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

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Neil Young Greatest Hits -- 180 Gram Warner/Reprise Vinyl (with bonus 7" single)

 Greatest Hits (2 LP 180 Gram Vinyl with Bonus 7 Inch Vinyl LP)
With the recent development of Classic Records' entire catalog going out of print, record collectors and audiophiles have been scurrying to snap up the titles they haven't yet picked up, in case they're never repressed again. Luckily, some of the finest titles in their catalog, such as The Who's  Quadrophenia and Tommy, Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue, and Big Star's Radio City, are still available at or near original list prices.

Fortunately, most of the titles from Neil Young, including Live At the Fillmore East, and the magnificent, Live At Massey Hall, are now being pressed by Warner/Reprise, using the same excellent masterings from Chris Bellman. Likewise, Warner/Reprise, through their Because Sound Matters campaign, has also taken over production of Greatest Hits, which I am reviewing today.


Originally released by Classic Records as a two-record set on 200 gram vinyl (with bonus colored vinyl 7 inch single of Sugar Mountain b/w The Loner), Greatest Hits received nearly universal praise for its excellent sound.  I contacted mastering engineer Chris Bellman, of Bernie Grundman Mastering, and he informed me that the new pressing of Greatest Hits was a new cut from the same sources (and the same setup) as the Classic. The only differences were the new plating and pressing.

This latest Warner release was pressed on two slabs of 180 gram vinyl at the Pallas facility in Germany. Both discs arrived flat, clean, and played quietly throughout.  The medium-heavy cardstock used for the gatefold cover isn't quite as heavy as what was used for the Classic edition, and also has a matte finish, rather than the semi-gloss used for the Classic. Likewise, the bonus 7 inch single was pressed on standard black vinyl, rather than the red, white, or blue vinyl included with the original Classic pressings.  None of these differences are of any real significance.


(Neil Young)

As for the sound,  I found the new Warner pressing to sound marginally better than the Classic.   Vocals on Cowgirl in the Sand are still a bit sibilant, as they were on the Classic, but the overall sound of most all of the songs is excellent.  And the tracks from Harvest, have never sounded better.

Now that the Chris Bellman mastered vinyl remasters of the first four albums have been released, there is arguably less reason to own Greatest Hits on vinyl.  After listening again to the tracks from Harvest on Greatest Hits, however, I found myself wishing that the entire remaster of Harvest sounded so good. To make sure I wasn't imagining this improved fidelity, I pulled out and listened to a first pressing, a Seventies reissue, as well as the recent Bellman-mastered reissue of Harvest. None of them sounded  as good as Greatest Hits, which possessed greater clarity, zero distortion, and a well-balanced eq that does a particularly fine job of reproducing the kick and snare drums.

If you already own the Classic version of this title, there is virtually no reason to buy this latest pressing unless you are an absolute completist. If you never picked up the Classic and you want Needle and the Damage Done, Old Man, and Heart of Gold, in their very best sounding versions, you need this record.

Recommended




Related:
Neil Young Original Release Series (Discs 1-4) 140 Gram Vinyl

Neil Young: Sugar Mountain--Live at Canterbury House 200 Gram Vinyl

Neil Young: Live at The Fillmore East; Live at Massey Hall Vinyl

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