Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- This copy of Sting's fourth solo album boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades from first note to last
- Engineer/Producer Hugh Padgham once again achieved his trademark sound in the studio - Spacious, Lively and Powerful
- 4 1/2 stars: "... his best solo record. In places, it's easily as pretentious as his earlier work, but that's undercut by writing that hasn't been this sharp and melodic since the Police, plus his most varied set of songs since Synchronicity... as an album, Ten Summoner's Tales is more consistently satisfying than anything else in his catalog."
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I was selling new, import vinyl back when this record came out in 1993. Most new Pop and Rock albums were only released on CD and Cassette in America by then, so the only way to get a record like this on vinyl was to buy the import.
The problem is that now, looking back, there clearly was not enough demand on either side of the pond for the labels to produce more than a small run of vinyl. With supply having a hard time keeping up with demand, the price naturally goes up, up and away, and we often end up having to pay around a hundred bucks for a copy of unknown and often dubious quality, accent on the dubious.
But enough about us. This vintage pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even 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 Ten Summoner's Tales 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 even as late as 1993
- 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.
What We're Listening For on Ten Summoner's Tales
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- 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 common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering -- which ties in with good transient information, as well as 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 players.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, way behind the speakers. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
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 later 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 that is a key part of the appeal 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.
Prologue (If I Ever Lose My Faith In You)
Love Is Stronger Than Justice (The Munificent Seven)
Fields Of Gold
Heavy Cloud No Rain
She's Too Good For Me
Saint Augustine In Hell
It's Probably Me
Shape Of My Heart
Something The Boy Said
Epilogue (Nothing 'Bout Me)
After two albums of muted, mature jazz-inflected pop, the last being an explicit album about death, Sting created his first unapologetically pop album since the Police with Ten Summoner's Tales. The title, a rather awkward pun on his given last name, is significant, since it emphasizes that this album is a collection of songs, without any musical conceits or lyrical concepts tying it together. And, frankly, that's a bit of a relief after the oppressively somber The Soul Cages and the hushed though lovely, Nothing Like the Sun.
Sting even loosens up enough to crack jokes, both clever (the winking litany of celebrity pains of "Epilogue [Nothing 'Bout Me]") and condescending (the sneeringly catchy cowboy tale "Love Is Stronger Than Justice [The Munificent Seven]"), and the result is his best solo record.
In places, it's easily as pretentious as his earlier work, but that's undercut by writing that hasn't been this sharp and melodic since the Police, plus his most varied set of songs since Synchronicity. True, there isn't a preponderance of flat-out classics -- only the surging opener "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You," the understated swing of "It's Probably Me," and the peaceful ballad "Fields of Gold" rank as classics -- but, as an album, Ten Summoner's Tales is more consistently satisfying than anything else in his catalog.
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