I have seen Universal’s “Back To Vinyl” series of reissues available on websites and in a couple of local record stores. It wasn’t until I accidentally came across an unmarked 180g pressing of Zenyatta Mondata that I wound up owning one. The album appeared in a bin of used audiophile vinyl, but I noticed that neither the cover nor label had any indication as to which label might have reissued the title.
It wasn’t until I got home and was able to punch the lengthy catalog number into my phone that I discovered it was one of those Back To Vinyl titles.
So, how does it sound?
To coin a current phrase: meh.
I had spun a track or two on my old cartridge, but finally was able to give it a spin on the new Ortofon 2M Black and see what was lurking in the grooves. I’ve owned this one on the original A&M vinyl, SACD, Nautilus vinyl (with dbx encoding, no less), and one or two CD versions as well. I can easily say that out of all of these versions, this Back To Vinyl pressing is the most lifeless of all of them.
Not only are the high frequencies subdued, the dynamics also lack the pop and crackle that even the lowly original LP had. The first few drum whacks of “Driven To Tears” used to have an edge to them, as did the rimshots througout–they just seem muted here, and lacking impact. The busy guitars of “Canary In A Coalmine” are lacking that tiny upper treble shimmer they have on other versions. Even some of the ambiance is gone–I don’t detect the same amount of spaciousness (for lack of a better term) in the reverb, especially on a track like “Driven To Tears” which has a rather spare arrangement.
This cutting just lacks excitement.
A fellow vinyl hound friend of mine had told me that the three Back To Vinyl titles he owned were similarly lifeless, and he ended up returning them. It would not surprise me if these were cut from digital sources rather than analog…although the SACD I have blows this LP to pieces sonically, as does the version from Message In A Box.
To add insult to injury, even the cover art is changed–it does not have the same rich hues as the original jacket, and even the insert is printed as a washed-out reproduction. Seems Universal can’t get anything right these days.
Definitely not recommended for the money. Not even used.