[These notes were written many years ago, which means that we ourselves may not agree with some or all of the commentary you see below.]
Sonic Grade: B (I’m guessing)
This version just plain KILLS most domestic copies and probably quite a few Brit ones too. Simply Vinyl did a superb job here.
Correction: an unnamed mastering engineer at the label did a superb job. Simply Vinyl isn’t in the business of mastering ANYTHING. They leave that up to the pros at the record labels. Sometimes those guys screw it up and sometimes they get it right.
This pressing sounds just like the last import version I had, which sounded great but unfortunately went out of print in the mid-nineties as I remember. Might be mastered by the same guy using the same tape on the same cutter for all I know.
Take it from me, this pressing gets this music right in a way that will not leave the listener wanting more. It really delivers. The sound is superb — sweet, open, with punchy bass and extended highs.
OUR RECENT HOT STAMPER COMMENTARY
It is records like Avalon that get people (often known as audiophiles) to spend wads and wads of money in pursuit of expensive analog equipment good enough to bring this wonderful music to life.
The album rewards a stereo with many of the qualities that audiophiles prize most highly when selecting equipment — spaciousness, transparency, clarity, detail, depth, soundstaging, speed, high frequency extension, and the like.
The copies that are exceptionally open, clear and big present this music the way it was meant to be heard. The mix is as dense as any we know. Only the best copies have the ability to show you everything that’s on the tape. Credit must go to the amazingly talented Rhett Davies for creating the space to put so many instruments and sounds in.
We would add to that list presence and energy, along with warmth, fullness, and lack of smear on the transients. Whomp and rock and roll power do not seem to play much part in separating the best from the rest, although it’s nice when the bottom end is big and solid.
What to Listen for — The Title Track
The marvelous female vocalist Yanick Etienne, who sings so beautifully at the end of the title song, is standing in her own space at about the 10 o’clock position in the soundfield. At moderate levels, she sounds very small and distant, but turn up your volume and she really starts to take on the attributes of a full-size, real live person standing just to the left and back a bit from the main proceedings. This level may be too loud on other songs; we noticed that Ferry’s vocals are very high up in the mixes as a rule, on the first track especially if I recall correctly, and at louder volumes — the ones we like to listen at — he’s going to get too hot. It’s a bit of a balancing act to find the right level for the music, but as loud as you can stand Ferry singing is probably a good place to start.
Only the most transparent copies will have you “seeing” Miss Etienne at the end of the song.
One more thing to listen for here, especially if you’re a fan, is the quality of Andy Mackay’s saxophone work. He plays mostly soprano on Avalon and his playing is surely responsible for much of the melancholy mood of the songs. Next time you play the album, focus especially on his parts and I think you will see how important his contribution is to this emotional power of the material. His plaintive tone has a resonance of regret and sadness that serves to bring out the longing at the heart of Ferry’s songwriting.