Billy Joel – 52nd Street on Impex (Cisco)

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Sonic Grade: Side One: F / Side Two: C+

The new Impex (Cisco) 180 gram remastering of 52nd Street was cut by Kevin Gray, under the direction of Robert Pincus (aka Mr Record), at the now defunct AcousTech Mastering in Camarillo. We noted in a recent review for a much superior (how could it not be?) Hot Stamper pressing:

Side one is a joke (zero ambience, resolution, energy, etc.) but side two is actually quite good. Side two fixes the biggest problem with the album: hard, honky vocals.

In his review appearing in The Absolute Sound, Neil Gader plucks two songs out of the album’s nine as especially meritorious. Oddly enough they’re both on side two. I wonder why. 

In our review we went on to say:

But at a cost. It still sounds like a modern record, with not much in the way of space, transparency, richness, resolution and the like. You know, all that ANALOG stuff that old dinosaurs like us think our records should have.

For those of you who have thirty three dollars to spend, you could do a lot worse on side two. Side one is pretty bad and you would have a hard time doing worse.

Allow me to now quote Mr. Gader from The Absolute Sound, October 2011, Issue 216, Pg. 129

The Impex 180-gram remastering by Kevin Gray is superb. It replaces the spongy timing and dull top of the original Columbia LP with expansive space and sharp details. Its vivid and brightened treble is welcome compared to the warm but smothered original. Listen for Joel’s doubled harmonies, the pennywhistle in “Rosalinda’s Eyes,” and the burning horn section in “Half a Mile Away,” and you’ll hear what a difference a great remastering makes.

Mr. Gader has a bad original pressing, and like most reviewers he makes the mistake of assuming that other originals, and probably all the originals, perforce sound like his. Speaking from experience, they most assuredly do not. We will not be addressing his specific complaints in this commentary for one simple reason: practically nothing in his review has anything to do with the sound of the better copies. (Around these parts they’re known as Hot Stampers.)

So now we know that Mr. Gader’s copy of the album is not very good. Oh joy. What exactly does that have to do with the price of tea in China, or anything else for that matter? Should I now go through a pile of random original pressings and review one for you? What exactly would be the point of that?

Random Record Reviews

Reviewing randomly chosen copies of a record is an exercise in futility, with no bearing whatsoever on the sound of any other randomly chosen copy — mine, yours or anybody else’s.

So much for the value of Mr Gader’s review. But I do have to say that I find it more than coincidental that the songs he recommends are both on the “good” side of the album. Could he really have failed to notice how bad side one is?

After reading hundreds of reviews in the audio mags over the last thirty-plus years, one thing I’ve learned: with audiophile reviewers anything is possible. I’ll leave you to make of that what you will.