Monday, March 7, 2011

Zounds, What Sounds!!!

Okay, the short version (and for god sakes, when you finally listen to this, play it on a system with decent speakers):

Last year, Andy Partridge of XTC did a high-end vinyl snob remaster of the band's 1986 Todd Rundgren-produced masterpiece Skylarking. Released on his own boutique label, the new version was spread over two 12-inch LPs and cut at 45 rpm, and I must confess at the time it came out I had pretty much zero interest. Despite being a huge fan of both band and album, and despite having toiled for my entire professional life at an audiophile/gear head rag (albeit a mass market one) I am as far from being an analog purist as you can get, and my reaction to the availability of the set can be pretty much summed up with the phrase "meh."

Until, that is, I chanced across a needle-drop transfer of "Earn Enough For Us," my favorite song from the record, and learned that all previous vinyl and CD versions of the album had, inexplicably, been issued with the polarity reversed or out of phase (or some such audiophile mumbo jumbo) and consequently featured a rather thin and pinched aural soundstage (a defect now corrected on the vinyl release). How this grievous oversight had escaped producer Rundgren's attention for all these years remains an open question, of course, but anyway that was the claim.

And here's the aforementioned needle-drop, by way of proof; cliche or not, it really feels like this is the first time I've actually heard the damn thing.

Al Kooper famously described the first Blues Project album as sounding like it had been pressed on one of those cardboard inserts you used to get when your shirts were drycleaned. Which kind of sums up the way my older copies of Skylarking now strike me.

I should also add, and for the record, that on the basis of the above it's pretty obvious that Colin Moulding is one of the greatest and most underrated bass players in fricking rock history.

[h/t Blank Frank]