Monday, 30 November 2015

Five Albums That Cry Out For A Vinyl Reissue

Five Albums That Cry Out For A Vinyl Reissue


Following on from my last blog entry, it’s clear that there are many other albums along with Pink Floyd’s Piper that would be a more than welcome addition to the turntable.

Here are just five:-


5 – The Pretty Things – S.F. Sorrow (Mono)

A concept album recorded at Abbey Road before anyone knew what a concept album was, those including the band members who are lucky enough to have heard both mixes prefer the mono version. The original Columbia pressing will set you back a cosy £400 plus, in 2000 Snapper Music pressed 5000 copies which occasionally trickle onto the market in the £30-£50 range. While I would never sell my soul for anything, the thought of getting a pressing of this up to the standard of the recent “Odessey & Oracle” would tempt me to rent it out at weekends. 

SF Sorrow & Parachute - in all there stereo glory


4 - Graham Gouldman – The Graham Gouldman Thing (Mono)

Graham Gouldman’s under the radar album, a fine gem of sixties pop from the writer of some of the greatest songs of the period. Originally released in the US on RCA, the stereo album has been re-issued on CD & Download, along with repro vinyl pressing that sounds like it is sourced from a digital master. Mono was very much over in the USA by 1968, so the mono version (LPM-3945) is a genuine rarity that very occasionally turns up on eBay (one was sold earlier this year for $60). Let us pray to the re-issue gods for a AAA mono release.

Pressed on a pig farm in Spain, sold at market for a handful of beans. 


 Madness – The Liberty Of Norton Folgate

Madness’ magnum opus did get a limited vinyl release in 2009, albeit with the track listing being shuffled around, presumably to fit the songs onto a single album. While I’m usually the first to moan about modern albums being on two slabs, this is one that should definitely be over two lp’s

Two great albums, one naff format.


2 – Kate Bush  Aerial

An album that did get a limited double album release back in 2005 but was snapped up very quickly, possibly by some very savvy sellers who can shift this album for anywhere around £150 a time. A high price indeed, especially if you end up with some of the distorted copies that are out there. This stunning album is just too good to be left on CD. 


1 – The Beatles – Abbey Road

Oh yes my pretties, if you think that the 2012 re-mastered vinyl is a worthy replacement for early pressings of this album then please find somewhere else to go, we don’t want your sort around here. This year’s AAA version of the Blue album gives you an idea just how good these tracks could sound if this album was given the same treatment as the 2014 mono box set. 

Abbey Road 2012 vinyl remaster - utter toilet.


There are many more albums that deserve a vinyl re-release, some that are rare and expensive, some that never had a vinyl release or that were pressed badly to start with. 

Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below.


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The Price Of Mono ~ The Zombies Odyssey & Oracle

The Price Of Mono – The Zombies Odyssey & Oracle


Several recent discussions with people about the price of late sixties mono pressings has prompted this blog entry, along with the welcome mono re- release of The Zombies classic, Odyssey & Oracle.

A proper mono mix starts at the recording stage, for instance using different microphones on each guitar amp will help differentiate them in the final mix. I’ve been reading about mono mixing at Abbey Road studios in the sixties. Studio 2 was fitted out with two Altec monitors for most of the decade but the mono mixes were made using  the right hand speaker only. Having just recently recorded some demos I decided to see if this made a difference and boy was it easier to get a clearer more defined balance through a single monitor. 

One of the albums in question was Cream’s second album Disraeli Gears, a first pressing will set you back £50-plus for a decent copy and has a dedicated mono mix, whilst their third album Wheels Of Fire has mainly fold down mixes on the mono version. A fold down is simply taking both the left and right channels and combining them into a single channel which can lead to some of the instrumentation being sonically buried. 

The Doors first two albums have dedicated mono mixes, however if you can track one down in decent condition it’s going to burn a hole in your paypal account, fortunately both of these have been subsequently re-issued and sound phenomenal. It’s not all good news on the re-issue front though, Jimi Hendrix’s debut Are You Experienced? Sony Legacy Mono  version uses what are clearly damaged master tapes, Red House and Fire in particular sound awful. The original Track records version will set you back £60-plus for a decent version, however you will be much better off with the superior French Barclay version, early pressings are £40-plus. I have an early seventies pressing which sounds excellent that can be had from £30-plus. 

David Bowie’s debut album is an excellent example of what happens when a flop is made by subsequent super star. The Dame’s brilliant debut LP has sold for over £900 on eBay in its mono format, luckily several years ago it was re-released as a double disc set and for the first time I heard the far superior mono version, like Sgt Pepper which was also released on the same day, you could hear which version had the effort spent on it. 

Another debut from 67 is Pink Floyd’s The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, someone on discogs has a mono copy for over £4000, please do NOT buy this. A still jaw aghast sum of two to three hundred pounds is required to get a decent copy of this, along with even the seventies stereo versions going for three figure sums, add in a glut of unofficial releases quite possibly sourced from CD means that this record is crying out for a vinyl re-issue in both Stereo & Mono

So the arrival of The Zombies Odyssey & Oracle in its Mono format is a welcome alternative to paying the £300-plus for an original pressing. Recorded at Abbey Road & Olympic it was only when the mono master was given to CBS that The Zombies were informed that a stereo mix was also required. By the time the stereo and fake stereo mix were completed (the horn parts on This Will Be Our Year had been recorded directly onto the Mono master tapes) the band had split. As opposed to the rather tinny digital stereo mixes, this version sounds incredible, warm and balanced this is THE version of one of my favourite albums.

This re-issue has been half-speed mastered at Abbey Road  and in my view the finest bit of LP re-issuing since The Beatles mono box set.

An absolutely essential purchase. 

Addendum - I've just re-read this and realised I've used the possibly correct spelling of Odyssey, although officially this record is called Odessey & Oracle. I'm not sure why this spelling was used but hey, you know what I mean...


Monday, 2 November 2015

The Who ~ Track Record Box Set

The Who – Track Singles Boxset

Part Three of the Who’s UK singles box sets (the final Polydor is due for release in May 2016) is the weightiest tome so far with fourteen singles and an EP, covering the Who’s single releases from 1967 to 1973. 

I’ve seen some fresh backlash on this latest set, the main ones being “The Who were an albums band”, something this box set fiercely contradicts and “I bought them all the first time around.” I certainly share the regular hollow feeling of yet another Who re-issue program, but the first two sets, Brunswick & Reaction, more than redeem themselves by way of sounding so much better than the original single pressings. However, due to some excellent sounding versions on Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy (MBBB) and The Rarities Albums one and two (R), this is going to be a tougher call. Using these aforementioned albums and the original 7” pressings it’s time so see if this 3rd half speed mastered at Abbey Road set is as essential a Who purchase as the first two sets.

Rarities 1 & 2, Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy

It comes neatly packaged with a booklet, with some informative and surprisingly fresh track notes written by Chris Charlesworth, who must have lost count of the amount of times he’s written about some of these songs. The reproduction of the singles is fairly accurate, most issued as they were with plain white bags, the two exceptions being Won’t Get Fooled Again & the Tommy EP that has their respective reproduction sleeves. The one thing they are all missing are their teeth, this is a serrated edge that goes around the outside of the label, intended for gripping with other singles when used on an automatic turntable, unfortunately pressing plants no longer offer this. They do have their cut outs which are fairly accurate, although many of the later singles were issued without these, often referred to as solid centres. 

Original with three prong cut out & teeth.

Pictures of Lily – Wow! A veil has been lifted. The bass and drums hit you with a force missing from the original & MBBBMuch more clarity and far better than any version I’ve ever listened to. The cut out on the original pressing was a three prong, as used by the Phillips plant it was pressed at. 

Doctor Doctor – Again the best version I’ve ever heard, the drums sound like Moon is in your room.


The Last Time – This is the only single I don’t have an original 7” copy of, sometimes incorrectly identified as coming in a picture sleeve (these are actually various European versions) this plain bagged re-issue lacks the vibrancy of the version on Rarities. 

Under My Thumb – This has turned up on CD several times with a work in progress mix, this is the original version which sounds fuller and superior to the one on Rarities.


I Can See For Miles – This is not the original UK mix version of the single. This is a huge disappointment as the original is so good as 7”mix, this one is based on the album version which is in itself a thoroughly fantastic mix and has been used on MBBB and every compilation since. Whether this is due to the original master not being available or just brain fade, it’s a major minus on this set.

Someone’s Coming  Like “Doctor Doctor”, Entwistle’s writing credit is spelled wrong again as per the original single pressings. This sounds much better than the original press and more rounded than the Rarities version. 


Dogs – Unlike the Stones, The Who never seemed to repeat themselves. This hilarious song with a stunning coda sounds so much warmer than the original but very similar to the excellent sounding one on Rarities. 

Call Me Lightning – Whilst this does sound superior to the original & Rarities versions, I have a US Decca single version that wipes the floor with all of them.


Magic Bus – Surprisingly similar to the original UK pressing, although the stereo longer version on MBBB sounds better. I call that one a tie.

Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde – The best sounding version of this song I’ve ever heard. Miles better than the ordinal single version and far more presence than the Rarities version. This is the original UK mix rather than the “work in progress” US one. 


Pinball Wizard – It’s easy to forget just how good this song is, the guitars and voices are stunning on this re-issue, be prepared to jump out of your seat when you hear the electric guitar come in. Much better than the original single. 

Dogs Part 2 – For whatever reason I’ve got a Pinball Wizard label on this B side. If it’s a one off then it’s a unique collector’s item. If they are all like it it’s an embarrassing shambles. Sonically it has more bass clarity and sounds better than any other version.


The Seeker – Better than the original with more clarity than the version on Rarities, slightly superior to the version on MBBB.

Here For More – Better than the original but the version on Rarities gets the winners rosette. 


Summertime Blues – This version is nowhere near as good as the original release. Another victim of the “Live At Leeds” noise reduction fiasco. 

Heaven & Hell – Whilst this has more clarity than the previous versions, there is a “boxy” quality to this that smells of the same noise reduction heavy handedness that plagued the aforementioned Live At Leeds.


See Me Feel Me 

Overture – Both sound so much better than the original withdrawn single and comparable to the versions on the recent Tommy LP re-issue. 


Tommy E.P.

Overture / Christmas

I’m Free / See Me, Feel Me Originally issued as a 33rpm EP,this runs at 45rpm contradictory to all the disc labels that are reproduced. Whilst I appreciate keeping the EP’s cover art intact, with Universal emblazed upon the disc labels the correct speed would have been useful, or even a note in the booklet.


As always with EP’s there is a compromise in sound but these are pretty good although short of the quality on the re-issue Tommy long player.


Won’t Get Fooled Again – Whilst the single edit will always live in the long dark shadow of its album version, this is a much underrated single version all resplendent with its picture sleeve; indeed it is the first UK Who single to have one. The repro sleeve is cardboard though, which has a tendency to bow outwards letting the dust in, the original had a thick paper sleeve that clung to the record. I also prefer the sound of the original single release; it has much more presence and dynamics over the re-issue.

Don’t Know Myself  Very similar to the original release. Another draw.


Let’s See Action – To all those who view the 70’s Who as an albums band, the following three single only releases (at the time) show the bands commitment to 45rpm. This re-issue has more clarity than the original and certainly sounds more zesty than the rarities version. 

When I Was A Boy – For a songwriter in his late twenties, this is a fine bit of worldly wise song writing from John, who despite still having his name spelt wrong in the credits is able to deliver this finely crafted lyric with a suitably yearning the years melody. This is the best sounding version I’ve ever heard.


Join Together – Better than the original but the Rarities version is by far the best one I’ve ever heard.

Baby Don’t Do It – Better than the original, very similar to Rarities, perhaps this re-issue beats it by a nose.


Relay – Often left out of compilations, this funky Who song sounds as good as I’ve ever heard it.

Waspman – Miles better than the orginal & Rarities.

5:15 - above re-issue - below original. 

5:15 – This is NOT the same mix as the orginal 7” UK release, however this mix does sound a lot better with Rogers vocal not buried deep down a well. In terms of label reproduction this is an interesting one. The orginal 1973 disc had a plastic injection label that would soon become the standard for the remainder of the seventies and eighties. By the nineties the last record plant that used this process closed and it is now not possible to make these types of label. This version uses a silver paper label with a cut out. 

Water – Time to close off this Track Marathon with one of my favourite Who B sides, I’m pleased to report that this is one of the best versions of the song I’ve heard.



So is this box set, like it’s forbearers an essential Who purchase?

I’m going to say it is essential, but only by the skin of its teeth. 

With a couple of exceptions these singles sound superior to the orginal 7” 45’s, these are clean copies of songs that for the most part are not included or differ from the vinyl LP versions. 

However, there are some silly lapses of quality control and a major selling point to Who fans – not including the orginal UK single mix of “I Can See For Miles” is a huge disappointment that could blow the deal for many.

These box sets were never intended for the casual or digital fan, they are however an essential part of The Who’s discography. If it seems a lot cash just to get hold of some B sides on vinyl you may be better trying to pick up clean / mint copies of The Who’s rarities albums. At around £20 for each one these are the best budget alternative.

Singles were a crucial part of the Who’s legacy, and without spending hundreds on mint singles that even then, wont sound as good as these (with the above noted exceptions) this box set’s value starts to make more sense. If you are serious about The Who on vinyl, despite its faults you will want and enjoy this great collection.