Welcome to the first in a series of vinyl round-ups. Where we take an audiophile look at vinyl issues, looking at both content but also pressing and mastering quality. In this issue: Nattefrost, Shooter Jennings, Mudhoney, Marc Ford, Barry White and Chuck Jackson.
Creating his rhythmic, synth-based ambience, in the tradition of Edgar Froese, Klaus Schulze and Kraftwerk, Denmark’s NATTEFROST now releases album number 11, a live collection of European gigs including three tracks from the 2012 Awakenings Festival in the UK. Different Stages (*** Sireena), like most live recordings, lacks focus and precision in the overall sonic presentation but there is an impressive immediacy that flows from the tension of the live performance.
The live version of the album, The Other Life, SHOOTER JENNINGS’ The Other Live (*** BCR Nashville) features live cuts taken from the 2013 tour. The sonic qualities may be dimmed a tad by the blue coloured vinyl of this country rock album but this live gig is an ideal contrast to the Nattefrost LP, featuring aggressive vocals and drawling, country rock guitar that shows how this style of delivery almost transcends the otherwise restrictive sound qualities.
Our trio of live albums ends with grunge pioneers, MUDHONEY’s Live At Third Man Records (***** Third Man). Ten of the 18 tracks, from the 26 September 2013 gig, make it to vinyl that has been carefully recorded to avoid nasty shouty highs and ear splitting crescendos. Recorded direct to acetate without overdubs or editing, it was then cut to vinyl via a Scully lathe. This is a ‘big deal’ as Scully lathes feature no digital additions (other ‘analogue’ lathes do) which means that Third Man offers the sort of a true analogue system only offered by a handful of mastering studios in the world, Abbey Road being one of them. The result? The inherent clarity encouraged me to increase the volume of this album by a few notches which made the performance all the more encompassing, immersive and enjoyable.
Former Black Crowes lead guitarist, MARC FORD is backed by Phantom Limb on Holy Ghost (**** Naim), a paean to American roots music, it is a clean and intimate recording with a bass wallop. An admirably quiet pressing, it can be refreshingly honest and revelatory but does suffer from some cliché nuggets.
BARRY WHITE’s classic proto-disco, Can’t Get Enough (***** Audio Fidelity) from his prime, early 70s period. Featuring sophisticated arrangements, this new pressing is airy, with a tremendous dynamic flow that draws the ear into Barry’s bass-bin of a solar plexus. Bass is tight and punchy with drum strikes that are hard and uncompromising.
Finally, CHUCK JACKSON, offers soul-lite with 1961’s “I don’t want to cry!” (**** Sundazed), a worthy concept album featuring a stream of heartbreakers. Immediately noticeable is the separation between vocal and instruments. It provides a relaxing and effortless performance from all concerned with Jackson sounding at ease on the soundstage but retaining that vintage EQ sound.