Unbiased reviews of new vinyl releases, audiophile reissues, and more

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Reader's Request: Prince and the Revolution -- Purple Rain 180 gram vinyl

Purple Rain [180 Gram Vinyl]
Today's review is the first of what will be an ongoing feature of My Vinyl Review-- The Reader's Request, with the title to be determined through a reader's poll held the previous week.

A week ago, in anticipation of this release, I pulled out my original Bernie Grundman-mastered vinyl copy of Purple Rain and played it all the way through for the first time in over twenty years. What surprised me most was how this record is much more than an eighties time capsule, and despite some dated production values, has held up surprisingly well since its release twenty-five years ago. The other thing that really stood out was that despite living in the soul bins of nearly every music store, this is a rock record.

Warner/Rhino continues its reissue program by tackling this 1984 classic, with Kevin Gray once again behind the mastering console. The original release, mastered by Bernie Grundman, has the somewhat bright, if not cold sound typical of many eighties recordings. That observation aside, the sonics are generally excellent, with a good soundstage, centered vocals, and decent bass reproduction. By today's standards, however, one would have to point out that a listener could be prone to fatigue after extended listening.

The Warner/Rhino reissue, mastered by Kevin Gray, doesn't depart from the original in any significant way, but does make a few subtle changes. The vinyl is cut at an overall lower volume and the tone is slightly less bright--the result is that the listener can turn up the volume louder without experiencing the fatigue associated with the brighter mastering. The other difference that really stands out is a much more prominent kick drum on faster songs such as Baby, I'm a Star.

The reissue includes a repro of the printed inner sleeve and the 180 gram vinyl is housed in a plastic sleeve now used with all pressings in the Rhino series. Conspicuously absent is a poster of Prince and the Revolution that accompanied all first pressings.

Should you buy this reissue? It depends. Vinyl was still king when this record was originally released and sold in the millions, so there are still plenty of copies floating around in nice condition. I wouldn't say that this reissue is essential, given the excellent sound of the original. The reissue addresses the primary shortcoming of the original pressing, the brightness, without overdoing it so much as to change the character of the recording. To some listeners, that alone would justify picking it up.

Recommended, but not essential.


Theron said...

Tonight I spun a mint copy of Purple Rain (Bernie Grundman first pressing (w/poster) 1984 honestly have to say I am very disappointed with the original pressing. Bright, fatiguing, little bit sibilant, lack of instrument clarity. I hope the new Kevin Gray pressing eclipses the original. Don't get me wrong the material is amazing (long time Prince fan) but the original pressing is disappointing. Case in point afterwards I spun an original Parade LP and was blown away. Wow what a difference.

Theron said...

Sorry disregard my above critique... due to a worn out stylus on my AT120E/T. Tonight I replaced with my AT440mla and the magic was back in the BG version of Purple Rain...my bad...


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