You Can't Roll A Joint on an iPod
A terrible wrong has been corrected! Lovingly produced by Phil Ramone and engineered by the great Al Schmitt all-analogue at Shelby Lynne's insistence, the original vinyl release of this album was mastered from an 88.2K digital file and pressed at United in Nashville, America's and one of the world's worst pressing plants.
When this was originally pressed there, the entire first run was defective. Non-fill marred the first few tracks causing "shsss" sounds. It's caused by the melted vinyl starting to harden before it's had a chance to spread fully into the "nooks and crannies." Even when United's pressings aren't flat-out defective they sound noisy and opaque. The United CEO assured me a few years ago that he was determined to press the best records but I'm afraid he's not made good.
Nothing I've received since this was originally pressed at United in 2008 has changed my opinion of United and I continue getting complaints from readers about records pressed there even if the reader isn't aware of where it was pressed. And based on the crappy attitude of a United employee at a seminar at last year's South By Southwest music conference about "audiophiles" ( his attitude if not his actual words put us one step up from pedophiles) I don't expect things there to change.
Despite the mess, the music behind the noise still managed to sound damn good, which is a credit to Ramone, Schmitt and original mastering engineer Kevin Gray.
Now the wrong has been corrected and then some! Analogue Productions' Chad Kassem bought the rights to reissue the album. He got the original tapes. In today's digital world, even analog productions are not strung together to produce cutting masters. Instead, individual tracks are mastered to digital and assembled in the digital domain.
So to produce this for vinyl, Doug Sax (who mastered the CD version) had to assemble the individual tunes onto two reels for cutting. This creates more problems than you want to know about and costs more too, which is one reason Lost Highway was content to cut from digital files. Not Chad though.
So this edition is mastered all analog by Doug Sax at The Mastering Lab and cut using his lathe driven by tube electronics and then plated and pressed at Quality Record Pressings in Salina Kansas on 200g vinyl and all I can say is THIS IS INCREDIBLE!!!!!! The sonics are spectacular and the pressing quality is as good as has ever been pressed in my opinion. The backgrounds are dead, black, silent the way Japanese pressings used to come on JVC "Supervinyl" and believe me it doesn't get any better than that, though this may even be richer, darker and blacker.
Not only is the sound about as good as a recording can be, but it actually improves the performances, or at least the listener's perception of the performances. A certain hesitancy or sense of less than full, straight ahead musical grooving that seemed to prevent the original from blooming and flowing is now gone. You can relax into this and hear Lynne's performance with far greater clarity and rhythmic ease than before.
Below is the original review of the music...if you own the Lost Highway edition and love the music, you really need to get this!
Shelby Lynne’s ten album recording career has seen her veer, unpredictably, all over the musical map, picking up new converts as she went, though probably losing others in the process. She won a “Best New Artist” Grammy for I Am Shelby Lynne, though it was her sixth album. The declaratory announcement of an album title probably confused some Grammy voters.
A little bit country, but not country enough for the Nashville mainstream and a little bit edgy, but not rough enough for the alternative country crowd, Lynne’s albums are bin-busters that don’t seem to fit neatly into any category.
Though she’s received her fair share of critical acclaim, commercial success and visibility have been more difficult to achieve in a demographically charged, slot-driven world.
This, her Dusty Springfield "tribute" album (though out of left field it also includes the the Brigati/Cavaliere gem “How Can I Be Sure,” once covered by Springfield and one original), might seem like a bid for commercial razzle dazzle. After all, what’s safer than a “tribute” album of familiar covers? But while the concept may be safe, Lynne’s execution is anything but.
Instead of competing with Springfield’s driving, force of nature voice, Lynne chooses to deconstruct the less bombastic tunes in the Springfield catalog, opening them up even further to reveal vast, dangerous spaces in which to explore nuance and meaning.
The arrangements are spare, the pacing slow and deliberate (you might think you’re accidentally at 16 2/3’s instead of 33 1/3 on the opening tune) and the miking intimate. So while Lynne doesn’t challenge herself to match Springfield’s vocal might, (which would be fruitless since she doesn’t have the pipes for it) she does push herself to emote with the great intensity required to fill the open spaces and sell the tunes. She pushes for emotional clarity, sometimes at the expense of tidy phrasing and that's to her credit.
From Dusty Springfield’s Golden Hits album (Philips PHS-600-220) Lynne chooses “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” and “I Only Want to Be With You,” while rejecting the “victim” tunes “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” “Stay Awhile” and “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself.”
Dusty in Memphis yields the opener, Mann/Weill’s Bacharach and David-ish “Just a Little Lovin,’” Randy Newman’s astonishing “I Don’t Want to Hear It Anymore,” and “Breakfast In Bed.” The most daring of all is the solid re-interpretation of the iconic “The Look of Love” from the Casino Royale soundtrack—at least for those coming to the album from the audiophile world, and while I doubt Lynne really built this album with them in mind, she’s sounded all of the right notes, from producer Phil Ramone, to engineer and mixer Al Schmitt and especially to the analog 2” recorder and 1” mixdown machine.
The sound here is as magnificent as Lynne’s performance. While the production superficially resembles Norah Jones’s debut in terms of soft and sparse arrangements and intimate miking, Lynne’s performances are more highly energized. In fact, her singing, over the sparest of arrangements represents a daring, high wire act (without a net) that remains dramatic every play through.
Lynne simultaneously produces vulnerability, courage and strength, leaving meaningful, gaping silences in between the carefully considered phrasing, backed by guitars, drums, bass and keyboards, all intimately miked to produce a nearfield listening experience that suggests as much in what’s not expressed as it does with what is. The result is the deepest of meaningful constructions.
The more times you listen, the more you build upon the foundation presented and the fuller the concept becomes because the record suggests as much as it actually delivers.
Just a Little Lovin’ is an instant musical and sonic classic and Shelby Lynne’s performance is bound to be considered among the finest of this musical era.
The recording is up there with the greatest 1960’s productions, including Ramone’s fabulous Getz/Gilberto and that’ saying a great deal for what Al Schmitt manages to put on 2 inch tape. Lynne is correct: you can’t roll a joint on an iPod but you can on the vinyl edition of this record—not that the sonics require chemical augmentation!