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. This time around, we’re taking a look at the first in a series of reissues covering the catalogue of boundary-pushing UK anarco-punks Crass.
For more Crass, check out our Vinyl Corner feature on ‘Stations Of The Crass’ as well.
From the very first moments of ‘The Feeding Of The Five Thousand’, it’s immediately clear that Crass are in no mood to take prisoners. Opening with the poem ‘Asylum’, singer Eve Libertine decries institutionalised Christianity through a potent combination of gleeful blasphemy and a flurry of profanities that would make most soldiers blush. Love it or loathe it, it’s a piece likely to invoke some kind of reaction – a point proven by the fact that original pressings omitted the track due to the lack of a pressing plant willing to manufacture a version that included it. Over the subsequent half hour, Crass unleashed some of the most barbed, politicised and genuinely furious anarchic punk ever produced. Razor sharp guitar screech over highly adept yet fittingly skittish drum and bass parts, all of which back up busy verses packed from line-to-line with incredibly strong, vivid messages. Released in 1979, this was Crass’ debut statement and it remains arguably their most direct and influential. They would go on to create more experimental, sonically ambitious albums but the sheer bloody minded belligerence of ‘The Feeding Of The Five Thousand’ has ensured its continuing influence on the world of underground punk across the globe.
Highly sought-after on vinyl, ‘The Feeding Of Five Thousand’ has been pressed quite a number of times on vinyl over its four-decade existence. All previous vinyl releases are long out of print and sport decidedly un-punk prices on websites such as eBay and discogs. Fortunately the band’s own label are here to save the day, alongside One Little Indian who are distributing this series of reissues. This rerelease sees the album become available on vinyl in remastered form, with an aural polishing up coming from Alex Gordon at Abbey Road Studios. The end results are sonically excellent, with a direct, punchy soundscape that suits the feral energy of the album down to a T. Penny Rimbaud’s frenetic drums cut through the sonic mass just exactly as they should, while Pete Wright’s driving bass bears all the presence needed to fill out the soundscape without becoming unfocused or blown-out. Fidelity is excellent throughout; by nature this is a raw recording, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a certain clarity to the sonics even so, and that clarity is very much present here. As with previous vinyl versions, the record is cut at 45rpm which ultimately allows for greater sound quality than usual and is very much the right decision here, especially considering that the album is only half an hour long. The pressing itself is every bit as strong as the remastered sonics. Taking form as a hearty slab of heavy black wax, the record appears clean upon inspection and sits flat on the platter during playback. Sound is also very tidy across both sides, with a minimal noise floor almost entirely free of even the most minor of background surface noise. This is even more important with this particular album than it would be normally, as although there’s plenty of maximum-volume fury here, there’re also quite a few sections of silence or near-silence which would expose any auditory imperfections. Playback is also free of pops and clicks, going further to make this one of the best reissues we’ve encountered on Vinyl Corner in a few months at least.
Clearly intent on making this the ideal reissue, Crass and One Little Indian have even gone so far as to fully reproduce the original packaging. Instead of a typical album cover, previous vinyl editions of ‘The Feeding Of The Five Thousand’ came packaged in a fold-out poster that wrapped around the album. Finding vintage copies free of dog-ears and tears is difficult enough, so having a reissue that provides the prospective buyer with a mint poster sleeve is certainly considerate. Print quality is very solid throughout and the original presentation is so faithfully reproduced that you’d likely have a hard time telling initial copies apart from the reissue without a guide. The heavyweight paper-stock used to produce the poster is also great quality, which means this is likely to be rather harder wearing than some of the previous editions of the album. A fantastically presented reissue by anyone’s measure, presentation is rounded off reproductions of the classic label designs. One new addition is that of a download code which, in a rather pleasant surprise, turns out to offer the album in lossless wave audio – big ups for that.
This really is a superb reissue. ‘The Feeding Of The 5000’ is a very powerful statement piece and one that deserves to be heard now as much as it ever did in the past. This new reissue provides an affordable and very high quality way to access the album on vinyl; it’s a very worthy rerelease produced to impressively high standards. This one comes highly recommend from us at Vinyl Corner and we’ll be covering more Crass reissues in the series soon, so keep your eyes peeled.
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