Side One: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- Excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from the first note to the last - this is the way the album is supposed to sound
- Pride (In the Name of Love) is the big hit on this one, and the sound is appropriately glorious on this vintage copy
- "U2 took their fondness for sonic bombast as far as it could go on War, so it isn't a complete surprise that they chose to explore the intricacies of the Edge's layered, effects-laden guitar on the follow-up. Working with producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, U2 created a dark, near-hallucinatory series of interlocking soundscapes ... ranking among U2's very best music..."
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We had a big stack of these to compare and not too many of them were in a league with this one. Most copies are too dark and murky to really come to life, but this one is had no such problems.
This vintage Island Records 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 outstanding sides such as these 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 1984
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments (and effects!) having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there's more -- there always is -- 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.
'80s vinyl is almost always tricky when it comes to sound, and U2 is not a band we typically associate with audiophile-quality sonics. We've been through a number of their albums now, including this title, War and October, and while Demo Quality Sound may never be in the cards for these guys, we have at very least found pressings that do a better job communicating the music.
I don't want to throw on a record that just sounds like a CD when I have access to so much amazing sounding vinyl, but clean and play enough copies of this album and eventually you'll find one like this that gives you sound that works for this music.
Bottom line? While this may not be a record that's going to blow anyone's mind, it does a very good job of bringing this music to life in a way that few copies out there just can't. If you're a fan of U2, you won't find a better sounding copy than this.
What We Listen For on The Unforgettable Fire
- 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 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.
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.
A Sort of Homecoming
The Unforgettable Fire
4th of July
Indian Summer Sky
Elvis Presley and America
In many ways, U2 took their fondness for sonic bombast as far as it could go on War, so it isn't a complete surprise that they chose to explore the intricacies of the Edge's layered, effects-laden guitar on the follow-up, The Unforgettable Fire. Working with producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, U2 created a dark, near-hallucinatory series of interlocking soundscapes that are occasionally punctuated by recognizable songs and melodies. In such a setting, the band both flourishes and flounders, creating some of their greatest music, as well as some of their worst... the wet, shimmering textures of the title track, the charging "A Sort of Homecoming," and the surging Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute "Pride (In the Name of Love)" are all remarkable, ranking among U2's very best music, making the missteps that clutter the remainder of the album somewhat forgivable.
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