MASTER TAPE SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! We just finished a huge shootout for this record — British, German, and domestic pressings — and this Parlophone British import pressing is THE ALL-TIME CHAMPION FOR BOTH SIDES! No other copy came close.
We’ve NEVER heard a Beatles record with A+++ sound on both sides. Beyond that, both sides play quietly, Mint Minus.
After playing so many copies of this record over the last year or so I have come to appreciate just how wonderful an album Rubber Soul really is. It has 14 fairly compact, well structured, well arranged pop songs, each of which is a gem in its own right. It reminds me a bit of the second album (With The Beatles) in that respect. But the second album does not feature acoustic guitars the way Rubber Soul does. From an audiophile point of view, it’s partly what makes Rubber Soul such a special recording: the strumming of those lovely acoustic guitars.
But what I noticed for the first time only recently is how much the tambourine is used. It’s all over this album and most of the time it sounds great. There are other high frequency percussion instruments — shakers and the like — and between the tambourine and all the rest there’s just a lot of percussive energy on most of the songs that really carries them along. To me, this could be called The Tambourine Album. No other Beatle album features that instrument and builds so many songs around it.
Side one is OUT OF THIS WORLD! It’s punchy, dynamic, and positively brimming with life and energy. We mention above how big a role the tambourine plays on this album, and on this copy it sounds Right On The Money. The superb clarity and resolution here allow you to actually hear the SOUND of the instrument and not just the percussive effect. The overall sound is very natural and very musical — tonally correct from top to bottom. The top end has wonderful extension and is balanecd with plenty of deep bass, allowing the upbeat songs to really rock. There’s TONS of ambience and echo to be heard. Just listen to the rimshots on Michelle — you can clearly hear them room around the drum. Side one rates an A+++, As Good As It Gets.
We were stunned to find that side two was EVERY BIT AS GOOD! There’s lots of tubey magical qualities here — it’s warm, silky sweet, delicate, and very alive. The vocals sound just right — natural and real, with plenty of texture. The clarity and resolution here are BEYOND OUR WILDEST EXPECTATIONS! Just listen to the drum kit in the left channel of In My Life — it’s as clear as a bell. Everything you’d expect from an A+++ side is here — extended highs, rock-solid bass, super low distortion and mind-blowing transparency.
As you’ve no doubt read on the site more than once, a good LP allows you to appreciate the MUSIC even more than the sound. You feel like you are listening to what The Beatles wanted you to hear, the way they wanted you to hear it. With some minor quibbles, this British pressing sounds like it was made from the real tape, mastered the way The Beatles wanted it to be mastered — and even pressed on pretty darm quiet vinyl.
Rubber Soul is one of the most difficult Beatles records to get to sound right. The individual tracks seem to vary drastically in terms of their sound quality. Some (What Goes On) sound sweet, rich and near perfect. Others (You Won’t See Me) can be thin and midrangy. What’s a mother to do?
I think what we’re dealing with here are completely different approaches to the final mix. The Beatles were experimenting with different kinds of sounds, and their experiments produced very different results from track to track on this album more than practically any other I can think of besides The White Album, (which as you may or may not know was recorded in multiple studios by multiple producers and engineers).
One final note: this is the kind of record that really rewards a good cartridge/ arm/ table combination. You do not want to play this record with a lean or bright sounding cartridge, or a front end that does not track sibilances well (I could name some equipment that I would not want to play this record on, but rather than insult the owners of such equipment, let’s just say they will have a tough time with this record.)