Blue

blueAndWhisky

The Preample:

If things seem a little different today, that’s because they are.  I had my buddies Pete & Steve over recently and Pete, being the scribe that he is, will be a guest blogger this post.  He decided on Joni Mitchell’s Blue.  We both own the recent Hoffman/Gray pressing and Pete’s had a boner the last few months for this one.  I don’t blame him, it’s pretty awesome.  He decided to not only write about the listening experience, but also to compare and contrast it to the SH/KG pressing which he plays on his vintage cool system back home (a very enjoyable setup by the way…I’ll have a post about it soon enough!)

Well, here is in his own words…Pete.

pete

What was I thinking?

Literally, I highly recommend whisky and listening to records at Rob’s place.  Though what I don’t recommend is: whisky, dog walking, and listening to records.  Especially should you want to be able to remember, in any type of precise detail, the night events – not to mention if you are to turn said experience into some sort of coherent post days later – otherwise – it’s a great experience on a great system.

So, without further ado, my first (and based on wildly different listening situations last week, probably my last) guest blog post:  “A Comparison of Blue (Fortunately, I Took Notes at Rob’s Place)”.

I equipped myself for the listen beforehand, playing my SH/KG remastering at home on my vintage Sansui setup with Tannoy speakers.  I listened to it several times the week before sober.  I listened to Rob’s NM original US pressing…well, inebriated.  This is my system test album, my go to, the one record that has to sound good for me to like a setup.  It’s a fantastic listen, one of my favourites, and I really looked forward to a listening to this with Rob’s setup.  I gave this several listens in the days leading up to Thursday last week in preparation and anticipation of the original pressing on Rob’s system.

The Record:

A beautiful NM record housed in a VG+ jacket and includes the original blue inner sleeve.  This was purchased a few months ago from the Hoffman classifieds.  It’s gatefolded, and it’s barely ever been opened…I can barely open it 70% of the way without potentially cracking the inner spine.  It’s basically an archive copy…I don’t plan to rid myself of the SH/KG copy, so I guess I’ll keep both.  Except for the lyrics and a paragraph of credits in the gatefold, it’s a pretty spartan package.  It kinda radiates the same sad gloomy feeling that I find the record delivers.

Artist: Joni Mitchell

Title: Blue

Label: Reprise Records

Year: 1972

Catalog: MS 2038

Country: USA

Notes: Gatefold with original blue inner sleeve.

Matrix:

Side 1 – MS-2038 31218(RE-2)-2 BG

Side 2 – MS-2038 31219(RE-2)-2 BG

Mastering: Bernie Grundman

Pressing Plant: Terre Haute

Discogs: http://www.discogs.com/release/4203857

The Accompaniment:

Pete’s brother Steve also joined the music session tonight.  Popped open (and almost finished) a bottle of Alberta Premium Dark Horse.  45% dark goodness for under 28 bucks at the LCBO.  Tastes the part and more, like a darker whiskey I guess.  Flavorful enough to drink neat and I bet it tastes great mixed.  Will have to try that shit this summer.  Steve drank tall cans of beer.

steve

The Listen:

So after a few warm-up albums, several whiskies (combined with taking Daisy for a walk), my recollections of the payoff listen (inebriated notes in parenthesis):

All I Want: Noticeably improved dynamic range in her voice – wow – subtle notes – can hear her fingers making chord changes on the frets!  Subtleties of her vocal range especially in the high range more noticeable. Picking at the end is very detailed than I remember.

My Old Man: Piano parts noticeably clearer – her voice has depth and range not as evident as the reissue.  Awesome fidelity in general – adds to the haunting bluesy nature of the song.

Little Green: Opening guitar part has a very detailed feel; song builds to a crescendo gradually with an enjoyable sonic plateau in the chorus.  You can really hear the power in her voice (belies the emotional nature of this song as it’s a song about giving up her daughter).

Carey: Opening chords are very detailed and percussive playing on the guitar body adds a very nice texture I hadn’t notice before.  Catchy hook in the chorus sounds very fresh and warm with the bass line (a mean old daddy for sure).

Blue: Plaintive vocal, adds a very nice texture – melodic parts manage quiet, powerful, yet haunting feel – piano in the mix is very complimentary and has a beautiful character for a sad song.

California: Second guitar part more noticeable – high notes are very clear and crisp – slid guitar adds a distinct country feel that I hadn’t noticed before – especially in the quieter parts.

This Flight Tonight: Easily my favorite track and my system test go to track – easily notice low guitar notes in opening – powerful ‘star bright’ vocals sound fantastic – excellent listen.

River: Haunting opening piano – really enjoy the dynamics of her voice – beautiful sonics on this song – unfortunate noise in quietest parts – but fantastic sustain on her voice in the chorus both high and low.

A Case of You: Hearing her fingering on the opening guitar part!  Oh Canada! – I could replay this song over and over – wonderful sustain on high and low vocal parts – never a hint of a clip I look for here as a system test.

The Last Time I Saw Richard: Noticeable depth/sustain on the low notes on the piano – high melodic piano parts are beautifully clear (a really beautiful, pretty lie).

This record is predominantly a whisper quiet for a 40+ year old record – with very noticeable increased texture and depth – I really noticed a consistent theme of crescendo and diminuendo throughout that I hadn’t detected before – excellent listen in general.

The Postamble:

It’s fun listening to rekkids with Pete.  I go to shows and hit the vinyl shops with Pete often.  We talk music a lot, so it was fun having him to this and he’s a better speller than me and uses long words and he’s Uncle Pete when he comes over.  I think we’re both in agreement that this pressing beats the SH/KG mastering, although I highly recommend the later.  There’s just some magic sparkle in these older records!

listening

The Fine Print:

This was not a review of the aforementioned vinyl LP or alcoholic drink, but a personal reflection on my experience of listening and imbibing.  Such factors such as vinyl condition, pressing, intoxication, room size, rig, stylus wear and mastering may result in a different listening experience.

Weezer

LP and brandy

The Preample:

I loved this CD back in the day.  I was in school during frugal CD buying days.  What CDs I grabbed were usually used or stolen and a new purchase was very rare.  This was one of them.  That fall and winter it was common to listen to it sandwiched between Pavement and Lee Perry.  It was a fresh cool sound which you either liked or pretended not to like.  It was affably poppy sing along hooks that had a Much Music synergy thanks to some great videos.  Man, did the jocks ever love it too…

I probably haven’t given this album a listen in a decade, maybe a decade and a half.  I noticed that MoFi, a reissue label I own several LPs from and respect highly, was going to remaster  the Weezer catalog with the full half mastered ultra-analog mastering chain.  Well, unlike the three Pixie’s MoFi reissues which I bought all three, I always considered Weezer a one album band and figured I’d grab me a copy of the self-titled…I mean, all the record stores in town had hundreds of them.  “I’ll grab them one day”…went to “holy shit, they only have two copies left”… to “fack, they have every other Weezer mofi but…”.  That was it, six months later and it couldn’t be found at three local stores.  Shite.

Although I was keenly aware it was still in print…Amazon promised 4-6 weeks delivery…ordering from MoFi or the US sites throws a shit load of shipping your way so I was determined to find it in store.  I hit all the usual suspects downtown and finally found it at my fourth and last stop.  And there you have, another album I’ve bought more than once.

The Record:

It’s a MoFi, so as expected minty all round.  Thick stock cardboard and a slab of vinyl built like a RTI tank.  Individually numbered, I have no clue on volume.  The gatefold states “Any sonic artifacts present are a product of the original master tape.  Attempts to eliminate them would have negatively impacted the integrity of the presentation.”  Cool, original masters.

Interestingly, this MoFi LP came with a non-branded inner…hmmmmm

Artist: Weezer

Title: Weezer

Label: Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab

Year: 2012 (originally released 1994)

Catalog: MFSL 1-390

Country: USA

Notes: gatefold, numbered 003338

Matrix:

Side 1 – MFSL1-390 A3 KW @ MoFi 20551.1(3)        [with a few characters crossed out between “A3”]

Side 2 – MFSL1-390 B2 KW @ MoFi 20520.2(3)

Barcode – 821797139014

Mastering: Krieg Wunderlich @ Mobile Fidelity Sound lab using “the” GAIN 2 Ultra Analog mastering chain.

Pressing Plant: Record Technology Incorporated

Discogs: http://www.discogs.com/release/3923945

The Accompaniment:

No distilled grain spirits tonight.  I opted for a cup of my dwindling Courvoisier cognac.  This shit is liquid warmth.  I mean, that first sip was THE SHIT!  This VSOP is a fine drink, super smooth with a taste that lingers for minutes after.  It’s hard to believe that there can actually be a finer brandy…hopefully one day someone will find it in their good will to gift me a bottle of XO.

The Listen:

After I finish walking the dog, I decided to move the speakers in considerably tonight, about 2 ½ feet.  Without trying too hard to find the migrated “sweet spot”, I drop the needle and My Name Is Jonah opens with guitars and vocals, both presented very nicely.  The cymbals provide a nice shimmer and the guitars have crunch.  The multi-vocals transition nicely into power guitars with great build, electric with fat analog sustain.  The closing guitar pluck lasts forever.  No One Else is another great tune with lots more vocals and guitars, again mixed & mastered perfectly.  I turn it up a ball hair.  Great fucking tune!

I notice that the drums are way back in the mix…I guess this “is” a guitar album, but then The World Has Turned And Left Me Here opens and that changes.  The skins are moved up few row or two and categorically sound great, not just shimmering cymbals.  I’m loving what Herr Wunderlich has done so far and must remember to look up what other work he’s done.  And so far I don’t notice any “tape artifacts”.  Near the end of the tune the wife gives me shit for not changing the laundry.  Oh well.  Gawd this brandy tastes great.

Seven hells…she burned the opening 20 seconds of a 160 second song, Buddy Holly.  Thanks.  The chorus for BH is just killing it…everything going on sounds great and crystal clear.  I plan on blasting the shit out of this tune tomorrow when I’m alone.  Bet on it.

“Hey Bob!  How we doin man?”

“This place is so rad”

“I’m so stoned.  Take it easy bro!”

Amazing just about sums up Undone (The Sweater Song) and this side.  Amazing Side A which ends in warm, enveloping reverb.  Since the wife said nothing about the volume I turn it up 3 notches.

Surf Wax America opens Side B with nice bass presence segueing into guitars and a great sounding drum kick.  Very very nice, the bass sounds amazing when the track breaks into slowness near the end.  So far the album’s been an upbeat, guitar driven album.  Say It Aint’ So is the first song with a slower pace, with the drum and bass interlude mixed amazing, but I can’t wait for the guitars to interrupt the ditty.  There it is.  The phone immediately rings and I’m in shit…something about other people trying to sleep in this house.  I reluctantly turn it down.  I guess this song isn’t as quiet as I thought it was.  SIAS is a righteous tune.

In the Garage opens with the harmonica returning from the first tune, along with the D&D references.  If memory serves me correctly, a 12 sided die is damage for a long sword?  I’ll have to look it up.  There’s a nice low frequency growl mixed at the back and my least favorite tune still songs great.  Holiday’s another great tune and I can’t resist giving the speakers more electrons.  The sustain on the guitars on this one is simply great.  Only In Dreams opens with an agreeable bass riff frolicking with the cymbals again.  Once again all the instruments are given proper space and everything sounds great.  All 8 minutes of the song sound great, but none as great after I move around and finally find the sweet spot.  HOLY SHIT!  The bass just jumped out and everything snapped into focus.  I’ll definitely have to experiment with moving shit around more.

The Postamble:

Very simply, this was a great listen.  I loved this CD back in the day and I’m going to love spinning this LP past my expiration date.  There was great sound staging, mix and mastering…and pressing thanks to RTI!  A home run.  The music was equally decent with a dose of nostalgia.  I think it’s proper i close the night with a little Pavement and Lee Perry.

And the cognac is just about done.  Fack.

Oh yeah…besides the different speaker placement, I also dampened my Michell motor using a bit of paper between the motor and stand.  Works very nicely and removed some noise that I previously thought was a defective motor.  Thank you 3M!!!

dampening

The Fine Print:

This was not a review of the aforementioned vinyl LP or alcoholic drink, but a personal reflection on my experience of listening and imbibing.  Such factors such as vinyl condition, pressing, intoxication, room size, rig, stylus wear and mastering may result in a different listening experience.

2112

vinylAndScotch

The Preample:

2112.  Never heard it.  Rush is a band that never interested during my music listening life.  You’re keenly aware of them as a Canadian kid growing up whether it’s the older kids that wear Rush shirts every day and smelling like uncle Vic, or the video for Subdivisions which is the only video I can recall of theirs during the Much Music video 80s.  Even so, you can’t help but have good ol’ NHL feelings about them and their success in the US, Europe & Japan and they’re the only time I ever cared about a band getting into the hall.

In the last 2 years I’ve fallen hard for their shit.  Owning several of their LPs and having most all of them in heavy rotation, it was only a matter of time before I found me a copy of 2112 and Caress Of Steel.  Lo and behold both of them were waiting for me at Pandemonium Records this past Good Friday in very nice VG+/NM shape.  Following Pete’s advice I went with 2112.  He says he likes CoS best but 2112 is their Magnus Opus according to him.  I figured, this is also their most famous t-shirt, I’ll go for it.  So CoS sits at Pandemonium awaiting my yearly visit unless one of you good readers snaps it up first!

The Record:

The record’s a beauty.  Little to no wear anywhere on the jacket except lite fading on the spine and the LP itself is a strong VG++ bordering on NM.  Lots of shine too.  I made the mandatory check and found Gilbert Kong’s initials along with the MASTERDISK stamp.  This is the one!  At 18 bucks it was a no brainer.  I left the store thinking I had an original pressing but Discogs proved otherwise.  It’s a second press, but with the original stampers from what I can see (i.e. crossed out matrices, etc).

Artist: Rush

Title: 2112

Label: Anthem Records

Year: 1977 pressing (originally pressed in 1976 on Mercury Records).

Catalog: ANR-1-1004

Country: Canada

Notes: gatefold

Matrix:

Side 1 – S̶R̶M̶-̶1̶-̶1̶0̶7̶9̶ ̶A̶-̶C̶A̶N̶-̶1̶ ANR-1-1004 MASTERDISK G.K.

Side 2 – S̶R̶M̶-̶1̶-̶1̶0̶1̶9̶ ̶B̶-̶C̶A̶N̶3̶ ANR-1-1004-B MASTERDISK G.K.

Mastering: Gilbert Kong @ Masterdisk

Pressing Plant: Not entirely sure but my guess is the old Capitol Records plant in Mississauga.

Discogs: http://www.discogs.com/release/3486690

The Accompaniment:

Finished off a bottle of Glenfiddich 18 year old which I received from a co-worker for Christmas along with a few Lindt chocolate bunnies during the listen.  The Glenfiddich is a fairly dark whiskey, very similar actually to the color of the bottle.  For an 18 year I was expecting more.  The taste, although easy drinking and pleasant enough, comes across as average.  Tis smooth with very little harshness, but nothing that would keep you coming back for more.  That said, there’s definitely a synergy between this whiskey and milk chocolate! I found that the two go great together a week ago when chilling with the wife, and enjoyed the combination once again.

The Listen:

As I mentioned earlier, I’m totally digging Rush these days with Permanent Waves, A Farewell To Kings & Moving Pictures being my favorite of their LPs.  I also enjoy Fly By Night more and more with every listen.  Yup, I’m looking forward to this listen…I take the dog out for a pee, drop the needle and sit back glossing over the LP jacket as the ride begins.  There’s a printed circuit board pic on the inside gatefold.  Cool.  Side 1 opens with a bit of knob twisting (?) sci-fi-ish ambience that segues into some interesting guitar and drum work.  I glance over the lyrics which is interspersed with quotes which I’m guessing is attributed to Ayn Rand (since the band gives him props).  A quick google not only confirms it’s a woman (I figured a man) but that Ayn’s a novelist (she wrote Atlas Shrugged!  Who knew???)

Phone rings and I’m asked to turn it down.  Fuck, that wasn’t long!  I want to turn it back up but so is life in a small bungalow.  At this point I have no idea what song we’re on.  Apparently the whole side is “2112” broken down into seven acts.  There’s a time signature change which I’m thinking may be a new act…the instrumentation are definitely interesting but I wonder what Geddy will sound like on this record!  Cannons!  And something about the meek.  OK, that had to be the end of Act I.  As the next song, Act II (The Templs of Syrinx), heats up I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it before.  Yup, I definitely did and it’s a pretty good tune.  Act III (Discovery) has some kind of babbling water sounds and cool solo guitar work which I also like.  There’s a nice build up after the first verse and some great sounding guitar work…I wish I could blast it.

I’m pretty sure we’re on a new Act by now and I turn the volume up a notch with immediately makes Peart sound better.  If I were to guess, I’d say I’m on Act V (Oracle: The Dream) and I think I may know this tune also.  Regardless, it’s a good song with great sonics finally starting to emerge during some kind of triple solo that’s going on.  OTD finishes and it’s definitely an interesting song.  Act VI (Soliloquy) also sounds great but not really a fan…some heavy guitar solo action in this one.  I think we’re entering Act VII (Grand Finale) and I really like the song’s energy.  The whole side’s apparently written by Peart.  Well done dude.  We Have Assumed Control.  I have to be honest…if Side 1 is a “story” I have no idea what it is.  I may sit down later with the lyrics.

Oh yeah!  Side 1 played absolutely dead silent.  Sweet!

Side 2 opens very differently to the flip-side  and I also detect a bit of surface noise for about 5 seconds but nothing major.  A Passage to Bangkok is not a bad opener but not really digging it, and I thinks the song is about pot!  LOL…I never knew any Rush fans to be pot heads hehe.  A bit more surface noise leading into The Twilight Zone before settling down but I still detect it bubbling beneath.  Damn, it keeps popping in and out throughout the song, plus not really loving TTZ has me waiting for the next tune.

Lessons opens with a guitar riff that buries the surface noise finally.  The song’s killer and it’s a tune I’ve heard many times before.  Besides the thunderous guitar and drum work on the album so far, Geddy’s also been absolutely wailing most songs.  Lessons is my favorite song on the LP thus far…righteous tune!  More guitar work as the song ends, solidifying Lifeson’s ownership of the song.  Tears starts up and so does the dreaded surface noise.  At least it stayed free (i.e. buried) in Lessons.  It’s now official, Inner Groove DamageTears is OK at best and Something For Nothing doesn’t do me any better.  As it ends I find myself thinking it’s actually not that bad and reasonably enjoyed it.

The music and surface noise ends.

The Postamble:

Sigh…a whole side of IGD.  You never know what you get until you play the record.  Visually the record looked great…side 1 played silent but side 2 was riddled with IGD.  And I have to admit I didn’t love the record.  Maybe I have to listen to it a few more times or maybe I was too focused on the IGD come the second side.  There were a few tunes I definitely dug and I will give the LP another chance or two but with always knowing there is noise waiting for me on side 2.  The Glenfiddich is also kaput.  Polished it off with the rest of the bunnies.  Not a bad whiskey, but at its price point there are literally dozens of better choices.

snow man

The Fine Print:

This was not a review of the aforementioned vinyl LP or alcoholic drink, but a personal reflection on my experience of listening and imbibing.  Such factors such as vinyl condition, pressing, intoxication, room size, rig, stylus wear and mastering may result in a different listening experience.