Eno Still Sounds Best on Vinyl

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We Are The 801's...

I recently picked up a spectacular reissue of 801 Live, the amazing one off concert album from the mid-70s featuring Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera and Brian Eno backed by a stellar band including the great Simon Philips on drums. How did I miss this reissue when it came out in 2009? In these days of Interwebs-driven information overload and shoe-string budget marketing efforts, easily...

Ah well, at least I found it now and I am very pleased. This edition is a lovingly prepared, gatefold-covered, high quality 180-gram LP pressing put out on Manzanera's own boutique label -- Expression Records -- replete with great photos, memorabilia and detailed liner notes by the band members. In it, they recount the period leading up to the handful of concerts that made up this (essentially) one-off recording. Whether you as a fan decide to file this under Phil Manzandera (whose band it was, technically) or Eno (who's solo material they do quite a bit of) is up to you. But the fact is you need to own this album in SOME form if only to hear the stunning version of The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows."

This LP set restores the original LP running order -- there were some additional songs recorded not included in the original single LP edition, but issued on some CD reissues over the years (apparently, from what I've read on forums and such, to the dismay of some fans who found the sound quality change jarring). I am fine with this original presentation since it indeeds flows very well both as an album listening experience and concert document.

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This collection includes a second disc featuring rehearsal performances from August 23rd 1976, recorded at Shepparton Studios. This made it all the easier for me to replace my original UK pressing (which was in far from perfect condition). The cover art on this one is arguably better than the original since it is now in a nice thick textured cardboard sleeve instead of the flimsy oaktag of the period.

If you can't find this in your favorite store, you might have to order this one from Phil Manzanera's website, but it will be worth it.

Another LP World...

About 10 years ago there was much hoopla surrounding a reissue series of Brian Eno's solo recordings including a spiffy box set and such. I didn't spring for it at the time because, while the CDs were apparently made using Sony's DSD (Direct Stream Digital) process, they were issued as standard "red book" compact discs (16-bit, 44.1 kHz) and thus all the fancy algorithmic alchemy achieved in the DSD process doesn't really benefit the listener all that much since it must be converted to standard PCM stereo at CD resolution.

Still, the digipack design on these Eno reissue CDs were quite nice -- pressed in Holland, complete with nice plastic slip case covers to protect the lovely artwork -- so I've been picking them up used lately to replace my 80s-era CDs. I recently found a copy of my favorite Eno album, Another Green World, at a reasonable price so I gave it a shot (I'd given my EG CD copy to my friend Milton). 

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So how does it sound? Meh. It certainly sounds better than my old CD. But I was disappointed to find that it didn't sound even remotely better than my late 70s or mid-80s blue label U.S. pressed Island Records LP version. The LP has a whole lot more going on in the mid range and bass frequencies, resulting in a experience that just jumps out of the speakers. From the opening funky bass lines of "Sky Saw" through to the hushed ambiance of "Spirits Drifting" at the end, the LP is warmer and more engaging.

I'll keep this CD for now. However, when I find a better LP pressing upgrade (hopefully an original UK press) I will give my current LP to my buddy Milton who hopefully will enjoy that even more than the old EG CD.  

That's what friends are for, right?

 

Mark Smotroff is a freelance writer and avid music collector who has worked for many years in marketing communications for the consumer electronics, pro audio and video games industries, serving clients including DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T and many others. Mark has written for EQ Magazine, Mix Magazine, Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine, BigPictureBigSound.com, Sound+Vision Magazine and HomeTechTell.com. He is also a musician / composer who's songs have been used in TV shows such as Smallville and Men In Trees as well as films and documentaries. Mark is currently rolling out a new musical he's written. www.smotroff.com
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