Mobile Fidelity Tells The Truth

The Yardbirds original "Shapes of Things" took the protest song—a surprising departure from the group's blues-based output— as a smartly rendered military march with mild middle eastern undertones. Jeff Beck played on the original but here for his first solo outing he led with a slinky, heavily syncopated version that presaged by a few years Led Zep's heaviest of metal. The song's conclusion, a rhythmic meltdown to a complete stop was something altogether new to rock fans. Needless to say, back in 1968 buyers of this record had minds blown, in part thanks to the great Ken Scott's impeccable engineering skills and of course by much of the world's first exposure to Rod Stewart.

The lineup of Beck, Stewart, Mick Waller on drums, Ron Wood on bass plus guests Nicky Hopkins on keyboards, John Paul Jones on Hammond organ and Keith Moon ("You Know Who") produced a memorable sound that has lost nothing over the years. The story goes that "Beck's Bolero" produced by Jimmy Page and the album's first recorded track back in 1966, also featuring Jones on bass and of course Moon, led the Who drummer, after someone suggested the participants should form a group, to quip "That would go over like a lead balloon".

The eclectic song selection—from Jerome Kern's "Ol' Man River" (on which Stewart gives a "now listen" shout out to his idol Sam Cooke) to a drenched in reverb "Greensleeves" to "Morning Dew"— Bonnie Dobson's post nuclear war imagining so well covered by Tim Rose (alluded to in Beck's annotation)— adds luster to the package and demonstrates Beck's wide-ranging musical interests. Stewart's blues originals like "Let Me Love You" show a well-honed blues affinity. The two heavily reworked Willie Dixon covers "You Shook Me" and "I Ain't Superstitious" are also standouts. There's not a less than great track on the album.

It's no wonder Mobile Fidelity's double 45 RPM vinyl edition limited to 5000 copies quickly sold out and the SACD is temporarily out of stock but not out of print. I compared the Mo-Fi double 45 to an original U.K. pressing (Columbia SCX 6293), to an original 1A yellow label American Epic (BN 26413) and to a gatefolded Japanese reissue (EMS-80634) with "bonus" inner gatefold photographs (the shape of reissues to come?).

The original U.K. has an organic "wholeness" that satisfies and it doesn't suffer from severe bass roll off or dynamic compression. The American original is EQ'd bright but not too bright and it's also a fun listen. The Japanese version is of course super-quiet and has impeccable bass clarity and overall organization but it's somewhat on the sterile side (though still good!) and the Mo-Fi knocks it out of the park by not going all heavy handed with the EQ, which is slightly pushed top and bottom but in a way that's "most" kind to the producer's and engineer's original intent. Plus spread out on two 45rpm well-pressed discs gives every track ideal breathing room and max dynamic range. Of course after this album we'd all be hearing a lot more from all of the participants, which just makes this album all the more fun so many years later.

I've been told that while MusicDirect is out of it, copies linger at some dealers so were I you, I'd be asking around!

COMMENTS
Roy Martin's picture

The "Tim" referred to by Jeff Beck in the liner notes is Tim Rose, not Tim Buckley. You might be confusing this with the Tim Buckley song," Morning Glory."

Michael Fremer's picture
Thanks for the correction…
orthobiz's picture

I went to buy this from Music Direct. Sold out.
Am a customer of Mobile Fidelity. Sold out.
Received an e-mail that they had some copies at MoFi.
Literally less than 10 minutes later...Sold out.
I think I'm gonna sit this one out.

Paul

Ortofan's picture
AnalogJ's picture

Man, that's quite a jump for profit's sake at $125!

orthobiz's picture

Rant over
Album ordered!

Paul

Ortofan's picture

... hope you enjoy it.

Dpoggenburg's picture

I’m pretty on top of all of mofi’s releases: WHEN was this announced? It seems like I’m not the only one who was caught unawares. Anyway, Time to go hunting’
Thanks for the great review Michael!

AnalogJ's picture

It was advertised in Music Direct's catalog last year, and it was up for presale on MoFi's website. Once word got out as to how good it was, the vinyl was close to sold out by then.

PeterPani's picture

I own the original UK Columbia in NM and an original reel-to-reel with 7,5ips. The tape is unbeatable in directness of voices and instruments in this case.

avi242's picture

Dear all,
Please explain: what is the point of this article when there are NO records for sale in a descent price, unless you encourage people to buy from flippers?
Thanks,
Avi

Michael Fremer's picture
The review is mostly about the album. The Mo-Fi pressing is an additional point. If you don't know the album you can find one of the other versions probably for less and know what kind of sound you'll get. That was the point!
orthobiz's picture

I am definitely always on the lookout for good sounding versions of records Thanks Mikey

Paul

Tom L's picture

There are some goofy prices on Discogs and Ebay, did see one on Ebay that's currently $77.00...
https://www.ebay.com/itm/124921283706?epid=4048231632&hash=item1d15e3847...

Michael Fremer's picture
1000 more copies will be pressed.
DinaMoe's picture

Am I the only one who can't get past Rod's voice? I wanted to like this record but, damn Rod, your voice! Or is it his "forever-haircut"? It's probably the hair if I'm being honest.

Garven's picture

It would be interesting to compare the new MOFI to the 2017 Steve Hoffman-mastered SACD version he did for Audio Fidelity. I have to say I was less than blown away by that version (Hoffman seemed to do his best work when paired with Kevin Gray but that's another story).

TommyTunes's picture

I also have both the original UK stereo snd mono, the US yellow stereo, Sundazed mono, Japanese gatefold snd 71/2 reel. I haven’t played the SACD both the MOFI vinyl elevates this to new highs the clarity is outstanding. Now I’m not sure much can be done with Beck-ola, again I have most pressings but I think that album really requires a remix not just a remastering.

DeMeNC's picture

I own 3 copies of this album including the MoFi, which I like best.

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