In recent years, like many people around the world, I’ve become a lover and collector of vinyl LPs. Sure, nothing can beat the convenience of having most of the world’s recorded music in your hand at all times via Spotify, iTunes, Pandora and the like on your cell phone. But nothing can beat the sound quality of a needle on a groove, and nothing can beat the experience of taking the 12″ cover off the shelf, dusting off the record, dropping the needle on the platter and enjoying the cover art and liner notes while listening to the music in glorious sound. Does this make me a geek? Most assuredly.
So it was inevitable that Blue Note Records peeked my geekery when the label announced it would be remastering and re-releasing many of their classic titles on vinyl in honor of its 75th Anniversary this year. The list includes some of my favorite records of all time: Blakey’s “Free For All,” Coltrane’s “Blue Train,” Cannonball and Miles’ “Somethin’ Else,” Silver’s “Song For My Father” and many more.
It was a happy day when I came home to find a package from Blue Note on my doorstep. It contained seven of the first batch of releases, and I couldn’t wait to get downstairs throw them onto my turntable!
I started with “Somethin’ Else” because, well, Miles! As a trumpet player, my first point of reference is the trumpet sound, so it was natural that this would be my go-to out of the box. Even before Miles’ muted trumpet stated the theme from “Autumn Leaves,” however, I was struck by the clarity of sound coming from the rhythm section on the intro. Blakey’s cymbals were shimmering, Sam Jones’ fat bass tone was filling the room, and Hank Jones’ beautiful chords were lush and enveloping. And when Miles hit his first note it was as if he was in the room with me. Spectacular!
When announcing the reissue series, Blue Note President Don Was stated:
“[O]ur goal would be to protect the original intentions of the artists, producers and engineers who made these records and that, in the case of pre-digital-era albums, these intentions were best represented by the sound and feel of their first-edition vinyl releases. Working with a team of dedicated and groovy engineers, we found a sound that both captured the feel of the original records while maintaining the depth and transparency of the master tapes.”
Nowhere was the success of this proposition more apparent than when I put on Dexter Gordon’s “Our Man in Paris.” Dexter is known for his huge, fat tone on the tenor saxophone, and this reissue captures and projects this tone as faithfully as any version I’ve ever heard. I A-B’d the new vinyl with my CD copy of the album and it was no comparison! I was so excited by the sound of this record that I called my wife down to the listening room to play it for her. She admits that she doesn’t have the best ear for this sort of thing and often doesn’t really notice the difference in sound, but after only a few minutes, she said “CDs don’t sound like this!” (her ear is better than she thinks it is).
If you’re a vinyl lover, check out these new releases. You can find the complete list and release dates on the label’s website. I’d love to hear your thoughts, so come back and leave a comment if you do get a chance to hear any of these new LPs.