Unbiased reviews of new vinyl releases, audiophile reissues, and more
Monday, July 6, 2009
Wilco is back with Wilco (The Album), their seventh studio album and follow up to their 2007 release, Sky Blue Sky. Nonesuch simultaneously issued the cd and vinyl/cd combo packages, allowing vinyl fans wanting the album right away to be able to get it without having to "double dip," as often happens with new releases. As usual, this review will concentrate on the vinyl release and will compare the sound quality of the vinyl and cd versions.
The single 180 gram vinyl was pressed at the Pallas plant in Germany and arrived perfectly clean, flat, and played with nary a pop or tick. Pallas continues to be a standard bearer for the production of super-premium quality vinyl pressings and is only rivaled by the best pressing plants in Japan. The gatefold cover is made of heavy card stock and comes with a printed color sleeve. The vinyl itself is housed in an audiophile quality poly-lined inner sleeve.
Listening to Wilco (The Album) quickly reminds you why so many of the band's following was born in the two decades before 1980. This country-tinged rock album takes you on a 40-minute journey evoking popular artists of the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties, with more than a few guitar licks, drum fills, and vocal nods to the Fab Four. Part of the fun of listening to this album is hearing and recognizing these references, so I'll only mention a few.
You and I, a duet between band leader Jeff Tweedy and his new muse, Feist, immediately jumps out as one of the most memorable songs on the record. This perfectly crafted, sweet, mid-tempo duet has just enough of an edge to keep it from ever sounding saccharine--and is more Sunday Morning from The Velvet Underground than Rainy Days and Mondays from The Carpenters.
The album's first single, the uptempo, You Never Know, starts with a riff that strongly recalls Tom Petty's Eighties hit, Jammin Me, before turning into a full-fledged ode to George Harrison.
Wilco with Feist, right
Included with the single 180 gram vinyl disc is a compact disc of the entire album mastered by Robert Ludwig, complete with a printed slipcase. While I applaud Wilco and Nonesuch for including a cd, and it is very convenient for use in the car or for ripping to an Ipod, its sonics pale in comparison to those on the vinyl.
The vinyl was mastered by veteran engineer Bernie Grundman and has a wide dynamic range, deep extended bass, nice liquid midrange, and silky-smooth highs. Most of the album, but in particular the acoustic numbers, have a palpable ambiance and truly wonderful sonics.
The difference in sonics between the cd and vinyl is not subtle. Often, much of the difference in sound between the cd and vinyl of a given record can be system dependent. Here, the differences are so great, I am convinced they are due in large part to the different masterings.
Compared to the vinyl, the cd is appreciably louder and sounds compressed, with less extension of both the top and bottom ends. The vocals exhibit more character on the vinyl and the acoustic guitars exhibit a nice bloom in the lower-mids that simply can't be heard on the cd.
This vinyl release is extremely well-mastered, beautifully pressed, and is very nicely packaged. And, with a list price of $21.98, it is reasonably priced--if only all new vinyl was done this well. If you are a fan of the band and have a servicable vinyl rig, you owe it to yourself to hear this record on vinyl.
Win the Vinyl/cd combo of Wilco (The Album) !
There are more than a few nods to other artists that can be heard throughout this record. I'll fight, for example, strongly evokes an early Beatles song. In the Comments section following this post, state which song you believe was its inspiration--or state any other references you hear on the record. If you can't think of any, simply share your thoughts about the record, the band, or your experience seeing Wilco live.
My Vinyl Review will choose the best post and that person will win the vinyl/cd combo package of Wilco (The Album).*
*The decision of My Vinyl Review will be final and there will be no express or implied warranties or prize substitutions. Winner will be announced the week of July 20, 2009.
Posted by My Vinyl Review at Monday, July 06, 2009