Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Facsimile Dodo G-Spot Alert!

One sure way to know if you have crossed the line from vinyl enthusiast to obsessive vinyl junkie is if you choose an original copy of an LP (despite it looking like Edward Scissorhands has been breakdancing on it) over a pristine later issue. For the 'serious' collector, early copies (preferably first pressings of course) are the only ones worthy of consideration. Owning a later re-issue is at best a compromise, at worst a shameful blot on a collection that has to be apologised for in conversations with others who share your particular brand of vinyl hoarding O.C.D. Either that or it has to be separated from the main collection, hidden away from mocking eyes like a grubby skin mag under a teenager's mattress. The chances are that you suffer from this strange urge to seek out first pressings if you own books like the one I've been poring over recently: Labelography - The Major U.K. Record Labels by Jan Pettersson.

What a rivetting read! This makes the guest publications used on the fill-in-the-missing-headlines round on Have I Got News For You (you know the kind of thing, The Alpaca Shearer's Gazette, The Crumpet Butterer's Chronicle) look as mainstream as The Daily Mail. My excuse is that I use it to ascertain the rarity of what I already own or stumble across in junk shops, not as a shopping list. Yes, it would be great if all my Vertigo albums had those trippy swirly labels, but the fact that some of my Black Sabbath LPs are on the spaceship Vertigo label or even (oh, the shame!) on NEMS doesn't keep me awake at night. Obviously, if I happen upon any Sabbath, Stones or Beatles first pressings in my local charity shop I'll be sure to find shelf space for them. Why else do you think I chose the pseudonym 'Shelf-Stacker'?

As someone who needs a tangible music collection, 'owning' MP3 files of various obscurities from the Sixties and Seventies holds no interest. I often justify my vinyl-buying habit by telling my wife that my collection is my pension, but of course, ultimately, I'd have to sell it for it to fulfil that particular purpose. Still, at least I have that option: good luck selling your MP3 collection, I hear there's a big demand for invisible, second-hand, ones and zeros! What I have come to realise is that while I'm waiting for that elusive original Decca pressing of Leaf Hound's Growers Of Mushroom to fall into my hands for a quid at the next Car Boot Sale, there are some really good 180 gram virgin-vinyl re-pressings available of LPs that realistically I might never see, let alone own in their original form. Let's face it, many original pressings are as hard to find as a Dodo's G-spot.

The packaging of these re-issues is often impressive, with beautifully reproduced artwork, informative sleeve notes and, in some cases, extra tracks, not on the original release. I generally have a bit of a problem with extra tracks though, whether on LP or CD, in much the same way that I can't be bothered with all the extras that invariably come with DVDs. Why on earth would I want to see all the rubbish that got dumped on the cutting room floor, deemed too dull, irrelevant or poorly realised to make the final cut of a film? Why would I want to have a rough-as-arseholes demo of a track that didn't make the grade on the original LP tagged onto the end of the re-release so that my enjoyment of the album is forever marred by its presence? I like to kid myself that magic happens when musicians are in the recording studio: a hard illusion to maintain if the listener is privy to the umpteenth amateurish, warts-and-all take prior to the producer packing the band off to the pub so that he can tart up their inept efforts with his studio trickery and banks of effects. Let's keep the wizard behind the curtain.

This Sunbeam Records re-issue of Czar's self-titled album from 1970 is typical of the label's output: faithfully reproduced artwork, a gatefold sleeve complete with an essay giving a modern perspective on the record's significance, heavyweight vinyl and a second disc containing all the extra tracks so that you needn't ever hear them if that is your preference.

Reputable companies like Sunbeam ensure that the artists actually get royalties for the sale of their music. For many years the only way to get hold of some of the more obscure psychedelic and progressive albums was to purchase suspect, non-legitimate re-issues on fly-by-night labels who clearly had no access to the original master tapes. I have LPs by Power Of Zeus (The Gospel According To Zeus) and The End (Introspection) which at first glance appear to be originals, but are in fact cleverly executed fakes. Even the labels on the records have been reproduced to give the illusion of originality, more successfully on the Power Of Zeus LP it has to be said.

There is no clue whatsoever on the sleeves or discs as to who produced these facsimile LPs, but facsimiles they are. Loathe to stump up the £100+ required to snag an original copy of Introspection, I'll settle for my dodgy doppelganger until I hit jumble sale paydirt. Especially as the sound quality is superb.

Put your feet up, pour yourself a herbal tea (or similar) and enjoy a selection of my favourite tracks from some of these re-issues. Hope they tickle your G-spot!

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