The cranberries – Everyone else is doing it, so why can’t we?

Around 1993 vinyl sales had reached their nadir. Sales had plummeted as cassettes and now CDs had surpassed in sales and seemingly noone was buying records anymore. Apart from DJs and some weird class of being called an audiophile.

Island recognised all of the above. In what looks like a cost cutting measure they released their albums in a generic packaging. For the fun of it they decided to title this ‘brand’ Audiophile Limited Vinyl Edition. I have this album, Jah Wobble’s ‘Take me to God’ and the soundtrack to ‘Young Americans’ in this series. In each of these records they very generously throw in a copy of the CD booklet. (Incidentally if you have other titles, let us know.)

At the time, I remember being impressed by the words, not the packaging and strangely not the sound quality/pressing. Recently I decided to try this record out again. I was wrong. very wrong.

This record is a complete delight to listen to.

The music was, of course, absolutely massive on both sides of the atlantic. This was largely due to the fact that MTV(in the days when it played music) picked up Linger as a heavy rotation song.

Linger is great but not the best song on the album. The whole album is fairly standard melodic indie guitar music but is elevated by the gorgeous melodies and the angelic voice of Dolores O’Riordain. And this is of course before they turned into a horrendous grungey band with terrible haircuts.

Everything about this record and the sound of it is bliss. The soft brushed percussion, the chiming guitars and the softest sweetest voice with that gorgeous Irish accent.

Linger is a beautiful slow ballad, but my other favourite tracks are the faster Dreams and Wanted.

If you can find this on vinyl I think its a wise purchase. Its not challenging or groundbreaking but its an album you’ll listen to again and again. It may not be that difficult either. For while it was initially numbered, the immense popularity meant that Island continued to release it in unnumbered packaging.

Oh and my number is 1280 🙂

PIL – Metal Box

What do you do after you’ve been in the seminal punk band and have been in the headlines of every newspaper and magazine in the land. You do pretty much whatever the hell you want.

Johnny Lydon formed the post punk Public Image Limited and released this, their second an best album in 1979. Its a sonic collision of noise, screaming guitars, Johnny’s tesnsion filled wailing and Jah Wobble’s deep deep bass.

There’s a paradoxical mix of cold electronic synthenisers and organic emotional violin.Lydon’s lyrics are strangely touching and depressing. Perhaps in a way, this was a precursor to the equally bleak OK Computer by Radiohead.

Its a crazy no hold barred assault on our ears and yet emminently danceable. Renowned for its sound fidelity 4MWB promise to improve the sound on this recent rerelease.

Well against my better judgement I picked up a copy of the new 4 Men With Beards pressing of Metal Box (since they had it at a local Coconuts that carries vinyl for $30.99).

I played the new vinyl version today and also did a detailed comparison of sides 1 and 2 with the original vinyl version which I own.

1) “Remasterd for better sound than the 1979 version”. Yeah right. Not by a mile. The original version had a very analog, smooth sound… with downright earthshaking bass (which we all know about) and a nice smooth high end. The new version sounded to me like it was mastered from a digital source. Yes there was nice low bass, but it was not as low or smooth as the original. The high end was a tad bright (in comparison) with a very “digital” quality to the sound. Both, as you might already know, were cut at 45rpm.

2) “Swan Lake”, the last song on side 2, which on the original vinyl had a locked groove, which would repeat over and over until you lifted the stylus from the record. Well the new version does not have the locked groove – instead it sounds like it is going to go into a repeat loop, but then the song just fades out before going into the runoff groove of side 2 on the new version. Not good (and also why I believe it was mastered from the digital masters made for the compact disc release).

3) On an extremely positive note the new vinyl version was very quiet, and all six sides were flat as a board (no warps). Then again, my original vinyl version is very quiet and flat.

4) I did notice that due to whatever EQ choices and/or master they used to create the new vinyl version, there was a bit more “clarity” that allowed a few things I never remember hearing, buried deep in the mix, to be audible. Yet, that did not make the new version any more “listenable” than the old vinyl version. The old vinyl version was much perferred by my ears over the new version.

Anyone planning on getting the new Metal Box vinyl if you already have the old Metal Box vinyl can think again (unless you want to be like me and go ahead and do so anyway).

I have no regrets about purchasing the new vinyl version (which I understand thay pressed up 5000 copies of), as it does sound good – yet the 1979 vinyl version just sounds that much better.

NB : We are not aware if a digital or analogue master was used. If anyone is aware perhaps theycould contact us.

Mylo & Miami Sound Machine – Doctor Pressure

The biggest dance track of 2004 was Drop the pressure, an electronic monster from some bloke who callsed Mylo. Any nightclub, trendy or not, dropped this track st some point(or more than once) and as the momentum builds in the track the club would go ballistic.

It is magnificent and there’s no way that Mylo bloke could follow it. A year later though, presumable after hearing some dodgy DJ splicing the two tracks, he released Doctor pressure. A mix of Drop the pressure with MSM’s Doctor beat and remarkable it works. Not only does it have the magnificence of the original but now it gives you some vocals to hang onto. Now anyone from your nephew to your aunt can dance to this track. A sure bet for weddings!

And they don’t skimp on quality. As well as the splice mentioned above you get the original club mix which is probably still that much cooler. On Side B you get two mixes, the Rex the Dog mix and the Stantown Warriors mix. Rex, for me, just tends to get in the way of a classic mix. The stanton warriors, whoever they are, tend to be more subtle but again don’t overtake the original.

As they say for DJ,s this record is a LOUD pressing.

Rodrigo y Gabriela – Stairway to Heaven Remixes

Rodrigo y Gabriela are a Mexican couple who landed in Ireland some years ago and wooed us with their exciting blend of metal riffs and flamenco all played on their two acoustic guitars. They manage to extract an awful lot of riveting music from just these two instruments, through the strings the bodywork and the interplay between each other.

They are perpetual sellouts in venues across Ireland and ar enow beginning to make it on the international scene.

They have recently released their second all instrumental album proper and on it they cover Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to heaven. For my money, though many disagree, it is the weakest track on the album. A slow mood breaker amongst the fast paced originals on a brilliant album.

The 12″ is however a different story. The singles from this album, unlike the album itself have all been released on vinyl. 7″s and for this release we also get a 12″ with a different mix on either side.

Side A gives us a Mint Royale mix which is a four to the floor crowd pleaser guaranteed to have your dancefloor heaving. Its a beautiful sounding piece and is wonderful to dance to.

Side AA has the Chris Coco mix which is a trancier affair and possibly more suited to those trendy cafe bars who play a lot of Brazilian jazz and the like. Me? I’d quite happily dance to this one too.

Neither remix leaves an awful lot of the original but that should not distract from their own quality.

No matter what release of Rodrigo y Gabriela you pick up I seriously doubt you could be disappointed. But this record, just because it is a single, will probably undeservedly go unheard by many.

Its a very high quality vinyl release. Pressing is excellent and the (presumably) digital recording is also impressive.

Maria Callas – French Operatic Arias

Maria Callas was probably the most famous operatic singer of the last century. As much for her personal life as much as for her musical talent. But what a voice! And she was wildly beautiful.

I am not a huge fan of complete operas, whcih tend to be dramatically varied and sometimes difficult to listen to. If you can even maintain your attention for the two, three or even more hours length, I enjoy attending them but would never settle in to listen to a complete recordings.

This style of record then is ideal for me, a quick run through the most memorable and enjoyable parts of different operas. Interesting because the great operas are normally in Italian and German. For this record Callas sings completely in French.

What’s on the menu? Excerpts from the following, Gluck’s Orphee and Eurydice, his Alceste, Bizet’s magnificent Carmen, Samson and Delilah by Saint Saens. Side two throws up Romeo et Juliette by Gounod, Mignon by Barbier and Cerre, Le Cid by Massenet, and Charpentier’s Louise.

My favourites here, and the best known to me, are the Carmen excerpts. Its a vibrant exciting tory full of passion and fire and the music represents this wholly.(Isn’t that the point of opera?)

Valse – Je veux vivre from Romeo Juliette is a playful piece and Maria makes full use of the range allowed her in perfect style. The famous cliche of an opera singer cracking glass is apt here.

Le Cid brings us the story of a Spanish lady who’s father is slain by Le(El) Cid and despite loving him feels the need to ask the king for Le Cid’s life. This is a nice ominous change from teh rest of the proceedings. Louise sings to us at the end recalling the first blossoming of true love which leaves us with a hopelessly romantic last taste of the record.

Plain sleeve with a less severe, very pretty Callas on the front. Good protective inner sleeve. The usual excellent liner notes, for a classical release, on the back sleeve, and nicely, an inserted leaflet with the lyrics of all the arias, in French and English with explanatory notes for same.

I do have the feeling with some of these older recordings(although not with all) that if they were recorded more recently the music, and usually vocals, would be somewhat more distinct. Pressing however is exemplary.

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

My Bloody Valentine started life off in London as a slightly fey indie band typically associated with the London indie scene at the time, NME etc.

In 1988 they released ‘Isn’t anything’ on creation Records. This was a huge step forward into noise rock and the scene which was later to become known as shoegazing. For many this is still their best album.

For the next three years, Kevin Shields, Colm O’Coisig and the rest of the band holed up in a studio and produced and engineered what was to become the masterpiece, not just of MBV, but of the era.

Loveless is like nothing else you have ever heard. The record cover, a pink haze which might depict the fender of a guitar suggests at what is within. A common tale at the time was that when people first put it on they thought their record player was broken.

A testament not so much to the playing on the guitar as to the production that followed, Loveless contains brilliant tunes shrouded in guitar feedback, overdubs, reverb and, well, noise.

Belinda Butcher, and apparently a speeded up Kevin Shields, provide glimmering translucent vocals amongst this dreamlike cacophony. The voices were to be used more like an instrument than voices in their own right. They are part of the whole and not the primary focus. The lyrics themselves are indecipherable but apparently a lot of the songs are about making love.

Much of the album follows this pattern, ‘Only shallow’ and ‘To here knows when’ being some highlights. Right at the end of the record when you think it couldn’t get any better ‘Soon’ appears and introduces a lolloping dance beat which sets dance floors alight.

Loveless truly is in a class of its own.

Loveless is such a mind melding blend of sonics that it is difficult to criticise the actual sound quality of it. I had a Creation pressing. When I bought the recent Plain recordings issue, I did discover that it was clearer and somewhet more distinct. Its on excellent quality vinyl and in a nice gatefold sleeve. Plain are from the Runt distribution group of labels, the same group who bring you 4 men with beards.

If you see it, buy it!