What A Difference An LP Makes

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As an audio fan in these digital days, it sometimes is a wonder to realize that some albums didn't originally -- or ever -- come out on vinyl, but CD. More recently, some have come out only as a download. Thus for the music to make an impression on us, the songs have to be pretty amazing. Here are some albums that have appeared on vinyl recently, all of which made their impression pretty much first in digital domain before getting the analogue treatment 

Martinis and Bikinis, Sam Philips - From the opening beats of 'Signposts," second song on Sam Phillips modern day rock pop classic Martinis and Bikinis (from 1994), it is very apparent what a difference an LP makes -- the kick drum beats at the beginning of the song are like a sucker punch to the gut in a dark alleyway and when the bass kicks in you feel the true reggae roots of this great album opener. On the CD, the kick drum sounds like someone tapping politely on your shoulder to move aside in the aisles at a shopping market. Details like this abound.

The huge studio ring of the drums on "Same Rain" make this album sound timeless, while on the CD the snap of the snare has been reduced to an echo of all the gated drum sounds from the 80s. This album has so many great songs, if it wasn't for Sam being a woman, you might even think this was some sort of lost Beatles album. Really, it has that vibe. That notion wasn't lost on Sam who included a haunting cover of John Lennon's "Gimme Some Truth." This is one of those albums that producer T-Bone Burnett perfected his sound on, employing many studio greats including Jerry Scheff (of Elvis's Presley and Costello fame), Colin Moulding (XTC), Peter Buck (REM), Van Dyke Parks (Brian Wilson's SMiLE), Benmont Tench (Tom Petty) and Marc Ribot (Tom Waits).

The vinyl on this new limited edition white vinyl pressing from Omnivore is generally very good, with a nice thick platter that is well centered and discs that are not warped. There was  bit of surface noise at the start of one side but that may have been some static due to my Zerostat being at the repair shop. Anyhow, this is a gem so if you love the album on CD, you will adore it on LP.


Some Others You May Have Missed on Vinyl

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Grace, Jeff Buckley -- This one snuck out a few years back on sweet 180-gram vinyl, pressed at RTI, and it sounds huge. Again, if you know the CD, you'll find the LP remarkable. If you don't know about Grace, use the Interwebs and read up on it -- so much has been written about Jeff and his amazing (and sadly short) journey. It may be the best $20 you'll spend this year.


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At War With The Mystics, The Flaming Lips - This fabulous follow up to the band's amazing Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots expands on that flavor and yielded not only one of their biggest hits ("The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song") but also a two-LP length song cycle that builds an emotional mood this side of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here. The album has been released on 180-gram black vinyl as well as really cool colored vinyl that beautifully matches some of the central color themes of the album artwork. I went for the latter and have not been disappointed. Interestingly, and I am guessing here, but in comparing to the CD and the DVD-Audio Disc, it sounds like a different mix on LP as certain instruments are more striking (particularly the acoustic guitars). If you don't know The Flaming Lips music, this might be a good place to start. Or pick up The Soft Bulletin or Yoshimi (now also on vinyl). Its on sale at Oldies.com for $20!

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