Vinyl Reports: Gil Scott-Heron, PJ Harvey, Boards Of Canada, & Dexter Gordon

(Vinyl Reports is an AnalogPlanet feature aiming to create a definitive guide to vinyl LPs. Here, we talk about sound quality, LP packaging, music, and the overarching vinyl experience.)

Gil Scott-Heron - I’m New Here (10th Anniversary Expanded Edition)

XL Recordings XL1005LP pink and green vinyl 2LP

Produced by: Richard Russell, Gil Scott-Heron, and Malcolm Cecil (reissue produced by Rumal Rackley)
Engineered by: Lawson White, Ichiho Nishiki, Rodaidh McDonald, and Malcolm Cecil
Mixed by: Lawson White and Ichiho Nishiki
Mastered by: Mike Marsh at The Exchange

Music: 8
Sound: 8

His first studio record in 16 years, Gil Scott-Heron’s 2010 “comeback” LP I’m New Here proved to be his last; following years of drug addiction and other health issues, just over a year after its release he died at 62. Produced with XL Recordings head Richard Russell, the short album features Scott-Heron and Russell mixing spoken word pieces with musical compositions, most of them covers. Despite the 28-minute length and shortage of original songs, following Scott-Heron’s instructions to “get rid of all distractions [...] listen all the way through, [and] think about what you got” reveals I’m New Here to be an intimate portrait of his life. Even upon repeated listens, it’s as if Gil Scott-Heron, his voice weathered by cigarettes, crack cocaine, and age, directly addresses each listener. Those accustomed to Scott-Heron’s usual jazz-soul sound might find Russell’s electronic production startling, though the former’s voice and piano is still the album’s core. (I also suggest reading Michael Fremer’s original I’m New Here review, published before Scott-Heron’s death.)

For the album’s 10th anniversary last year, XL issued Makaya McCraven’s reimagining We’re New Here plus the expanded 2CD or 2LP original album. The bonus disc, comprised of session outtakes, spoken interludes, and re-recordings of older songs, doubles the album’s length. (None of this set overlaps with Nothing New, though most of these tracks were already available on CD.) While the included renditions of “Home Is Where the Hatred Is” and “Winter In America” don’t live up to the originals, “Is That Jazz” and older outtake “My Cloud” are both engaging performances. The core album is great as is, but to feel complete needs the expanded edition’s bonus LP/CD.

Mike Marsh at The Exchange (who mastered the original) cut this 10th anniversary double LP, which Optimal pressed on standard weight pink (LP1) and green (LP2) vinyl. The recording quality is transparent, the mastering is clean albeit bright, and despite some expected light surface noise the records are well-pressed. The packaging consists of printed inner sleeves, a direct-to-board gatefold jacket, and a double-sided photo print. The standard single LP remains easily available, but for a few dollars more you get twice the music, a nicer package, and more reliable sound and pressing quality (the single LP varies in mastering and pressing locations).

PJ Harvey - To Bring You My Love

Island/Universal 0896473 180g LP (2020 reissue)

Produced by: Flood, PJ Harvey, and John Parish
Engineered by: Flood and PJ Harvey at Townhouse Three, Battersea
Mixed by: Flood at Windmill Lane, Dublin
Mastered by: Jason Mitchell at Loud Mastering

Music: 8
Sound: 8

Upon moving to the English countryside, PJ Harvey wrote and demoed the songs that became her third studio LP, 1995’s To Bring You My Love. One of her most acclaimed works, To Bring You My Love’s commanding vocal performances and vivid religious imagery paired with the spacious recording environment and carefully considered instrumentation result in an alternative rock/goth blues album that over 25 years later holds up. Its dark and dramatic nature won’t be for everyone, though I found that “Teclo”’s sense of longing and loss, the entrancing buildup on “Working For The Man,” “The Dancer”’s ghostly organs, and the abrasive “Meet Ze Monsta” became more gripping and memorable each listen.

Last year, Island/Universal began reissuing PJ Harvey’s back catalog on vinyl, with accompanying demos releases. This To Bring You My Love reissue is remastered for vinyl by Jason Mitchell at Loud Mastering, and pressed on 180g vinyl at Optimal. It lists album co-producer John Parish as “mastering consultant;” the soundstage is natural and tonally pleasing (I can’t compare to the original UK pressing), though like most recent records, the vinyl can be a bit noisy. (It’s been too long since I’ve received a dead quiet new vinyl release; to consumers’ overall detriment, pressing plants are overwhelmed.) The printed inner sleeve and decently thick direct-to-board foldover jacket are simple but adequate. Even if the other pressings do sound better, this reissue’s $20-25 price still makes it a worthy purchase.

Boards Of Canada - Geogaddi

Warp Records WarpLP101r remastered 3LP (2013 reissue)

Produced by: Boards Of Canada
Engineered by: Boards Of Canada at Hexagon Sun
Mixed by: N/A
Mastered by: Noel Summerville

Music: 8
Sound: 8

Three years after their seminal debut LP Music Has The Right To Children, Scottish electronic duo Boards Of Canada released Geogaddi, an hour-plus IDM, ambient techno, and downtempo epic. Both albums share a warped, mysterious nostalgic sense, but whereas Music Has The Right is overtly melodic and even upbeat, Geogaddi is as dark and twisted as its cover suggests. The melodies are less obvious, and there’s a greater sense of time-induced degradation and unraveling. It has nothing as immediately catchy as the previous album’s “Roygbiv,” nor is it as welcoming. However, Geogaddi, despite requiring Music Has The Right To Children’s context, is arguably more immersive and rewarding, burrowing its way into the deepest recesses of your mind. It doesn’t at all rehash Boards Of Canada’s previous works, and in electronic music’s history is equally essential.

In 2013, Warp Records reissued Geogaddi, recut by Noel Summerville from the original DAT master and pressed on standard weight vinyl at Optimal. The 3LP set (with a side six etching of a nude nuclear family) is appropriately atmospheric and detailed, and the discs are flat and quiet; however, I haven’t heard the original pressing. The reissue expands on the original LP’s packaging, with a tri-fold jacket and mind-bending printed inner sleeves for each disc. For its $25-30 cost (I paid $26), it’s unlikely to disappoint.

Dexter Gordon - Our Man In Paris

Music Matters/Blue Note MMBST-84146 limited edition 180g 45rpm 2LP

Produced by: Francis Wolff
Engineered by: Claude Ermelin
Mixed by: Claude Ermelin
Mastered by: Kevin Gray and Ron Rambach at Cohearent Audio

Music: 7
Sound: 9

Dexter Gordon’s melodic, straightforward hard bop didn’t vary much between records, though 1963’s Our Man In Paris is among his best Blue Note sessions. Captured in Paris with Bud Powell (piano), Pierre Michelot (bass), and Kenny Clarke (drums), Gordon initially sought to record original compositions, but Powell refused. The group instead recorded a carefully-selected set of jazz standards, featuring good performances from the involved musicians. It’s an enjoyable outing of well-executed simplicity, though not an essential Blue Note title.

Music Matters, the Blue Note-only audiophile label that led to the Tone Poet and Blue Note 80/Classics reissues, released 45rpm double LP and 33rpm single LP versions of Our Man In Paris. Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio cut both all-analog reissues, which RTI pressed on 180g vinyl. This is one of Blue Note’s few titles not recorded by Rudy Van Gelder (Claude Ermelin captured it in Paris), but the sound is spectacular as usual; while the recording style is glossier than Van Gelder’s, there is perfect space between and around the instruments. The laminated Stoughton tip-on gatefold jacket is high-quality, with pictures of Dexter Gordon (one taken in Paris, the other taken in Englewood Cliffs, NJ with Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, the latter erroneously credited as Van Gelder). It makes sense that these Music Matters 45rpm pressings currently sell for about $200; another all-analog reissue seems possible (BN recently extended their Classics series), but the Music Matters Our Man In Paris, if you can find and afford it, will likely remain the ultimate pressing.

(Malachi Lui is an AnalogPlanet contributing editor, music obsessive, avid record collector, and art enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter: @MalachiLui and Instagram: @malachi__lui)

Quaxxtro's picture

The sound of the "Dry" demos is raw and in your room! Fans of hers and especially this album should not miss the newly released demo recordings!
Not really audiophile quality as they are demos but it has a directness and an in your face sound that is very enjoyable.

Anton D's picture

Now you are right in my time line and I certainly can’t quibble with your ratings.

Exceedingly great reviews.

Intermediate Listener's picture

Had a special relationship with Paris, which this record beautifully captures. I give the music a 9.

But this review reminds me I need to acquire it on vinyl, thanks for that.

jeeves2nd's picture

I find your review of this album to be misinformed and misguided and could lead a novice jazz reader to take a pass on what has been for almost 60 years considered a classic album as well as one of the most important jazz albums of the modern era.
1. The Penguin Guide to Jazz gives it 4 stars and refers to it as a "classic."
2. Esteemed critic Ben Ratliff includes this album in the New York Times Essential Library - Jazz: A Critics Guide to the 100 Greatest Jazz Recordings.
3. The All Music Guide gives it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars and states that "...Gordon is at the top of his game."

I could go on and on with more platitudes from expert historians and critics, but I am sure you get the idea.
As a young inexperienced writer, poorly conceived reviews such as this one only serve to make it more difficult to establish the necessary credentials to be taken seriously as a critic, as well as misleading the reader.

cheyne.mcnab's picture

The gatekeeper jeeves2nd has spoken! The reputation and credibility of this merely above average Dexter Gordon title is now in jeopardy because of a short review for a vinyl reissue! This can’t be a serious comment, right? Brother, if it is you are letting it take up way too much of your headspace.

I happen to agree with this assessment; Our Man in Paris rates at a 6 or 7 out of 10. There are several other Dexter titles I’d rather play, including the LP immediately following this, ‘One Flight Up’. It’s one man’s opinion! Anthony Fantano, the most notable contemporary music critic, gave Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy a 6/10. Virtually every other outlet rates it as a masterpiece. It’s just his opinion. jeeves2nd has been revealed to be clown, congratulations sir

jeeves2nd's picture

So if the kid would have given the album a "2" that's "just his opinion" and therefore is also above any criticism.
Only a friend or relative (or perhaps a fool) would lash out at constructive criticism of Malachi like you did.

If you are his friend or relative who is rather clumsily defending him in order to protect him from just criticism, I would consider that noble but misguided. I am sure Malachi understands that once one enters the arena of critiquing the work of legends he opens his writings to the same critical analysis that he dishes out. You do him no favors by coddling him. As was pointed out by another commentator (who you also attack) he needs to learn his trade and you are sending him the message " don't worry kid your opinions carry the same weight and are as salient as the most well established jazz critics might be." Well at this point on his learning curve they don't and if he listens to enablers and apologists like you, they may never approach that level.

BTW If Malachi needed a defender he could do much better than you. The last time I was referred to as a clown was 60 years ago in 5th grade... by a 3rd grader. Very mature of you.

cheyne.mcnab's picture

I had a rough day earlier and was a little hellbent on trolling. Ironically, I was the clown with the above post. Apologies for that; take care man

hi-fivinyljunkie's picture

To Bring You My Love is a 10/10 album. My copy of the reissue is pretty quiet so if you get a noisy one return it. PJ didn't 'move to the country' - born and lived in Dorset for most of her career.

PeterPani's picture

This is a 10/10 to me, too.

Anton D's picture

Now we know. The difference between "a young inexperienced writer, poorly conceived reviews such as this one only serve to make it more difficult to establish the necessary credentials to be taken seriously as a critic, as well as misleading the reader" is the difference between a numerical rating score of 7/10 vs 10/10.

Is there a rolling on the floor laughing emoji button?

SloppyJoeBuck's picture

I'll always get a chuckle out of "butthurt old man yelling at cloud" comments on this site.

Anton D's picture

Do these people read looking only for affirmation?

If a review matches their feeling about a recording, it's a good review? If it doesn't, then it is a "poorly conceived review that only serves to make it more difficult to establish the necessary credentials to be taken seriously as a critic, as well as misleading the reader?"

You are right, 'cloud yelling.'

It's a razor's edge, Sloppy Joe Buck! (Cheers to you!)

I like that recording, but have I played it in 2021? Nope.

7/10, 10/10....Catholic/Protestant, Starred Sneetch/Unstarred Sneetch, Less filling/Tastes'd think Malachi was promulgating anarchy at the OCD Convention.

SloppyJoeBuck's picture

I've never had my feelings hurt by an album review. Nor have I ever had one work my dander up to the point of having an apoplectic fit. There are music journalists out there that I do find engaging, but I don't feel obliged to agree with everything they put out there. Instead, I trust my ears. They (hopefully) trusted their ears too. My ears are neither more right nor wrong than yours, y'know?

Honestly, I thought Malachi's review of Dexter Gordon was pretty positive. It just wasn't 10/10, which kicks people into "get off of my lawn" mode I reckon. :-)

Cheers back atcha, Anton!

Jazz listener's picture

…given you yourself go out of your way to jump all over anyone who dares suggests Malachy is offside in any of his ratings. You are either a relative or also a millennial who has been coddled to believe anything you say or do is valid and cannot be questioned. Sorry, doesn’t work that way. Any writer will tell you their craft improves with experience (both in the craft of writing and in life). Malachy is still too young to even fully understand the meaning in this music, as he lacks life experience. So he has his limited life experience opinion, and we have ours. Deal with it.

Anton D's picture

On a previous thread: "Malarkey’s youthful arrogance..."

Now is "Malachy."

If you aren't classy enough to spell a reviewer's name, I am dumbfounded why they let a low class guy like you hang here.

I know, it's cute to to you to mangle a name as a show of disrespect. Plenty of low life types like you on the intertubes. Just depressing to see a snowflake like you get triggered over a review you don't agree with.

Start a "Go Fund Me" account to help you go get a life and I will contribute, AH.

Come back when you learn how to spell his name.

Tom L's picture

is one of my favorite jazz albums. I usually refrain from numerical ratings, but it clearly deserves more than a 7. Generally considered to be one of Gordon's very finest recorded outings, with a stellar band (although Powell was past his best days), its only weakness is the over-reliance on standards. Even that is understandable, as Powell was a last-minute substitution on piano and didn't want to play brand new music that he wasn't familiar with.
I do encourage Malachi to continue with his jazz listening, that's the only way to get better.

cheyne.mcnab's picture

You encourage the reviewer to continue listening to “get better” at rating a piece of music, as if it is an objective assessment with a ‘right’ answer? Shit makes no sense champ. You enjoy it a great deal, which is fantastic and valid. I personally enjoy it less, and would put it at a 6 or 7. Neither is wrong. Perhaps you would need to “get better” to realize that it is actually fairly boring and deserves the 7?

Tom L's picture

Have a nice life, "champ".

cheyne.mcnab's picture

Sorry, didn’t mean to come in hot like that. Not sure what got into me. But thanks, you do the same “chief” ;)

Jazz listener's picture

And yes, we realize all reviews are subjective, and everyone is allowed to have their own opinion, but that doesn’t mean every opinion is valid. And it’s ok for people to call him out when they disagree with him. And honestly, if he’s going to review music legends, he should expect it. Malachy hasn’t uttered a peep in these recent threads, which shows he is learning. His work, once out in the public sphere, is subject to both praise and (gasp if you’re a millennial!) criticism, even mockery. This is after all a young kid with little writing or life experience. This seems to upset you? Too bad for you.

MalachiLui's picture

i'm just as entitled to my own opinion as the rest of y'all. i think 'our man in paris' is good, but as someone who owns (and has reviewed on this site) other dexter gordon albums, i'd rather listen to 'doin' allright.' but to each their own! i think i've made it clear through my reviews that i typically prefer more avant-garde sorts of jazz rather than conventional hard bop, though i still appreciate dexter gordon's conventional hard bop. my reviews don't intend to mislead people, rather provide a perspective; considering how embedded in the jazz canon 'our man in paris' is, i think most jazz novices would end up listening to it anyway. though i don't think the "inexperienced" comments from people like you (jazzlistener) specifically are warranted; sure, i'm (presumably) younger than you, though i'm probably familiar with music you don't know, and vice versa.

Tom L's picture

You made some valid points, and it seemed you might have been having a bad day. We've all gotten hot under the collar on the internet at times, right?

cheyne.mcnab's picture

Haha most definitely my friend. Thanks for understanding. The rough day I had was due to some absolute foolishness betting on sports. A habit that I only recently gave a try but after 2 weeks of losing I am realizing is not a good thing for me lol. Records, music and gear gives my wallet everything it can handle already lol… this sports betting is not for me

Tom L's picture

sports betting is an amazingly effective method of separating regular folks from their money and sending it to billionaires, with a side stream going to the government. Quite a racket! Buying music, on the other hand, soothes the soul as it empties the wallet.

MalachiLui's picture

i think gambling on 3 copies of [insert popular vinyl release here] in hopes of flipping 2 for profit is safer than sports betting!

fruff1976's picture

I've been on the fence with this Boards of Canada reissue because my Trans Canada Highway doesn't sound so great. I'll go ahead and try this now given your decent review.