It’s that time of year!
This weekend I found the LP pressing of Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions I’ve been seeking for years — an original edition in
nearly perfect condition on thick
vinyl, not the flimsy, noisy platters that typified early/mid 1970s releases
Motown. This copy has the original flat matte finish cover art (as opposed to
the glossy later editions) and is still in the original shrink wrap with a
promotional sticker for then hit single “Higher Ground.” The pressing
is well centered, near-perfect on side one.
I found this at a used record store in San Jose,
California, on sale for $5; Big Al’s
Record Barn, which is slowly shutting its doors (Al is getting up in
years), is clearing out literally tons of stock at extremely reasonable
Innervisions is a landmark recording and it always sounded wonderful but this
pressing sounds remarkable, particularly moments like the gorgeous round
acoustic nylon string guitar on “Visions.” Stevie’s kick drum on
“Living for the City” punches you hard in the gut. The
then-groundbreaking early synthesizers on the album are lush and analog-warm
sounding (these are pre-digital synths, after all). This pressing plays
perfectly without even a hint of distortion at the end of “Golden Lady, a
tell-tale artifact of many copies of this popular LP which were played on less
than well aligned equipment.
This is all pretty groovy and wonderful for me.
But what about you?
I admit, I’ve spent far too much time beyond even
the reasonable collector, going through at least 6 or 7 copies in the past
several years alone as I’ve upgraded along the way. Most people won’t go
through this process and will opt for a reissue.
These days, that isn’t such a bad thing because
the good folks at HDTracks.com offer a high resolution download of Innervisions running at 96 kHz, 24-bit
that sounds pretty much just like the original LP! In fact, it sounds, perhaps,
a bit better in some instances as there is no noise floor. I A/B’d the two and
was hard pressed to find significant differences. The LP is a hair warmer
sounding but that may well be due to the soothing nature of the Bellari tube
pre-amp powering my Music Hall 7.1 turntable (and Goldring cartridge).
It sounds real
close and that concurs with a quote on the page for Innervisions on the HDTracks website from Kevin Reeves, Senior
Mastering Engineer at Sterling Sound NYC: “Unlike many of the existing
“EQ” tape copies, I was able to work from the original analog production
masters that Stevie Wonder delivered directly to the label.”
Really, this is a no brainer: if you love Innervisions but have a less than
perfect condition original copy, go for the HDTracks download and hold onto
your old LP for the gorgeous cover art.
While you are at it, you might as well get the
HDTracks download of Fullfillingness
First Finale since that too is a tough one to find well pressed on original LPs.
I will eventually review the high res version of
Stevie’s next classic, Songs in the Key
of Life once I get a decent comparison-worthy LP pressing. That said,
having listened to the HDTracks version I am quite sure you won’t be
disappointed by the sound on this high resolution download.