Vinyl is not like a CD or digital file download, where identikit reproductions mean you are more or less certain to receive the music as intended. If it’s not quite a lottery, there is a game of chance that you play by buying your favorite music on a big black disc.
No two vinyl records are the same, but shortcomings from mastering to press can also leave entire batches sounding sub par, and in the worst scenarios you miss out on some of your otherwise favorite albums.
There’s no doubt that we all have them in our collections, but there are also those records where the vinyl sounds so good that we can’t help but spin it almost every time.
That’s what this list represents, on the occasion of Vinyl Week. It’s by no means definitive, but if you’ve ever read a platinum review on What HiFi? you can bet that at least one of these twelve records will have been part of the test.
Film music by Brian Eno
Miles Showell produced a number of half-speed masters of Brian Eno’s work at Abbey Road Studios, including seminal albums another green world, Here come the hot jets and Ambient 1: Music for Airports.
The reason Film music makes this list precisely because we weren’t totally in love with it until we heard Showell’s half-speed version running at 45 rpm; the sonic improvement in every detail of dynamics, although often subtle, gave music a new dimension for us.
You can learn all about mid-speed mastering in our interview with Showell, here.
To see Film music by Brian Eno on Amazon
Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division
It’s scary to replace an overplayed record with brand new press, but to do it with Joy Division Unknown pleasures worked a treat for us.
It’s an album that seems fitting for the format – it was originally mastered for vinyl, after all – with the rounded highs offering warmth to Bernard Sumner’s often sparse guitar lines and the touching vocals of Ian Curtis, and it still comes with the same textured cardboard sleeve.
To see Unknown pleasures by Joy Division on Amazon
Blue by Joni Mitchell
by Joni Mitchell Blue is as essential to a record collection as bread and milk are to your weekly store.
We don’t mean vegans won’t like it, but rather its intimate production craves a physical medium that spins as close to you as Mitchell’s voice appears in the room.
Given the number of times this very fine album has had to be recut, it stands to reason that the pressings are about as good as they can get. This certainly rings true for us.
To see Blue by Joni Mitchell on Amazon
Director’s Cut Chapter 1 by Jeff Mills
While the godfather of techno productions may have mellowed a bit, his relentless approach to releasing records shows no signs of slowing down. Unaffected by the fads of the moment, Jeff Mills’ Axis label has been releasing a steady stream of minimal music on vinyl since 1992.
This release launches The Director’s Cut re-release project and is part of the Axis Audiophile series. So we’re treated to four tracks of reissues and rarities given the level of attention you’d expect from a meticulous master of his craft. Gamma Player from classic EP Humana (under his alias Millsart) is the warm, dreamy climax, marrying deep, tight bass notes with crisp, hypnotic melodies.
To see The Director’s Cut Chapter 1 by Jeff Mills on Amazon
Miles Davis kind of blue
kind of blue is one of those genre-defining works, and in many ways it feels odd to play it on anything other than vinyl.
We know those who cherish their charity shop-bought pressings for their cracks and hisses, which we see might just complement the authenticity of the music. But such a marvelous sequel deserves to be heard in all its splendour, on a clean and well-controlled pressing; at this point it is practically irresistible.
To see kind of blue by Miles Davis on Amazon
Kid A by Radiohead
Don’t be annoyed by Child A, you won’t need a 78 rpm turntable to play this 10-inch double disc; whether it was done that way for aesthetics or simply because Radiohead was on purpose, it’s really just 33 1/3 vinyl in disguise.
It sounds fantastic, though. There’s a boldness to the sound that’s oddly euphoric, despite the album’s often subdued phrasing, and a luscious quality to the electronic and acoustic instruments that creates a truly immersive soundscape.
To see Child A by Radiohead on Amazon
Fallen Trees by Lubomyr Melnyk
We have already talked about the advantages of listening to the works of Lubomyr Melnyk on vinyl.
Regardless of any sonic enhancement, there’s the implication that the effort you’ve made to place a record on the platter prepares you for deep listening, but also the near-hypnotic relationship between the pianist’s continuous music and looking at your record. spin indefinitely which cannot be replicated.
Melnyk freed fallen trees at the end of last year, shortly before turning 70, and it is proof that as a composer he is still well into his prime.
To see fallen trees by Lubomyr Melnyk on Amazon
Grace and Danger by John Martyn
As we mentioned earlier, there are records whose sonic palettes are tailor-made for the warmer, less clinical treatment of a vinyl cut. For us, John Martyn’s grace and danger is one of those works.
This is undoubtedly due to his velvety voice draped wonderfully over this set of nine titles, but also to the rounded body of his accompaniment and the jagged edges that he sometimes allows himself to be pierced through.
Listen to songs like sweet little mystery and Hurt in your heart both digitally and then on vinyl and we’re sure the former will never be able to satiate you again.
To see grace and danger by John Martyn on Amazon
Arca by Arca
The argument that placing a record on the platter helps prepare the mind for deeper listening is equally relevant when it comes to Arca’s self-titled 2017 album.
It’s an intriguing sound collage, finding the line where music and sound art meet, and often it feels like you can hear the needle picking up its grimy textures between the grooves. Just make sure your system is well enough equipped for when Arca goes weak.
To see Arca by Arca on Amazon
Nothing Is Yet by Leon Vynehall
Strange, the name Leon Vynehall comes to mind when compiling this list; its inclusion, however, is more than a half-baked namesake.
This album, released in 2018, was somewhat different from much of his previous house music output, and a generally more laid-back affair. Combining effusive string sections with textured synths, field recordings and subtle rhythms, Nothing is yet makes the most of the full body of vinyl and fills it with a delicious variety of sonic elements.
To see Nothing is yet by Leon Vynehall on Amazon
Let It Be (2021 Mix) by The Beatles
So be it has over half a century of tweaks, remixes and new pressings, but in 2021 Giles Martin and Sam Okell have returned to the studio to create a truly modern mix of the classic record, bringing an unrivaled sense of clarity, texture and separation to records.
However, as modern as Beatles music is, Beatles music was really meant to be played on vinyl, and when you place this heavy 180g LP on your table, the sharpness and detail of the 2021 mix hugs the warmth elegantly. shiny and lush of a vinyl. cut.
A standout track from the 2021 mix, across the universe, is almost completely new with its clean, spacious sound, and reclaims much of the more distorted low-fi charm of the track’s previous mixes.
To see So be it by The Beatles on Amazon
The Planets of Gustav Holst by Charles Dutoit and the Orchester symphonique de Montréal
There’s no shortage of choice when it comes to recordings and presses of Gustav Holst’s timeless orchestral incarnation of each planet’s astrological associations, yet the Dutoit and Montreal Symphony Orchestra are the ones collectors should do their best to research (and, uh, save for).
As perfectly recorded as it is played, this is an impeccably accurate rendition of the musical masterpiece, full of the depth and dynamic interest that makes it such a powerful source of emotion. The acoustics of the hollow hall of the St-Eustache church in which the orchestra was recorded exploits the power marvellously (especially in March) and heat and uplift woods (especially in Jupiter) composition, too.
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