The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- A killer copy of the band's debut album, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or better on both sides
- This is an outstanding recording. And why shouldn't it be? It's engineered by Andy Johns (Led Zeppelin II and many more)
- "The original group's debut album was a then-groundbreaking meld of progressive rock with classical and jazz influences... [it's] far druggier than the later group in its ambience (cofounders Keith Relf and Jim McCarty were the heavily psychedelic half of the final lineup of the Yardbirds, which made them anathema to Jimmy Page), but vocalist Jane Relf had a striking individual style, and the classical influence was unique for its time."
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Prog fans take note: this album's audiophile credentials are more than in order. Some of the best recordings we have ever heard involved one of these guys, and on this one you get them both. That's almost too much production talent for one album.
The best copies have sound that brings to mind Tea for the Tillerman and Fragile and Thick as a Brick and far too many other gloriously rich, Tubey Magical British recordings to list here.
Our Top 100 is full of such records, and this would definitely be on our list if we could find them, but, to our ears, only the vintage British pressings fulfill the sonic potential of the album (although oddly we could find no domestic pressings or later import reissues anywhere), and those vintage British pressings are neither cheap nor plentiful here in the states.
This vintage UK Island 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 the best sides of Renaissance 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 1969
- 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 space of the studio
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.
Critical Listening Elements
We liken this first track on side one to Gentle Giant meets Sketches of Spain (the theme of the first song borrows heavily from Concierto de Aranjuez. Of course it does).
Proggy rock continues on side two, in some places (track two especially) sounding like Fairport Convention meets Frank Zappa. (Since we like both those bands this is actually a nice compliment.)
As an aside, where are the newly remastered pressings that have half the spatial information found on the best copies of this album? Doesn't anyone else notice how opaque and lo-rez they all are? How can this be?
Could it be that their stereos are equally opaque and lo-rez? Or perhaps none of the reviewers and forum posters have ever heard a record like this. If they had they would find themselves having to severely regrade their audiophile pressings, steeply in a downward direction I should think.
What We're Listening For on Renaissance
- 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 -- Andy Johns in this case -- 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.
Only the most transparent copies allow you to hear the piano clearly in the dense proggy mixes of the album. And if your copy is smeary, as most of them are, the transients of the piano hammers get blurred, making the instrument much harder to find in the soundfield and follow throughout the extended length of the songs.
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
Kings & Queens
The original group's debut album was a then-groundbreaking meld of progressive rock with classical and jazz influences... [it's] far druggier than the later group in its ambience (cofounders Keith Relf and Jim McCarty were the heavily psychedelic half of the final lineup of the Yardbirds, which made them anathema to Jimmy Page), but vocalist Jane Relf had a striking individual style, and the classical influence was unique for its time.
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