It’s the time of year for saving money!
There is a point in the world of music collecting where all of us — at least those of us who aren’t millionaires — have to come to terms with reality and decide between (a) spending money on an original vinyl pressing or (b) buying a reissue of some sort.
For some artists those decisions can be relatively easy to make. Take, for example, The Beatles’ fine series of Monaural reissues on vinyl which were created to very high standards that some think equal the rare UK originals and some cases might even surpass (both in terms of fidelity and physical production aesthetics, part of what you are paying for in a reissue). Those were a “no brainer” for most Beatle fans (as opposed to the Stereo reissues which were disappointing to many due to various corners which were cut…)
Things aren’t quite so clear cut in the case of the recent reissues of the early catalog by The Kinks, where the price-value ratio may be a consideration for some collectors. At least it has been a consideration for me.
While I have heard good things about these new reissues, the pricing on these album have been somewhat prohibitive for even me to check out. Most places where I’ve seen the albums they go for around $25-29 per single disc. This is just for the records which are not really complete recreations of the original albums but simply nice new reissues using original art elements in modern simple sleeves. No bonuses here. No download. No nice plastic lined inner sleeves. No attempt at a period accurate PYE Records or Reprise Records’ labels. No laminated covers or “flip-back” construction (which we got on The Beatles Mono reissues).
Nope, here you are paying full price for a basic stripped down reissue.
And, yeah, at the end of the day I realize that you can’t play the album cover so the important thing ultimately is how the albums sound. I get that.
But … I’m a populist oriented reviewer so I have to consider the “bang-for-the-buck” side of the equation for those of us who might be sitting on the fence…
Anyhow, I finally broke down and bought one of the reissues when I found for a “low” price of $23.98, The Kinks’ fine 1966 album Face to Face.
Face to Face is a great listen start to finish and is sort of The Kinks’ Rubber Soul or Revolver in terms of songwriting — full-album experience wonderment. It is the home for the legendary pre-Summer of Love hit, “Sunny Afternoon.”
The reissue sounds real good on shiny new 180-gram black vinyl put out by BMG / Sanctuary Records. The discs were made in the USA — so, no dead-quiet import pressing for your premium price investment here folks, unlike The Beatles reissues. My copy of Face to Face has some noticeable surface noise at the start of each side.
From what I understand from the Internet, these new Kinks reissues were mastered by Kevin Gray, renown as one of the best disc mastering engineers working today. Accordingly, the music has a nice clear high end and offers what I assume are the UK mixes (drier mixes, no reverb added). There IS more definition, somewhat fuller bass, clarity and such…
Yada, yada yada…
But… when I play my original Mono U.S., tri-color, Reprise Records label pressing — in “near mint” shape for its age (still in the original shrink wrap!) — the differences weren’t all that great (relative to the price of the reissue). Yes, there is reverb added to the US editions. Yes, the master tape was probably taken down a generation or two from the original UK versions for the US editions. I get that. The reissue has some more presence and detailing, no doubt.
The Kinks’ early recordings were made for play on AM radio by the great early-60s producer Shel Talmy, so they are inherently a bit thin sounding to begin with… One listens to early Kinks records primarily for the songs’ greatness, not as audiophile benchmarks.
In lay terms, Shel Talmy had a his own sonic imprint applied to recordings made with The Kinks (and The Who for that matter) which was very different compared to, say, how George Martin presented The Beatles. These Kinks recordings were also not made in one of the great studios of the world like The Beatles’ albums were at Abbey Road.
So there only so much one can expect sonically from these recordings.
“Fancy” sounds really cool with its sitar-like (probably tuned down 12-string guitar) drones. Mick Avory’s drums on “Rosy Won’t You Please Come Home” are rich and punchy, relatively. “Session Man” is another favorite with its cool, unusual chiming chords and attention-grabbing harpsichord intro. Yet… all these spiffy British Invasion sounds are still constrained within the context of mid-60s AM radio and Shel Talmy’s distinctive production.
So…Dear Readers…. there in lies the rub you need to consider: do we need to shell out $25 – $30 for new incarnations of albums you might have already in another serviceable form? Putting myself in the shoes of a young budget-limited collector, I wonder if I would want to spend that much on a decent reissue when I could get an decent original US pressing for probably about that same money or less?
I suspect not.
One could get the nice two-CD reissue with Mono and Stereo mixes with its wealth of bonus tracks for that price (or much less these days for a used copy).
So, that is really my only nit to pick in this review. This Face to Face reissue is mostly fine. But, I’d like to see the cost come down so that more people could consider buying them as an impulse item. That might make the purchase a more appealing value proposition to more people.
Bringing these reissues down a more palatable $20 list price point would probably help to sell-through more of the records.
And isn’t selling more records what this stuff is about?
Food for thought, kids….