Unbiased reviews of new vinyl releases, audiophile reissues, and more
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
In conjunction with the "new" 2-LP vinyl release from Jimi Hendrix, Valleys Of Neptune, Sony/Legacy has reissued remastered vinyl editions of First Rays Of The Rising Sun, as well as the three "proper" albums from the Jimi Hendrix Experience: Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love, and Electric Ladyland. Today, Myvinylreview examines Legacy's 180 gram reissue of the third and final release from the Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Ladyland (1968).
The two 180 gram platters of RTI-pressed vinyl arrived flat and clean, and were housed in their preferred rose-colored poly inner sleeves. Both discs played flawlessly, without any hint of noise during playback. The gatefold cover has a matte finish and is made of standard weight card stock, and features the front, back and interior gatefold artwork from the original Reprise release. Also included, is an eight-page booklet of photos and liner notes. Although Sony undoubtedly could have sold considerably more of these records had they used the original UK Track cover art, Experience Hendrix has reportedly refused to grant permission for its use.
In order to differentiate these 2010 Sony/Legacy releases from the 1997 digitally-sourced Experience Hendrix releases, the hype sticker on the outer bag prominently states that this is an "All Analog Remaster From The Original 2-Track Master Tapes By Jimi's Original Engineer." They are referring, of course, to engineer Eddie Kramer, who mastered this release for vinyl with cutting engineer George Marino, of Sterling Sound.
In preparing for this review, I pulled out my original UK Track and U.S. Reprise copies of the record. As I've done with virtually every review, I primarily played complete album sides, in order to experience the vibe and overall tone of each particular pressing. Only occasionally, did I stop for direct back-to-back comparisons. And as often happens with a record that I haven't played in a while, I was somewhat surprised by what I found.
Original U.S. Reprise
The original two-tone Reprise actually has tonal characteristics that are typical of many Sixties and Seventies UK rock pressings, with a relaxed, tubey sound that emphasizes the lower-mids and rolls off the highs. While not as detailed as either the UK Track or the Legacy 180 gram reissue, the Reprise sounds better and better as you turn it up, never fatiguing the listener--even on songs like Crosstown Traffic--and I prefer Hendrix to be played loud.
The Reprise pressing shares not only the two-tone label with the likes of Neil Young's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, but also shares its warm, relaxed sound. The more I listen to it, the more I like it--don't let the label of warmth fool you, this pressing throws out a nice soundstage and exhibits plenty of detail and ambience during all but a few cuts, with the ambitious, thirteen-minute apocalyptic epic, 1983 . . . (A Merman I Should Turn to Be), sounding particularly fantastic.
(Original UK Track cover, back to front)
Original UK Track
The UK Track, combines additional detail and ambient cues, with a tonal balance weighted more heavily toward the upper-midrange, occasionally bordering on sibilant. Hendrix's Stratocaster, however, absolutely comes to life on the Track, with a depth of character that isn't heard on either of the other pressings. Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) is reason enough to own the Track, as it captures Jimi with his guitar, and brings them into your room with a realism and a vengence that is unmatched by the other copies of the record.
Sony/Legacy 180 Gram Reissue
When you first play the new 180 gram reissue from Legacy, you are immediately hit by the increased bass, as well as the additional detail. This pressing does a very nice job of capturing the kick-drum, as well as the lows of Hendrix's Stratocaster--and that sound can initially be very intoxicating on songs such as Voodoo Chile. Unfortunately, the increased detail brings with it a much brighter sound--and the cymbals and keyboards become fatiguing rather quickly, especially at higher volumes--and I like to play Hendrix loud.
While I have no doubt that this is an analog mastering, there is something about it that sounds "digital" to me--I guess it just sounds a bit sterile.
(Noel Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell)
If you already own an original UK Track pressing of this record, you need not look any further. Consider yourself fortunate, as finding one in clean condition today isn't easy--and likely to set you back several hundred dollars. U.S. pressings on Reprise, however, are not nearly as difficult to come by--and shouldn't cost any more than this very reasonably priced 180 gram reissue.
If this album is in your Top 20, you owe it to yourself to eventually acquire an original Track. On the other hand, if this isn't one of your desert island discs, and you've still never been satisfied with the Reprise, finding it either too polite or lacking detail, you might just find what you are looking for in this well-priced and very nicely pressed and packaged Legacy reissue from Sony.
Posted by My Vinyl Review at Tuesday, March 16, 2010