Roxy Music Box Set Coming March 16th From Universal

Roxy Music, the art-rock band that spawned the music careers of lead singer Bryan Ferry and producer, music experimenter (and who knows how to adequately describe him) Brian Eno will get the full and well deserved box set treatment from UMe.

The set's box reprises one used for an '80s era set issued in Europe (I got one a garage sale back then for $8.00-- a $1 a records seemed fair to the seller and who was I to argue?). The set contains Roxy Music, For Your Pleasure, Stranded, Country Life, Siren,Manifesto, Flesh and Blood and Avalon.

There's not a bad record among them, though they greatly differ in style and tone. The first two, in which Brian Eno contributed him tape loops and other effects are favorites among "art-rockers", but Stranded the first minus Eno was another step forward in the band's evolution and among the group's most enduring efforts.

The publicity blurb informs that the the records were mastered at Abbey Road Studios by Miles Showell, formerly of Metropolis—a storied mastering facility—who's scribe mark "MILES" will be familiar to many readers. The lacquers were half-speed mastered the press release says, but from what it does not say.

So I called the very cooperative Universal publicist who got the information directly from Mr. Showell:

"They were cut from archive high resolution digital non-mastered or limited flat transfers of the original tapes. I then applied some very clean mastering just to subtly enhance what was there but at no point was any digital limiting applied as this is not required for vinyl."

So yes, we are somewhat disappointed that it wasn't mastered from tape but as in the case of Tommy mastered by Kevin Gray from 96/24 files, we should approach this with cautious optimism.

So far, nothing beats original Island "pink rim" Roxy albums for the early ones and the best Avalon I've heard is the British Polydor Deluxe, even though it, like the American edition, lists Bob Ludwig as mastering engineer. In my opinion the American Avalon doesn't remotely compare to the UK original.

Previous digitally mastered vinyl from Virgin was brittle and generally unlistenable but with Miles doing the mastering from flat archival transfers let's be optimistic! All of the records are pressed by GZ Media in the Czech Republic. That is good news. Roxy Rules!

Chundry's picture

My favorite version of Avalon is the initial Japanese pressing.

Michael Fremer's picture
It's good too but the UK pressing is more "supple" sounding IMO. But both are good...
drdarkfish's picture

I have an original Australian and German press of Avalon. I usually tend towards the German presses but the Aussie has some real magic.

Happy to send it to you for listen.

Audiobill's picture

Could you call that very cooperative Universal publicist and find out the provenance information on the vinyl edition of this new release?

Michael Fremer's picture
Since the HDTracks version is I think 48K/24 bit that's probably what was used to cut lacquers...
Audiobill's picture

But since the vinyl sounds worse than a 16/44.1 stream from Tidal (on my system), I didn't want to guess. It sounds like a different mastering to me. I'm going to my Rega dealer this afternoon to do a comparison on their system just to make sure my plug and play RP3 has not gotten out of adjustment.

The jacket lists many different recording engineers and locations so I thought you might get some further details on how the cutting master was mixed.

Audiobill's picture

The sound the Wallflower vinyl was very similar on the RP3 at my dealer with different electronics/speakers and no TTPSU. The staff at the store were familiar with the Tidal version of Wallflower. They all noticed the difference in the vinyl version immediately. They believe, as I suspect also, that the vinyl was mixed/mastered differently/poorly). This lends some credence to Neil Young's "fashion-statement" comment, i.e., the vinyl was an afterthought, much as the stereo versions of The Beatles pre-Abbey Road LPs were.

Jonbassjon's picture

Michael- Thanks for finding out the source on this one. I am remaining optimistic. The most recent CAN reissues were sourced digitally from Sonopress and they sound very good. Seems to be all on a case by case basis with digital masters.

zzcorey's picture

but even the really well done digital masterings to vinyl don't give me any emotional connection to the music, the recent tommy remaster vs my original german pressing is a great example, the kevin gray version is objectively better due to better detail and transparency, but subjectively I enjoy the german far more, I have no idea why

Michael Fremer's picture
and I agree... for reasons I don't understand!
Jonbassjon's picture

I spend a lot more time with my LP's that are AAA. I am trying to be positive and stay open minded about the state of vinyl sourcing these days. Most folks are not utilizing analogue recording techniques. I think we need to stress to the labels and the artists that if they are going to go the digital route that it has to have the highest bit rate possible. I am very cautious about LP's that I buy post 1980.

Avalon0387's picture

I had a British import version of this box set back in the 80s (obviously not the same vinyl quality as this one). Then I got rid of it (and hundreds of other albums) when I moved to CDs. What an idiot I was. FWIW, Brian Eno has always said that "Stranded" was his favorite Roxy album.

Rawheadjim's picture

I know this thread is so old it's new again, but...for those of us unable to find or afford good condition pink island UK pressings, what about that 1981 box set? After all, it must be all analogue, and the whole set was mastered by Bob Ludwig. And German Polydor pressings are very good, the covers are spot-on, and I was just able to score it for 100 Euros. I think it's a very good solution to this problem, why don't you spin yours again for comparison Mike???

recordhead's picture

Any thoughts on the recent Cream LP box that's out?


Michael Fremer's picture
I asked for a review set but haven't gotten one, while some other writers I know have.... what can I tell you? I don't have the $$$ to buy it when I have originals and there's so much new music in which I'd rather invest.
recordhead's picture

I think I'll stick w/ searching for decent originals. Appreciate all your insight.

Anton D's picture

I have high hopes!

martinjohnbutler's picture

Are the master tapes still extant? If they are, I wonder why they weren't used. I've become extremely wary of the digital processing of classic albums. I've listened to maybe one or two CD's since my turntable arrived not too long ago, and I like it that way.
Funny, I originally typed weary instead of wary, perhaps that's an even better description

Michael Fremer's picture
I don't know Martin. If so, this was done here to save $$$$ because it costs less to cut from files...
DaveB's picture's mastered from the CD box set masters...

"They were cut from archive high resolution digital non-mastered or limited flat transfers of the original tapes"

Michael Fremer's picture
Maybe I'm being naive but when MILES says "high resolution" I have to believe he means 96/24 at least.
mikeyg's picture

Michael, have you ever seen an RL engraved one? (I haven't)

Michael Fremer's picture
No. That is true. I have not either but it's possible by then that he didn't scribe "RL" on records... I should ask him!
pmatt's picture

I love Roxy Music and Avalon may be my favorite album, but it has to be seen as a benchmark for the deconstructionist trend that ruled the 1980s. By deconstructionist, I mean the over use of new recording studio technology whether instrumental - linn drum, fairlight, etc, or processing - digital effects, noise gates, etc. And while it's hard to deny the sonic masterpieces like Avalon or Kate Bush's Hounds of Love (another fav), I must confess, I'm not inclined to hunt down good vinyl copies of these records. I love my Avalon SACD (in stereo - never had a surround system).

Michael Fremer's picture
Most Roxy albums were '70s releases....even "Flesh and Blood" was 1979. Only "Avalon" was '80s. If you've got a turntable you should be inclined to find a UK "Polydor Deluxe" LP edition of "Avalon". I have that SACD. You should be included to hunt down the LP!

As for the older albums, the pink rim Islands are superb sounding. These are mostly very cluttered productions and I've found over the years that as my system gets better, these records just keep sounding better and better as the system can better unravel all of the elements.... "Stranded" in particular..."Mother of Pearl" is AMAZING on a pink rim original...

pmatt's picture

True indeed about 70's Roxy. My impression is that even as Siren and Manifesto were moving towards the crystalline sonic diamond that Avalon is (flesh and blood too, but to my mind weaker material), those records were much more "band" records and the recording studio was still not quite a full member of the band. The recording engineer geek in me loves Avalon but the music lover in me loves a more organic and performance-driven approach to making records.
I do want to hunt down that UK Polydor Deluxe edition of Avalon on your recomendation. I've enjoyed comparing different masters/releases of my fav records. Not sure I'll ever be able to afford a system good enough to untangle the earlier Roxy records. You make a great point there.

Michael Fremer's picture
A very insightful post.. (Or should I say I agree with it 100%)
pmatt's picture

Just picked up the Rhino reissue of Television's Marquee Moon. One of my favorite records. Sounds fantastic, though my lowly system is still challenged by the more dynamic dual lead guitar bits.

Martin's picture

and the type of music this is, the complexity and colourations;
Digital LPs = No Deal.
Especially anything less than 192/24. That's the limit where I basically can't tell anymore.

For Roxy, it's easy to get good originals on eBay or Discogs.

If you do reissues these days, increasingly, people are aware.
If you're going to do it, do it right.

Michael Fremer's picture
I don't disagree with you really. But let's see what MILES can do....
M-Sevs's picture

I recently purchased Universal's Scott Walker box set, advertised as being "mastered from the original tapes!" Nowhere in the notes and not on any jacket, however, does it say anything about the mastering, the sources, the anything related. Which I'd be Okay with if the packaging included a sticker on the front explaining how, or just a little note on the back of the box. But, nothing. And the sound? So disappointing: Super harsh top, weak bottom, and murky as shit. Really made me feel like a sucker. So, after being thoroughly disappointed I did a little research, and I found quite the disgruntled thread on the hit-or-miss quality of Universal's reissues over on the SteveHoffman forum. But my main gripe is the incredibly vague source information they give, such as "mastered from" instead of "cut from," or "archive high resolution digital non-mastered or limited flat transfers" instead of "96/24, though, in some cases, redbook cd." You know?

Michael Fremer's picture
Hit or miss and I'm afraid they don't understand but at least pressed at Optimal... The Nick Drakes were well done... They need greater consistency..
martinjohnbutler's picture

Ok, let's see "the pink rim Islands are superb sounding", check. Now I'll have to look around for those. I wish I could go back in time and tell younger me not to sell those old records. I feel like Tommy Lee Jones in Men In Black, where he says. "oh, that means I'll have to buy the White album again".

John777's picture

I have all original Roxy Music LPs on Island or Polydor Deluxe pressings. No buying box sets for me!

Michael Fremer's picture
I agree
Chriswilford1's picture

Mikey, what would be the catalog # on this pressing?

Michael Fremer's picture
Super Deluxe EGHP50 2302116
mikerr's picture

I have the original LP box like this and also all of the Japanese pressings and an awesome bootleg called "Why do you think I'm a funky Chick?" that is very good. Avalon always sounds good but is awesome on the DSD SACD and it also has a bonus track called 'Always Unknowing'. Spinning off from that, the new Bryan Ferry album 'Avonmore' is very good. His voice has taken on a very quiet and raspy tone which really works to his advantage for such a romantic style.
Being that I already have the LP Roxy Box I doubt if I will buy another, even with better pressings, tho I would love a Steven Wilson 5.1 remix box.

mikerr's picture

My Original English Box has Red Polydor Labels. The Box is Canvas and is # EGBS1 2625 043
Roxy music 'The First 7 Albums"

mikerr's picture

was released before Avalon so it was not included (obviously)

Irreversible's picture

Pressing by GZ is a bad new :(

Michael Fremer's picture
They press very good records. Both Stones boxes were pressed there and my sets were 100% well-pressed.....which is not to say the sound of the second box was any good. It sucked. But that was not GZ's fault.
Paul Cordingley's picture

I already have various and multiple pressings of every album, all sound great, although I was excited for a nice new AAA boxset. I have just cancelled my Amazon order. A shame. Thanks Mikey for the insider knowledge, you're a treasured resource as ever.

groove123's picture

What would be the point of getting a record that is from a digital source? Unless its the artifacts added by the turntable, etc. that make it sound different/better. The digital file would be more true to life it seems to me. Please explain. Thanks

Michael Fremer's picture
We've addressed this before but here it is again: if the vinyl is cut from a 96/24 or higher file it should sound better than the CD. But even if the vinyl is cut from a CD resolution file, if the D/A converter in the mastering facility is superior to yours at home, depending upon your turntable, the vinyl can sound better.

Now as for the "additional artifacts" added by the vinyl cutting and playback chain. Keep in mind that when digital recording began and engineers heard the sound, they didn't like it, for a variety of reasons, one of which is that microphones aren't all that great to begin with.

So what is the first thing many did? They started using VACUUM TUBE microphones and VACUUM TUBE EQs and compressors!

Were those "true to life"? (Life being the microphone feed I guess you'd say). NO. They added "something" that made the result sound more "true to life".

So let's say taking that digital file and cutting lacquers etc. and playing it back on a turntable adds "something" else that makes it sound more "true to life" if not quite as accurate as the file that produced it. Then what? Who cares if it's an additive distortion that makes it sound more "true to life"?

pmatt's picture

I'd like to hear more re-masters to vinyl of records from the late 80s. Take, for example, The Replacements "Pleased to Meet Me" (You know, real audiophile stuff!) Recorded at Ardent in Memphis with Jim Dickinson at the helm - in an era when EVEN THIS BAND/PRODUCER/STUDIO made a DDD record (I mean CD). I doubt there are any good vinyl copies of the first pressing as these were really shitty days for vinyl quality.

Bigrasshopper's picture

Some have heard "analog like improvements" to digitally sourced vinyl and have speculated that the additional mechanical steps of the lathe and the stylus creating and then traversing a three dimension shape lends greater palpability to typically less dimensional digital sound. I haven't found this a compelling reason to be satisfied with hybrid products though it may lend some insight into one part of what makes vinyl different and pleasing to us three dimensional types. Any comparison is going to very dependent on the converters of the mastering stage as well as the playback system and of course the analog chain, so it's a difficult comparison.
We may not want to get the hybrid record that Michael reviews, but we may be interested in getting updates on who is doing what with what in the industry and hearing how it compares against his archive. Surprisingly, some of these pass muster and make sense, most don't, in my experience. I haven't heard an argument for why it works when it does and I'd like to hear more about that, because the reality is that is what accounts for the growth trend. But if the bulk of new buyers are happy with what they're getting then the argument for sound quality remains relevant mostly within a Special Market as usual. As a follower of analog, I'd like to know if the audiophile market is seeing growth. If it's not seeing growth then it seems like a hollow victory. What the larger trend does seem to demonstrate is desire for a physical experience against the backdrop of ethereal media. All we can do is showcase the cases that succeed.
I was thoroughly disappointed today by a Steve Wilson remaster to stereo for vinyl of 40th Anniversary Jethro Tull's War Child. Steve has a good reputation for digital remasters as I have been pleased with his work on the Yes catalog, Hi Res on disk, but this vinyl made me pull The Very Best Of on hard drive though my Ayre QB-9 and register dismay to find it much more analog, especially the elasticity of the toms near the end of Skating Away, the lack of harshness throughout and sibilance on top. Ridiculous. No lacquer initials to be found. $28,000 chain vs. $3000. Both digital. Case by case is right, wary and weary.

chloe143's picture

Wow! that was awesome even though i was born on 90's but still i really love that kind of music box.

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hi-fivinyljunkie's picture

The only two digitally sourced vinyl box sets I purchased that cut the mustard are The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac(mid period) collections. Both mastered by Chris Bellman using Grundman tube system for the mastering. On the other hand the Doors box from the same mastering facility (also from hi-res)is blown away by he AAA Analogue Productions versions. The Digital LZ titles are pretty good and better than most reissue versions - again something left to be desired if you own the Classic Records cuts.

It's rare they can reproduce the magic from even the best digital files. Why this is I'm not sure but something is almost always lost from a well recorded 'analogue' tape when archived to digital. I also suspect the original cutting engineers such as George Peckham were able to add some magic irrespective of the sound on the tape.

Mister Tim's picture

I'm halfway through the box. I started with Siren as this has always been the most limited in the versions I've heard, including the U.S. vinyl I bought in the 70's. It never seemed to have much bottom end and even the symbol splashes seemed compressed. Then I went back to the debut, For Your Pleasure and Stranded. Looking forward to Country Life ;-) Anyway initial impressions are that this box is more revealing and dynamic than the very good CD equivalent of this box. Nice sense of spatial information, neutral and not overtly "digital". Along the lines of the Blur box. I still have to compare against my few original domestic (US) pressings and the Back to the Capitol Vaults series but if you need a good set, I would say buy without hesitation. These did require a wet cleaning in my Spin Clean. Happy RSD 2015!

Mister Tim's picture

The Capitol Vaults sound like unarticulated mush next to the remasters. Miles Showell kicked butt on these.

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