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No. 117 February 2014
BLACK FRIDAY | Records Store Day,
or how it’s done in Poland


ROBERT HAAGSMA
Passion For Vinyl


ooks on vinyl get published very rarely and usually immediately disappear from the shelves. Their factual value often varies and it is usually their aesthetic value that dominates – photos of album covers and record endpapers – leaving their cognitive value behind. And that’s what I’m currently missing the most.
Passion For Vinyl fills this niche brilliantly. It’s written by a Danish music journalist and vinyl fanatic, Robert Haagsma, who describes himself this way:

About twenty years ago I started writing about music for magazines and newspapers. At the moment I’m on the editing team of “Aardschok”, a metal magazine, as well as “Revolver’s Lust For Life”, which deals with all music in general. My articles have appeared in various international magazines, e.g. “Record Collector” and “Ugly Things”. I’ve written books about local and international bands: Golden Earring, Pink Floyd and The Beach Boys. Although I occasionally play music from CDs and DVDs, I still believe that vinyl is the best music format that’s ever been invented. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about audiophile releases, or about some classic vinyl of a Norwegian black metal band – when the needle hits the disc, I become entirely possessed.

Holding Haagsma’s book in your hand, you’ll immediately understand what he meant. First of all: the edition. Books written by Ken Kessler, the editor of “Hi-Fi News & Record Review, including the histories of QUAD, McIntosh and KEF, have already become classics. They look wonderful, they’re the combination of an album and a book. The common element is its format – square, and exactly the same size as a Long Play cover. On the other hand, Gryphon’s self-published history, Gryphon Unplugged, has the format of a 10” record. Passion For Vinyl, subtitled A Tribute To All Who Dig The Groove, measures 225 x 225 mm and contains a 45 rpm single inside its cover, whose pink endpaper peeks out of the white cover. The single has two A-sides – you’ll find Jacco Gardner’s Chameleon on one, and I Wait (Part II) by Digital Mystikz on the other. The book is numbered (in print) on its first page.
Second of all: its contents. Robert Haagsma did a fantastic job, contacting music collectors, DJs, record labels, journalists and musicians who treat vinyl as an important – if not the most important – part of their lives. You’ll read about their first records, their discoveries and failures; the discs they already have, and the ones they would like to have. You find out what Michael Fremer’s – the editor of “Stereophile”– opinion is, and what Henry Rollins’ – a big, tattooed musician that talks about the black discs with love – opinion is. You’ll hear the words of the crazy guys who want to press 78 rpm vinyl (i.e. Lewis Durham, part of the band Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, whose album I just ordered) and veterans of the musical world, serious British gentlemen like Chris Ellis, a long-term EMI employee, even back in the day The Beatles ruled the world (by the way, he has a very bad opinion of them and he remembers them as very unpleasant people). And this is where I’d seek out this book’s greatest value. The introduction very briefly mentions how a vinyl record is made, and clearly the author expects that all of us know that already. Everybody with some sort of emotional connection to LPs should own this book. You can buy it on the British Ebay, for example – 25 GBP and 8 GBP for shipping.


BLACK FRIDAY
Record Store Day

In the article from Passion For Vinyl about Jean-Claude Thomson, a music publisher and DJ, the owner of If Music, the best record store in London, you can find something that smoothly transitions us through to the next part:

Record Store Day is a fantastic initiative. Its last edition was insane for all of the London stores participating in it. For example, Sister Lay on Berwick Street – the cue to the store ran all the way from Piccadilly Circus. There was a very well-received Brazilian band playing acoustic music. It was a great day for all of us. On a regular Saturday I can sell records for anything from 0 to 400 pounds. This day, I sold over 7,000 pounds worth of albums. Wisely enough, we stocked up well – but there was barely anything left at the end of the day. Which was fantastic. As soon as Record Store Day was over, the demand for exclusive editions evaporated.

What’s the guy talking about? Record Store Day is an initiative aiming to help small, independent record shops. Held for the first time in 2007, currently over 1000 shops from the entire world participate. Taking part in it is free and possible for any store after registration. Bands prepare special album editions, often only available on this particular day.
On November 29th, 2013, an additional event from this cycle took place, which – quite clearly – will permanently join the annual agenda: Black Friday Record Store Day. Stores generally enjoy highest sale rates on this day, so why not record stores? As I mentioned in my editorial to the December issue “High Fidelity”, accompanied by a few friends and equipped with money I set out on an adventure to buy something available off the list published on the official site. To name a few, we were interested in:

  • The Doors,Curated By Record Store Day
  • Duran Duran, No Ordinary EP
  • Jimi Hendrix Experience, Fire/Foxey Lady
  • Nirvana, In Utero 2013 Mix
  • Roy Orbison, The Monument Vinyl Box
  • Stone Temple Pilots, Core
  • Miles Davis, Miles & Monk At Newport
  • Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Live at KCRW
It so happened that here in Krakow we had three record stores which registered on the organizer’s website as participants in the event. They were: Music Corner, Record Dillaz and Rock Serwis. Although they appeared on the organizer’s official page, I should’ve known something’s wrong when my son – going shopping with his friend – phoned all of the aforementioned stores and the people picking up the phone didn’t even pretend they had a single clue about what he asked them. Naïvely, however, I believed in these record stores’ will to survive. I got together a team and we headed out into town.

First up on our list – Record Dillaz. The store, situated at Berka Joselewicza Street, is mostly oriented towards DJs and people that spin discs, but not exclusively. It also has a large archive of different sorts of records, sold via consignment. The Kazimierz district in Krakow certainly isn’t one of the best-lit places in town. Generally speaking, Polish towns are very dark, which was accurately depicted in Machulski’s movie “Killer”, when a taxi driver from Warsaw answers a supposedly-drunk customer who asked him where they are with a humorous, “Las Vegas”, to which the man replies, “Looks like there’s a power outage”. It’s a Polish joke, unfortunately only too often true. But let’s get to the point. Berka Joselewicza Street is perpendicular to the larger Starowiślna Street. The store is located in the basement of an old building, and you enter it down a flight of very steep steps. The interior is small and not very cosy. Blinded by our shopping craze, we could almost picture the transparent Stone Temple Pilots vinyl, Hendrix’s single, but we saw nothing. And we should’ve seen something. Inside, a single customer sadly flipped through some records. The clerk sat behind the counter, clicking the buttons on his phone, probably not even noticing that someone just came in.
I kept looking around, but I couldn’t see any of the releases we were interested in buying. I asked the salesman about Black Friday. Not seeing a hint of understanding in his eyes, I asked about Black Store Day. Better – the man cocked his head to the side and said the event wasn’t today, but only on Friday. He was honestly surprised by the fact that today was indeed Friday, and that we came here to buy some records. He started panicking and clicking his phone even faster. Clearly, he was able to find something there – before he submerged back into the world of his smartphone, he told us to come back in a week or two, and they’ll “ship some stuff in”.

We took the fifteen minute walk from Starowiślna Street to St. Thomas Street, where Music Corner has its headquarters. You could also take a one-stop tram ride. Soon afterwards, having mixed emotions about what was ahead of us, we opened the doors of the Corner. The exterior looked good, because there was a large sticker saying “Music Store Day” on the front. It was missing the Black Friday logo, but that can be forgiven, obviously. The difference between this place and Record Dillaz was visible – inside we met another four people flipping through vinyl discs. A few flips of our wrists and everything was clear – where the hell are all the BD releases? I asked a clerk who was just passing by, which nearly killed the poor fellow, as he went into deep thought and almost fell of a steep step. He was bright, though, because a second later he said he didn’t know what I was talking about and he wasn’t informed about anything. He didn’t even try BS us with “maybe we’ll ship something in a week or two”.
We didn’t even bother going to Rock Serwis. I didn’t mention this before, but when my son phoned them a few days earlier, the lady that picked up the phone said that they do indeed have one of the titles from his list in stock, but she doesn’t know where, and there’s probably no point in him coming there on Friday. It was the most honest answer regarding Black Friday that we got.
But there’s always some good in the bad – we’ve got a few hundred pubs in the strict centre of Krakow. We didn’t get far, because there’s a nice place called U Jožina right across the street from Music Corner, where our southern Czech neighbours sell their beer. We weren’t the only ones headed there, apparently, and the pub was full. But a five minute walk took us to House of Beer at the very same street, but on its opposite end. Although we were planning on ending the evening in that area anyways, it was meant to be a happy and cheerful ending – we were meant to roll in there, excited, laden with vinyl discs, with our cheeks flushed. And this way we had to pay to get the flush in our cheeks.

If this event is about discouraging people from doing shopping and confirming the fact we can see every day, i.e. that record stores are dying out, and partially on their own fault – then bravo, success! Not taking advantage of such a well-publicized event, and not putting any effort in – you’ve just got to be stupid. I’m not even talking about any accompanying mini-events, like live music, or making a deal with some audio salon to make sure the records are played on the kind of audio equipment they should be played on. Just some awareness, a “stock”, and a poster on the door. The days of idly waiting behind a counter for a customer to come are long gone.
All the records I’ve mentioned above were available the next day on ebay. What’s more – I saw two or three of them in a retail electronics store later on (!!!). But the moment faded away and was not seized. It evaporated along with my enthusiasm and the alcohol consumed that day.


DENIS BURMEISTER, SASCHA LANGE
Depeche Mode MONUMENT


There’s no such thing as coincidence – certainly not when it comes to the fact that the same day, i.e. November 29th, 2013, the Polish translation of Depeche Mode MONUMENT had its premiere. A large, fantastically published, 470-page-long monograph was released in a collector’s edition, with a certificate and hand-written number.
I remember perfectly well when Marek Sierocki prepared a book about this band in the 1990s, titled Marek Sierocki presents – Depeche Mode. What grabbed my attention back then were the replicas of album art and discs themselves. I can say something similar about this new book – its graphical side is incredibly good – the layout, replicas, tiny details, and all of it on a very high level. The theme the authors focus on is the band’s discography. As they say in the introduction:

We didn’t want to go into detail over the stories of band members again, all of their highs and lows, or gossip and stories. The artistic achievements of Depeche Mode were meant to be the centre of attention. […] The basis for Depeche Mode MONUMENT was a catalogue of releases by the band, published by Mute Records in Great Britain […].

It’s a good move, which allowed the authors to break out of the current writing canons. Especially since there already is an extremely good, most credible and very well-written biography of the band available – Stripped by Jonathan Miller (In Rock, Czerwonak 2013), and doing the same would really make no sense at all.

The language that the authors use in cooperation with the translator – it’s always teamwork – isn’t too great. There’s some awkwardness in the translation, clumsily phrasing “picture disc” in Polish, for example. The syntax also gets a little heavy sometimes. In spite of that I read the book quickly and I’ll be returning to it frequently, largely due to its visual value. What’s interesting is that the authors mainly focused on vinyl releases. It’s understandable, as the German releases of the band’s albums were the most interesting – colourful, and pressed in the same plant where Harmonia Mundi Germany discs were pressed, using the DMM process (Direct Metal Mastering, see HERE and HERE). So it’s a little surprising that there’s no information about the newest re-releases of the band’s entire discography on vinyl, SACD/CD and DVD. There’s also not a pip about the technical aspects of particular releases. But like I’ve said – you still gotta have this book.



JUST THE MUSIC

Although the lead role in this editorial is played by the vinyl, let’s talk about a different physical medium in the beginning of 2014, and physical objects are everything to a collector: let’s talk about CDs. I’ll talk about two albums from abroad – a re-edition and something fresh – and three Polish releases; a re-edition and two new albums.


PERFECT
LIVE


The 1983 release of the album containing a live performance from Club Stodoła from 1982 was a huge event. It was a concert of a rock band that was a grain of salt stinging the eye of the communist regime, and it took place during the Polish martial law! LIVE was originally released by Savitor with Edward Lutczyn – also the creator of the band’s logo – designing its graphics. It was also this company’s first release ever. Savitor was the first private record label in the People’s Republic of Poland, which used recordings produced by the Polish Radio, which – back then – only presented its recordings on air and on television. In its short history the label released albums by: Lombard, Dwa Plus Jeden, Krzysztof Ścierański, Rezerwat, and even Papa Dance. The album ended up being a great commercial success, although it wasn’t reissued back then, since Savitor went bankrupt. The re-edition was prepared in the Music Agency of the Polish Radio and it is the second (after the “white album”) such release from Perfect. The previous one was also released on vinyl, so this will probably also be the case this time. Aside from the original compositions, you’ll also find some bonus tracks here.

The sound we’re dealing with is faultless. I rarely say things like this about Polish releases, and even rarer about live recordings. You rarely get sound this thick, saturated and internally rich. The guitars are really meaty, there’s a nice bass, and great dynamics – these are some of the characteristics of this re-release. I had the original vinyl for comparison – used, but still in working condition, and it’s one of the rare occasions that I preferred the digital over vinyl. The original is too light and not dynamic enough. That’s why I nearly feel like crying when I think about the fact that we don’t have a consistent plan for analog re-releases in Poland. Cień wielkiej gory by Budka Suflera, which I’ve written about previously, is a step in the right direction (see HERE). But it’s still an analog record pressed from a digital master tape, created through digital remastering. And analog should remain analog – from tape to disc.

Perfect , LIVE, Savitor/Polskie Radio PNCD 1656, CD (1983/2013).

Sound quality: 8-9/10


MARTYNA JAKUBOWICZ
Burzliwy błękit Joanny


Martyna Jakubowicz recorded this album as a tribute to the Canadian Singer Joni Mitchell who travelled through the eclectic styles of jazz, rock, folk and pop. The album contains interpretations and covers of Joni’s greatest hits with Polish lyrics written by Andrzej Jakubowicz. The material was engineered and produced with the help of many famous people from the Polish music scene. The album’s production was done by Marcin Pospieszalski, a two-time Fryderyk Award winner (2000 and 2003) in the “Producer of the Year” category. The people taking part in the recording session included: Marcin Pospieszalski, Mateusz Pospieszalski, Romek Puchowski, Jan Smoczyński, Dariusz Bafeltowski, Przemysław Pacan, and Katarzyna Kamer. The album was released on November 7th, on the day of Joni Mitchell’s 70th birthday.
It was released with great care, in the mini-LP format, with the disc sliding out of the middle part. Which is why you’ll have to get yourself some foil to protect the disc from scratching – for example from Nagaoka. The printing job is excellent, much like the music. The tracks are sophisticated, sensual covers that sound as if composed by Jakubowicz herself. The sound is decent, although with audible vocal compression, resulting in an emphasised attack and less full sound. Sometimes the higher vocal parts, especially sibilants, jump out in front of the rest. However, the whole thing has pretty depth and vividness. I’ve listened to the album several times in a row and without swearing– in complete focus and with calm in my heart.

Martyna Jakubowicz, Burzliwy błękit Joanny, Universal Music Polska 376 131 8, CD (2013).

Sound quality: 6-7/10


AUDIOFEELS
Świątecznie


Audiofeels, a vocal band from Poznan, made famous by their third-place finish in Poland’s Got Talent, began their music career fantastically – with UnCovered. Their covers of popular songs, from Art & Garfunkel through to Metallica, sounded fresh, strong and good. What’s more, the material was really well recorded and although you could hear the direction the producer took, i.e. a deepening and “boosting” of the sound, the final effect was great. I still use that album for many auditions. The double album released afterwards, UnFinished, gave us both covers as well as original songs by the band (see HERE). The latter were considerably weaker, which made the whole thing seem weaker than their debut album. And finally, we got their concert album, Live - really good and a supplement to UnCovered, although certainly worst-recorded out of all of them.
Świątecznie (Festive) has a clear goal and message: it’s meant to be played only during Christmas. The warm character of the carols and songs should, at least theoretically, perfectly blend in with the band’s musical style and their great male vocals. But what you get is a boring, gummy, Christmassy blob. Audiofeels is a band with great potential and a good feel, and they can really do a lot. But what they lack is a vision, as if the lads haven’t been growing as a band at all for quite some time – even seemingly shrinking. They need to “reinvent” themselves if they want to achieve anything. Otherwise this may be the last album by this band that I’ve ever bought. Especially since it’s poorly recorded – flat, with no soundstage depth, and just mediocre.

Audiofeels, Świątecznie, Mystic Production MYSTCD 249, CD (2013).

Sound quality: 4/10


DEEP PURPLE
Now What?!/The Now What?! Live Tapes


The dust hasn’t even settled after the release of Now What?! and the band is already releasing the extended edition of this album, enriched with an additional disc with a few live performances, incl. Rome, Aalborg (Denmark), Milan, and Gaevie (Sweden), combined into a whole. I received the album from my son. This version has a golden, eye-catching cover, although there’s a boxed edition available too, which contains a T-shirt.
If you remember my review of Now What?!, you’ll know that I think it’s far too long, and hence boring. The SHM-CD edition that I have, which is mentioned in the newest version’s booklet, sounds good, but Black Sabbath’s 13 is clearly superior in this aspect.
The concert is a different story, though. It’s the only possibility of playing a long set list without getting bored. Especially that Deep Purple is still on fire live. The recording quality is far worse than Perfect’s LIVE, flatter and more recessed, but it’s not bad. I listened to it twice and I still want more.

Deep Purple, Now What?!/The Now What?! Live Tapes, EAR Music 0209064ERE, 2x CD (2013).

Sound quality: 6/10


DIRE STRAITS
Love Over Gold


Brothers In Arms, the fourth album released by Mark Knopfler’s band in 1985, immediately became a classic. It was one of the biggest hits of the 1980s, and its popularity can be demonstrated by the fact that the title track was seven times number one hit on the Polish Radio Three “All-Time Top” list. Love Over Gold, released three years earlier, was never able to beat it, although it’s where you can find the outstanding track Private Investigations. Despite the fact that 500,000 copies of this disc have been sold so far (it was also released in Poland), it will always remain in the shadow of its great successor. But maybe it also has something to do with the different sonic approaches on the two albums. Mark Knopfler is known for his obsession with his recordings’ quality and for being an enthusiast of new technological developments that lead its improvement. It’s no surprise that his solo albums were released as HDCDs, not CDs. Brothers In Arms was created with a similar idea in mind – it’s the first digitally recorded album from Dire Straits. I wrote about it while reviewing the XRCD2 version – the signal was registered on a multi-track digital tape in 16/44.1 format, and mixed onto a ¼ inch analog tape used for matrix cutting for the vinyl and CD pressing (read HERE). That was the reason why Mobile Fidelity was able to officially release the album in its prestigious Original Master Recording series – its master tape was truly analog. Despite the fact that the recording is digital.

It could therefore seem, at least from the point of view of an experienced music lover who understands the difference between early digital and analog recordings, that the analog recording of Love Over Gold should sound better. But that wasn’t ever the case. Emphasized treble, insufficiently saturated midrange and bass that’s just not low enough are only a few problems of this release. Its digital Super Bit Mapping version was decent, although it didn’t change the final rating. That’s why I nearly greedily downloaded the mini-LP SHM-CD version the moment it appeared on CD Japan, where I do my shopping. My disappointment with it was huge. I received a dry, strained sound without saturation and almost without bass. Flat and lifeless. It’s one of the worst SHM-CDs I’ve ever had contact with (I’ll gladly sell it rather cheap to someone).
That’s why I didn’t initially react to the news about the latest Platinum SHM-CDs release. I ordered Dire Straits’ debut album in Platinum and that was it. It was only at the Krakow Sonic Society’s meeting that I got the chance to compare a few Platinum versions with their previous editions (see HERE). It was a real shock! The Platinum SHM-CD sounds in a way that resembles analog tape; deep, dynamic, and incredibly resolving. That’s why I ordered Love Over Gold in this version and for the first time in years listened to the whole thing, from beginning to end. Only now can you hear that the cymbals were emphasized in the recording studio, and part of the midrange was recessed. For the first time it didn’t bother me, but merely remained a “witness” of this particular recording session. It’s the best edition of this album – better than its analog version!

Dire Straits, Love Over Gold, Vertigo/Universal Music LLC (Japan) UICY-40029, Platinum SHM-CD (1992/2013).

Sound quality: 7-8/10

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Our reviewers regularly contribute to  “Enjoy the Music.com”, “Positive-Feedback.com”“HiFiStatement.net”  and “Hi-Fi Choice & Home Cinema. Edycja Polska” .

"High Fidelity" is a monthly magazine dedicated to high quality sound. It has been published since May 1st, 2004. Up until October 2008, the magazine was called "High Fidelity OnLine", but since November 2008 it has been registered under the new title.

"High Fidelity" is an online magazine, i.e. it is only published on the web. For the last few years it has been published both in Polish and in English. Thanks to our English section, the magazine has now a worldwide reach - statistics show that we have readers from almost every country in the world.

Once a year, we prepare a printed edition of one of reviews published online. This unique, limited collector's edition is given to the visitors of the Audio Show in Warsaw, Poland, held in November of each year.

For years, "High Fidelity" has been cooperating with other audio magazines, including “Enjoy the Music.com” and “Positive-Feedback.com” in the U.S. and “HiFiStatement.net”  in Germany. Our reviews have also been published by “6moons.com”.

You can contact any of our contributors by clicking his email address on our CONTACT  page.

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