- Excellent sound throughout with both sides of this vintage UK pressing earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades or better
- Forget the thin sounding domestic pressings – these British sides are rich, full-bodied and spacious with real bottom end weight
- 4 1/2 stars: “Abacab was where this new incarnation of the band came into its own. Working with producer Hugh Padgham, the group escalated the innovations of Duke, increasing the pop hooks, working them seamlessly into the artiest rock here… as bright, bold, and jagged as the modernist artwork on the cover.”
know of. Tons of bass too. We also quite like the big drums and meaty guitars he was able to bring to XTC’s English Settlement (a record we just never see anymore; wonder where they all went?).
This vintage Charisma pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What amazing sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1981
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
What We Listen For on Abacab
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
No Reply at All
Me and Sarah Jane
Keep It Dark
Dodo / Lurker
Man on the Corner
Like It or Not
Duke showcased a new Genesis — a sleek, hard, stylish trio that truly sounded like a different band from its first incarnation — but Abacab was where this new incarnation of the band came into its own. Working with producer Hugh Padgham, the group escalated the innovations of Duke, increasing the pop hooks, working them seamlessly into the artiest rock here.
And even if the brash, glorious pop of “No Reply at All” — powered by the percolating horns of Earth, Wind & Fire, yet polished into a precise piece of nearly new wave pop by Padgham — suggests otherwise, this is still art rock at its core, or at least album-oriented rock, as the band works serious syncopations and instrumental forays into a sound that’s as bright, bold, and jagged as the modernist artwork on the cover.
The group initially wrote an album’s worth of material which they subsequently discarded because they saw themselves as becoming, in Mike Rutherford’s words, “a caricature of ourselves”. In what he saw as a major turning point for the group, they made a decision to throw out any songs which sounded like anything they had done before.
The album continued the band’s sharp stylistic shift towards post punk, new wave music and also a radio-friendly pop music sound. Influences of Brian Eno (Phil Collins had played on his albums frequently), Talking Heads and Peter Gabriel’s solo material are evident. “No Reply at All” features the Earth, Wind & Fire horn section (as did Collins’ solo album Face Value earlier in 1981).
Genesis produced Abacab solely by themselves. Engineer Hugh Padgham, who had assisted Collins on Face Value, continued to work on Genesis and Collins recordings through the end of the 1980s.
The album takes its name from an early arrangement of the title track. Rutherford said on the US radio show In the Studio with Redbeard (which spotlighted Duke and Abacab in one episode): “There were three bits of music in ‘Abacab’, and we referred to them as ‘section a’, ‘section b’, and ‘section c’… and at different times, they were in different order. We’d start with ‘section a’ and then have ‘section c’… and at one point in time, it spelled Abacab. On the final version, it’s not that at all, it’s like ‘Accaabbaac’.”