Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself.
Music – and, indeed, art at large – is full of ‘what if?’ stories; imagined scenarios where criminally underrated artists received their due and went on to enjoy long, fruitful careers. Alice Clark’s is surely one story ripe for such imaginings. Her eponymous 1972 debut is, to its small but feverish fanbase, revered as one of the all-time great soul albums. Clark’s voice – powerful, rich and emotive – certainly commands an immediate respect but so too does the team of industry heavy-hitters working in the background. Bob Shad took production duties and released the album on his own Mainstream Records, while esteemed arranger Ernie Wilkins provides sensitive, respectful accompaniment. The band, meanwhile, were comprised of the era’s top session players. What went wrong, then? What stopped this accessible, beautifully delivered and immediate album from becoming the hit it should have been? That’s a question that has no answer, of course, but – even so – initial sales were disappointing enough that Clark retired from music after only this one album, ultimately passing in 2004. Regardless of ‘what ifs?’ and ‘maybes’, this is an album whose status has only grown and this new reissue from the excellent wewantsounds is testament to its enduring appeal.
We’ve reviewed a couple of releases from wewantsounds in the past; we’ve always spoken highly of their output so it’s no surprise to us that their reissue of ‘Alice Clark’ hits the mark. The Czech Republic’s GZ Media has pressed this particular release and their work here proves to be very solid. As is typical of their output, the noise floor is low. We did pick up on a few moments of surface noise here and there but nothing intrusive. The music itself is cut fairly loud and the sonics and fidelity are excellent, so any minor imperfections are rendered practically inaudible anyway. The album has been newly remastered for this release, direct from the original analogue tapes. This is a scarce item on vinyl; in line with the album’s ardent niche fanbase, original pressings can go for anything from £200 to the best part of £600, depending on condition. As such, we naturally can’t compare the sonics on this reissue to an original release but suffice to say this remaster sounds excellent. The palette is lively, with bright horns, snappy drums and a fitting fullness to the voice. Vinyl weight is around 140 grams by our estimate and our copy sits flat upon the platter during playback.
Packaging and presentation fully adheres to that of the original release. The classy, candid artwork is presented in impressively high quality here. It’s common for modern reissues of vintage albums to have some degree of blurring to the original image fidelity but that is certainly not an issue on this release as print quality is very sharp throughout. Colours are realistic and text is sharply defined. The sleeve is a good quality gatefold, with a very decent cardstock being employed. The result is a solid, attractive sleeve that, by and large, feels faithful to the original release. One small irritation is the inclusion of a barcode printed onto the back cover. With so many labels now opting to print these onto hype stickers instead, it would have been nice to have seen that here but even so you have to admire what is generally a really high-quality presentation. The record is housed in a generic non-polylined sleeve. Again, it would have been nice if a polylined inner had been included but this isn’t a big issue, although we would suggest swapping the provided sleeve out for a poly inner of your own. The labels are also very faithful to the original release, with the distinctive Mainstream Records label design reproduced in full, the one concession to its rerelease status being a small wewantsounds logo printed in the margins.
Alice Clark’s 1972 debut is a soul cult classic and an album richly deserving of the high-quality reissue treatment that wewantsounds have given it. Presentation is authentic, the pressing is clean and sound is excellent.
Enjoyed this feature? We’re always looking for further albums to highlight on Vinyl Corner – and if you have a vinyl release that you’d love to see written about here, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org – it would be great to hear from you!