David Bowie – Pin-Ups – Forget the Original British Pressings

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

We just finished our biggest-ever shootout for this fun Bowie album and this one was DRAMATICALLY better than most other copies. We played copies from all over the world — England, Germany, France, Canada, and the good ol’ USA — and heard all kinds of bad sound.

So what were the worst copies we heard? Hands down it was the British Originals, believe it or not. They tend to be dull, thick, and lifeless — not a good match for this punky, energetic material. [We have since found some very good sounding Brit originals but, that said, to date they have never won a shootout.]

On the other side, many of the other copies we heard were bright and grainy. It’s very tough to find a copy that strikes a balance, but we finally managed to dig up a handful that did the job.

The bass here is deep and not nearly as sloppy as on most copies. Listen to the vocals, which sound just right and have lots texture to them. The harmonica on I Wish You Would is AMAZING. When has a harmonica ever sounded so rich and full? You’ll also want to check out the sax solo on Sorrow, which just plain ROCKS.

The music is great as well. Bowie puts his own spin on tracks originally played by The Who, The Yardbirds, Pink Floyd and other British rockers. It’s a wonderfully fun, intriguing album that stands up well to repeated listens.

Ken Scott, Engineering Genius

The amazing KEN SCOTT (Ziggy Stardust, Magical Mystery Tour, Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century (all Top 100), as well as All Things Must Pass, Truth, Birds of Fire, Son Of Schmilsson, America’s debut and many more is the man responsible for the sound here. It should go without saying that this is one seriously talented guy! (He also co-produced the album.)

The kind of Tubey Magical richness and smoothness that he achieved at Trident in the early ’70s, not to mention sound that is remarkably spacious and practically free from distortion — qualities that are especially important to us Big Speaker guys who like to play their records good and loud –has rarely been equaled by anyone in the years that’ve followed (even by Ken).

As noted above, many of his best recordings can be found in our Rock and Pop Top 100 List of Best Sounding Albums, limited to the titles that we can actually find sufficient copies of with which to do our Hot Stamper shootouts.

In 2008 I had the opportunity to hear Ken speak at an AES meeting here in Los Angeles. I won’t bore you by trying to recap his talk, but if it ever comes out on youtube or the like, you should definitely check it out. The Behind-The-Scenes discussion of these artists and their recordings was a thrill for someone like me who has been playing and enjoying the hell out of most of his albums for more than forty years.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Rosalyn (Pretty Things) 
Here Comes the Night (Them)
I Wish You Would (The Yardbirds)
See Emily Play (Pink Floyd)
Everything’s Alright (The Mojos)
I Can’t Explain (The Who)

Side Two

Friday on My Mind (The Easybeats)
Sorrow (The Merseys)
Don’t Bring Me Down (Pretty Things)
Shapes of Things (The Yardbirds)
Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere (The Who) 
Where Have All the Good Times Gone! (The Kinks)

AMG Review

A brace of ’60s British hits… Pin Ups was an artistic statement, of sorts, with some thought behind it, rather than just a quick album of oldies covers to buy some time, as it was often dismissed as being. In the broader context of Bowie’s career, Pin Ups was more than an anomaly — it marked the swan song for the Spiders From Mars and something of an interlude between the first and second phases of his international career; the next, beginning with Diamond Dogs, would be a break from his glam rock phase, going off in new directions. It’s not a bad bridge between the two, and it has endured across the decades.

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