IMPEX to Issue on 180g Vinyl "Famous Blue Raincoat" From Jennifer Warnes' Analog Mix Tapes

IMPEX Records recently announced the forthcoming reissue of Jennifer Warnes' classic album Famous Blue Raincoat cut by Bernie Grundman from using Warnes' own personal analog mix master tapes.

Originally released in 1987 on Cypress Records and then by Private Music after Cypress folded. It was later reissued by Classic Records on 180g vinyl.

The album is a true "audiophile classic" plus being a just plain great record that suffered over time from overexposure. Warnes covers Leonard Cohen songs including of course the title track. Guests musicians include Cohen himself as well as Van Dyke Parks, Michael Landau, David Lindley, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Fred Tackett and many others.

IMPEX claims this is "the first time in over 30 years, an exclusive 33-rpm all-analog (italics mine) vinyl LP of her groundbreaking classic."

The record is scheduled for release "late summer 2015", IMPEX catalog number IMP6021. The announcement leaves open the question of what Classic Records used for its vinyl reissue and also, I've been told by numerous people that the original Cypress Records CD is marked with a "DDD" SPARS code.

So is Ms. Warnes' analog tape a mix down from a digital multitrack? If so it's not quite accurate to call this vinyl reissue "all analog", though I'm speculating on all fronts here.

The lead engineering credit goes to Csaba Petocz who has engineered many extraordinary records. I was going to contact him to get the lowdown on how this album was actually recorded, but it turns out he passed away from cancer two days ago.

My long time acquaintance Joe Chiccarelli posted this on the gearslutz website:

Csaba was my friend , my collaborator and my teacher in all things important in this world. His passion for life and his relationships was beyond extraordinary. It was reflected in his work and appreciated by all that came to meet him over his brief lifetime.

For all those who aspire to be great engineers and producers his work with Metallica, John Michael Montgomery, Aretha Franklin, Alanis Morrisette, Cracker, Al Stewart, Larry Carlton, Morrissey, Elvis Costello and so many others was always top shelf. It's the way he lived life -- wanting and savoring the best in everything and everyone. It's really worth a listen to appreciate his work and how much he cared and strived for excellence at every turn of a knob.

I learned so so much from him. Not only about record making but the things that really matter. The way he respected artists and gave himself fully to them and their music. The way he valued his friendships and interactions with everyone he met. The total Love and Respect he had for his wife.

He is deeply missed by so many. For those who didn't have the pleasure of knowing him I know his work will become an inspiration."

The original mix was by George Massenburg so I emailed him about the multitrack and received this reply: "Sony 3324 by Bill Youdelman for the most part". Not to worry: that's how Roxy Music's Avalon was recorded. The master was mixed to 30IPS analog tape.

Patricia Barber's albums were digitally recorded by Jim Anderson and they sound fantastic on vinyl so does it really matter how this was originally recorded? What's more important is how well it was recorded and in this case very well, but it is not 100% accurate to claim this reissue will be "all analog".

Hats Domino's picture

It's quite possible this was mixed to analog and digital simultaneously. Either way, your point of the engineering being more important than format is right on. I'd rather a 16/44 mix from Bob Clearmountain or one of the true mix-masters than a 30 ips or 24/96 mix from Eddie Kramer or Niko Bolas.

Bob D.'s picture

"The album was mixed to half-inch analog tape, at the very end of the project to give it warmth. So despite the fact that the first CD’s were issued with a ‘DDD’ marking, it was actually ‘DAD.’ In a blindfold test in Amigo Studio B, Frank Wolf, Jennifer, Henry Lewy, and myself, all chose half-inch analog tape over every digital mix format available that we could test—the Sony 1610, Sony 1630, and a Mitsubishi X-80 2-track digital recorder that used ¼-inch tape.” - See more at:

my new username's picture

$600 a day to rent that 16-bit DASH recorder ... and they were happy to write the check.

It's clear no one at IMPEX bothered to look into the recording's provenance. Or maybe they did, learned analog tapes were used at the end and consider that true to the abused "all analog" marketing message.

What I always find astonishing is that back when digital recorders and ADCs were at their infantile worst, musicians were preferring them, even while "fixing them" with an analog tape! ADCs and digital recorders are better today, and they're still often "fixing" them with ancient analog decks in the chain.

Cyprus and everyone else who clamored for a "DDD" SPARS code was further, ironically wrong, given that digital mixing wasn't yet "a thing" back then.

Michael Fremer's picture
Was referring to a cut from the analog master tape, not referencing the original multi-track but when I contacted them they said they'd clarify their release information...

In fact virtually all so-called "DDD" discs at the beginning of the CD error, I mean era, were really DAD because there were no digital mixing boards to D recordings had to become A and then back to D after processing etc.

tparker14's picture

I contacted Impex and asked them if they would consider analog releases of Charles Mingus' "Oh Yeah" and "Blues and Roots", but never heard back from them. Their Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis reissues are excellent, and "Ah Um" and "Mingusx5" have been done by AP and Classic Records fairly recently.

planarhead's picture

This is a lovely album, and worthy of being reissued again. Since Impex were wrong about it being all analog, perhaps they were wrong about it being the first time in 30 years there has been an all analog reissue? It seems really strange that Classic Records, pretty much known to always used analog tapes, would have used a pre-mix down digital master.

Jody's picture

I wonder what the Cisco 45RPM edition was cut from? Or how it sounds for that matter, as I've never heard it and it's hard to find now. And what about the original LP, also mastered by Bernie? If it was mixed down to analog tape as indicated in the interview Bob D linked to, surely he used that master back then. It seems like there's an audiophile reissue of this every 8 or 10 years.

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

I found this Musiccare piece on Csaba Petocz I thought I might share with you.

Life is definitely not something we should take for granted but ENJOY!

Csaba Petocz certainly got to work with some great artists.

James, Dublin, Ireland

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

Here's the link...

James, Dublin, Ireland

audiof001's picture

Not long ago I slipped the Cypress issue of Warnes' 'Famous Blue Raincoat' on a table for a listen, excited to hear this gem one more time, and was shocked at how bad my copy sounded. What a let down - my sonic memory was indeed challenged. After hearing the album countless times in shops and shows, I'm not sure I could listen to the album again but I'm hopeful it will be the ear-opening experience for others that I had anticipated.

Bernd's picture

Motivated by audiof001, I also put on my Cypress isse of Warnes' 'Famous Blue Raincoat'. I was not much shocked, it seems generally well-recorded to my ears, as reminded that this is a recording from the 1980s, which is often characterised by lots of echo in the drum sound and synthesizer background. I hear the soundstage to be well-ordered and there is space around the various instruments, but it does not always sound very analog to me. But then again, as Michael Fremer likes to emphasise, vinyl does not necessarily sound warm and inviting. In contrast, some songs, e.g. 'Song of Bernadette' or 'A Singer Must Die' do conform to this cliché regarding analog recordings (although there are some excessive sibilants, too).

Dr. AIX's picture

Michael, "Famous Blue Raincoat" is truly a fabulous collection of Jennifer's artistry and Leonard's songs...but the multichannel master recording was captured using 44.1 kHz/16-bits. So you and the comments are correct in pointing out that Impex is incorrect in calling this an all analog production.

Having worked a couple of times with Jennifer, I believe she possess one of the greatest pop voices of all time. She's really that good. I managed to record a couple of projects in high-resolution digital...without any compression, EQ, or artificial reverb. The tracks on "Nitty Gritty Surround" are incredible but the entire album that we produced of some new tunes and old favorites is mind blowing. It's been described as the best thing she's ever done by those few that have heard it. I mixed it in stereo and surround at 96 kHz/24-bits.

The recording was done 9 years ago. Unfortunately, JW won't allow me to release the project for unknown reasons. If you ever get to the west side of Los Angeles, I would be happy to give you private listen. Her rendition of Mickey Newbury's "So Sad" is the saddest song I've ever heard...and very appropriate for this project.

jpg r's picture

As Bernie Grundman can verify, Classic Records used the same master tape as shown in the photo above.

Jody's picture

Bernie also cut the Cisco 45 RPM edition. As far as I can tell, he's mastered every reissue of this album. And so I'm sure he could tell us what he did for every reissue. But I honestly can't see much point in making a fuss over it.

my new username's picture

... given that we now know about the recording and of the mixdown?

It's a fact that some ultra-high-end audiophile record labels printed LP copies of digital recordings. And so ... that's "OK."

In the end, all any of us can hope for is to get back, as closely as we can, to the analog mix copy (in this case), so whether the Lp you have is 33 or 45rpm or Classic or Cisco or Cyprus or whatever is irrelevant. Only thing that matters is the sound, and music yes?

my new username's picture

So, all analog except the recording. Got it.

dobyblue's picture

"As Bernie Grundman can verify, Classic Records used the same master tape as shown in the photo above."

"Bernie also cut the Cisco 45 RPM edition"

Might explain why it sounds so amazing, I picked the Cisco edition up for around $90 when Acoustic Sounds still had stock. Actually it looks like they still have stock, for $130.

"The purity of sound that Cisco Music and Bernie Grundman have achieved with this 45rpm version of Famous Blue Raincoat 20th Anniversary Edition is shockingly perfect. I have never heard any version of Famous Blue Raincoat which sounds better... and I've heard them all. No caveats: This LP set is unbelievably gorgeous. I have been waiting two decades to hear it like this. Cisco's 45rpm edition is simply as good as Famous Blue Raincoat gets." - Jennifer Warnes

Paul Boudreau's picture

For what it's worth, the inner sleeve of my Cypress copy states: "Recorded on Sony Digital Equipment."

Bob D.'s picture

was an unintentional error in wording. What was intended is to convey that the new mastering for this 33rpm LP, is all analog/tube using Ms. Warnes personal 1986 analog master mix tapes (from the digital multitrack). This will be clarified on all of the advertising.
It is common knowledge the sessions were recorded to digital multitrack, it was just an unintentional error.

mother3251's picture

Like some of you above, I have all the copies worth having of this wonderful LP, however, everyone has varying levels of hifi systems, turntables, cartridges, cables, etc, so bear that in mind.
I recently played all these, but will give it another go on tuesday, when a music and hifi friend is coming over. I will update you on that finding.I will also test the RCA UK version.
For me, the Cypress (1A) record is the best, dynamics, life, etc.
Classic Records is next, very close indeed
45 rpm version is good, but lacking in life, dynamics, a bit washed out, flat
With another pair of ears, will be able to provide a more accurate review and feedback

mother3251's picture

This afternoons test was a great experience, having a second set of experienced ears certainly provided worthwhile comments.
We chose "Bird on a Wire" as the test track, and played them blind to my friend, writing the comments after each play.
I should mention that we did not adjust arm height for the 180gm records, so its possible there is a compromise here, certainly a test again for future.
For great sounding we are giving a 10 generally, as the differences are not marked.
1. RCA PL90048, standard UK pressing - 10, great vocals, dynamics and detail
2. Attic LAT 1227, standard pressing - 10, better midband, calmer, more foot tapping, a touch less lively
3. Cypress 66111-1, standard pressing 10, dynamics WOW, slightly more forward, less likely to follow background, info all there, score 10.5 if you like dynamics
4. Classic RTH 5052, 180gm, 7.5, Better balanced but thicker sounding, singers sounded squashed together, backing oohs etc prominent over other detail. Possible arm height issue.
5. Cisco 25th anniversary 45rpm, 180gm, 9.5, natural,well balanced, good detail and overall presentation, only lacking in dynamics. Noisy pressing. Possible arm height issue.
6. RCA Cypress PT 49626, 12 inch single, 11, best of the lot, had everything, all of the good bits from above.
In summary, in our opinion, if you have a mint original pressing, as above, we would be happy with any of them.
The 12 inch single is outstanding, it should be reasonably easy to find, however, it only has the 3 tracks

jfl97's picture

Dear Dr. AIX, I can only find a recording of Jennifer singing "So Sad" on an album by Robert Michaels. It really is a pretty song and apparently she sings it in live performances from time-to-time. I don't know you but I would love to hear your recording next time I am in LA. Surely do wish there was more of her performance in the recorded realm - she's just phenomenal!

Very weird to have a recording that she won't allow to be released.

james12's picture

everyone has varying levels of hifi systems, turntables, cartridges, cables, etc, so bear that in mind.
I recently played all these, but will give it another go on tuesday, when a music and hifi friend is coming over. I will update you on that finding.I will also test the RCA UK version.

james12's picture

record is the best, dynamics, life, etc.
Classic Records is next, very close indeed
45 rpm version is good, but lacking in life, dynamics, a bit washed out, flat and