Written by 6:45 am Audiophile Music

Record Collecting 3.0: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

It’s not all chocolate bon-bons and found treasures for record collectors as Mark Smotroff is all too willing to admit…


The quest for
better sound is the sole reason I began collecting original pressings of LPs
back in the early 1970s. During the oil crisis — a key ingredient for vinyl —
labels cut corners on discs in a way that was audible even on our modest entry
level audio gear. I think the industry also got plain greedy, churning out
sloppy product as the industry blossomed. 

I recently
pulled out a 1978 Plastic Bertrand 45 I’d picked up in Europe years ago but never
played. I was stunned to find it unplayable as it was pressed ridiculously off
center. Its so ridiculous I had to share a video. Its almost funny, in a tragic
sort of way…

In recent
years, collectors have infiltrated company ranks and now labels like Friday,
Rhino and Sundazed Records are thankfully putting out solid reissues with
period accurate labels, original cover art and quality printing/pressing. There
are even great budget pressings; for $10-15 you can find quite excellent
reissues by The Velvet Underground,The Electric Prunes, Curtis Mayfield,
Charles Mingus, and others. I give particular kudos to the folks a Rhino which
presses albums for multiple labels — look for the little white sticker on the
back cover shrink wrap and chances are its a good pressing. Even Universal has
done some nice reissues including a killer reissue (UK only) of The Kinks’
The Village Green Preservation Society
on glorious multi colored 180-gram vinyl in mono and stereo (its a two LP set).

New releases
aren’t faring as well. I returned three badly warped copies of the two-LP 45
RPM press of Interpol’s last, eventually exchanging for a CD. If I hadn’t
ordered Bettye Lavette’s latest from her website (to get the album autographed)
I would have returned that too as it is on thinish warped vinyl. Sloppy
manufacturing for so called audiophile releases.

The dB’s latest, Falling Off The Sky, is fantastic. I am
however disappointed by the off center LP which makes the music sound drunken.
Below is a video of one of four pressings I’ve gone through. Fortunately the
album came with a CD and download. This music deserves better.

This Big Bill
Broonzy reissue was only $10 and I was pleased to it was on a period-accurate
mid-60s Scepter label. Sadly, it’s pretty wildly warped and a tad off center.
It plays, but it is a roller coaster ride.

Do you have any
“favorite” bad pressings to gripe about? Post your comments and let us
know. Perhaps we can send a collective reminder to the labels to step up their
quality controls. It can’t hurt to try!

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