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.
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.
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
Label: Reprise Records
Catalog: MS 2038
Notes: Gatefold with original blue inner sleeve.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.