More of the Music of Joe Jackson
Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Joe Jackson
There are basically four elements that go into the making of Night and Day: vocals; keyboards (mostly the piano); percussion (in the mids and highs) and rhythm (drums and bass).
No two copies will get all of these elements to sound their best. The trick to finding the hottest of the Hot Stamper pressings is to find copies of the album that reproduce these four elements clearly and correctly. They should be balanced with one another, and distributed throughout a large, three-dimensional studio space.
It may sound easy but I assure you it is not. With this many instruments in the mix, it’s a lot to get right.
Pop records live and die by the quality of their vocals and Night and Day is no different in that respect. The vocals have to be front and center. Veiling in the midrange costs a fair number of points. They should also be smooth, not thin or edgy. I would rather have slightly veiled vocals relative to thin and edgy ones, but some copies manage to give you full, clear, present vocals, and those are the ones we tend to like the best.
When the sound is thin in the lower midrange and upper bass the piano will lose its weight and solidity. In the denser mixes it can easily get washed out, and nobody wants a washed out piano.
There is no guitar on this record. The piano carries much of the structural energy of the music. You need to be able to hear the piano clearly and hear that it is both full-bodied and percussive.
The list of percussion instruments played on this record is long indeed, with congas, bongos, timbales, bells and let us not forget the all-import xylophone.
Most copies don’t have the extension on the top end to reproduce the harmonics of most of the higher-frequency instruments, but the few that do can show you a world of sound that the other pressings barely hint at.
The percussion also drives the rhythmic energy and fills out the studio space above the vocals. The energy level drops when these instruments aren’t heard properly, and the space of the music shrinks in proportion as well.
The big drum and other percussion instruments that lead off Another World on side one — and by percussion instruments I am also referring to the piano — tell you most everything you need to know. The timbre of that big drum is very pronounced on the better copies.
Another critically important element in a pop/rock record, and especially important to this one. The thinner, somewhat leaned-out copies emphasize the mids and upper-mids too much. They tend to be harsher and more unpleasant. The ones with clear, tight bass and solid drums to anchor the arrangements naturally work the best.
Most reissues are clearly made from sub-generation tapes. They sound smeared and dead and are guaranteed to bore you to tears. With the right originals the sound is MAGIC.
Lesser original copies can be grainy, irritating, flat and lifeless. Nothing new there, right? You have to work to find a good Night and Day — or buy one from us because we’ve already done the work.