A Perfect Storm… or Sonic Youth – Goo

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It can be difficult to quantify the importance of a single LP, not only as a piece of art, but also on its impact on the zeitgeist. Music being a quite subjective form of expression usually gets defined by observers in two very different, if not opposing standards – sales (numbers sold) and contextualization… being the present, historical and critical importance perceived by music writers and individuals alike. Every so often the two standards align within a moment that one can point at and yell (in their best Charlie Brown voice) “THAT’S IT!!!”

Goo acted as such a watershed. While being the most commercially accessible album Sonic Youth had produced to date, it changed how other artists saw themselves and their art within the music world. Without compromising their artistic vision, the band had joined a major label and sounded just as fucking insanely awesome as ever. Following Goo, Nirvana signed with DGC on Kim Gordon’s recommendation. Neil Young released Weld on the advice of Thurston Moore. Hell, they even made Steve Albini’s cries of sell outs to all major label acts seem like a distant voice lost in a strong wind. After all, if Sonic Youth were recording for DGC, then how bad could it be?

Just look back at the classic documentary 1991: The Year That Punk Broke. For many, this was ‘the’ introduction to the world of 90’s alt-rock having just witnessed Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr. Babes in Toyland and more pre-grunge explosion (grunge is such a useless word). Thing is… the real subject and focus of the film is Sonic Youth and their tour in support of Goo. Everyone in the film went on to either moderate or phenomenal success.

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Like any band that has the repertoire of Sonic Youth, arguments will always ensue about where albums rank against one another. Dirty was more commercially successful and Daydream Nation got more critical laurels, but Goo was proof positive that Sonic Youth could take their brand of indie-avant-rock into the public consciousness. Basically, if you’re a music-geek, then Goo is essential.

If you’re looking to pick up a 12” version there are a few options. Your first is the original LP from 1990, some limited quantities came with a bonus 7” of “Kool Thing” and are decently priced at under $40 through discogs. They were limited at the time to 3000 copies so some e-bay resellers are asking as much as $200 for “near mint”… so do some research if you’re looking for it.

The most coveted edition is the 1996 Mobile Fidelity 200 gram vinyl. As per usual, MF did the recording at half cutting speed to ensure sound quality and did a limited run. Of course, this also means a high price on the resale market with vendors asking for over $200 in many cases. Again you’re looking at tags like “near mint.”

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The next option is for music enthusiasts and can be purchased “new.” In 2005, Goo was re-mastered and put out as a four LP set. The first two discs contained the album proper on Sides A, B and C while D had ‘B-sides and outtakes.’  The second set of records contained demos and unreleased material.  Also included was a 16 page booklet. This can be special ordered through most record stores or ordered direct through the bands website.

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This year Goo got another re-master and re-release. This time out it is on a single disc. You can find the standard black vinyl at all the usual outlets, or a pink/white swirl through Newbury Comics. The coloured vinyl edition is limited to 1000 copies and sounds pretty damn good against the CD.

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Any way you look at it, Sonic Youth provided a road for other bands to follow, and Goo was a significant part of what would follow in the 90’s alt-rock era. It’s worth the price of admission.

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“I Know It Sounds Absurd…” or Supertramp – Breakfast In America

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Selling a million records in Canada is not the easiest thing to do. In a country of only 30 million, it’s a pretty big thing to get Diamond status. In 1979, Breakfast In America pulled it off in the same year of its release. For many people it was and is the equal of all those giant sellers by The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and yes, even Michael Jackson. Not bad for a band that was considered to be a light weight FM prog band that quite suddenly became everyone’s favorite artists. In those moments before glam-metal and new wave, Supertramp was being played on every radio station on both the AM and FM dial. From the cool kids to the geeks, everyone knew the words to “The Logical Song.”

With those kind of numbers you would have expected that Breakfast In America would have been given the royal treatment. If you’re a fan of CD and audio blu-ray, then sure, you got yourself lots of remastered goodies to play with; but vinyl has been more gimmick than actual special treatment.

You can easily find the original vinyl pressing while crate digging and it will cost you next to nothing. My own copy isn’t showing its age, which is pretty miraculous seeing as how the early teenage version of me must have played it several thousand times.

In 1982, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab put out a pressing that is still in high demand. Resellers are asking for over a hundred dollars for used copies.

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Mobile Fidelity did a complete remaster in 1990 for a 24 karat gold CD release. It still fetches over $75 for used copies in great shape.

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It wasn’t until 2000 that another remastered vinyl edition was released by Simply Vinyl on 180 gram wax.

Ten years later the box set came out with a bunch of things… but good luck getting a copy for under $150. It contained 2 CD’s, a DVD and a 180 gram vinyl version of the record. Honestly, that price is steep. A single 180 gram vinyl edition was released at the same time.

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2013, saw the last of the more recent releases with two new offerings. The first was a blu-ray copy of the album marked as ultra high audio, no video content.

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At the same time Breakfast in America was also released as a pretty awesome looking vinyl picture disc.

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The disappointing thing in all this is that if they had done a similar treatment to Breakfast In America as they did to Crime Of The Century just last year, a lot of fans would have been extremely happy. Oh well, maybe for the 40th anniversary in 2019 they’ll get it right.

GET IT NOW or forever hold…! The case of Aimee Mann & Mobile Fidelity

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One of my favourite artists on this planet is Aimee Mann. Album for album there just hasn’t been a record she has put out that made me doubt where she is going. Even her latest effort with Ted Leo, The Both (which I wrote about a while ago), was an incredibly satisfying union that I hope happens over again and again. (Get it here)

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However, Aimee has also provided me with perhaps the greatest example of ‘buy it’ or miss out that I can get.

Coming off an Academy Award nomination for the soundtrack to Paul Thomas Anderson’s film Magnolia, Mann released what is probably her most well known record Bachelor #2 or, The Last Remains of the Dodo. The album also included several songs from the Magnolia soundtrack and was incredibly well received by critics and fans alike.

A couple years later Mann released the phenomenal Lost In Space, which was really well received by British critics, and dumped on by North American ones. Regardless, she would appear in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV) performing two songs from it. The art work for the project was done by award winning cartoonist Seth, which just added to the cool factor on this record. It still remains one of my favourite.

Of course both of these albums were put out before the recent vinyl revival, so they appeared only on the compact disc format…

UNTIL

2006

Mobile Fidelity, which loves to re-release critically heralded records got together with Mann. Now I also wrote about MoFi a while back, but to briefly recap, they do awesome things with wax, and they do it all on audiophile grade vinyl (180 gram or higher), from original source tapes and in limited numbers. When the album is done right – it is a collector’s dream come true.

Bachelor #2 and Lost in Space were released at the same time and likely would have put you back anywhere between 30 and 45 dollars back in 2006.

Well, nine years later.

A vinyl copy of Bachelor #2 sells for $203.84 off of discogs, and between $226.38 and $320.69 on e-bay.

A vinyl copy of Lost In Space sells for $274.42 on discogs and also $226.38 + on e-bay.

I don’t know about you, but that is out of my price range. I mean maybe if I won the lottery, but, well, like so many other cool things – it’s a nice thought but reality is where I live.

So all I can say is this…

Hey Aimee, if you’re out there, maybe you could re-release these records on vinyl again, and maybe some others too. I promise to buy at least two or three copies of each as my sister is also a fan and they make great birthday and holiday gifts.

P.S. If I could also get ya to sign this poster I have for my kids; it was their first concert ever, and you know, that would be just kinda awesome and stuff, and maybe you know… well maybe bring your Christmas show north to Toronto once… and… well, thanks for considering, and putting out great music, and…

 

Where To Buy Shi… Stuff #1 – Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab

Ok, you have started a vinyl collection and you want to get a few of those classic records you loved so much back in the day. Unfortunately, the used copies you found sound like crap and you don’t know where to turn. Well, first place to stop is… http://www.mofi.com/Articles.asp?ID=255

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab has been around (with a brief absence) since 1977 and are known for making the best quality vinyl on the market. All their vinyl is put together using the original master tapes and then recorded onto the vinyl at half speed to make sure the music is recorded with “greater precision”. Essentially, Mobile Fidelity are the biggest name in the audiophile vinyl market. Actually they have done similar things with CD’s, and over time I’ve come to own a few of their products. You’ll pay a bit more than the standard vinyl and CD prices, but the end result is worth it. 

For the collector out there ‘mofi’ does all of their vinyl in limited edition quantities of 5000, and once an album has ‘sold out’ you’ll see people asking for huge dollars in the re-seller market. (see Joe Walsh/e-bay links below) 

While my first foray into mofi was a ‘silver’ or  CD copy of Joe Walsh’s Barnstorm,

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http://www.ebay.ca/itm/JOE-WALSH-MFSL-SILVER-CD-BARNSTORM-Sealed-/360689034658?pt=Music_CDs&hash=item53fabde5a2 

http://www.ebay.ca/itm/Barnstorm-by-Joe-Walsh-CD-1990-Mobile-Fidelity-Sound-Lab-MFCD-777-/130847271833?pt=Music_CDs&hash=item1e771aeb99

it was my quest to find the first B-52’s record on vinyl that got me into discovering the lengths Mobile Fidelity goes through to release a quality record.

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As it stands, I managed with only a bit of work to get my hands on a copy. Ordering direct from Mobile Fidelity in Canada is costly. The shipping is almost the price of the vinyl itself. However, if the album is still in print, it can be ordered from your local record retailer, or can be found by online retailers within your country of choice. I got mine from Northern Volume and the shipping was free as my order was over $60. (http://www.northernvolume.com/the-b-52s-self-titled-silver-label-audiophile-vinyl-lp-record-from-mobile-fidelity/)

Overall, when the vinyl is put up against the CD copy I own, the vinyl wins hands down. One listen to the opener “Planet Claire” is proof enough. The keyboard/synthesizer is warm and more present within the mix while the guitar seems to hum with slightly more depth. The result is a record that slaps you upside the head with just how damn fine it is – all over again.