found on the 2013 version was a lack of balls. "Red" is all about balls. The gnarly guitar, the thudding bass and Bill Bruford's frenetic but tight drumming are right in your face on the original issue, while the 2013 remaster sounds like it was just castrated. Certain records do not need to be cleaned up, which is what this version sounds like.

I've always wanted to hear an original U.K. pressing of this gem, but never had one in my hands. Any thoughts on the newly "approved" Fripp master? Is there a definitive "Red" that is recommended over the Monarch pressing?

Let's hear about it.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Elton John-Tumbleweed Connection

I'm not exaggerating when I say that Bob Ludwig's recent remaster of Elton John's "Tumbleweed Connection" might be one of the greatest slabs of vinyl I have ever heard. Right from the initial needledrop, I was floored by the breathtaking clarity and overall vibe and sound. I can't recall the last time I felt that way about a vinyl reissue. So I guess I would call this 2017 version, definitive, after comparing it to an original U.K., an original U.S., and a U.S reissue from 1973.

So then...why aren't the other Ludwig remasters of Elton's catalogue as breathtaking? Don't get me wrong, they are very good. But I was hoping to be just as impressed with "Madman Across The Water" as I was with "Tumbleweed," and I was not. The new "Madman" did not wow me,  but then I always thought the original "Madman" was a great sounding record. Maybe there wasn't as much room for improvement with that record. But I was also as unimpressed with "Rock Of The Westies" and "Blue Moves." Blaming the source seems too easy.

Even more confusing is "Captain Fantastic," which seems to have gotten the Ludwig treatment but only for a U.K. release and not a U.S. release, at least according to information found on Discogs. AND, unlike all the other Elton/Ludwig remasters, which state "Remastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering," "Captain Fantastic" says nothing of the sort on either pressing. So if you buy the U.S., are you are just getting packaging? And, if you buy the U.K., I guess you are taking it on faith that Ludwig did his thing. I did buy the U.K., and again, I found little to jump and shout about when comparing it to my original U.S..

There's a lot to address here. Any similar experiences with these reissues? As I said, I'm calling the 2017 "Tumbleweed" definitive. Any light to shed on the "Captain Fantastic" issues? What are your definitive pressings of Elton vinyl?

Let's hear about it.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Who- A Quick One

"The Who Sell Out" is my favorite record of all time. I have owned various copies over the years, before finally obtaining and settling on the original U.K. mono pressing on Track Records. I also own a 1974 U.K. stereo version on Polydor, that is coupled with a mono version of "A Quick One," and I own the 2015 stereo remaster purchased out of curiosity about the sound, and for the replica poster.

When I listen, I go to the original U.K. mono, which I think sounds superb. It's clean and bold and really keeps everything right where you need it. Unlike other records available in both stereo and mono, I don't prefer "Sell Out" in mono because of actual differences in each song, the way I prefer the mono "White Album," for example. I just play it more than the stereo because it's the original.

(The 2015 remaster sounds a little too antiseptic, and I hate the fact that they spent the extra bucks to replicate the rare poster, but had no issue slapping a Geffen logo on the cover. So, that never comes out to play. But I digress.)

I am very satisfied with my copies of "The Who Sell Out." But I am still feeling like a definitive copy of "A Quick One" is eluding me. Both the 1974 mono and the 1981 German Polydor pressing in stereo have solid fidelity, but as a whole, the stereo sounds like patchwork. It feels inconsistent and imperfect.  If I am not mistaken, "So Sad About Us" was only ever fake stereo, but I stand to be corrected on that, if anyone knows the truth. I should also mention that in 2005, Classic Records reissued "A Quick One" in mono as both a 150g edition and a 200g edition, and admittedly, this version sounded amazing. I thought it might be definitive. A clean and gorgeous mix, full of warmth and body, without sounding messed with. fate would have it, all three copies that passed through my hands were incompatible with my turntable. The records were all spotless, but all had a jump in the same place on "So Sad About Us." (Would love to know if anyone else has experienced that. Manufacturers defect? Or just my stylus.) Back to the drawing board.

So...any help on a definitive "A Quick One?" Do you prefer it in stereo or mono? Do you prefer the U.S. counterpart, "Happy Jack?" Do YOU hear different things from stereo to mono? If you had to own one copy of The Who's "A Quick One," which would it be?

Let's hear about it.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Welcome To Definitive Vinyl

I buy and sell vinyl. I once owned a record store, but I don't anymore. I still love what I do, so I have taken it to the internet and various online venues, as well as record shows and private sales to support my habits. This is my livelihood, but it is also my passion. I love music. I love vinyl.

I thought I knew a lot, but I am finding out, there is plenty more to find out. As a kid, I bought a record because I wanted the music. It rarely mattered if I had an original pressing, or if it was a stereo copy over a mono copy. All that mattered was how much it cost. If you love vinyl and still buy vinyl, you know, everything matters.

About 5 years ago. I purchased a collection of classic rock records. One particular record, the self-titled debut from Blue Oyster Cult, was in the collection and it was in very nice shape. Much nicer than the copy that was sitting on my shelf. I decided to upgrade and price my copy for sale. Back in "the day," I would have slapped a $3.99 sticker on it and have been done with it. But thanks to internet and vinyl databases and forums, I now need to look up which specific pressing I have, match matrix numbers and labels, and then decide if $3.99, $6.99, or $0.88 is the appropriate going rate for said pressing. That's all okay with me, except the copy of the BOC record I just put on my shelf as an upgrade, though identical in every way, shape and least I thought...sounded like crap. It was muddy. No high end at all. No snap to the snare. My original copy, with its scuff marks and "hairlines" sounded big, bright and better, even with some light crackling, here and there. It all came down to a couple of numbers in the deadwax.

If anyone has any original jazz records on Blue Note, you can confirm this. No matter how awful the record may look, as bad as if it was shuffleboarded over a gravel pavement, it still plays through with remarkable fidelity. And yet, all of this "new" vinyl that is being pressed, comes out of the wrapper with marks and defects. There is a lack of quality control now.

This is why I have created Definitive Vinyl. I want to discuss various pressings of essential records, cult classics, and newer reissues, so we can find exactly what we are looking for. Even if you are a casual collector, you know The Beatles stereo LPs differ from the mono LPs and the U.K. pressings differ from the U.S. pressings. I want to dig deeper, not just into the Fab Four, but into everyone.

Each post will focus on one particular record. And I'll be honest, I am counting on you to supply the information.  Like Deep Throat did for Bob Woodward, I will steer you in the right direction, but it is your information that will be the basis of the blog.

Stay tuned for the first record and please tell your friends about Definitive Vinyl.